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Costuming II: Makeup

makeup supplies

My first blog about costuming was about mistakes people make in the costume itself.  Today I wanted to blog about the most forgotten aspect of costuming: makeup.  Little did you know that when you decided to become a professional belly dancer that you would also have to become a professional makeup artist as well!

Most dancers do not realize how strange it is to see a dancer in a lovely sparkly costume with no makeup.  Or not enough makeup.  She seems…unfinished, and, frankly, unprofessional.  But makeup can be overwhelming to the new dancer, especially when you’ve blown the bank on your first costume.  But makeup doesn’t have to be scary.  YouTube is bursting with makeup tutorials (my fave), and there are also professional makeup artists you can take sessions with to help you, or you can buy makeup DVDs or books and teach yourself.  There are also belly dancers who offer workshops for makeup for stage. Here’s where I will make my statement: I am not a professional makeup artist (so please don’t ask me to do a workshop).  Everything I learned was through videos, workshops, and hours spent practicing and doodling.  But I have performed a lot, and I know what looks good on stage.

Of course, merely the thought of how much makeup you need is also enough to make your wallet hide under the bed.  But there are ways to make it not so overwhelming.  There are six makeup essentials that I use consistently more often than anyother items I have bought.  These are the absolute minimum, but you will get a lot of mileage with just these products.

  1. Good foundation – I can’t help  you with this one; go to a makeup counter and have them help (tell them it’s for stage, and they’ll know what to do).  MAC, NYX, and Ben Nye are going to be the best, but Revlon ColorStay is a good drug store alternative and it goes NOWHERE.
  2. Powder – loose or pressed, translucent is easiest
  3. Only 4 eyeshadow colors: pearly white (or off-white), gray, brown, and black.  Why these four?  Because these are what are going to look best on nearly everyone’s face and what is going to show up best on stage.  And the brown…it’s not for your eyes.  Use it as contour.  You might even just get away with black if you are a Tribal dancer or are going for a super dramatic look.
  4. Black gel liner – don’t bother with liquid or kohl (at least for now), they are often too hard to use or don’t show up well enough.
  5. Strong red lipstick – the most common color used, and will look fantastic on most people and with most costumes.  If you want, you can tone down the red and go to a pink, but be careful because pink doesn’t always show up well under lights.  Pick a violent pink that hurts to look at too long (I hate pink…can you tell?)
  6. Blush – pick another violent pink color, or ask your makeup artist what colors will work better for you

It sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t.  There are, of course, other things you will want to add later, like a good concealer, eyelid and facial primer, glitter, other eyeshadow colors for extra glam, etc., but you can get away with just those above items for your first few performances.

So now that you have all this makeup, what do you do with it?  Practice, practice, practice.  Just like dance, you have got to practice your makeup techniques.  Putting on gel liner is easier than liquid, but you still have to learn how.  Mess around with your three eyeshadows (remember the brown is for contouring, not your eyes) and see just how many looks you can do with just those colors.  Watch lots of videos (here a fun tip: when you are stretching and holding to increase flexibility and can’t do anything else, watch a makeup video).

And here’s the mistake nearly every dancer makes: not enough makeup.  If you are dancing at a casual hafla, you may think you can get away with eyeliner, blush, and lipstick.  Think again.  In dim lighting, your face disappears.  In bright light, you will look like a large white (or dark) blob.  Not flattering.  Think of every dance opportunity–even haflas–as a chance to get good photos or video of yourself, and a chance to check to see how your costume and makeup looks under different lighting and conditions (like sweating).  That restaurant you dance in for fun now may be where you dance for pay later, so you also want to make a good impression on the staff by looking as professional as possible.  Do your whole face for EVERY performance.

Keep this in mind: stage makeup looks scary and unnatural up close in normal lighting.  So pack it on until you look like a freak, and then you just might have enough!  Here’s another tip: I watch drag queens put on makeup.