On stage, a dancer’s face is every bit as important as her body. As performers, it’s imperative that we convey emotion to the audience, and without a well made up “stage face”, that task is nearly impossible. I have always been adamant with my students about the importance of wearing appropriate stage make-up.
Onstage, the make-up I wear runs the gamut from Standard Stage Face to Ridiculously Over The Top Extravaganzas… yep, that means I like to pile it on, with all the bells and whistles! Of course, like most women, I enjoy playing with make-up in my “civilian” life, especially if I am going out at night. But contrary to popular belief, I don’t go overboard with cosmetics 24/7, I do give my skin a rest on days off.
Much to my amazement, even when I am wearing just a little make-up on the street or in class, people shower me with compliments on my “beautiful big eyes”, my “ exotic cat eyes” and my “bedroom eyes”. Why does this surprise me? Because, as the late magician Doug Henning was so fond of saying,
“It’s an illusion!”
Have a look at the pictures here, and you will see my eyes with and without make-up. In truth, my eyes are small. Very small. They are also narrow, almond-shaped, deeply set, extremely hooded and they actually turn down at the corners. If you want to get all scientific and official about it, my eyes have a very pronounced Epicanthic Fold…. which sounds a lot more exciting than it actually is. Read more on it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epicanthic_fold
The Epicanthic Fold is a common genetic trait among many Asians, Eastern Europeans, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders… and since I am an American Mutt with at least two if not three of those gene pools, I got hooded eyelids in spades- more than anyone else in my family, who all have big, wide peepers.
My Epicanthic Fold is so extreme that when my eyes are open, none of my eyelids visible at all…and my eyelashes actually recess back into the fold as well. On my face, the Epicanthic Fold looks almost like Asian eyes, but the area above my eyes is puffy, not flat, and always has been. People have often speculated about my ethnicity because my eyes are not an average shape.
Growing up, I suffered severe Eyelid Envy, and always wanted “normal” eyes, with big lids and cool eye sockets that made hollows under the brow bone. We always want what we don’t have, right? I flat-out HATED my eyes-and all the brutal teasing I endured in school because of them- with a passion. That is, until I discovered eye make-up. When I turned twelve, one of my mother’s theater students gave me a little tin of Mary Quant Eye Crayons and a tube of mascara… and my life changed forever. I learned, through trial and error, how to turn a “flaw” (my hooded, deep-set eyes) into an asset. Suddenly both men and women were drooling over my exotic eyes.
I got so good with make-up and wore it so consistently that once I even fooled my landlord of four years into thinking I was someone else. He came to demand the very late rent; I answered the door sans make-up, and he had no idea that I was!
“ Please tell her I stopped by”, he said, earnestly. I closed the door, amazed that he didn’t recognize me. Ah, the power of make-up!
As an adult, I realized that many women have eyes exactly like mine, or eyes that share similar traits. Out of curiosity, I recently looked up some tutorials for hooded eyes on You Tube. Yes, there are many of them, but sadly, most of the videos seem to get the make-up application all wrong. They mostly focus on creating the impression of a lid or crease, which to me just looks kind of weird. They try to “bring out” the eyelid by applying a lighter shadow there-, which might work theoretically, but is absolutely useless if your hooded eyelid recesses under your Epicanthic Fold.
There is such a dearth of information on applying make-up for eyes with this unique shape; I thought I’d share some of my tips and tricks. They will make your eyes look strong and exotic onstage, and you can use fewer products and a lighter touch for an every day look as well.
If you have hooded eyes, don’t believe all the “experts” who say that dark eyeliner will make your eyes look smaller. Au contraire- dark liner, ringed around the entire eye, will actually make your small eyes look much bigger. If you don’t believe me, try this on only one of your eyes, then look in the mirror and see what a difference the dark liner makes! Don’t be afraid to play around and experiment, you will probably need a few tries before you get comfortable with it.
First of all, instead of trying to “draw the lid out” from the hood with a lighter shadow, line the entire eye with a dark color. You can use black, dark or light brown, deep blue, green or grey- the color doesn’t matter- it’s the deep richness and darkness that does.
Make sure you use a powder eye shadow and a soft thick eye shadow brush, not a sponge applicator, which tends to feel almost sharp, and doesn’t hold as much product. Get a lot of pigment on your brush, tap the brush or blow on it sharply to remove the excess powder, and line the entire upper and lower lids, working from the roots of the lashes outwards. I do this with my eye shut, working the shadow well into the lash-line. Making sure that the entire upper and lower lids are covered evenly, I then fade the dark color up above the crease onto the hood, or Epicanthic Fold, for a smoky effect.
In order to make the most of your narrow, lidless or hooded eyes don’t fight their shape; work with it, instead of against it. Trying to fake a crease will probably only make you look weirdly surprised, or like you have raccoon eyes?
Instead of trying to create the illusion of a crease, or wide-open eyes, go for extending the length of your eye. Applying the powder shadow a bit past the outer corner can do this. This can be done a few ways: by applying the shadow straight across, by adding a bit more shadow in a V-shape smudged at the outer corner, or by winging the shadow sharply upwards along your the hood of the eye for a cat-like effect.
For stage, I always use a black liquid or gel liner to intensify this lengthening effect, especially on the lower lid. Personally, I don’t always use eyeliner extended outwards on the upper lid, because on my eyes (and perhaps also on yours, depending on how hooded they are) the upper line won’t be really visible. It might work for you, though, so try it out on both top and bottom.
From the center point of my lower lid, at about the middle of the iris when I am looking straight ahead, I use my eyeliner to draw a thin straight line over the powder shadow and extending outwards, to just beyond the edge of my eye. I then take white liquid eyeliner, and draw a thin line of white just above the black liner. From up close, this looks a little strange, but from the stage, it actually tricks the audience, giving the impression of extending the whites of your eyes, making them appear much longer-and larger- than they actually are. You can also use a soft eye pencil in white (MAC makes a great one) or use some frosty or matte white powder shadow applied with a thin brush, for the same effect.
If your eyes are hooded, chances are that once you open your eyes, your natural lashes will almost disappear. For every day wear, using an eyelash curler with a few coats of mascara may help make them more visible, but for stage, false eyelashes are essential. There is nothing that highlights and frames your eyes better than faux lashes and they look lush and gorgeous.
If you have never used false eyelashes before, you may be a bit apprehensive, but once you get the hang of it, the application is simple. Many newbies tend to opt for a lash that looks natural, but if you’ve got hooded eyes, a shorter lash just won’t cut it, it will get lost as easily as your natural lashes will. It’s length and volume you’re after, so, bigger is better! That being said, if you haven’t used false eyelashes before, they may feel a bit heavy on your lids, so try a medium sized lash and work your way up to full blown drag-queen length slowly.
Most faux lashes are manufactured to be intentionally too long length-wise, so they can fit a variety of eye shapes and sizes, so trim them if you need too. The outer ends generally are longer, so trim the lash from the shorter hairs on the band, the part that will sit on the inside corner of your eye. Some faux lashes are designed especially for Asian eyes. Instead of the lashes being longer on the ends, these are longer at the center, and tapered on each end and they look terrific on hooded eyes. A friend brought me some Korean eyelashes that were shaped this way, and I wore them until they disintegrated. Unfortunately, since the label on the box was in Korean, I have no idea what they were called! Some brands available in the USA that make false lashes which are longer in the center are Japonesque and Sonia Kashuk, whose make-up line can be found at Target. You could also try hunting down lashes like this at Asian beauty supply stores, or hunting them down on the Internet.
After you’ve trimmed your lashes, roll the band of the lash around a little with your fingers to make it more pliable, so that it will conform to the shape of your lid more easily. Apply a thin band of glue to the base of the false lash, (you can do this with a toothpick, painting it on the band to avoid any big glops of glue getting onto the lashes themselves) and let the wet glue sit for at least 30 seconds, even up to a full minute or two, until it gets tacky. The brand of the glue, or the amount you put on the lash will determine how quickly it dries, as will the climate. If you are in a humid area, (or are doing your make-up in a small dressing room full of sweaty dancers) it may take a little longer to get tacky enough to use. The most common mistake most people make when applying lashes is trying to stick them on when the glue is too wet.
I recommend "DUO" lash glue in clear/white, because it holds extremely well and is also the least irritating of any brand I've used. Clear glue will dry invisibly, making any mistakes less obvious. To apply the lash, sit it on your upper eye-lid, just above your natural lash-line. Press down lightly in the middle first, and then tap the lash down lightly towards inner and outer corners. Keep your eye closed for a moment, to let the glue take hold. You may have to gently press the lash upwards, towards your brows, with the pad of your index finger. This will give a more “open” look to your eye.
Many women cut the lashes in half, and use them only from the center of the eye to the outer corner for a wide, doe-eyed effect. Also, the lashes are a little easier to apply this way, and this technique will also aid in the producing a cat-like look.
Your eyebrows are very important for expressing emotions on stage, so make sure they are accented too. I like to use a stiff, slanted eyebrow brush and powder for eyebrow shaping, and also to fill in any bare areas. Use light, feathery strokes, and follow the natural shape of your eyebrow. You can also use an eyebrow pencil, but make sure it’s sharp, and again fill in and darken up your brows with feathery, short strokes. To add a lift to my entire eye area, when I am doing make-up for the stage, I usually extend the brow upwards and outwards towards my temple at the outer edge.
Heavy brows sitting over hooded eyes tend to make them look smaller, so if you have very thick eyebrows, you may want to have them shaped by a professional.
After I’ve done my brows, I finish up by contouring the hooded area just under them. I cover the inner corner of my eyes under the brows with a powder shadow shade that is a little darker than my skin tone, or in the same color family as but a little lighter than the shade I used to lie my upper and lower lids. I then add frosty white powder shadow as a highlighter just under the brow from the middle of the eye, extending it to the outer corner. I generally tend to keep the highlight thin, because on hooded eyes, a lighter shade spread over the hooded part will only accent its puffiness more. Sometimes I add a little bit of pearly white powder shadow to the area just above the tear ducts, or inner corner of the eye. For stage, I often use a small dot of white liquid eyeliner here- again; an effect that looks kinda bizarre up close, but it really opens up the eyes (by making the whites appear bigger) for the stage.
If you’re a “hoodie” like me, take some time to play with make-up, and see what works for you. Fool around with colors, and with different techniques for shading, lining and shaping. You’ll learn to love your unique, exotic eye shape.
And who knows… maybe one day some chick with huge, round eyes with big lids and fantastic eye sockets will probably sigh in envy, telling you she wished she had your wonderful, exotic eyes!
PIX: Top:My eyes w/ a bare minimum of make-up, Epicanthic puffs in full force
Middle: My eyes w/ basic smoky make-up for stage & photos
Bottom: My eyes in full-out Farhana Extravaganza
To get a Tarot card reading from me or to check out what I do when I’m not dancing, click here: http://www.pleasantgehman.com/Find me on online: