Thursday, June 27, 2013


  I just received an email  from a well-known dancer who is about to do a photo session with an well-known photographer.  Her email  had an emergency feel to it because apparently, the photographer instructed her to  show up for the shoot with “light make up, no eyeliner and no glitter”. 

  The tone of  her email was urgent and she sounded stressed to the max about this- it was a belly dance shoot, after all! She was after my opinion regarding his decree.

 So  I answered her email right away…  after diplomatically inquiring  as to whether the photographer in question was smoking crack!

Before I hit “send”,  I re-read my answer,  and  realized that I should  share it with you, dear readers, so here goes:

As dancers, it is  absolutely necessary for us to have an exotic, compelling look- we are not going after  a fresh-faced portrait, we are entertainers, and we need to look the part!

 I’m valiantly hoping that the  “no eyeliner” comment  was because some people do an extremely think black line on the bottom lide,  hoping it will look natural in the pictures…but it actually tends to look harsh.

As for the  glitter: I agree with the photographer-do not use it during  your photo shoots unless it’s for a extreme close up.

 If you know me ( whether in real life or on social media!) then you  know I'm all about the glitter... just  not  for photo sessions.


Glitter looks amazing in motion-  such as in  any sort of live performance, or  on film or video, but in  still photos, it can look downright weird… sort of sandy and grainy, or it  can  appear to be small white specks. For photos,  I only put glitter on at the very end of the shoot and  then  knock off a  quick bunch of  extreme  close up shots.

 I have a pretty specific formula I stick to for my “generic” dance  photo sessions- dark eyes,  soft looking skin and a  lighter  glossy mouth. Unless I’m  going after an unusual or  fantasy look, I use this formula  and it has never failed me.

 Peruse these pictures – all taken at different times, in a range of lighting situations by  a variety of photographers, and  you can see that  formula in action in every shot.

 So here’s what else  I do:


 In still photos I  use foundation only. I always try to avoid powder, because I favor a  very dewy 
 ( hence, younger!)  look. Powder is terrific for the stage,  but in  photos it  can accumulate and actually accent  creases or wrinkes- or even the small, fine barely-there lines around the eyes!  And while a matte finish  looks marvelous on a twenty year old with flawless skin, I  prefer  my own skin to look  glowing and  pearly… so I save the powder for live performances, where it will also keep my sweat  under control!

 Fresh looking, dewy skin means  foundation only, no powder. I always  mix a dab of MAC’s Strobe Cream into my foundation to get a really lustrous and glowing-from-within look.


 I use coral or true  rosy pink  blush on the  apples of the cheeks only.  Using blush on the apples will give you an instant "facelift"  and make you look gorgeous and healthy. If you  are darker skinned,  for your blush  colors  go with   brick tones,  true reds, deep mauves or  even burgundy… but really try avoiding anything that looks too muddy- by that I mean too dark, or colors with gray under-tones. For blush in photo shoots, stay away from anything pearly, because it will reflect light and look too theatrical- and presumably  you  want to look  pretty, not  shiny and weird, right?

Contouring is a must for the stage and in my opinion, necessary for photos, too. However,  make sure you place the contour color ( a soft  taupe is good for almost any skin tone) just under your natural cheek bone, and blend it well. Again, you do not want to use a shiny or pearly color for this; a matte finish powder is best  for the job because you’re creating the illusion of a shadow. Blend, blend, blend…. you don't want those   definite  1980's style lines...I’ll say it again: blend!

  Use a soft  white, eggshell or  beige-toned  pearly highlighter ( powder or cream, your choice) on the tops of cheekbones and up  to the temples, into  the hairline. This type of highlighting is an optical illusion  that  will draw the planes of your cheek bones forward,  and make your bone structure look insane.  It will also make your visage  look luminous, as though natural light is hitting  you in a very flattering way.


 If you’re  taking  dance shots,  you need to look dramatic and stunning. Period, end of sentence! Heavily lined dark eyes- think  smoky eyes  in  blacks, grays or browns   with  big  lush  faux lashes- are absolute classics for  almost any  type of dance you can think of…ballet, samba, jazz, hip hop, or whatever- and  this super-smoldering look   is , of course, always  right-on for any sort of belly dance or burlesque photo!

I like to go crazy with the eyeliner, it’s practically my trademark- but you might not be into such an extreme look… let your own taste dictate! A nice look that is finished and  defined without being extreme would be to line your top lids, and on the bottom lid, just  use  a dark powder shadow, blended well to look soft. 

 I've said this before and I'll say it again: please don't believe the stuff you hear about black eyeliner making your eyes look small!

Look at my eyes in these pictures  and you will see.  In real life, my eyes are very small and almond shaped. With black eyeliner  that s extended  from the outside corners, you can see how large my eyes look. Again, it's an  illusion...and when you're wearing an incredible  costume and lots of bling,  your  eyes need to be accented  enough to match the sheer volume of your outfit!

  Use  a lighter color on the brows than you would onstage. In performance, you have to accentuate your brows and make them darker so that they’re visible under the hot lights or in a dark club,  but for photos you  need a  much softer look. I usually use  dark brown brow  powder  for photographs, whereas onstage, I  use black pencil!  Redheads- be ware of using a brow color that's too red or russet- it will look strange. A light brown ought to suffice.  And blonde ladies-  if you're not a bootle blonde, believe me, you need brow color!  Use a  bare whisper of taupe for brows that are "there" but not cartoon-like.

Unless you’re going for a period-specific look, like a  classic  pin up  with thicker ‘50’s style brows-think Liz Taylor  or Audrey Hepburn-  or a 1920’s feel, with a pin-thin  brow, follow the natural shape of your brows and  then fill them in with light, feathery strokes.


For pictures, personally I’m all about  having  a  natural lip.

 Ha-  bet you never thought I’d utter the word “natural” while referring to my  make up,  didja?!  

I have been known to rock an amazing frosty teal shade of lipstick- but that was for a character promo  pictures.

 For my own  "regular" promo photos, I  prefer the focus to be on my eyes, so  for my lip color I go  with light peaches to corals- but not too orangey or chalky and matte. I also like  pinks  in various shades or beige skin tones.  This is because in close ups and portraits,  deep colors can   often  make the mouth look smaller and the lips almost too thin-  no matter what size they really are-which also  ages your face significantly, or merely accentuate your age! 

 For stage or pictures, I line my lower lip  around the outside of the lip-line to create a plump and luxuriant effect. I put my lip color on first, and then  I use the pencil- it looks  way less harsh this way.

I use a lot of lip gloss in photographs too, because it looks luscious and  seriously yummy. On stage, it’s a no-no  because it  just won’t stay put and will also  attract anything from  your own hair to errant feathers or sequins!   But for photos? Hell yeah!

 Don’t be afraid to experiment with your make up for photo shoots- but make sure you do an ample amount of test-runs  well before the shoot itself.

And even if the photographer tells you not to use should still make sure to give  photo credit whenever you can!

 Photo Credits:
 First and last shots by Lapis
Second  and fourth photo  by Dusti Cunningham
Third photo by Celeste Hines


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  2. I'm sooo glad that you mentioned those with light eyebrows! I feel like saying to those with really light brows and dramatic dark eyes: What's the point??? It looks like they don't have brows, therefore no expression, especially on stage! I fill mine in with powder (I just find that I have more control that way) just as you described and they look AMAZING!

    Love you talent and style!

    1. Aw, thanks so much for the nice compliments, Camille!

      I try to mention specific things for all types of faces.... cause everyone needs to look great!!! Once i was teaching a make up class and a very, very fair gal was my face model... she was looking at my own eyes- and i could tell she thought i was going to replicate the look on her, she was scared! But I did her face all pretty and "stagey" but for HER and she loved it!

  3. That was really useful, thanks! I'll remember to read these tips again before my next photo shoot! I think I'm using too much powder, but... otherwise my face have an annoying shine.