Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Body Makeup: Look Flawless

You want to look put-together when you perform for people. The more of you that's being seen, the more care you have to give your presentation. Make your appearance intentional and unified. Even if you are portraying a character you are presenting something for the audience to view as an ideal of that thing. As an example, a hobo number should fully communicate 'hobo' to the audience with everything that's being presented.

How much of your body canvas is being incorporated into your act? Makeup isn't just for faces.

You can work out like a champ, avoid most processed foods, drink plenty of water and still have skin imperfections that show up under stage lights. Dress for your final reveal and note which areas of your skin don't contribute to the last image you give your audience as they applaud. Sunburns, skin irritations, eruptions and discoloration may need some spackle.

Ingredients for success with body makeup
You have to learn how to camouflage your body's flaws. (Flaws in this case are things that do not contribute to the ideal you're presenting to the audience.) Don't expect the venue's lighting to do the work for you.

I have a varicose vein. It's not from a sedentary lifestyle. It's hereditary. It doesn't contribute to the look I'm going for when I peel stockings and get as naked as possible on stage. Removing it would be painful and expensive. I just cover it with makeup.

You may know the rule to cover bruises with yellow and redness with green. That works best in small areas and when you can see and reach those spots to precisely dab and blend. Drug store concealer doesn't have enough pigment to cover much.

Dermablend is made to cover body flaws. It's $25-$30 per tube. It's worth the expense but it's important to know how to get the most out of each bottle.

Here's my process:
  1. Shower, shave and exfoliate. Let your skin dry completely.
  2. Mix a dollop of Dermablend with two dollops of Skin Zen Body Butter from Xerion Skin Science. (This stuff smells good and shouldn't further irritate your skin.) I highly recommend working in small quantities and using a skewer or plastic knife.
  3. Using a fresh cosmetics sponge, apply swipes of the blend to your legs. Make sure the coverage appears even. Give them a couple minutes to dry before you move to your arms; this stuff gives great coverage but can get pigment streaks when you rub treated areas against each other while still wet. Give your arms a couple minutes to cure as well. It should feel dry to the touch before moving to your torso.
  4. Apply the blend to your body using the sponge. Wait ten minutes as it cures. Walk around naked for a little while.
  5. Check your coverage. Swipe a fresh cotton swab around the opening of the Dermablend tube. Use that pigment to cover any intense discoloration like pimples, ingrown hairs or spider veins. Let it dry.
  6. Did I mention to let it dry? This stuff looks great when it's dry but it will make your clothing nasty when it's wet.
  7. Use alcohol wipes to remove excess makeup from any area that requires adhesive for your garment.
  8. Wash your hands with soap and water. You may need to use dish soap if it got all over your hands.
You can layer glitter on top of this mixture but lotion will reactivate the color and you'll have to wait 10-15 minutes for it to cure.

After the show and before bed, you need to shower so your body pores don't get clogged. I prefer Bathhouse Soapery body scrubs from my hometown. The natural oils reactivate the color so it washes away. These also exfoliate, getting the nonsense out of your pores. I prefer Ciocolotto, Bathhouse Couture, or a blend of Lavender and Mud & Minerals.

Dermablend is also great for photo shoots, especially if you're trying to cover tattoos.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Behind the Pastie Pop

With my good friend Jason Kamimura. We did a few like this.
If you've been in the burlesque game long enough, chances are you've popped at least one pastie. I've popped a single onstage at least twice, a double onstage once, and a double backstage last night. I'm sure you all know I have nipples by now. You've probably even seen them. I think the restrictions on the right to bare lady nipples are stupid. Whatever. I work in an industry that requires pasties.

I like getting booked and I recognize producers don't want to lose their venues. It's my responsibility to do my best to keep my pasties from popping. Some of you don't want the world to know about your secret nipples, so you can follow this ol' dancer's discoveries to find tips to hide your nips.

Inspect your pasties. Are they slick inside? Plastic or starchy buckram isn't very tacky. I think most pasties I've popped were untreated buckram inside. The pasties were new and didn't have a bunch of residue built up around the edges. The tape doesn't stick to slick very well. Glue a layer of fabric or felt inside the pastie. You can treat the inside edges with Mod Podge or glue so your spirit gum doesn't bleed through the outside surface of a fabric-covered pastie. Try your adhesive on the lining and see if it helps.

Check your nipples. If you lotion yourself up when you're getting ready for a show, don't lotion your nipples. Are you sweaty or oily? Pasties don't stick to sweat, oil or lotion. Get some alcohol wipes and use them before you put on pasties. Clean off the entire nipple and the area around your areola. Let it dry before applying your pasties. Make sure your hands aren't covered in lotion before applying the pasties because that will get all over your adhesive and keep it from sticking. Use an alcohol wipe on your fingers.

Examine your adhesive. What works for your burlesque best friend may not work for you. I used spirit gum in my early days. I found out I had a pine allergy and stopped using spirit gum. I can't use liquid latex or eyelash glue for my pasties because I sweat and laugh/cry my lashes off all the time. I use toupee tape or garment tape. Some folks use medical adhesive. Give yourself enough curing time for any adhesive you use. I have the best success with tape when I press it into the pastie lining before applying it to my nipples. Is your adhesive working for you? Try something else. I advise against spray adhesive (used for crafting and school displays) and carpet tape.

Feel the inside of your bra and the outside of your pasties. Anything catchy inside that bra that wants to hold onto your pasties more than your adhesive does? Any embellishment on the pasties that acts like a hook on the inside of your garment? The first time I lost two pasties, they were embellished with glitter and had direct contact with a ribbed undershirt. I was screwed. I didn't wear fancy pasties because the act had fake blood. The glitter and shirt stuck together better than the pasties stuck to my nipples. You may have to line your bra with something that isn't catchy or invest in embellishments that won't catch on your bra.

After you've popped or almost popped a pastie, examine how it happened so you can take preventative measures for your next performance. Check it against the above and remedy so you feel confident when you perform and keep your producers happy.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Golden Legends Championship Challenge

I'm like a song by the Go-Go's for most of the goings on of the Golden Legends Championship Challenge-- my lips are sealed. I can't share the content of the mentoring between me and Matt Finish. I can't share strategies or smack talk the other contestants. (Why would I want to smack talk them? I know many of them and look forward to meeting the others.)

But, I want you to get excited about the event and you're used to me sharing my journeys with you.

Here's what I can share:

  • I've been working on this new costume for months. I have four more pieces to build and one to complete. I'm far better at managing big projects now than I was in college. I knew this would take work and I'm proud of my progress. This costume is gorgeous. You only get glimpses of it on my Facebook and Instagram for now.
  • I'm working on addressing my shortcomings as a performer while leaning into my strengths. My first ever burlesque performance was nine years ago, and I'm months away from wrapping my eighth complete year as a burlesque professional. It takes time, successes and failures to really sort out who you are and what you want.
  • I'm really excited about the ways I've challenged myself in this new number.
  • It helps to have other people on your team. Even an old broad like me benefits from having a sounding board. Mr. Snapper is an awesome sounding board but sometimes I need a different viewpoint.
  • Competitions should serve as motivation to be something greater than you are. The chance at a prize is exciting but I'm in this industry for the long haul. I'm pushing to create a damn fine act that will delight audiences in ways they never expected. The next challenge will be to make a different act that is this rich.
  • I'm really looking forward to returning to New Orleans. I haven't been there since 2010. If I lived closer, I'd visit with more frequency. It's a delightful place.
Two other things I can share about it.
  1. Travel costs money. I'm not asking for donations but I am selling stuff to make money. Visit my website and see what I have to offer right now. I'm also teaching corsetry in Los Angeles before I leave for the event. If you know someone who wants to learn to make a corset, send them my way to sign up for class. Every sale helps. :)
  2. Events cost money. GLCC is raising funds through sponsorship and vending. They have sponsorship packages for as little as $45. You can check out details here. There are several package levels.
That's about all I can share for now. If you're in New Orleans on October 21st, I'd love to entertain you.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Repair, Rebuild or Retire

Featured in our June issue of the Snapperama Newsletter. Subscribe at

Every act has a shelf life. Costumes get worn down. Bodies get injured. Concepts are no longer part of contemporary pop culture. The time comes when you must ask what to do with each act: repair, rebuild or retire?
Repairing an act means just fixing the things that are wrong with it. You can repair a new act if it's not working out by replacing a costume piece or tweaking the choreography. I frequently repair pieces by replacing rhinestones or closures, making small modifications to the fit of the garments, creating custom pasties for that act, and trying to find more nuances in the number. Can it be fixed in a few hours without tearing everything apart? Will those repairs make it more pleasing for the audience, making it more viable and valuable?
Rebuilding an act means overhauling more than half of the components. A few repairs will not do the trick. My first truly glamorous costume ("mega costume") is showing wear and tear. Beads are coming off, the shoes are uncomfortable, and the bra has always wanted to be a belt. I built this costume with assistance in 2010 and I've taken it so many places. I love the colors and I love the silhouette. I made this costume before I gained a ton of sewing knowledge. I didn't fully recognize what would work best for me. It was a very transitional act in my early burlesque years. I won't sell this costume because I love it, but I can't just repair it. I now have the knowledge and experience to do it better from the beginning. I'm going to rebuild it over the course of the next year. Audience and producer response to the act tells me it's worth the investment.
Retiring an act means putting the baby to bed. Not every act works out. Conceptually it's really interesting but it just doesn't earn its keep when it hits the stage. Technical things go wrong, and they can't be remedied well enough to salvage the number. Reworking the act, revamping the costume, revising the concept don't cut the mustard. It could also be an act that's past its prime. The Hannah Montana act I performed in 2008 and 2009 was a fun act, but it's severely outdated as a cultural reference. You can resell the costume and props or keep them in storage as treasures. Don't consider it a failure if you have to retire an act. Treasure your experiences with that act and take the lessons it gave.
You do have two more options available for an act that needs something: repurposing and recycling.
Repurposing the act gives the components new life. This is where you take large parts of the whole and use them for other things. You add a red nose and now you have a clown act. You wear the gown to a friend's wedding. You turn the prop into a tomato planter.
Recycling the act cuts it into smaller parts to use. Think of repurposing as eating last night's dinner leftovers as today's lunch or throwing them in an omelet for breakfast. Recycling would be taking those leftovers and putting them in soup or grinding them into a paste for pâté. When you recycle the act, you pull the best jokes and use them elsewhere. You cut off the appliqués you can use and pitch what you don't want. It's like the scene in Pretty in Pink where she takes apart two pretty dresses to make one homely prom dress, only your goal is not to make a homely prom dress.
Go through your performer props and wardrobes (and the rest of your life) and use these guidelines to handle your well-loved stuff. Repair, rebuild or retire acts. If you want to keep some of the parts, repurpose or recycle. The decisions may be challenging at first, but the space in your closet is freeing.

Monday, June 13, 2016

As Promised to my Facebook Followers

Dear Facebook friend,

I promised you that I would share a naked photo if I reached the next milestone of followers. Here you go.

WARNING: I like cupcakes.

Photo (C) Modern Noir

Monday, May 23, 2016

Dear Light Operator

Dear Light Operator,

Thank you for making sure I'm well lit during my performance. A nice wash that makes my skin look good would be fantastic. I work hard to select my costume colors and I want the audience to see the hues I selected. I make many of my items from scratch because these colors don't exist in off-the-rack stripper wear. There's no need to show off your lighting skills by cycling through all the colors you have. My peach gown doesn't need to look black. I would've selected a black gown from Amazon if I wanted a black gown. My skin doesn't need to look green. My blue dress doesn't need to be lit with blue light because it's already blue. But you already know that, right?

That nice wash that makes my skin look good would be great. If you're lighting me with gels, I recommend a soft peach or a bastard amber. As a matter of fact, I DID study lighting design in college. We had to light all sorts of shows, and I collaborated with designers to make the entire production look as good as possible. The lighting designers lit my costumes with presentational lighting when we did presentational plays. They didn't decide to hit the strobes during a musical number because they thought people should have seizures during that song. The song was exciting enough.

Did I mention a nice wash? It's okay if it's a little pink. I'm not dancing to "Roxanne" so there's no need to put on the red light. For most of my numbers I don't really need a change in the lighting. You can tell me the options for a disco ball and rotating lights before the number and I can easily give you a decision then. You don't have to wait until I'm in the middle of my performance to remember you have those options available. If you don't remember to discuss the lighting choices with me before the show, you can just stick with that nice wash and forget about those lighting options for the three to six minutes I'm on that stage.

I know you typically work with lighting bands. That's cool. My brother was in a band. He wore jeans and t-shirts for his performances. My husband was in a band back in the '90s. He wore flannel shirts and whatever jeans he could find. I'm pretty sure I just want a nice wash of lighting on my mint costume. No, it's mint on purpose. The green flannel my husband wore was less intentional since his shows were all about the music. It was okay if he was bathed in green and red light. Nice wash for me, thanks. Just want that skin to look good and my costume to look like the color that it actually is.

Oh, you have a spotlight? Do you have someone who operates it regularly? If so, I'll take some wash and a spotlight. Oh, your cousin's going to do it to help you out because the spotlight is new. Let's just do the wash. It'll be easier. Yes, I'm sure.

Thanks so much for chatting with me before the show. That peachy wash really will look great on my skin and my costume.

Thank you so much. I studied some lighting design in college, so I appreciate all the work that goes into what you do.

Peach Wash,

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Next Frontier

It's been spring cleaning time in our lives, and we're shuffling off the old garments and acts that we don't need. We're also going through our fabric stock as I work on the next big thing.

I tend to buy at least one yard more fabric than I need when I build a new costume for myself. I like to have enough in case I screw up.

My next new act is going to be built from leftover fabric of acts past. The rigging will probably be complicated with this act, but I have lessons of many years to help me on my quest.

Pez Photograpy 2011
One of the layers will be built from the apricot fabric I used on the gown for my mega costume. The gown is on the floor in this photo.

The lining will be made from the peach fabric that covers my bra and comprises my panties and garter belt.

I learned so many lessons making this costume. I would rebuild it completely, but the current version is fine for doing the act still.

SH Photo 2015
The outer layer of the outer piece is made of the fabric on this corset. I learned many lessons while making this costume. My plan was to have different pieces light up with LEDs when I triggered them as I stripped. I did a great job rigging the LEDs myself, and I have a tiny, programmable device in the panties to make them flash.

The biggest issue I faced when I debuted the number was the stage lights. I lit the costume with pink lights because they look better with the color palette. Throw some nice stage lights on the costume and the pink LEDs are washed out. You could only see the LEDs when I stepped into darkness. White lights against this color palette might have also been a problem because there wouldn't be enough contrast between the light and fabric. I might add lights to this new costume, but I'm definitely using this fabric.
This act isn't being performed any more. This was my project that incorporated magnets. I may sell the gown, or I may hoard it. More lessons learned here.

I believe I'll use the fabric you see on the skirt yoke (and also in the gown near my feet) for the undergarments. I haven't decided if there will be a bustier, corset or bra made from the fabric yet.

I'm also using leftover embellishments and adding new ones. I've danced to the song I'm using for the new act a couple times, but it's getting its own official costume instead of being performed with pieces from a few other costumes.

I feel like I'm really creating a signature number, something people will remember. I can do classic burlesque, but people want to see me as the fun gal. This project will be the sum of me and my former parts. I'm really excited.