Thursday, November 20, 2014


I Drive Fifty-Five! Photo by Maharet Hughes, Costume: Hallah Moustafa

Just in case you didn’t realize, I am A Woman Of A Certain Age. Specifically, that age is fifty-five…and I’m really and truly proud of every damn year! I haven’t yet dabbled in “having work done”, but once in a while I think about it.  And sometimes I  miss my baby face of yore… the same face that, as a younger woman, I insanely used to think was “fat” and  puffy”.  DUH!  Believe me, now I’m eternally grateful I had all that collagen- in fact, I now wish I could’ve put it into a bank!

I’m going to share a few  of my favorite  make up and skin-care tips and products  that’ll work whether you’re performing or just on your way to dance class. These are small cosmetic tweaks  which’ll make you look refreshed and gorgeous no matter how  young or old you are!  These tricks will keep you looking dewy and  rested when you are tired…and since The Holidays are just about upon us, they’re also a great camouflage for those mornings when you’re lookin’ just a teensy bit hungover!

Eyes And Brows
 A super-fab trick for making your  eyes look brighter, is to use dark blue liner... as opposed to black or brown.  I use navy blue to rim my eyes both in “real life” and on the stage. Blue liner  plays an optical trick, making the whites of your eyes really alabaster-white.  For every day wear, I use a power shadow  for this, cause it also makes the eyes look softer than they do with a harsh liquid or gel liner.  For stage, I apply the dark blue powder shadow first, then go over them with a black gel liner, which adds definition while retaining the softer look of the powder.

For every day wear, I use a couple of coast of mascara- always!  I love Rimmel’s ScandalEyes Retro Glam Mascara , it’s absolutely telescopic…and my lashes need all the help they can get! For stage, of course I use false lashes, the bigger and thicker, the better!
 As we age, our brows tend to thin out- or maybe you’ve just over-plucked them. Lush brows are important on stage or off… they frame our eyes, plus they make those  of us who are Of A Certain Age look younger . Right now, thicker brows are in vogue, and the best way to get them-and also have them look natural, is by using powders, as opposed to pencils.  For an every day look, I always use a matte powder. You don’t need to buy a fancy brow powder, though there are many on the market that are reasonably priced. I  use a stiff angled brush and a mix of regular matte  brown and black eyeshadow.  First, comb your brows with a spoolie brush, or an old, clean tooth brush. Then use the angled brush to apply  the powder  in short, swift strokes, going in the direction you’ve combed your brows, the way they grow-or have been trained to grow naturally. If you make a boo-boo just  take a Q-tip and erase it, and start again.

 By the way, I always do my eyes first, then clean up the migrating pigments underneath, before applying the rest of my face make up. It prevents the dreaded raccoon eyes.

Foundations And Face Make Up
 Because we dancers wear so much make up onstage, many of us don’t use foundation for  every day wear.   But many of us have uneven skin tones, blemishes or get chapped skin during the colder months that leads to redness or a mottled, ruddy complexion.

 Even if you prefer not to wear foundation for  every day, here’s  a little trick that will peel away the years. Dip a flat but slightly  thick  and fluffy brush into  a concealer that matches your skin tone, lightly feathering the product over all the small  lines and red  areas ( we all have them) around your nose. This one thing will make you look  at least a few years younger-guaranteed! Or if you’re in the under-thirty age bracket, it’ll just make you look more fabulous!  Do the same thing on   any red spots or pimples,  again  carefully blending it into the skin.  This will even out your complexion, without the heavy  full-foundation feeling  we sometimes get, as though we were wearing  a mask.

On stage,  no matter how young or old you are, you need to wear foundation- because it will make your complexion appear poreless and perfect.  Those sheer, “natural look” formulas aren’t strong enough- you need a very opaque, full-coverage type of foundation to get the desired effect. Choose your  foundation color by matching it as closely to your own skin tone as possible. Try foundation samples on the inside of your arm because the  skin tone there  is very close to the color of your face.

Often, performers will use a foundation that is a shade or two darker than their natural skin tone, because it makes their face appear brighter, more robust and healthy under the harsh stage lights.  I myself use this trick, and it works every time! And I’m never without a primer under my foundation, either!

To apply foundation, use the edge of a sponge or clean fingers to daub the make-up onto your face, blending it well, making sure to extend the shade onto the sides of the cheeks, chin, and onto the neck, so you don’t have a line where the foundation ends and your natural skin tone begins. Press a similarly toned or translucent powder onto your face to set the foundation, and then it’s time for…

When you do your blush, make sure to pick a color that goes with your skin tone, and won’t make you look sallow or unhealthy. Corals are great for those with olive undertones ,  and if you’re pale, a true blue-pink or berry tone will work great. For gals who are very dark, magentas or a blue red looks great, either onstage or off. A word to the wise: in order to look natural – and not look  odd in photos, always use matte- never pearly-colors for blush.

 To  ( seriously) look five or ten years younger, apply blush to the apples of your cheeks only. If you go under the apples, you’ll look like an 80’s Nagel painting…a hawt look sometimes, but definitely  not natural and also kind of dated, at least for day-to-day wear.

 Find the apples  of your cheeks by smiling, then load  a domed blush brush up with powder, blow or tap off the excess product and  gently brush the product into the center of the apples, then  curve it slightly up, in a “C” shape towards your temples.  For stage there’s almost no such thing as too much blush,  but if you feel like you’ve applied  a bit too much color for “real life”,  gently blend the blush with a dry cosmetic sponge or just tone it down a little  with some translucent loose powder.

As for winter time make up, one of the problems most of us have is that our summer tans are fading. Check the foundation you’ve been using  to be sure that the shade still matches your skin tone. You might want to mix two colors together, so you can lighten or darken the current  color you are using to match your “new”  seasonal skin tone. For pale  or fair gals, bronzer might be in order…and you can find great, inexpensive ones at the drug store! E.L.F  Studio Contouring Blush And Bronze is only about four bucks and comes in a wide variety of shades.  If you want to go a little higher-end, MAC Bronzing Powder is the bomb. For bronzers, make sure to use them sparingly, since you are no loner tan; take a large fluffy brush , and lightly go over the outside contours of your face: cheek bones, temples, jaw line, then  fluff some across the bridge of your nose. This will give you a healthy and subtle sun-kissed glow, and extend  the remnants of your summer color.

 For stage, and for every day life, if I’m going with a red lipstick, I make sure it’s a blue red , not an orange red. The blue-red gives the same effect with our teeth as  the blue eyeliner I mentioned above… it makes anyone’s teeth truly appear pearly white!  And, as we age, our teeth always- no matter what our habits- tend to become a bit more yellow. This optical illusion works  wonders to counteract that dingy tone, believe me!

Onstage, I am a nut with lip-liner; I go for the full Joan Crawford Effect by over-lining my lips almost a quarter inch outside their natural  parameters.  From the stage, under hot lights, this is another very  anti-aging optical illusion, because as we get older, our lips lose collagen and become thinner and less plump.

 Of course, you can’t really get away with this  in very day life without looking like a bag lady!  For  my “off duty” look,  I  lightly line my lips just outside the natural guide-lines  with a flesh-toned pencil ( I like to use  # 666 by Wet ‘N’ Wild ) pick a subtle peach shade or light  blue-pink color  of lipstick or gloss to use inside the faint lines I’ve drawn.

Skin Care
During the winter, our skin gets dry from  the cold and wind and also from indoor heating. Moisturizing is necessary, even more than it it is in warmer months! As for  moisturizers, I love  to go natural, and Atomic Cosmetics/ Xerion Skin Science  has  fantastic products that are all natural! The CEO- and the mad doctor behind this company- is the super-cute, super-smart Jennifer Dietrich, a gorgeous pin-up model and chemist with more  than a decade of scientific study under her patent leather waist-cinching belt!

Gorgeous Dr. Jen Dietrich of Atomic Cosmetics and Xerion Skin Science

  Along with a mind-boggling line up of  lipsticks, blushes and eye shadows, Jen has  created some incredibly terrific skin  care products too. I absolutely adore her  anti-aging eye cream The New 20 , it’s so velvety and scrumptious  that I slather it all over my face!  She also makes  City Skin , an anti-aging serum,  a superb Rosewater Facial Toner and a wonderful primer that’ll keep your face looking poreless, ( with or without make up)  called  Optimus Primer.

About once or twice a week, I use  a scrub to exfoliate my face. There are tons of products you can buy, but an easy  ( and cheap!) home made scrub will do the trick, without causing irritation.

 In a bowl, combine  1 tablespoon of dry oatmeal with ¼ teaspoon of table salt- any kind will do. Add a teaspoon of water , or if your skin is very dry,  use olive oil instead. Rub it into your skin  very carefully with your fingers in circular motions, going upwards. Make sure not to drag or pull your skin. Then let the  paste sit on your face for about ten minutes, and rinse it off with tepid water.

 After this scrub, I apply  natural coconut oil  to my face.  You can purchase a large bottle of coconut oil at any health food store- it’s great for cooking too. But when used on the skin, it draws moisture to you and seals it in, without leaving you feeling greasy and gross…plus it smells nice.

Here’s another natural,  homemade skin scrub  that is super easy to make and use:

 Combine 1 cup coconut oil  or sweet almond oil, if you prefer, with one cup of sugar. Mix it well in a bowl, and scoop it out with your hands, scrubbing your  face and entire body down before you step into the shower. This stuff works like a miracle!  Trust me, your  skin will feel like a toddler’s.

   Have fun playing with  these colors, products and ideas…and looking cute to boot!


 My instructional  make up  double-disc DVD Bombshell: Dramatic Make Up For The Stage, Photos And Glamourous  Occasions   makes a great holiday gift!  Get it – and The Belly Dance Handbook- here:

Order Atomic Cosmetics and Xeriox Skin Science Products:

 Contribute to the Atomic Cosmetics  Go Fund Me Campaign  ( and get rewards!) here:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Karim Nagi in a recent performance
Karim Nagi is a multi-talented musician, composer, folkloric dancer and deejay.  His performances are so high-energy and in the moment, and his connection to the music is so great, that he could probably   re-animate a room full of corpses. Born and raised in Egypt, he’s spent most of his life in America, though his global  travel schedule for teaching and performing is so hectic, I once heard him answer the question "Where do you live?" by saying:

  “In an airport!”

Karim in  the midst of a Saidi performance
Just in case you’re not familiar with his work, he’s released numerous instructional DVDs and a variety music CDs, both under his own name and as DJ Turbo Tabla. Since 1999, Karim has headed up the traditionally oriented Sharq Music Ensemble, and his Arab Dance Seminars routinely sell out months in advance.  He’s having one in New Mexico this November, but unless you’ve already secured your spot,  or if by come miraculous twist of fate someone drops out, there’s no way you’ll get in.

 His program Arabiqa educates   elementary school kids at over three hundred schools around the USA, but his educational efforts don’t stop there by any means.  In fact, his knowledge of his native Egyptian music dance and culture is so great, that he’s presented and lectured at many Ivy League universities, including Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Yale and many others.

We’ve performed together- in many places- for quite a few years, and in 2013, we also recorded a song “Heart Full Of Cairo” together- if you're interested in hearing it, you can find it on iTunes or Amazon.  Karim is  always a pleasure to work with because he’s so knowledgeable, and  a total perfectionist whose open to obsessive compulsive rehearsing and preparation.  But  he’s  also as much fun off stage as he is onstage… I once had the (dubious!) pleasure of hearing him  do an impromptu after-hours rendition of Ted Nugent’s hit “Cat Scratch Fever”, sung in a tongue-in-cheek Upper Egyptian Fellahin accent while he accompanied himself on the tabla !  In spite of-or maybe  because of incidents like this, I think he’s an absolute genius…though he’ll probably roll his eyes when he reads this. 
Karim & me  by Maharet Hughes

 Recently, he’s started a new four-hour-long workshop,  “Music Raqs”, which is a kind of “literacy program” for dancers who want to be able to better understand- and teach- oriental dance in a comprehensive way. In addition to music theory and technical info, he also goes into cultural and linguistic details that will no doubt be illuminating to dancers of any level, from absolute beginner to seasoned pro.  He’s putting on this workshop in Los Angeles this coming Sunday, October 26, and I’m very excited about it.

  Since Karim’s shows are so entertaining and high-energy, I thought he’d be a terrific candidate for my “Dancers Backstage Rituals” series.  So here’s what he has to say about his show preparation, in his own words:

“ I shine my boots. I iron my galabaya. I tape my assaya. I test my drum microphone. I stretch my legs and arms. I wrap the kufiya. I close the phone two hours prior. I recite the Quran's Surat al-Falak. I chose which sagat goes on which finger. ‎I do one hundred jumping jacks. I eat nothing for four  hours before. I watch most of the acts before me, to get an impression of the evening's overall message.
I choose a belt buckle. “

  I think he left  out one teensy thing though… the fact that he loves what he does so much, it can’t help but shine through in his performances!


Third Street Studio: 8558 W. 3rd St. Los Angeles California
 $50 before October 24: or $60 cash at the door
 Info  & registration here:



Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Photo  & graphics by Maharet Hughes

  Happy  Raq-tober, and Happy Halloween Season!
 This next post has become a  seasonal classic ... I wrote this in October 2010, but of course, it still applies!

If you are like me- and if you’re reading this, I’m relatively sure you are- you're already aware that this is the time of year when everyone you know hits you up about borrowing or even renting your stage costumes.

 Call me selfish, call me witchy, or just call me a “Hallo-weenie”… but I NEVER lend my costumes out for Halloween (or  for Burning Man, or any other event for that matter) unless I already know it’s something that could be replaced, or is an item  I could easily part with.

The stage costumes I own, not to mention my crazy collection of circus outfits, pirate hats, robot suits, saloon girl headdresses, feather fans, vintage corsets, kitty ears, rhinestone studded masquerade masks, wigs, super-hero boots, vampire capes, real and fake fur coats- need I go on? - are the "tricks of my trade", not a treat for someone who won't respect them. 

They took a long time and a lot of money for me to collect, not to mention the cost of  maintaining them.

My costume collection could probably have it’s own episode on the show “Hoarders”, but there’s a reason I have all this stuff around: it’s my livelihood! 

These pieces are my tools, my office supplies, and my working uniform... and in most cases, very expensive. But whether it’s an Egyptian  belly dance costume I paid $700.00 for, a vintage  burlesque outfit  or pair of  old character shoes  that I embellished myself, they are professional accoutrements that I can’t do my job properly without.

Oh, I used to be very generous about lending out costumes and costume pieces for non-dancers to use at Halloween parties, but it always ended badly.

Things would come back to me (usually months later) ripped, stained, with burn-holes from cigarettes or wax from candles, or just covered in cheap drugstore make-up or greasepaint from  Halloween Headquarters or The Spirit Store. And some things never came back at all!

Would you lend someone your laptop if you knew they were going to use it-and maybe accidentally leave it- at a club? Would you let a friend borrow an expensive camera to bring to a party where all the guests were going to be falling-down drunk? I thought not!

I think the reason most “civilians” want to borrow costumes is simply because they want to look good… and they also have nothing but the best intentions in borrowing these things.

  But the average person doesn’t realize that for their seasonal party-needs, a $30.00 costume from the toy store would be fine.

Want some help with your Halloween make-up? I’d be happy to assist you.

But don’t even think about asking to borrow my costumes… cause you’ll have to pry them out of my cold, dead hands!


  Get  a signed  copy  of  my books  The Belly Dance Handbook   and Showgirl Confidential here :