Tuesday, July 26, 2016


 You put on your favorite costume, the one that always makes you  look and feel amazing, but like a slap in the face, you suddenly realize you can’t possibly wear it. It’s not because the hooks need to be replaced or you’ve gained or lost a few pounds, and certainly not cause you dribbled some form of condiment while scarfing down a post-gig meal backstage.

 It’s because your summer wardrobe doesn’t match your dance costumes!

Maybe you wore a halter-top this past weekend and your SPF wore off. Your chest and midriff are now evenly tanned… but the tops of your boobs look like two giant glow-in-the-dark white Hostess Cakes. Or perhaps you  got a sunburn while wearing that Kendall & Kylie “celeb style caged harness” swimsuit from Top Shop…and now there’s such an insane network of pink lines on your torso, it looks like you’ve contracted a hideous tropical skin condition!

 If you’re not religious about using sunblock -and you damn well should be- you’ll wind up with a tan or a painful burn. But even if you’re careful about using sunblock, you can still get those pesky tan-lines. And believe me, they look like absolute  %@$# on stage!

 I am  super-anal about wearing sunblock, but because of my mixed heritage and olive skin, I tan in a heartbeat, no matter what. Seriously, I can take out the trash in the early morning, and by the time I get out of the shower fifteen minutes later; I’ve got stripes across the tops of my shoulders from my tank top.

 Hey, it’s summer; we’ve all been there.

 But let’s get you back into your favorite costume, shall we?

To get rid of tan-lines quickly, first thing you need to do is exfoliate, cause it gets rid of all the dead cells on the surface of your skin. Exfoliating will literally buff away a bit of your tan, and it’ll keep your skin looking fresh and dewy, too.

 Please note that this works only for those who are tanned, not burned. If you’ve got a sunburn, it’s an absolute must to let it heal to the point where it’s not painful or tender, because you don’t want any scarring to occur. Instead, slather the burned area with Aloe Vera gel. Straight from the plant is best, but there are also plenty of gentle commercial formulas on the market, too. Take an aspirin or two, stay out of the sun and let your skin heal for a few days before exfoliating.  A nice all-natural spray to relieve sunburn pain is black tea.  Brew up a strong pot of black tea, let it cool in the fridge and transfer it into a spray bottle. Spritz the cool mixture on your skin after you bathe or whenever you want. The misted tea is refreshing and calming to the sensitive sunburned areas. But black tea also contains a high amount of tannic acid, which will help fade the marks on your body quickly.

 But back to exfoliation: I recommend Oil Of Olay Exfoliating Body Wash or St. Ives Purifying Sea Salt Body Wash.  Both are terrific, inexpensive options, plus they’re under ten bucks at most chain drug stores like Target, CVS, Rite Aid or Walgreens. If you wanna splurge a bit more, try Guyton Exfoliating Body Wash. It’s available on from www.glytone-usa.com or from Amazon; some department or beauty supply stores carry it, too. The glycolic acid isn’t a chemical peel, it’s easy on your skin, but helps your cells to shed and your skin to rejuvenate faster.

To make an ultra-cheap (but very efficient) D.I.Y exfoliating scrub, get a large glass bowl and add in these ingredients: a tablespoon of sugar with one cup of baking soda and half a cup of water. Mix it well, until it becomes a thick paste. Bring it into the shower with you, and with bath mitts or your bare hands, glob it onto your skin, scrubbing in long strokes or small swirls  (your choice, just as long as your hitting the affected area) like your damn life depended on it.

 Once you’ve exfoliated, now it’s time to camouflage those hellish tan lines.  If you’re skin is medium, olive-toned or dark, get a matte bronzer in a shade that’s a close match your actual skin tone; a shade or two darker is fine. If you’re fair, a rosy pink ought to work well. Just make sure you don’t use pearly or metallic shades- it won’t look natural and will only draw attention to your “disguise”. You can use cream or powder, whichever you prefer, both are fine. With a small soft dome blush brush – or even a cotton ball- dab the product onto the lighter area, but then blend it out onto the tanned area as well. If you apply the makeup only on the un-tanned skin,  instead of hiding the tanning marks, it’ll  make them look way too obvious.

 After you’ve applied the product, make sure to set it so it won’t rub off on your fancy costume. There are several makeup-setting sprays available. One of my go-to fixers is Ben Nye Liquiset, which is a theatrical makeup sealer in a spray pump.  It’s pretty inexpensive and really keeps any pigments in place, even when sweaty from performance.  However, aside from Amazon, it’s usually only available at costume/theatrical stores and some beauty supply places. There are drugstore brands that work just as well, such as L’Oreal Infallible Fixing Mist or Urban Decay Chill Cooling And Hydrating Makeup Setting Spray.  All of these products are made to be worn on the face, but they work just fine for tan marks on the body, too. None of them crack or smudge, and they come off with whatever sort of makeup remover you use also.

 My very favorite camouflaging product, which I use with or without tan lines, is Sally Hanson’s Airbrush Legs. It used to come only in a spray, but now, they’ve added a cream formula as well. This stuff is pure magic- it makes you look like the best filters on Instagram! It stays much better than any self-tanner, never looks streaky, doesn’t cake, and really lasts on stage, even through multiple performances. It gives your skin a gorgeous look, truly like you’ve been airbrushed. I’ve used it to hid bug bites, bruises, and scratches from my kitties, and even to completely hide my tattoos! Let it fully dry before you put on your costume, though. After it sets, it won’t rub off on anything. The only other thing you need to know is that if you’re using the spray, it would behoove you to use it in the shower, cause it could stain clothing (or a carpet) and it’s kind of smelly to use in a dressing room. However, the smell goes away as soon as the product dries. Also, sometimes it stays on the skin for an extra day or two, even after bathing… but who doesn’t want to look airbrushed, right?

These tips will allow you to have fun in the sun, but still look great onstage- tries them out and sees for yourself.


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photo: Dusti Cunningham, graphics: Natasha Vetlugin

  For more cosmetic  tips, purchase  my  double-disc instructional stage makeup DVD  “Bombshell” or a copy of "The Belly Dance Handbook  here:  http://www.princessfarhana.com/shop.htm

photo and graphics: Maharet Hughes/Graphic Vibe

Sunday, July 10, 2016


Believe me- that jawline, cheekbones ( and my cleavage) were NOT given to me by Mother Nature...just sayin'!
 Photo by Maryann Bates

Contouring has always been around, but suddenly it seems to be all the rage. The shading and highlighting techniques that were once the sole realm of  high fashion  photo shoots- or drag queens- have practically gone viral- suddenly; everyone is chiseling, shaping and molding their features as part of their every day makeup application. All the major cosmetic lines have introduced contouring kits, and every inexpensive drug store or knock-off brand has followed suit.

With the right colors and  a little practice, we all can have higher cheekbones, a defined jawline and a longer- or shorter, or narrower nose.

But contouring for the stage is a very different animal than just adding a little boost to the face that your gene pool gave you.

 To begin with, you must understand - and most of you already do- that strong, bright stage lighting will erase every one of your features. Seriously, if you’re thinking of wearing daytime (or even party-time/clubbing make up) on stage, your face will appear blank and washed out in performance.

 You need to pile on everything from lashes to lip color…and even then, it might not be enough! Trust me: when done properly, stage makeup contouring will look downright horrifying up close, but under the hot lights, you’ll look like a perfect Grecian statue.

Though it’s always fun to get new make up, you really don’t need any special contouring kits for this. Often, you can find the perfect shades among the cosmetics you already own!  Go ahead and splurge on Mac, Anastasia Of Beverly Hills  or Kat Von D if you want to, but it’s totally not necessary to get the look you’re after. It really doesn’t matter at all if you’re using an eye shadow to sculpt your cheeks- it’s only the color that counts!  

However, I will say that while cream formulas work fine for every day contouring,  for  the stage you’ll probably want to use powders or pressed pigments - they stay better, last longer, and are much easier to work with when building your performance look.

 First, you’ll highlight areas you want to bring forward, like the planes of your cheekbones, the tip of your nose, the jawline, and the inside corners of your eyes. For day-to-day make up, depending on your skin color, you’d be using a matte ivory or maybe a very light rose gold, or  bronze color for darker skins.

 Onstage, you can use matte shades to highlight, but frosty shades look much better, because they attract and refract light. What might look over-the-top and…yeah, kind of…crazy... in real life will be just right for a large stage!  Depending on your skin tone- and the effect you want to project in performance- you can use any color for your highlights, from bright pearly white to lavender, light pink (or even baby blue) to metallics like bronze, silver or gold. With a fluffy brush, get a load of pigment on your brush, and tap or blow off the excess. Then go to work on any features you’d like to bring forward.

I used a light blue highlight on my temples and  cheekbones 
 Swirl the frosty highlight color on the tops of your cheekbones, working it all the way into your temples. Dust a faint line down the center of your nose, and lightly around your jawline- not underneath it, but right along the jawbone itself. Blend all of these areas a little but not too much-remember, you’re doing this for the stage, not every day life! Onstage, we want our features to pop, in order for them to look “natural”.

 With a fine-tipped brush, use the same frosty shade to draw a thin pearly area just under your eyebrow and the brow bone itself.  Dab in some “eyelights” at the inside corner of each eye. This will give a gorgeous, wide-eyed affect, really opening up your eyes-no matter what size they are. To do this, use a Q-tip, placing it just above your tear-ducts and slightly into the side of your nose. Just load the cotton swab with pigment, blow or tap off the excess, and place a precise dot of highlighter at the inside corner.  This doesn’t even need to be blended. It will look quite odd up-close but the illusion onstage will look fantastic.  If you want to exaggerate the wide-set, doe-eye look, bring the color up the inside of the eye to the eyebrow, blending it into your eye shadow.

For all the areas you want to recede, you will use a matte color.  Do not use pearly or frosty cosmetics for shading, because they attract light, and you’ll be using your contouring colors on the specific areas you want to appear to be shadowed. Once again, there’s a wide range of colors that can be used for shading, depending on skin tone.  Pick out colors that are about two  shades darker than your own complexion.  Darker skinned gals can use anything from a matte medium brown to chocolate brown; olive-skinned dancers should use a taupe or dark beige, and a slightly rosy brown or even a brick tone will work well for those with fair skin.

  Use the same size brush (or a slightly smaller one) than the one you used for highlighting to dust on a darker contouring shade to the places you want to recede. The shadowed areas will usually be just under the places you’ve highlighted, such as underneath the natural cheekbones, and under the jawline, from ear to ear. When working on the jawline, make sure to dust the contour shade all the way from the center of the neck to past your earlobes, and all the way to the bottom part of the tip of your chin.   To make a wide nose appear narrower, apply a thin line of the shading tone up each side of the bridge, blended well. To make a long nose appear shorter, dust some of the contour shade under the tip of your nose, again blended thoroughly.   With a clean dome brush, make sure you buff out and blend the shadowy parts- because you want to look like a chiseled goddess, not a trashy 1980’s Mall Rat!

 If you want to make your lips look fuller, you can contour  them, too. This time, you’ll be using your lipstick and lip pencils. To give the illusion of a pouty lip, use a darker lipstick on the top lip, and fill in the lower lip with  a color in the same family, but one or two shades lighter.  If you want your lips to look lush and bee-stung,  start out by lining them with a flesh tone or white  pencil.  This will bring out your natural lip-line and make it look more pronounced and prominent. Next, use  just one  shade for the top and bottom lips- a true red with blue undertones works best  and has the added bonus of  making your teeth look whiter, too. After you’ve applied the color, blot it, apply a second coat, and  take a finger full of frosty white, light pink or gold powder and smudge it into the  center of the lower lip. Bingo- better than having “work” done and your lipstick will stay put through your performance without smudging!

These same face contouring techniques can be used to highlight your body, especially when wearing costumes that show a lot of skin, to accentuate your muscles and curves. It’s a pretty simple process: whatever body part is lighter will stand out, and those that are darker will recede.

With a full, fluffy brush, apply a thin-ish stripe of pearly white, pinkish bronze or golden highlighting powder down the center of the arms and legs to make them look longer. While you’re at it, dust some of the same powder around the curves of your shoulders, and lightly across the tops of the breasts to make them appear fuller and more prominent. Drawing a soft, smudged line in the center of your cleavage will accentuate it and make it seem deeper. Make sure the actual line isn’t visible- blend it very well- you can even dust on a coat of translucent powder over the highlighter and contour colors instead of blending it. Since your arms, legs and torso are much larger areas than your face, you don’t need to be quite as careful with the blending.

 Play around and experiment with these applications, and with the colors you use, then snap a selfie or two to see what looks best on you.  With a little practice, you’ll get these looks down to a science!


 For even more make up tips, purchase my instructional  how-to stage make up DVD  “Bombshell: Dramatic Looks For The Stage, Photos and Glamorous Occasions or  “The Belly Dance Handbook here: 

 Bombshell: Dramatic Makeup For The Stage, Photos And Glamorous Ocsaisions,  instructional stage makeup DVD
Photo by Dusti Cunningham

 August 1, 2016 I'm teaching a 1970's retro stage makeup look as part of  the "LA Legends Of Belly Dance" intensive. Info here:

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016


Photo by Lapis

Feathers look absolutely sensational onstage. 

Whether you’re using huge Sally Rand fans, rockin’ a lusciously fat boa, or wearing a costume and/or headdress  trimmed with feathers, they always look  glamorous and amazing. The plumes waft through the air looking elegant and ethereal or flirtatiously accent every shimmy. They also make the audience swoon like nothing else. But beautiful plumed costumes, props and accessories are also expensive….so you should definitely know how to maintain them!

 The first thing you need to know is that plumes pick up oils from your skin quite easily. Our natural sebaceous oils will adhere to the feathers and attract more dirt.  
Always wash your hands before using your fans or wearing your boas; please don’t wear any  oily body lotions when using these props. And remember: lip gloss is literally  The Kiss Of Death onstage – not just cause it will mess up your feather  props and costume pieces, but because you’ll spend the entire show spitting errant fluff out of your mouth!

Here are some tips on maintaining your feather props and costume pieces:

Feather Fan Storage
 Store your   large ( or smaller) plumed fans  in one of those long, sturdy locking plastic containers. Rubbermaid makes a terrific, rectangular  giant sized one… but you can find several types at places like Target or Walmart, too.

You can easily fit a couple of sets of  Sally Rand fans- and more, if they’re smaller- in these without cramping them. Make sure to lay the feathers into the container with the plumes facing up so you won’t break the spines.   Before sealing the box for storage, add in cedar chip sachets or  plenty of cedar balls to prevent insect infestation- moths adore fans! You can also use good old mothbalss, but I dislike them for two reasons:  they stink like chemicals, and more importantly, they’re toxic to pets.

 Fan Maintenance
 Check and  if necessary, repair your fans thoroughly before each performance. Keep a Fan Emergency Kit with you in your bag  whenever you’re gigging. It should include an extra  hex bolt  in case the one on the butt-end of your fan blades gets stripped,  a tube of  crazy glue in case your feathers start releasing from the staves,  some pliable craft wire and a jewelry pliers. You’ll also need  a “stubby screw driver”- an adorable teensy tool that often comes with both a straight  head and a Phillips or star-shaped head. They’re really inexpensive  and even come in bright colors like purple, pink and aqua

Fan Transportation
I have a specially made carrying case for transporting  my Sally Rand fans to local gigs, but  a long, wide   document tube or Fed Ex box would work just as well! For air travel, your fans will undoubtedly need to be checked ( they’re usually too long for the  storage bins in the cabin) so  make sure you pad whatever container you’re using well and include your little tool kit.

 Storing and caring for  Boas, feathered Costumes And Headdresses
Store your feather boas in the same way you would your Sally Rand fans or smaller feather fans- in a tightly sealed  plastic container, with cedar chips to keep moths away. Depending on the size of the boa, you can use abig round container, the type made for large cakes. Coil the boa up like a snake ( a boa snake, of course!) and  close the container.
Larger boas might not fit into a cake container, so some gals store their boas in round hat boxes.  When I do this, then I seal the boa in  a  large plastic bag with the cedar chips  before putting it in the hat box-  just to be extra careful about insect infestation. 

To store headdresses, I have found that the  easiest way is to place them on a Styrofoam wig stand, and pin them securely onto the wig head itself. I then wrap the headdress in plastic wrap, sealing it firmly around the bottom of the wig-head, and store the entire thing on a shelf. Again, throw in a sachet of cedar chips. If your headdress is large, you can also stick an opened-up wire hanger  or two into the Styrofoam, to  create a “tent”, holding the plastic up so it won’t break or bend the feathers.  You might also have to weigh down the bottom of the stand to prevent it from toppling over due to the height and weight of the headdress.

Feather boas and feathered headresses are simply  the height of glamour- but since feathers are basically an animal ( or rather, avian) product, they tend to dry out over time  and can become droopy or flattened out and limp. To restore your  boas to  their brand-new fluffiness,  you’ll need to care for them and  maintain them occasionally. 
Grab your boa and briskly but gently feathers  between your hands. This will shake off any dust as well as  fluff  up the “nap” of the feathers,  making each one look perky again.

You can also clean the feathers on your headdresses the same way- but instead of using your entire hand, fluff each feather individually with your fingers.
For a costume that has feathered accents, do the same – just fluff the plumes with your fingers.

 Next, steam your  boa or headdress. If you have a clothing steamer,  hang the boa up by one end and steam it this way, being super-careful not to get the  tip of the steamer too close to the feathers- you want the fine mist to cover the  boa, but  you don’t want it dripping wet! Steam each section of the boa only for a few seconds, until the feathers have opened up.  For a headdress, do this while the headdress is sitting on the wig stand.

If you’re cleaning feather accents  that are sewed or glued to a costume, use  your steamer in the same way.

 If you don’t own or have access to a steamer, you can also use a tea kettle or a large  pot full of  boiling water  to steam  your  boa, holding it horizontally over the  pot or kettle, steaming it in sections.  For headdresses, make sure to hit  only  the tips of the feathers with steam- try not to get the crown wet.   I do not  recommend this method for costumes with feather accents, though.

Be very careful not to burn your hands or fingers- steam is just as hot-if not more so- than boiling water!

 Make sure to turn off the flame on the stove burner off while doing this or you’ll be courting disaster… BOAS AND FEATHERS ARE HIGHLY FLAMMABLE!

 If you maintain your gorgeous feathered costumes and props well, they’ll look great for years!


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