Lee Stafford Hair Growth Line: A Review

13 Feb

You guys. I have the slowest-growing hair in the history of the world. I know they say that hair grows an average of half an inch a month, but I think my hair grows that much about every three months. You think I’m kidding? I chopped my hair off to chin length after my wedding in 2009. I started growing it out when I was pregnant with T though, in the interest of making ponytails. And this is how long it got by the time he was born.

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Yeah. Approximately one inch, and that was with hormones. Determined, I continued to grow it out. Right before T’s second birthday, it was like dis.

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So that’s at best, what, 3 inches? In almost two years. By the half inch formula, my hair should’ve been like a foot longer, even with regular trims. (I do have a consolation prize–my nails grow super fast. Nothing like having to trim your toenails every two weeks because they’re pressing against the toe of your shoe. #beauty)

The Challenge

When I was little all I asked for in life was “princess hair.”

Specifically, this.

But because — sigh– my hair is rather fine, it’s never gotten much longer than collarbone length. Longer than that and it tends to get straggly. And that’s unacceptable by princess any normal standards.

A few months ago, I decided to go for it though. Just let it get as long as God can grow it. (OK, maybe not quite. There is such a thing as too long.) But maybe to bra strap length, not to get graphic *snort*.  I mean, why not? Eventually I’ll be too old to rock long hair, at least not without it being a terrifying surprise when I turn around.

I’d already switched to salon brand shampoos a year ago, after hearing from a few too many sources that drug store brands cause waxy build-up. But I figure slow-ass growing hair of this caliber needs a little something extra. So to help me in my mission, I turned to – where else? – Pinterest, and that’s where I came across the Lee Stafford line of growth products.

Salon Brand?

Lee Stafford is a UK celebrity hairdresser who sort of looks like he should be choreographing a group piece on So You Think You Can Dance but instead has his own product line. They sell it at Boots which basically the British equivalent of a Duane Reed, but I got sucked in by the tag line “for hair that never grows past a certain length” (once I got past the sociopathic capitalization, at any rate). I don’t know, maybe in the UK they don’t allow wax in their products. You never know.

Literally.

The bottle arrived with no ingredient list. I guess the labeling requirements are different across the pond? I couldn’t even find the ingredients on the internet, although I did search only briefly, and then really only for sulfates (since my hair is colored).

The retail price for these products is in the $14-16 range per bottle. So, not all that cheap, but by no means top dollar as far as hair products go. I paid $50* at Amazon and got all this.

*of my own sweet, sweet, hard-earned cash, as you should know by now.

There’s a shampoo and a conditioner, and a protein mask that you’re supposed to use between the shampoo and conditioner. I read somewhere that it’s really important to use conditioner of some kind after the protein treatment, otherwise it will eat your hair or something. I don’t know about all that, but I will say that I would never be able to get a comb through my locks after the growth treatment without the help of conditioner. The last item is a milky leave-in spray.

Application and Usage

The biggest complaint in the Amazon reviews was that it smelled bad. I don’t think I would have given the smell a second thought if I hadn’t read that though–it was perhaps a little stronger than other shampoo scents, but by no means did I find it gross or weird.

The protein growth treatment got used up the fastest. You’re supposed to use an egg-sized amount, and even that didn’t spread very far. Eventually I got a clue and starting using it, as well as the leave-in spray, on just my roots (the instructions say to apply all over, but come on, where does new hair come out?). The conditioner ran out before the shampoo because I was applying it all over instead of just on my ends like I normally would (I was scared of the protein treatment). The conditioner wasn’t particularly creamy–it was on the lightweight side if anything. I usually had to use an extra product post-shower to help detangle. #finehairproblems

I still have at least half of the bottle of leave-in treatment left. So my review is based on complete use of three out of four products.

Does it work?

The part we all care about, right? So here’s the BEFORE shot, taken at the beginning of October.

Hair Before 2 fix

This is my hair at the end of my last bottle of shampoo and conditioner (it was Joico, if you care). Please do not judge my toothpaste splatters.

…And this is the after, taken at the end of January (approximately 3 months later).

Hair After 2

At first glance, pretty great results I’d say.

Hair After 3

It looks like we went from clavicle length to armpit length. But wait…

Hair Before After Side

Compared side by side, is there really that much of a difference? I mean, clearly there is new length here, in my bangs if nowhere else. But is it more than would naturally occur in three months without a trim? Hmm. Maybe, maybe not.

Pros:

I think the biggest thing this product has going for it is that I wouldn’t have been able to get it this long and still have it look nice. Anytime I’ve tried to get my hair longer than it is in the before shot, I’ve had to cut it because the ends have gotten so tangly and dry and gross that I can’t even comb my hair, much less make it look cute.  It’s now the middle of February and I still don’t feel like anything except my bangs needs a trim (and that’s just because I like shorter bangs).

Also, it’s shinier. (Sigh, yes, these pictures were taken in different lighting situations but I promise, I spend enough time staring at myself in mirrors to know the effect is not a trick). I like to think that’s health shining through, but who knows. My hair definitely feels lighter and bouncier, despite its being longer (maybe) . Which leads me to…

Hair Before After Back

Cons:

The difference in length is even less distinct in the shot above. By normal growth standards it should be an inch and half longer. But my hair is a little curlier in the after shot which may have taken away from the overall length. What do you think? Maybe I should’ve put the exact same shirt on.

The resulting texture is a bit rough, making combing a little more difficult and the hair not really as smooth and soft to the touch. However, I think that may be because there were no waxes present (that’s what usually gives your hair that smooth and soft feeling–did you know that?). On the other hand, I think there may have been sulfates. Believe it or not, I actually refreshed my color about halfway between the before and after shot, and it still lightened up that much.

Caveats

I should say here that this wasn’t exactly a scientifically controlled experiment. In addition to the Lee Stafford products, I’ve also started taking a high dose of biotin. A word of caution if you’re thinking about starting a biotin regimen: be prepared for ALL your hair to get longer. Embarrassing admission–when the peach fuzz on my face started to veer into sideburns territory, I dropped back to taking that ish no more than three times a week.

I also started using a Tangle Teezer right after Christmas, and it’s been pretty life changing, even if it does take me, like, 15 more minutes to comb my hair now. Around the same time I got a free sample of the Perfect Hair Day cream from the Living Proof line, and I love it. It’s going really far toward softening my hair that extra bit.

Additionally, I wash my hair only 2-3 times a week. That’s how I was able to make these relatively small bottles last three months. I also try not to use heat styling except for on special occasions. Such as when it’s too cold to let my hair air dry.

And of course, let’s not forget I didn’t trim my hair at all. The general wisdom is that cutting your hair helps it grow, but in reality that has more to do with–again–simply keeping it from looking like garbage as it gets longer in its own sweet time. If I can achieve healthy looking hair through products instead of trims, whose to say I can’t get my bra-length hair?

Bottom Line: Would I recommend it?

Yes. If you don’t process (straighten, color, etc) your hair. I’m going to continue to use the protein growth treatment and the leave-in treatment, but I’m stopping the shampoo and conditioner in favor of the ones in this line (yeah, Blake Lively is on the Strange Rocket headed toward Planet Annoying, but you can’t deny her hair is killer). Hopefully that’s enough to save my color somewhat but still achieve the desired effect.

The thing I really liked most about this product is that it really brought out a new texture in my hair, one that was perhaps weighed down previously by those creamy conditioners I prefer. Previously I couldn’t achieve waves like that without salt spray and a curling iron (and even then usually only in fall and spring when it wasn’t raining and humidity was at a perfect 30%).

This is a decently low cost line with results that in my opinion, make it a good value. But as for myself, I might see greater results with an even more radical treatment–not cutting my hair.

It’s been a while man, life’s so rad

27 Jan

Hello friends. I’m hibernating and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

I’ve been catching a lot of screen time, reading a lot of books, and doin’ a little dancing (I’m choreographing a local school’s production of Hairspray, for the three of you who don’t know me from Facebook and/or RL). I sort of despise winter and the only way I can beat SAD every year is to get a little indulgent. I buy beauty products and fleece leggings, read magazines, drink hot chocolate, and forget I’m 30-something for the length of a YA novel or movie (follow me on Goodreads and we’ll swap reviews!).

To that end, last night I convinced P to watch The Fault in our Stars with me. I’d read the book but until this moment didn’t have any interest in the movie because–depressing. But watching it had the intended effect, namely, to make me feel grateful for everything, large and small, that is good in life (Sometimes the cold can make me whiny).

So I’m coming out of my cave for a minute or two to share what I’m obsessing over now. Surprise #notsurprised most of it has to do with food and makeup.

Roku is enabling my DA addiction

The only show that I’m driven to stay caught up on for whatever reason is Downton Abbey. We couldn’t get either of the hand-me-down antennas our friends gave us to work in our house (I don’t know, trees?…), so we ended up ordering a Roku with a bunch of reward points that were built up on my credit card. (The upside to sinking hundreds of dollars a year into keeping an old vehicle in working order). We can’t watch the episodes until the day after they air, but that’s better than waiting an eternity for that ish to roll out on Netflix. I can handle a day.

But seriously. Roku is awesome, and you should get one, and then poop on Comcast’s lawn.

These nails y’all

I’m sort of over crazy nail art. I’m really loving pure colors right now, especially neutrals. Currently I’m lacquered up in this warm winter white, a color of my own invention. None of these polishes were quite right on their own: too gray, bright, and peachy, respectively. But together they make the palest skin tone neutral that my skillful phone photography can’t do justice to.

(For the interested, the recipe is: 1 drop Revlon Bare Bones, 3 drops Avon French Tip White, and 6 drops OPI My Vampire is Buff).

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On the other hand, this mani is kind of a mess so maybe it’s better this way.

My toes are chrome rose gold. You guys! It’s like my toes are wearing jewelry! (That matches the be-YOO-tiful new pink gold watch that P got me for Christmas, beetee dubs). The best part about this nail makeup, other than that I got it on super clearance at Ulta, is that it actually works better without a base and top coat. Laziness condoned? I’m down. Sadly, it’s been discontinued (hence the clearance) but you can still score it on Amazon and Ebay. For the moment, anyway.

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It dries quickly enough that my feet didn’t turn into ice blocks while trying to avoid slipper-smears.

 

Snapware Makes Me into an Adult where Everything Else has Failed

My friend H and I determined, when we were both drooling in the Corningware Outlet, that it’s a true sign of getting older when you are excited about food storage. But the hilarious yet surprisingly awesome set I have right now has started to get too grimy to use, and now I’m hoping to replace it eventually with the full complement of these babies.

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Not Sure Where These Have Been All My Life

I had an amazingly delicious side of roasted chickpeas at our holiday office lunch, and was floored to learn that it’s really easy to DIY that fancy looking snacky-savory-side. And you can add any kind of flavor, really–for my first go around I used garlic, cumin, and parmesan. There are about 657000 recipes on Pinterest but all you really need to know is a drained can of garbanzos for 30 minutes at 400 doused in EVOO and spices. They were intended for a rehearsal snack, but it was all I could do not to eat the entire batch standing up in the kitchen.

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Embarrassing confession: I did not know that chickpeas and garbanzo beans were the same thing before now. This is what happens when your primary food group is pizza.

 

Online Bureaucracy Means One Less Fraught Interaction with Strangers

Maybe it’s because this has never actually worked for me before, but renewing my tag was stupid easy this year. Basically since I started driving I’ve had to schedule a birthday visit to either the tag office or the DMV, even though I live in a county with online renewal. This year I got my renewal notice, emissions test, paid online, got the sticker, WAM, BAM, all in about a two week time frame. You go, state of Georgia.

 

T minus Five Days Until This is Me

Ok so not really. But my main dudes and I are going to Colorado next week to visit my cool lil’ bro C and his cooler better half S, plus one of my very best buddies is meeting up with us from LA. And we’re all going skiing at Copper Mountain! It’s like vacation squared!

 

The Only Thing That could Make me Eat Salad when 45 Degrees Is Actually Starting to Sound Warm

If you don’t have a Kroger in your area, that is a real travesty because this Private Selection Poblano Ranch is everything you could ever want in a man dressing and more, and I don’t even like ranch.

Just give me a head of lettuce and we’re good to go.

 

So This is Neat

Truly though, after that downer of a movie I was walking around my house with new eyes. For instance, I’ve had these little bird hooks forever–seriously, it sat on a dresser unhung the entire time we lived in our old apartment, and it’s been hanging here for almost three. But suddenly I looked at it and just loved it.

Side note: I seem to own a shocking number of clothing with bows.

Side note: I seem to own a shocking number of garments featuring bows.

 

I Swear This Wasn’t Intentional

Not long ago we redid the horrible green floor and mauve trim in my bathroom with peaceful white and deep gray. And that was great. But what’s even greater is that the products on my bathroom shelf are color coordinated and I didn’t even plan it. From the eye makeup remover that I don’t use because it stings but I keep because MERMAID, to my go-to winter body cream. This is the kind of randomness I can really appreciate.

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This Face Though

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This is my sweet, sweet child. My child who not only is free from horrid diseases GAH WHY movie with FEELS?!?, but is basically a 17 year old in a 3 year old’s form (he can’t be any older than that because grown men don’t think fart jokes are funny).

Oh wait.

Anyway. He came with me on the aforementioned Ulta trip, and a stranger actually stopped me to say what a great conversationalist he is, like a little adult. (The fact that he was talking loudly enough to be heard by every random stranger in the store assures me he’s still a preschooler).

He is kind of a ham, which I guess was unavoidable and totally expected, but it still surprises me sometimes. This is a gag he came up with to underscore an enjoyable meal–in this case a lunch of blood oranges and the free soft serve from Jason’s Deli #dontjudge.

Freakin Delicious

Imagine, if you will, that the entire series above takes about ten seconds start to finish, and is punctuated with a jerk of the head and a tiny toddler voice saying the words “FREAKIN’ delicious.”

So what are you obsessed with grateful for this winter?

By now I’m sure you all know I was given neither free stuff nor dollars by any of the brands mentioned here. Kroger, if you want to send me a case of Poblano Ranch I will not say no. Have your people call my people.

NAMB: The final word on baby name trends

14 Nov

Hello, my name is Unique.

As the year winds down, it’s time to put out top 10 lists, and then argue at length on the internet about them. I bet you’ve deduced my very favoritest of these lists: baby names. This piece (Thanks for keeping it fresh, HuffPo) rates the “hotness” factor of baby names, and I don’t even have to look at the comments section to know it is ri-dic. (Spoiler alert: I’m right).

Breathing a sigh of relief that “your” name for your future baby isn’t on there?

Feeling miffed because Violet has, omg, been on your list for like, five years?

Congratulating yourself because you gave your child a “regular” name so it will never be ridiculed or mispronounced? (it will; unfortunately the world still has a surplus of idiots)

Belittling a certain trend *cough* location names *cough* that you didn’t happen to follow?

Wake up and smell the judgement, people.

The perennial debates over baby names are so silly. Name your baby whatever you want. Even if the name eventually dates him or her, well, her birthday also dates him or her. Who cares if there are other kids in the class with the same name? Sixty years ago everyone was named John or Mary and nobody wrote their local paper about it. Somebody stole your unique name? Sorry not sorry. Nobody owns a name. Some celeb just named her daughter Briar Rose and now people (usually people who named their child Mary) want to make fun of her. Whatever, at least everyone will know how to spell it. I’ve had Estella on my list for years, and if I have a little girl next, I’m gonna name her Estella if I damn well please, whether it’s on some list or not. Pick a name you like and don’t defend it to me or anyone else. Your baby is going to be adorable, and your baby is also going to grow up and hate his name and probably you at some point. Accept and move on. It’s no wonder that 96.8%* of expecting parents are afraid to share their name choice with others. UGH.

*scientific number

The Beautiful and the Dead: Ghost Makeup Tutorial

27 Oct

Halloween is this weekend (on a Friday this year!), so I thought I’d share 10 easy steps to create the ghostly makeup for the character of Elvira in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. Add this makeup to any outfit and you can be a dead [fill-in-the-blank] as a last-minute costume. Of course, if you’re playing Elvira you can use this too!

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A lot of ghost makeup tutorials you find online are heavy handed with the creep factor–I know, I searched.  But the script makes multiple references to Elvira’s attractiveness, and she manages to re-enchant her husband somewhat despite being quite obviously dead, so the effect couldn’t be totally ghoulish. But of course, we need to know she’s not of this world. This look strives for that balance of pretty and eerie.

My tutorial is adapted from this YouTube video by another actress who played Elvira. If you’re like me and sometimes prefer to follow written steps with pictures rather than a video (or like to have both for reference!), this is for you.

This is easy enough for makeup-phobes and novices alike,  and the whole process start to finish took me about 45 leisurely and deliberate minutes. But my fellow castmate S, who played the role of the second wife who (spoiler alert) also dies, threw on an abbreviated version in about 10-15 minutes. And it wipes off in two seconds with a cleansing wipe!

Cosmetics Used:

labeled shadow

  • Primer
  • Snazaroo face and body paint - see notes on color in step 1 (Available at Eddie’s Trick Shop and Norcosco if you’re in Atlanta)
  • neutral eye shadow palette (see above–the colors I used are labeled)
  • liquid black liner
  • black eye shadow powder (to be used as character shadow)
  • translucent loose powder
  • skin tone pressed powder
  • lipsticks – warm-toned pink and coral red
  • mascara
  • false eyelashes (optional)

(You’ll notice that aside from the face and body paint, I didn’t name brands…that’s because it really doesn’t matter. I will generally share what I used though, just in case you’re curious). 

Tools:

  • Foundation brush or cosmetic wedges – non latex
  • concealer brush
  • angled shadow brush
  • fat shadow brush (2)
  • tapered shadow brush
  • sponge tipped shadow applicator (the one that comes with most shadow cases is fine)
  • eyeliner or eyebrow brush – stiff bristles
  • large powder brush
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Brushes, assembled! Also pictured: the Ulta black eye shadow I use as my character lowlight.

Preparation:

I know I’m not the only person who experiences irritation with theatrical makeup, so let’s briefly talk skin care. Start with a squeaky clean and well moisturized face. This paint tends to flake on dry skin. I used this cleansing oil for double the moisture since my skin is quite dry, but whatever you have works as long as it gets everything off. (To prevent skin freakouts, I used the Clarisonic to deep clean and then applied an antioxidant serum whenever I washed my hair–about three times a week. A depuffing under-eye cream would not go amiss either). After cleansing, use a very simple moisturizer (I use this DDF moisturizing dew from a Birchbox that I lovelovelove, but it can be any type) and let that set. Then apply a primer. I had this color correcting type with purple for sallowness and green for redness, but anything works. Primer of some kind is very important, because that’s the secret to making the makeup look smooth instead of chalky or flaky. And remember the old adage: whatever you do to your face, do to your neck as well! (And in this case, probably your chest too).

Another quick note about prep: Generally this is a no-no, but I put my costume on before starting makeup so I didn’t need to pull things over my head and possibly get silver all over my real clothes. And also so that I could see how far down my neck I needed to apply the color.

Step 1: Base

Apply the ghost color makeup all over. I used the Classic Colour individual paint in metallic silver. I know you’re thinking–silver?! But yes. Just bear with me. You really don’t want to use pure white–the look is too clownish, and this is coming from somebody that is quite pale naturally.

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You may find it helpful to have a stack of paper towels at the ready for blotting, etc.

This type of makeup is water activated. That can be kind of a pain in some respects, but the wonderful thing about it (as opposed to grease paint) is that once it dries, it doesn’t rub off on things that it touches–like your costume or your furniture or your castmates/children/girlfriends/random hookup. You can easily control the coverage from light to heavy with this type as well, and it’s very easy to remove.

Wet either a makeup sponge or a foundation brush and squeeze out the excess. I tried both and preferred the sponges in the end, as long as they are non-latex. For some reason, the latex wedges didn’t pick up enough of the product for good coverage.

Don’t get it too wet or it will be streaky. Too dry and it won’t spread. But never fear, you can always add more water, and if you accidentally over hydrate the excess water will soak into the color block pretty quickly.

Dip it in the color and sweep over entire face and neck. Don’t forget your ear lobes! (don’t worry about your hands until the end).

A foundation brush tends to give lighter coverage than a cosmetic wedge, so whatever you prefer.

FYI, I ended up keeping this dark nail color–the effect after applying the makeup to my hands was very groovy-ghoulish.

Go ahead and cover your eyebrows, most of your lids (no need to be too thorough there) and your lips. I have bangs so I didn’t have to worry too much about this, but you might want to push it up into your hairline too.

It will be pretty shiny when you’re done but don’t worry–we’ll fix that later.

Step 2. Eyes

Use a fat shadow brush to apply a dark neutral (#1 on my palette, which is an ELF I got for $5 at Urban Outfitters BOO YA) all over the lid up to the crease.  Using a clean shadow brush of about the same size, blend so there are no harsh edges.

2 base shadow crop

 

Try to keep the shadow off of the inside corner of your eye, against the bridge of your nose. Color here can make you look sickly, and we’re going for pretty!

Step 3. Crease and Line

Use an angled shadow brush to apply a soft black eyeshadow (#2) in a sideways V from the outer corner. Be sure to tap off the excess powder.

One wing goes up into the crease…

3 crease

…and one goes across the eyeliner line.

3 line

You can fill in the V if you like. I found this made my eyes recede too much into my face, but those blessed with large Disney eyes could definitely pull that off.

Then pull the dark shadow it a bit under the eye. This adds to the dead look, but don’t get too heavy handed or you might turn into this.

3 under

If a little bit of shadow shakes off underneath your eye, DON’T RUB. Grab your large powder brush and dust it off.

Step 4. Accent and Highlight

Apply white shadow (#4) under the brow bone as a highlight. You’d think you wouldn’t need it with the gray makeup, but it adds a nice dimension. I find that the finger is the perfect width for the browbone (one of those nifty body things I think, like how your foot is the same length as your forearm). No brush needed!

4 highlight

Now, dot a Georgia Clay colored shadow (#3) right above the pupil to open the eyes up. An artist at Sephora taught me this trick years ago, along with the color recommendation. I use it a lot in real life too!

4 accent

Use the applicator that came with your shadows

Step 5. Brows

Take a stiff liner brush (or a brow brush, if you have one) and dip it in your black shadow color. Mine is pictured above with the brushes. Color your brows back in at the thickness that you like.

5 brows

If you’re actually playing Elvira, and your production is set in the originally intended time period of the 1930s, you’d probably want to keep them thin and highly arched. Our show was set in the ’80s so I just filled in my natural brows.

You’ll notice in steps 2-5 that I was careful not to rest my chin on my hand, as one might normally do to steady it. That is to keep from messing up the silver. But by this point in the process, it should be dry and safe to touch!

Eyes done! But still a little ghastly, no?

Eye shadow done! But still a little ghastly, no?

Step 6. Lips

You really have free reign here. My director specifically wanted an orange tone, which I created by combining a warm pink on top and a orange-y red on bottom. But I’ll be honest, this color made my teeth look kind of stained, and the silver paint doesn’t help. So you can choose any color lip you like (blue-based undertones whiten teeth). You could always do blood red, although that easily veers into vampire territory. I think a red wine would be really cool–there’s a nice one in the nude Clinique bonus going on at Macy’s right now, just FYI.

Red on bottom, pink on top, and BLEND!

Red on bottom, pink on top, and BLEND!

Step 7. Liquid liner

Take our old friend, black liquid liner (remember it from this post?), and line the top of the lid and the outer half of the bottom, right under the lash line. There’s no need to wing it out for this look. It doesn’t need to be crazy-thick, but if you’re going to be using falsies it looks good if its thick enough to peek out above the false lash line.

7 line

Step 8. Shadow

Here’s the dead part, y’all. We want to very subtly echo the look of a skull using dark shadow. If you went and bought a theatrical makeup starter kit, you’d find a pot of character shadow that’s usually a shade of dark brown. That won’t work for this though–we want to go more gray. So I used a pot of shimmery black (pictured above with the brushes, the same one we used for the brows) from Ulta that I’ve used for shows since forever. Yeah, I said it–years! I know this stuff allegedly expires, but why trash perfectly good makeup? Every once in a while I wet a cotton ball with alcohol and swab over it to disinfect, and it’s good to go.

So anyway. Take your tapered shadow brush, dip it in the black shadow, and tap the heck out of it. You don’t want too harsh of a line because for whatever reason (#chemistry), once the silver dries it’s hard to get anything to blend into it. Wipe the brush on your towel if you have to. You can always add more black. Brush it on lightly right inside the hollow of your cheek. Take your big powder brush and blend like crazy.

8 shadow

I happen to have really sharp cheekbones naturally, so I actually apply the shadow right above the hollow, directly under the apple. You might try a few different places to see what looks best.

There’s only one other place I use character shadow (I was playing to a small house, and I imagine if you’re doing this for Halloween you needn’t go crazy with shadow either), and that’s my collar bone.

Chicken your neck back to make your collar bone stick out (WEEEIRD!!). Take your lightly dusted taper brush and line right underneath that bone on each side, like so.

8 collarbone

 

Optional Step: I didn’t do this because my director specifically asked me not too, but you will see it in the original YouTube tutorial. At this point you can add a tiny bit of blush if you like for an even more beautiful effect. Use a baby pink powder formula in a little ball shape right on your cheeks. Same rules apply about blending though, so use a nice round brush and tap off all the excess.

Step 9. Powder

This step is not part of the original video, but it’s what makes my version of the look unique. It’s extremely important in getting a ghostly pallor and reducing tin-man status. Using your big fat powder brush, dust translucent powder all over your face, neck, and chest. If you include your lips (go back over with lipstick again if you like), I’m telling you, that stuff will not bleed or budge.

My brush was flying!

My brush was flying!

But the loose powder alone probably won’t tone down the silver quite enough, so go back over all the gray with pressed powder in the same color as your skin tone. I know, what? Just trust me.

Takea pressed powder (this one is from Mark)...

Take your pressed powder (this one is from Mark)…

...dab it on

…and dab it on all over.

 10. Finish the look!

Put on mascara, and then apply your false lashes if you care to. I used those little half lashes that go on the outer edges. No trimming required, but quicker and easier than the individual ones!

Do your upper and lower lashes.

Put mascara on both your upper and lower lashes.

BTW, I can’t say enough good things about this little eyelash glue with applicator I just happened to grab at the drug store during an emergence-C run. Where have you been all my life?!

Touch up and highlight

You might find some areas need more coverage than others. I had a lot of trouble keeping the apples of my cheeks covered for some reason. Or you might sneeze and get liquid liner all under your eye and have to remove a whole square inch of makeup with a q-tip (not that that’s happened to me…). That is why we have our little concealer brush. Wet it and dip it back in the silver paint to add extra coverage where needed. Just make sure it isn’t too wet, and don’t use too heavy a hand, because the paint you already have down will come right back off with water! It’s more convenient if you remember to do it before step #9, but you can always go back over the new coverage spots with powder, no biggie. I found I often had to do this for the massive bags under my eyes I was getting from lack of sleep during the show.

I also use the silver to highlight. If you skipped the mattifying powder step as she does in the video, you wouldn’t need or want to do this. But I take my little concealer brush dipped in the silver and dot the bow of my lips and along the tops of my cheekbones, about an inch above the character shadow line. Again, it adds dimension, as well as another element of prettiness.

Last, but not least, do your hands and wrists up in the silver. Make sure to use the bathroom and wash your hands beforehand–after this step you’ll have to settle for applying hand sanitizer to your palms if you don’t want to rub the color off. Just glob some paint on with a cosmetic wedge. I usually just dusted the translucent powder over that, skipping the pressed powder step. I found that tiny bit of shimmer left on your hands makes them look both younger and more ghostly. Win-win!

Here is the finished look! Yes, I did apply a filter here to make up for the horrid effects of cell phone photography, but you can see the finished look as it appeared on stage at the bottom and top of this post.

Spooooky!

Spooooky!

Removal

A quick swipe with a face cleansing cloth backstage–one for my face and one for my hands–took everything off so I could come out and greet my adoring public post-haste *snort*. I know I’ve said it doesn’t really matter what product brands you use, but I was very pleased with Walgreens’ brand sensitive skin facial cleansing wipes. I’ve tried all kinds, including expensive ones, and these are the ONLY ones that didn’t make my eyes burn. When you get home later, soak a cotton ball with toner (try this one or this one) and run it over your skin if you don’t have the energy or inclination to do the whole Clarisonic routine.

A note about hair:

My director wanted my hair left alone. But if you want to add another layer of ghostliness with almost no effort, all you have to do is get some dry shampoo–powder or spray–and dust it over the top of your head. Hold it close to your head so the powder is visible. Don’t touch it or brush it through!

And that’s it! The best thing about this look is that aside from the silver paint and possibly the lashes, you probably have all the stuff at home already!

These pictures were taken early on in the run when I hadn’t yet perfected my technique, but you can still see the general effect!

p178-c-141009

p175-c-141009

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Happy Haunting!

(production photos: Cloud 8 Photography. All other photos my own).

Review: Steel Magnolias at the Alliance

22 Oct

I had an opportunity to watch the final dress rehearsal of Steel Magnolias at the Alliance Theatre last night, gratis. Due to this fabulous and world-famous blog, you ask? Actually, one of my coworkers is friends with one of the publicity people over there. But no matter, I don’t turn down free theatrical events, especially ones with which I have personal history.

I played Shelby four years ago, right when I got pregnant with T (talk about life imitating art), so it’s a show about which I have definite opinions and feelings. I didn’t play her at an equity house though, much less one of the most well-renowned regional theatres in the nation. So I was expecting it to be light years better than your production.

And it was. In some respects.

The set, first of all, was the production’s crowning glory as far as I was concerned. My friend E and I got there early and sat in the second row so we had ample opportunity to scrutinize. Not only were there multiple rooms in the garage beauty shop, but the sinks had actual working plumbing and the giant bowl hair dryers really worked (or at least they plugged in and made noise, jury’s out on whether they actually dried hair).  Decorated to the hilt with period (are we calling the 80s period?) accessories and decorations, including a children’s area that was completely irrelevant to the action of the play other than as stage business, but still a realistic touch. But even this amply-budgeted extravaganza lacked perfection–as E pointed out, there were no magnolia blossoms in the giant tree projections carpeting the scrim. Fail, Alliance. Fail.

The pacing and energy stayed high and the show felt shorter than its actual running time. The few hiccups we noticed were handled smoothly and only made me more appreciative of the fact that we were enjoying live theatre. The sound design was a mixed bag (the radio bit was convincing but the gunshots were not), but the costumes were delightfully tacky and made me miss my grandmother something fierce.

There were moments, both of humor and poignancy, that were handled completely differently than they were in my iteration of the show. I was unable to determine whether it was an actor or director’s choice in those moments, which speaks to a great collaboration between the two. Different, of course, doesn’t necessarily imply better or worse. Varied interpretations of a playwright’s work are what keep a show–especially one done as often as this one–perennially interesting.

Every actor was strong and consistent, which is essential in a cast this small. But you guys, I have to tell you I was struck, I mean really struck, while watching these command performances by the fact that…they were not matchless. I’ve seen performances just as strong and consistent on the community theatre stage.

One of my actor friends tells of how during a recent gig, a techie asked what her job was on the set. When she answered that she was one of the actors he scoffed with barely concealed disdain, “oh. You’re talent.” Proving what multiple workshop leaders and acting instructors have told me over the years: Actors get most of the glory with audiences, but in the professional world they really are considered the bottom of the totem pole. Why? Because talent is easy to come by. Good actors are a dime a dozen.

We didn’t have a program since this was a rehearsal, but evidently over half the cast was recognizable from film and TV roles. These ladies were definitely professionals. E and I were particularly tickled that one of them was on Bones, one of our TV faves. And as I said, every one of them was convincing and didn’t miss a beat. But I can honestly say that I preferred at least a few of the portrayals in our production to this one.* I know I liked our Clairee better. I liked our Ouiser better too, although the two were played so differently it’s almost unfair to make a comparison. I started out enamored with their Annelle, but her extremely strong characterization wore me out towards the end, like gum you’ve been chewing on too long.

*The role of Shelby aside. I absolutely cannot make an objective comparison in a role that I’ve played without developing a split personality. However I will say that the Shelby in this show was a little one-note in terms of intonation. I think it was deliberate choice and one perhaps guided by the director and therefore can’t be considered a fault of the actress.

M’Lynn, the arguable heart of the play, was actually probably my least favorite. She was an elegant ice queen, and said more in her silences than in her words. She was a real glamourpuss onstage and off, you could tell. Her big outburst at the end was believable enough, but I didn’t find myself moved to tears. Maybe I’m just too familiar with the moment–God knows the lady next to me was having a complete break down, snot and all. She did a bang-up job for sure, but I felt her characterization lacked some essential warmth.

Which leads me to an overall observation/assessment: these women weren’t Southern. Of course I don’t really know where they all hail from, but I do know–from looking online–that they all have a huge list of credits in New York and LA, indicating many years spent in other climes. Aside from the depressing fact that none of local equity houses like to employ local talent, this show in particular benefits from some true GRITS.* Beyond the accents and the mannerisms (which I can’t fault), there really is a certain subtle, je n’ais se quai sheen on a person that genuinely came up in the South. And as most Southerners know, that’s a quality that is just really, really hard to emulate. I’m not sure any one of these ladies captured it utterly.

*I can’t believe I just invoked that acronym with sincerity, even though I am one. 

The ladies of Alliance’s Steel Magnolias

I also wasn’t entirely sold on the close-ness of the group. I certainly can’t say the camaraderie in our show was any more convincing–as a matter of fact, we weathered considerable drama offstage as well as on, and I was straight-up puky with morning sickness start to finish–but I felt like these were ladies who have been working closely with each other for a few weeks*, not ladies who have known each other all their lives.

*Although to be fair, you can and do get pretty close in those circumstances.

I think everyone who sees this show is going to thoroughly enjoy it, and I highly recommend you get tickets now because I suspect a sell-out. But it gives me some satisfaction to know that whatever special fairy dust was shaken over these ladies to give them the success they enjoy as professional actors, it didn’t involve any greater portion of talent than many of the dedicated actors I’ve seen working for free around this town. And that’s gratifying.

Steel Magnolias is on the Alliance Stage October 22 – November 9. For tickets and more information, visit alliancetheatre.org/steelmagnolias or call (404) 733-5000.

Very Superstitious

10 Sep

Think those are good luck shoes?

Actors, like athletes, can be a superstitious set. It comes from feeling like there’s a certain element of luck to any success you enjoy in those fields. So many pieces have to fall into place for a positive outcome that it’s tempting to think those pieces involve aligning planets. (You work hard of course, but what harm could it do to kiss the support beam before you go on stage? You’ve done it the last three nights and haven’t forgotten a line yet).

I consider my own superstitions tempered with levelheadedness. I don’t say Macbeth inside of theatre venues, but I’ll say it other places (or…er…write it down).  I don’t carry rabbits feet to auditions, but I also don’t touch pennies that are tails-up. And I don’t have any special “lucky audition outfit.” However, I do put a lot of thought (and, as it turns out, a lot of stock) into what I wear to an audition.

So I found the situation I was in at my last audition to be very distressing indeed.

I’d chosen my outfit the night before. The play was a 1930s high society piece and I wanted to imply that without going full-out costume, so I chose a prim dress with an ascot flounce and embroidery on the front, that I usually reserve for funerals (how’s that for luck?). This was a pre-baby garment, so I tried it on the night before to make sure it fit–it was a bit of a struggle, but I managed to zip it by myself.

But when it was time to get ready for the real thing, I asked P to assist with zipping, just to save myself the trouble. He was in the middle of making dinner and was a little short on time and patience. He heaved at the side zipper for a bit, but it got stuck around the bust area. He was already making noise like this was never going to work out. But I had to wear this perfect dress, and I’d just had it zipped the night before, and I hadn’t even eaten anything for six hours so I knew it oughta zip, dammit! So he tugged and pulled and then—

Riiiiip. A tiny tear appeared next to the zipper in the vicinity of my waist. Did I mention that this is an Anthropologie dress, one which I emotionally bought at full price in the throes of grief after my grandfather died, and one of the only brand-new, nice-store clothing items I own?  Well it was.

I told him to stop and just take it off. I was already thinking, What else could I wear? Nothing was right! No other item of clothing in my entire wardrobe went with the perfect vintage shoes I’d chosen!

So he started to tug, in the other direction this time. He’s getting real flustered now, and my skin is getting pinched, and having to hold my arm up high is causing my chest to expand, making it even more difficult, when–

POP. The zipper pull comes off.

Some people might have found humor in this situation, but P and I are dramatic actors.

Now, with no way to get the zipper either up or down, and the small tear getting bigger and bigger with all the maneuvering, I saw there was no choice but to cut it off my fluffy-ass body. So I tearfully (yup, makeup’s getting messed up now too) ask P to go get the scissors. Then he comes back with — get this —  giant pliers. So he wrenches up under my tender arm skin for a while–the tear gets bigger, so do the tears–then finally comes back with the kitchen shears and cuts the thing off me.

I’m free. And my beautiful and perfectly suited audition dress is ruined.

By this time my mom had arrived for babysitting duty and I was able to romp down the lane of childhood memories (me upset and whining, mom valiantly helping me sort it out). She helped me assemble an outfit that was vastly inferior in my view, but would have to do under the circumstances. The circumstances being it was two minutes after I was supposed to leave.

This all seemed like a very bad sign.

By the time I got to the audition I had calmed down. (My hair, at least, was still pretty amazing). I managed to turn the whole affair into a mildly humorous story to tell my acquaintance. I concentrated on acting for a while (imagine!) and gave the best audition I could.

And you guys? I got the part. I’m heading to the third blocking rehearsal tonight. Whatever the elements, physical or metaphysical, they worked out alright for me that night. Turns out my being cast in the role (over other actors that doubtlessly read just as well) was due in no small part to my extensive dance training. I’m talking about a factor that I worked for years to put on my resume for sure, but that had not even crossed my mind for this straight play, something that no one was asked to demonstrate and was not listed in the character breakdown. It was due to the concept the director had for the show and a sentence written on a piece of paper. It was due in almost no part, I’m sure, to my attire.

Oh, and get this–it’s being set in the 1980s instead of the 1930s.

Moral of the story is: don’t psych yourself out, whether it’s an audition, an interview, or a first date. And I hope you have a good laugh at my expense.

(P.S. Speaking of dressing up, I made a few tweaks to the site appearance. What do you think?)

Lazy Girl Fitness: A week in workouts

28 Aug

As promised on yesterday’s post, here is a sample [new and improved] workout schedule.

I emphasize toning/resistance/strengthening whatever you want to call it more than cardio. Cardio is important, but it’s muscle tone that speeds up metabolism (aka enables you to eat ice cream sundaes on your rest day).

Monday: HIIT workout (see below)

Tuesday: Rest, or leisurely 30 minute stroll outside (or let’s get real–on a treadmill, since it’s 112 degrees out)

Wednesday: Focus on two body parts. The Tabata and HIIT workouts make my legs sore, so I usually focus on arms, shoulders, back, and abs. I do a 15-20 minute workout with no rests at all. Depending on your laziness level of the day, you might up the ante with some cardio. You could do a ten minute run at the end, but if you get bored easily try one minute cardio bursts between moves, like a minute of burpees or on the elliptical, or if you’re coordinated, jump rope. A few of my favorite resistance workouts are linked below.

Thursday: Rest, maybe some stretches or a brief yoga flow (I lurv this desk job yoga sequence and it’s pretty easy).

Friday: 30-1 intervals (sprint 30 seconds, power walk 1 minute, repeat 8 times) OR Tabata workout (see below)

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Take a dance class or hike up Stone Mountain

 

HIIT 15-minute total body workout

Do each exercise for 45 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds before moving on to the next. You can either repeat each as you go or repeat the whole thing. Be sure the weights are the heaviest you can handle without getting hurt.

1. Push-ups

2. Squats with weights

3. Bicep curls

4. Alternating reverse lunges

5. Burpees

6. Plank

7. Tricep extensions

8. Squat jumps

Tabata 20-minute workout

Do each of these exercises for 20 seconds, then rest 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times (4 minutes) to complete 1 round. Rest 1 minute after each round. The point is to work at your highest intensity in those twenty seconds.

1. High knee run

2. alternating jumping jack/tuck jump

3. Burpees

4. Side leaps (mine started to get real dancer-y, but I think it’s supposed to look more like the Heisman maneuver from Insanity)

Tabata and HIIT workouts courtesy of Moms Into Fitness

Resistance Links

And in case you are like me and go on Pinterest to look at workouts but get side tracked by food pins, here are some of my tried and true favorite toning workouts. Choose two for one workout, then add cardio bursts as described above:

Pilates ab workout – this one is customizable by adding planks or burpees (I like to alternate!) between each set of reps.

Paper plate ab workout – I have a wrist injury so I can’t always do this one without pain, but it’s great if you don’t like crunches or can’t do them.

Shoulder workout – Looks easy. Is not. (BTW, if you click through this chick’s blog, you will see why she looks so great. She says she used to only “run 3-6 miles in the morning and do a full body workout at lunch.” Huh whoa).

I’ve posted this total body workout before – I like the booty and inner thigh sections.

I did this crunch free core series yesterday and found my sides and back got a better workout than my abs.

Awesomesauce Arms – #11 is killer.

Five-minute arms – this one is so short you could do a total of three.

 

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