Jun 22, 2011

Pin-Up Glamour & Burlesque Pole Dancing

This past weekend I signed up for Bettina May's Pin-Up Hair and Makeup class at Beauty Bar NYC on 14th Street. It started at noon on a Sunday morning. I rolled in with no makeup on and sunglasses. I couldn't believe I was up this early for makeup and hair! The course was 6 hours long, and I came prepared with an avocado, nuts, and some hummus. I know from shooting with other photographers that modeling is exhausting. Yes! Bettina shoots you at the end of the hair and makeup makeover so you go home with all your shots burned on a CD so you can edit them as you like.

It was really nice to have Beauty Bar as the location for the class. It was roomy enough for all of Bettina's accouterments, plenty of cool spots to pick a location for your shoot, and even enough room for Vintage Variety Shop (Atlantic Highlands, NJ) to bring a rack full of vintage dresses, gowns, slips, and plenty of jewelry and accessories to borrow or buy. Meredith, the owner of Vintage Variety, has incredibly fair pricing too. It's not like NYC-hipster price. I was able to take home a purple floral dress and a sheer black gown that I am going to wear to host in. It's slinky and extra sexy now that I put a collar of black marabou feathers... puuuurrrr!
Hot rollers - key to glamour if you don't have time to do wet-to-dry rollers
Jewelry and Hair stuff from Vintage Variety

So many great dresses! I scored two!


We started with Bettina briefly explaining the history of the "pin up girl" and how minimal the make-up is because pin-up style developed during the wars so everything was rationed and women were home alone and started joining the work force, thus there was not a lot of time on their hands to spend on their daily beauty routines. It was all about black liquid eyeliner, false eyelashes, eyebrows, blush, and red lipstick. I was not used to doing such little makeup in my stage routine or going out routine. My burlesque makeup has been heavy on the glitter, but lately I've been reining back the glitter. My usual look for non-burlesque is dark smoky eye makeup and glossy lips. My favorite is MAC's Lip Glass in Viva Glam or any of the nude tones. I've gone through so many tubes. Doing this style of makeup was very different for me. And most Asians, I'd say, suffer from what I call the "small eye syndrome". That is, we line ALL around our eyes in an effort to make our eyes look bigger. Every beauty expert I've met say that is a mistake. Putting eyeliner all around the top and bottom of your eye actually CLOSE your eye. Bettina said the same thing that day so when I was doing my makeup I had to try really hard to resist the temptation to do stuff under the eye!
Pamphlet and a DVD for purchase
In class with Bettina!
The magic fingers of Bettina. Hair transformation underway!
My mane gets curled.
Bettina actually goes around and styles everyone's hair and style it in a way that is appropriate to your features and face. I couldn't wait to see what she was going to come up with. I think my second best feature is my hair so I was really excited to see the transformation. And mon dieu, look at the results!
A picture I can send to my Mom
After everyone got their makeup on (which was fairly easy considering the usual stuff I do which requires so much blending and trickery) and our hair done, Bettina took photos of everyone and gave tips on how to pose pin-up style. Again, another unfamiliar zone! I rarely ever smile in my photos. I rarely work with women photographers. The whole cheesecake stuff? I hadn't a clue. But I promised Bettina I would do a couple of smiling, toothy ones just for her.

A toothy one just for Bettina.
Pin-up poses and facial expressions are all about being innocent, surprised, and coy. The coy factor is almost a parody, an exaggeration - expressions I'm not comfortable making. But then I started to realize that although I am familiar with cheesecake expressions and pin-up culture (its everywhere), what was making me unsure is that the images I am accustomed to seeing are all white. Naturally, of course, it is because pin-up girls is specifically an American cultural phenomenon and as I did some research when I got home, there was no such thing during the war in Asia (when I say Asia I am only including China, Japan, Korea). With further research I found that indeed there were NO Asian pin-up girls because Asians were considered enemies during the war. Interesting! I found some Asian models on Model Mayhem self-described as "pin ups", and yes, they simulate the poses and the expressions but there's just something off about the imagery. I guess I felt sort of poser-ish knowing that what I'm referencing visually has nothing to do with my experience, my family's experience, and I do not share it's place in collective national memory. This is just my personal reaction mainly due to my over-education, heavy studies in postmodern literature and dabbling in deconstructive literary theory as an undergrad at Cornell which is why everything to me is an inter-reference (Pynchon!) or a pastiche - which is exactly what I felt like I was doing posing as an All-American pin-up.
Gee, I'm caught!
As a reference, in the 1940s this is how Chinese women looked.
Famous film star and singer from Shanghai: Zhou Xuan
Academic art dissection aside, it was a GREAT class because I finally learned how to create those big glamorous Veronica Lake hair waves that cascade down one side of your face and I learned how to do victory rolls which has always been a mystery to me.

The waves, the waves! I want to have hair like this ALL the time!
This week I started a six-week course in "Burlesque Pole Dancing" at Shockra Studio with Peekaboo Pointe. I've never gotten on a pole before and Peekaboo made it look so easy and effortless, but it is not. It's all upper body strength and I have about as much upper body strength as the average girl who isn't weight training for something specific which is not enough to get you up two climbs on the pole OR to do the baseball lift. At least I think that was what it was called. The names for the moves were really funny like "the fan kick," "the fireman something", and another hook something or another.  Since it was a burlesque pole dancing class, Peekaboo did not show us "stripper aesthetic" like spreading your legs wide open as you come off the pole. In the burlesque aesthetic, you keep your knees together and point your toes and stand up slowly from your waist and look pretty. I liked that! By the end of class, my ankles, knees, and wrists were all bruised. I already bruise easily and I have knobby knees and ankles and boy, the metal pole was NOT gentle. Today I am sore as I expected. It feels like I was working with a personal trainer. It's a good feeling and I can't wait for the next class!

1 comment:

  1. Terrific post as usual, Calamity. The styling suits you well. Really dig that last shot of you there.

    I'd say that the cheesecake pinup poses and burlesque are similar in that they engage in the art of the tease.

    Congrats on landing the part in the film!

    All the best...