Thursday, 28 June 2012

Beauty Blog

Vintage Manicure with a Twist

First, a confession: I *hate* painting my nails. The sheer amount of time it take: base coat, two or three layers of colour, top coat. Then sitting waiting for them to dry, unable to do anything, not even twiddling my thumbs because you know they'll catch and smudge, then you're back to square one.
However, I love they way they look when they're all brightly coloured and I do enjoy experimenting every now and then, so when I'm feeling particularly patient and have several hours of stress-free time to fill (very rarely!) I'll paint them.

So. This is my take on a vintage manicure: traditionally the half moons at the base of the nails are left uncoloured, and I'll usually cover the rest of the nail in a gorgeous bright red.

My usual vintage manicure look

For the purposes of this blog post, and in honour to the lovely sunshine currently streaming through my window, I decided to be a little more adventurous and jazz the colour up a little.

I began by filing my nails to the same length, as they were quite long but one or two had snapped and I think that nails of obviously different lengths looks messy. I used Barry M: All in One which acts as a basecoat, top coat and nail hardener - it goes on smoothly and dries quite quickly.

Barry M: All in One

Nails after filing and using base coat

Because I don't like to sit around waiting for my nails to dry, I chose to use Rimmel: 60 Second nail polish and I chose two complimenting but daring (for me!) shades: Ethereal and Shocker

Rimmel: 60 Seconds polish in 'Ethereal' and 'Shocker'

I like the shape of these brushes as they're slightly curved to allow the polish to go on smoothly to the cuticle. I wasn't particularly impressed with the lighter colour though as it seemed to streak a lot and took several coats to build up a good colour. It also took much longer than 60 seconds to dry and I left about fifteen minutes in between coats.

Nails painted with light pink colour

In order to get the right shape at the half-moon of the nail, I use Nailene: Perfect Tips French Polish Guides. These are intended for use when creating a white nail tip but I place them at the base of the nail instead - because of the elongated curve designed to fit the nail tips, I had to over shape them when sticking them, but they still work perfectly.

Nailene: Perfect Tips

Where to place the guides for the half-moon manicure

I then used the darker pink shade of polish to cover the rest of the nail. This colour went on much better but I still applied two coats for impact, waiting fifteen to twenty minutes in between applications.

Waiting for the pink to dry

The good thing about this type of manicure is that you don't have to be particularly neat or careful at the base of the nail when applying the polish as the sticker tabs create the neat line required! 

Wait until the nail polish is dry, then remove the nail guides. 
When removing the tabs, be very careful as sometimes the top colour can lift away from the nail slightly. This happened on one or two of my nails and I gently pressed it back down.

Finish with a layer of top coat as this helps bind the colours together and creates a gorgeous high shine, then prepare to dazzle with your gorgeous vintage inspired manicure, with a twist!

The end result!

Barry M: the polish glides on easily though I do feel I have to load the brush in order to get a smooth line from the base to the tip as I have quite long nails. It dries quickly and is hard-wearing, which helps extend the lifespan of my nail colour.
Rimmel - Ethereal: as previously mentioned I like the shape of the brushes which helps cover the whole nail - I found I could paint my little finger and ring finger nails in one stroke. However the polish itself was quite streaky and took several coats to build up a good colour.
Rimmel - Shocker: A good colour which would still have a nice shade with just one coat of varnish. No streaking in this shade either. Despite the claim of drying in 60 seconds, I was very aware of my nails for several hours afterwards as they felt slightly tacky, though whether that was due to the product itself or the layers of different polishes I'm not sure.
Nailene: Easy to use, easy to peel and good sticking power - an old favourite.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Burlesque and Birthdays!

Last week was a busy, tiring, exciting week, filled with shows, business meetings, unexpected detours and... my birthday!!

Past birthdays have proved that it *always* rains on the day, followed by a week of glorious weather, and with the rain pouring down in the days preceding, I wasn't holding out hope of anything different so I spent a few rainy days in London last weekend, exploring parks, browsing along Portobello Road, dodging raindrops and swooning over the Jubilee-themed d├ęcor of the Harrod's window displays:

Portobello Road Vintage Market  

Hyde Park in the rain 
Reproduction of the Coronation dress **  Crown made of hundreds&thousands!

The following week, before my birthday festivities, there were two more stops on The Burlesque Show tour...

The first was in Coventry at the Belgrade Theatre, and was hosted by the gorgeous Laurie Hagen - she has so much energy on stage, it's completely contagious and the show was bags of fun (even though we got caught in a massive traffic jam en-route, meaning that a 90 minute journey took us nearly five hours!!)

Backstage with Fancy Chance, Frankie Lynn and Laurie Hagen

The next show was at The Hexagon Theatre in Reading: one of my favourite places to perform as the stage is gorgeous, the tech team are fabulous and the audience are always receptive and appreciative.

Mirror Picture with Elan, Laurie Hagen, Jim Devereaux, Coco Malone, James Malach, Elle Amour, Glorian Gray and Fancy Chance

Lovely things that happened at this show: I got ID'd for wine! Taz arrived with a huuuge bunch of flowers for me. Elle, Glorian and I visited the worlds worst karaoke and cocktail bar, I got a birthday card signed by everyone in the cast and a host of lovely presents as well!!

Birthday Card!!

Presents from Glorian Gray, Taz and Kirsty

Gorgeous decorated REAL egg!! 

The following day - my ACTUAL BIRTHDAY!! Taz and I travelled back to London, thanks to four AA vans and several Starbucks stops (his car broke down, and they kept having to change tow-vans for various annoying reasons!) but at least it didn't rain!

Two of the four AA Trucks it took us to get back to London!

However, once we were safely back in the city, we went for a lovely meal and a stroll down the Thames.

Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast all lit up at night

And you know what? The weather was beautiful for the next few days! They were spent mainly drinking iced coffee in the park, wandering around shops in London and dozing in the garden! Bliss...

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Act Inspiration

Someone on Twitter recently asked me where I get inspiration for my acts from - well, I am inspired by a huge range of things: sometimes it's a piece of music, a costume idea or a picture that gets me feeling creative! I am mainly inspired by Art Nouveau, the Belle Epoque and the American Golden-Era but each act has different sources and they grow and develop as I work on them...

Breakfast With Audrey
Photographer: Candee Piccies

This is my tribute to the gorgeous Audrey Hepburn - she is a true inspiration, not only in her career but also her private life and attitude. The act was based on what is probably her most iconic role as Holly Golightly in 'Breakfast at Tiffanys' and the dress was a custom replica made by Louise O'Mahony, who added a reverse zip for easy removal onstage! I used music from the motion picture (Hubcaps and Taillights by Mancini) and a beautiful orchestral arrangement of Moon River for the fan dance.

Broadway Belle
Photographer: Scott Chalmers

This act was inspired by the music - I was originally looking for a good, music-only version of 'Too Darn Hot' for a 1920's Charleston routine I was thinking of doing. However I came across a fabulous arrangement of the overture to 42nd Street and fell in love - the music moves through so many moods and styles that the act pretty much choreographed itself! I kept a little of the original 1920's feel with the opening gown and the shimmy dress, but the rest of the act was inspired by the classic showgirl.

Photographer: Scott Chalmers

This was originally inspired by a gorgeous poster I saw at an alternative arts fair, by the artist Aly Fell - it was in the style of Art Nouveau and was a modern interpretation of the Absinthe Fairy. I loved the dark yet sexual tones of the image and wanted to create an act that captured the same mood. I was also inspired by the choreography of Loie Fuller (credited with the first performance of a serpentine dance) and the modern interpretations by Jody Sperling. The music was tricky to find as I knew exactly what I was looking for and many hours were spent on YouTube and Spotify finding the perfect track. The costume was inspired by Victorian mourning wear, sparked when I was gifted a beautiful piece of 1890s applique taken from a mourning dress, which I incorporated - very carefully! - into the costume.

Photographer: Scott Chalmers

Originally this was inspired by butterflies and fairies (yes, I'm a girl!) and I wanted to create an act that utilised my ballet training. This was the third act I ever put together and has gone through many transitions and costume changes, finally featuring these incredible, Art Deco inspired wings, again made by Louise O'Mahony. As the act developed I drew on the story of the Cottingley Fairies, and added elements that made the basic routine feel more magical. The music is actually the theme from the movie 'Papillon' but has such a beautiful melody and atmosphere that it is the one part of the act that I've never changed!

Dancer and the Pearl
Photographer: Scott Chalmers

I wanted to create a basic fan-dance, as several of my acts incorporated fans but I didn't have a dedicated act on it's own. I was inspired by the Ziegfeld Follies, Sally Rand and the opulence of the 1920's to create a costume literally dripping with pearls and crystals. The music, again, was tricky as I knew what I wanted but couldn't find it. Eventually my Granddad and I sat down and listened to some of his old records and we eventually struck gold with a fabulous Glenn Miller track.

Photographer: Candee Piccies

This act was created in a very short space of time, unusually, to order. I was booked at short notice to perform as part of Circus Burlesque at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2010 - the show was based around the seven deadly sins and I was asked to take the sin of Lust (hence the name!) So, with around two weeks to go before heading up to Edinburgh I asked friends to recommend me some suitably lusty sounding music (Mancini came up trumps again here!) and looked for inspiration from classic showgirl costumes and choreography. The costume has gone through one or two alterations (only the skirt, made by Millie Dollar remains the same) but this act has become my most requested routine ever!

Photographer: Scott Chalmers

Inspired, obviously, by Peacocks! I simply wanted to create something beautiful and colourful - This is another of my older acts and is onto about the fifth costume incarnation! It began as a fan-dance en-pointe with a very basic (and badly self-made) costume, and has developed to include a unique interpretation of the Belle Epoque's iconic serpentine dance, with a costume inspired by Art Nouveau and the Ziegfeld Follies.

Photographer: InaGlo

Many years ago, on Strictly Come Dancing, I saw an amazing routine by two professional showdancers - I wanted to perform an act with the same energy and joie-de-vivre as these incredible performers: and the music was pretty damn awesome as well! The costume is inspired by my love of leopard print, and classic showgirl outfits, and is onto its third redevelopment already!

Photographer: Scott Chalmers

Sugar was born out of my longing to create a simple yet stunning showgirl striptease - I was inspired by classic costuming and choreography, and my addiction to glitter! It's as simple as that really. The music I pulled from an old, retired act of mine (called Victorian Lady - I only performed it three times, it wasn't very good!) and is another Glenn Miller track. The name came from the original costume, which was made of very fine, sequinned mesh and looked like spun sugar!

To The Pointe
Photographer: Ravey Davey

This act was inspired by the music - "That Man" by Caro Emerald.- I heard it and was immediately up and dancing: it is a modern piece but retains the feel of 1950s swing and jazz. I had a vision of running around the stage en-pointe, and realised that although several performers dance in pointe shoes, very few of these acts are upbeat. The costume came out of the choreography, as this aspect fell into place very quickly, and is loosely inspired by Film Noir and old detective movies.

Older Acts...
Over the years I have created and retired many acts. Reasons range from my not liking the act any more, to simply having too many on offer! Some of them are waiting in the wings for a time when I might come back to them (I *may* look at Phoenix again in the future) or for when they are requested specifically (Angel is non-striptease so may be suitable for other events, and Snowstorm is a good 'winter' themed act), whereas others are gone for good.

Angel was inspired by Loie Fuller and Jodi Sperling
Ariadne's Thread was inspired by the story of the Minotaur's labyrinth
Cirque Noir was my signature routine for a while as it was inspired by, and performed to, Dani California by The Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
Falling Feathers was my first foray into a classic showgirl striptease and was inspired by the classic showgirls... obviously!
Jewellery Box was not inspired by anything in particular and was only performed twice
Late for a Date was my second act and was a cheesecake striptease, inspired more by the music (Be-Bop-A-Lula) than any concept or other influences.
Money was created for a Seven Deadly Sins themed event and was inspired by the sin of Avarice
Paradise Lost was inspired by the Bird of Paradise and the beautiful colours, and by a gorgeous dance routine I saw performed once to the music I used for this (Uninvited by Alanis Morrisette)
Phoenix From The Flames was inspired by far-eastern mythology and the legend of the phoenix
The Red Shoes was inspired by the Hans Anderson story of the girl who dances herself to death in cursed pointe shoes, and the movie of the same name.
Snowstorm was inspired by snow and ice and was intended as a Christmas or winter-themed act
Victorian Lady was inspired by the idea that the Victorians were all quite refined and stuck-up, but were actually a little bit naughty behind closed doors!
The Waitress was my first ever act and was a cheesecake striptease with a very loose storyline!

I view all of my acts as investments, in respect of time, money, effort and development - none of them are exactly the same as the first time I performed them, and I doubt they will remain as they are indeterminately! Several I have changed the choreography, most of them have had costume revamps and they will continue to grow and change with me as I grow and learn as a performer.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Vintage Fair Frivolity

The Jubilee fair at Stockport Market sounded like it was going to be amazing, so even though I slept through my alarm this morning, Kittie Klaw arrived to drag me along!

I have to say I was quite disappointed - maybe the terrible weather had something to do with it, and the fact that we arrived with a little over an hour left to go but there wasn't really anything going on. A jazz singer entertained the few people who were left and there was a cute cafe at the back but there were only three or four stalls and not much to see at all.

However, we met up with Kittie's friend Boo, who is an antiques fiend and always has exiting things to show us - and he bought me a birthday present!! (It's my birthday soon, by the way :P )

Gorgeous vintage mirror - 1920's! The back is hand-painted ceramic: apparently this sort of thing was more expensive than silver in the 20's as the process was very tricky and work of this nature was highly prized. 

After a cup of tea to warm our frozen bones we crossed the road to a lovely little vintage shop hidden away in an attic above the marketplace where I uncovered a few gems myself!

Stunning 1920's purse: the fabric is pleated silk. It has a really unusual clasp, though it is missing one of the paste gems (I got money off for it!) and there is a tiny inner purse and hand mirror inside. The label simply says 'British Made' which I think is appropriate for the Jubilee weekend!

1960's tie-pin and cuff-links: the tie-pin is by Stratton of Mayfair and is an imitation of an Art Deco style. The cuff-links are by Citation and are of a similar style to the tie-pin.

Finally, indulging my hat-fetish with this gorgeous felt pill-box hat. 1980's but in a 40's style, it is made in England by Frederick Fox.

I won't be able to go to the main Vintage Village fair next weekend unfortunately as I have a wedding to go to, nor will I be going to the July fair as I'm going to my first ever festival at Nova where I'll be performing as part of Red Sarah's cabaret and freak-show! However I have marked the date for the August fair in my diary and shall be saving my pennies!

Me in my 'new' vintage hat

Have a look at the haul from the last Vintage Village I attended here, or my first visit to Camden Vintage market here...

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Beginning Burlesque

A little over four years ago I was working in a Jazz Bar in Chester, when they announced that they would be holding a new Burlesque night there, once every two months. I can't remember now whether I was aware of Burlesque or not... probably not much!
The show was called "Dixie's Dollhouse" run by Dixie Licious from Newcastle.

The poster for the very first Burlesque show I ever saw!

I'll be honest, however, and say that I don't remember very much of the evening at all! There had been a family birthday party earlier in the daytime and I might have had rather a lot to drink!
I do remember arriving just as the night started and seeing the gorgeous Frankii Wilde performing her Cat act... it all goes slightly blurry after that though. My abiding memory of the evening is seeing a beautiful girl (Zara Ann) covered in sparkles and pouring champagne over herself and me announcing "That'sh what I'm gonna do!"

I had just graduated from Liverpool Theatre School and College with a Distinction in Professional Musical Theatre. I had a fabulous agent who was getting me regular auditions and I sang in a soul band once or twice a month. However, any theatre monkey will know that's not enough and I was going slightly crazy not performing. Burlesque seemed like a perfect, short-term solution: in 2008 shows were springing up all over the place, I was able to be creative and costume and choreograph for myself, and because the shows were one-nighters, if I got an acting job I wouldn't be letting anyone down in the way that I would if I were to take part in, say, a local amateur dramatics production.

I joined the Ministry of Burlesque forums and began asking all of the typical 'newbie' questions about music, costumes and the like, finally stumbling across a job post asking for a newcomer to perform at a night in Southport - the show was called "Ladies of L'amour" and it took place at a venue called The Latin Lounge. It was headlined by Millie Dollar and Anna Fur Laxis - two incredible performers who are still a huge source of inspiration to me. (I remember Millie performing an act with a purple costume, I think it was a cat-themed routine, and I saw Anna's 'Time for Tease' and 'Shipwrecked' acts)

My act was called 'The Waitress' - it was a cheesecake style routine to the song "9 to 5" and was a generic striptease act: a waitress gets bored and drinks the drinks she's supposed to be serving to the customers: gets drunk and strips! I wore a custom-made French Maid style costume with stockings and underskirt from La Senza, pasties from Ann Summers, shoes from eBay and pants from New Look which had my name written in glitter across the bum!

I remember talking far too much backstage and being aware that I was getting annoying (this is still something I do when I'm nervous!) and asking for lemonade to add to the champagne glasses (I actually received a double-vodka and lemonade: I didn't realise this until I was performing the act and had to down four glasses of the stuff while performing! Eek!) I also remember flicking my stocking too hard when I took it off and it landed on someone's lap - he picked it up, put it round his neck and wore it for the rest of the evening!
I also remember the train was delayed on the way home so I missed my connection at Liverpool Lime Street and had to get a taxi home to Chester!

Pictures from my very first ever show!

It's funny looking back at how I started in Burlesque - never expecting it to last this long and take over my life! I've changed so much as a person and a performer: I no longer perform Cheesecake routines, whereas my first two acts were both in this style (my second act was called 'Late for a Date' and was to "Be-Bop-A-Lula"!) and I've even changed my stage name. I appreciate much more the value of costuming and presentation and the importance of a well-executed, unique idea. I love Burlesque, Cabaret and my Cabaret Family, and this is where the whole wonderful roller-coaster began!

I hope you've enjoyed this little trip down memory lane! I usually blog about more recent shows, like this one, and this one too...