In my new Burlesque Beauty series, performers discuss their favourite beauty products, beauty regimes, indulgences and philosophy. Kitten De Ville opened the series, and next up is Absinthe burlesque star Melody Sweets…
I discovered makeup at an early age. When I was a toddler of only 2-3 years old, my mother entered me in beauty competitions and talent contests. It’s one of my earliest memories: walking out on stage in my ‘pretty’, poofy pink dress, seeing the audience of about 500 people and getting so nervous I stuck my fingers in my mouth and froze, and because of this, I won 2nd place. I remember looking at the little girl who won; the sparkles on her eye makeup shined as bright as the little tiara they placed on her head. I couldn’t stop staring at all the sparkles! My mother later told me people thought I was in shock I didn’t win, or that I was still frozen from stage fright, when actually, I just couldn’t stop staring! It captivated me. I’ve been a sucker for sparkly things ever since.
I loved playing dress up as a little girl – I still do! I would get into my mother’s makeup ALL the time. She would have to lock her makeup in her shoe closet, not only to keep me from covering my entire face and whatever else was in my reach with her beautiful bright red lipsticks, but also from her high heel shoes so I didn’t keep hurting myself! It seems I had a shoe addiction from an early age.
Growing up through middle school and high school, I went through more of a tomboy rebel phase. I moved around a lot, was always the new kid, and had to be tough. Wearing makeup did not read as being ‘tough’. It wasn’t until I moved to NYC and started singing and performing live onstage that I got back into hair and makeup. I liked experimenting. I liked the more avant-garde looks makeup and hair could create. I loved the illusions it could lend and the story it could help tell. I also had the honour of spending a lot of time backstage with some of the most beautiful NYC drag queens. You can learn a lot from the queens. I had fun with it.
Onstage: Rain Cosmetics’ ‘Red Carpet’ lipstick, MAC lip liners.
Offstage: Stila lip glosses, Dior’s ‘Rouge Favori’, Rain Cosmetics ‘With the DJ’.
Onstage: Rain Cosmetics’ ‘Perfect Cream Foundation’.
Offstage: I LOVE AmorePacific’s ‘Cushion Compact SPF 50’, and when I don’t need the SPF I’ll use the Lancome ‘Teint Idole Ultra’. Both of these products give a lot of moisture and create a dewy effect. They’re both light coverage that you can layer as needed.
During the day I’m less likely to use a powder setting foundation. I find it always looks a bit flaky or dry, especially when being seen outside.
Eyes and Brows
Onstage: Inglot shadows: their rich pigments apply true to the advertised colour, and they read very well on stage. Kat Von D’s liquid ‘Tattoo Liner’ is amazing. The brush applies the liner exactly where you want it; it seems as precise as a needle applying ink to skin.
Offstage: I’ll use the Kat Von D ‘Tattoo Liner’ for a simple cat eye.
Both on and offstage I use Dior’s ‘Diorshow Iconic Mascara’ for a rich, black, dramatic effect.
I leave my brows alone, per my mother’s rules.
Onstage: I wear a lot of wigs onstage, and when I’m not wearing wigs onstage it usually means I’m frying it with a curling iron, getting it wet in a 7 foot bowl of ‘absinthe’ splashing around onstage, blowing it dry and then repeating… twice a night, five nights a week!
I try to lessen the damage I’m doing by using a heat protectant product before blow-drying or putting a hot iron through my hair. I prefer the Moroccanoil ‘Heat Styling Protector’. Also, I’ll use a leave-in conditioner like Nexxus’ ‘Pro-Mend Split End Binding’. And for hairspray, I like the Paul Mitchell ‘Stay Strong Express Dry’. These products aren’t expensive, but they’re not necessarily cheap either.
I try to buy what works the best for me from companies I ‘trust’. With hair and makeup, when you think about it, it stays on your skin and in your hair all day long. I want something on my hair and skin that is not detrimental to its health. I have this vision of hairspray just eating away at your hair all day long. Not sure if that happens, don’t want to find out.
You can buy a natural boar bristle brush to help remove hairspray from your hair at the end of the day; this way you won’t need to shampoo it every day. Shampooing it every day not only strips your hair of essential oils in order to ‘clean’ it, but dries out your scalp as well.
Offstage: If I have to, I’ll put product in it. I like to let it rest when I can. 1-2 times a week I’ll use a heavy conditioning hair mask. I really like Rene Furterer’s ‘Repairing After-Sun Mask with Palm Butter’; it’s great for swimmers (I’ve recently fallen in love with night swimming) or anyone who is in the sun a lot. As I’ve been living in Las Vegas for the past two years, my hair needs extra moisture to help combat the dry desert air. I also like to switch it up a bit using only natural ingredients from time to time so I’m not constantly putting chemicals in my hair. I trade off, using ingredients straight from my kitchen!
Here’s a homemade recipe I frequently use:
– Organic Virgin Olive Oil or Organic Coconut Oil.
– Raw Organic Egg, Avocado or Mayonnaise. I cannot stress this enough: you only need a tiny amount.
Apply no more than a teaspoon at a time, using only what you need, or your hair will get weighed down and greasy (and you’ll smell like a salad all day, so you choose). Take five tablespoons of olive oil and two eggs. Mix olive oil and eggs, pour over and mix with a mashed avocado (or 1/2 mayonnaise), and apply it thoroughly to your hair. Wrap your hair with a shower cap and allow it to set for about 15-20 minutes. Rinse your hair well with shampoo and water, using the coldest temperature water you can handle. Follow with a light detangler for long hair.
I’ve tried using natural products on my face like strawberries, honey and oats, but it somehow always ends up a mess of a disaster for me… as you can see in this lovely photo of Angie Pontani, Helen Pontani, MsTickle and I! The things you do on the road. Ha! They are going to kill me when they see this!
I used to use the Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs; it has great coverage and looks amazing on stage. I stopped using it a couple of years ago as I’ve been more conscious of putting so many chemicals on my body. It gets the job done though! It helps cover tattoos and those bruises on your thigh from the fun you had the night before. Bruises onstage = not okay.
As I wear stage makeup more days than not, I’m really careful with how I treat my skin. I ‘double’ wash. First, I wipe the makeup off with a makeup remover moistened towelette (Oil of Olay has a good one and they’re not expensive). I’ll then wash my face with Exuviance ‘Purifying Cleansing Gel’ using my Clarisonic wand (I live for this little wand of wonder!)
2-3 times a week I’ll replace the Exuviance with Philosophy’s ‘Microdelivery Exfoliating Wash’. When moisturising I try not to use the same product twice in a row. I heard somewhere that your skin can get used to your product and stop reacting to it after a while, so I try to switch it up. After I finish using an entire jar of product, I’ll move on to a different brand, coming back to the products that seem to work the best.
Here are a few of my favourite brands:
– Rain (See below for a special offer from Rain Cosmetics!)
– Clinique (Mama Sweets swears by this).
Biggest beauty indulgence (product or treatment you have/do spend the most on)
I spend the most money on face creams and lotions. If it works, it’s worth the money. You only get one face and one body – better take care of it!
Best value/bargain product
Rain Cosmetics’ Glitterati shimmer ‘Gold Digger’. I LOVE this product. It’s a great cheekbone highlighter, a great shimmer shadow, and you can wet it for a more dramatic effect or just a light glimmer for a fresh face day look. What I really love about it is when you’re in a hurry and you’ve applied dark shadow on your eyes that doesn’t seem to want to blend… throw on a light layer of the Gold Digger Glitterati over it and it’s like magic; it blends in an instant without you even trying.
Daytime: ‘HONEY’ by Marc Jacobs
Day or Nighttime: ‘Miss Dior’
Nighttime: ‘Coco Chanel’ MMMmmmm, I love my Coco Chanel.
I go either way with my nails. I’m addicted to gaudy. The more bling the bettah. When I’m not in the mood for busy bling, I’ll go for a classic red.
If you’re in Vegas, head over to Tip Toe Nail Salon and ask for the Melody Sweets Green Fairy nail art… and then come see Absinthe at Caesars Palace! [Amazing show! Ed.]
Favourite beauty and body treatments
Massage, massage, massage! I’ll try to get a full body massage 1-2 times a month, minimum. Stress ages you. Chill out.
Do you prefer/tend towards DIY care and maintenance, or have regular visits to salons, therapists and beauticians?
I’m DIY when it comes to my face. I don’t get facials. Maybe I should, but I’m not a big fan of someone touching my face. I also like to do my own makeup on photo shoots and just have a makeup artist there for touch-ups. Hair, on the other hand, I let the professionals handle. I have a lot of it, and as I said earlier, it gets dry quick. Keeping it trimmed and the split ends at bay helps keep it looking strong and healthy. My all-time favourite salon is in NYC: Tease Salon. Ask for Margie; tell her Scrap-a-Donna sent ya.
Beauty tips, secrets and tricks/hacks
– Always remember to highlight what you feel are your best attributes. For example, I layer my lashes on the outside of my lash line to give more drama, and to give the illusion of a wider, cat-eye effect.
– Don’t think it works better just because the price tag is higher.
– Never compare yourself to anyone. It never does anybody any good.
– Exercise regularly. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s so true.
– STOP eating processed foods.
– STOP drinking soda.
– STOP smoking cigarettes.
Your skin will thank you. Trust me.
I’m not a professional hair or makeup artist, and I don’t follow any trends or favour a brand just because of its name. If it works, I’ll buy it.
Everyone is different; different products work for different people. Find what works for you. Try out different samples: BeautyBar.com has a great monthly sample package that gets sent to your house. It’s like Christmas once a month!
For great beauty application tips and ideas, Google: “beauty advice and product recommendations”; you can find TONS of helpful tutorials.
You can also go to different department stores and head to the cosmetics section; there’s always someone there willing to do your makeup, for free! Pay attention to how they do it, what they’re using, and what you do and don’t like. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Above all, have fun with it! Try new looks! Makeup can alter your mood, change other people’s perceptions of you, make you feel glamorous and confident, and it can be an enjoyable and everyday part of your life and self image.
One of my favourite brands, Rain Cosmetics, is giving you all a special opportunity to take 30% off all orders by entering the code MELODYSWEETS!! Try their blush colors, ‘Strip Tease’ and ‘Burlesque’! Christmas is coming.
Quoted in major international newspapers and held in high esteem and affection by the international burlesque community, 21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.