Ganguro Girls of Tokyo

You'd certainly notice her in a crowd!  Photo by alexdecarvalho

You’d certainly notice her in a crowd! Photo by alexdecarvalho

For a brief spell beginning in the 1990s, Tokyo girls led a new fashion craze.  Gone was the traditional Japanese idea of beauty (pale skin, neutral make up and dark hair) and in was the parody of western ideals of beauty (extreme tan, big blue eyes and blonde hair).  The term ‘ganguro’ is derived from the word ‘ganganguro’ which means ‘exceptionally dark’.

There are various sub-cultures within this subculture, e.g. Yamanbas and Manbas who are essentially extreme Ganguros.  The basic idea is this:  you have a very over the top tan, you draw in big white eyes and lips.  You outline your eyes in thick black eyeliner, stick cutesy little stickers on your face and bleach the life out of your hair.  That’s essentially it.  At least for the make up side of it, which is of course what we’re concentrating on here.

a couple of ganguro friends looking bright in the sunshine

a couple of ganguro friends looking bright in the sunshine.  Phot0 by Yukari922


To us westerners it looks extreme, indeed to most Japanese, who have a culture of blending in rather than standing out, it looks extreme.  But this is the same country who gave us Manga in which all the females look like children and have exaggerated big ‘westernized’ eyes.  This really shouldn’t surprise us at all, it’s just taking it one step further and going for the tan and blonde locks too.

Photo by Cheri Priest

Photo by Cheri Priest

Every race in the world sees others as exotic and so it’s natural to emulate others.  It’s something I’ve mentioned before, why can’t we just be happy with the way we look.  I wish I was more tanned yet I have Asian friends who wish they were lighter.  It’s even less surprising when teenagers buy into these crazes.

A more extreme Manba style ganguro.  Just look at that hair!  Photo by kitsuney

A more extreme Manba style ganguro. Just look at that hair! Photo by kitsuney

Firstly, they are looking to belong within their peer groups and secondly they want to rebel against older generations.  It’s no wonder that these new fashion crazes are cropping up all the time, with each new generation seeking originality.  Unfortunately for the creative world, the ganguro fashion hasn’t really caught on and numbers have dwindled since the millennium.  It’s a shame because it’s so bright and youthful, but I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next….

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Fantasy, Photoshoots and Finishing College – June 2013

Laura, my lovely sci-fi model

Laura, my lovely sci-fi model

June was mostly taken up by college work.  Trying to get the last few assessments ticked of so that I could become a qualified hairdresser, organising my wig portfolio and continuing with the Assessors Award, which will help me with my teaching work.  The last 3 assessments I had to finish (perm, finger-dry and cap highlights) were the same as the majority of the class, resulting in competition to secure clients.  Somehow we all managed to get clients in and helped each other to complete the course.

It is an unfortunate effect of this industry, and especially working freelance that competition and self preservation are a must.  If you are to be successful you must necessarily be driven to succeed.  Occasionally this goes too far, I have been duped and cheated out of work a few times, I have had things I said taken out of context, twisted and repeated to others, I have had assistant MUAs go above my head to offer to work at a cheaper rate.  Thankfully most people are trustworthy and if somebody is secure enough in their skills they won’t try and shaft you.  Little comfort in the short term, but integrity and reputation goes a long way.

My sea-serpent fantasy hair creation

My sea-serpent fantasy hair creation

One final assessment we all had to complete, on the same day, was a fantasy look, including hair, make up and fashion.  I chose the theme of ‘women from outer space’, basing my look on sci fi and B movies.  It was a hectic day, but ultimately lots of fun and I passed with distinction, hurrah!

Once college was finished, there was just a few hours to relax before a photo shoot I had booked in with SevenStreets Almanac.  The brief was to create a shoot based on the theme ‘Mood Indigo’ using local female musicians as models.  The shoot would then be featured alongside interviews with the band.  Considering the girls were musicians rather than models, they were all beautiful and looked great in front of the camera which of course just makes my job easier.  I love when that happens!

Natalie McCool in SevenStreets Almanac.  Photography by the very talented Alexander Petricca

Natalie McCool in SevenStreets Almanac. Photography by Alexander Petricca

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TIGI Bed Head Straighten Out

TIGI Bed Head Straighten Out

TIGI Bed Head Straighten Out

My hair is mostly straight.  It’s the sort of hair that, when left to dry naturally will have a bit of a wave and not a vast amount of body.  If left to it’s own devices, it’s not a hair style at all…more of a hair there.

Much more annoying than that is when it gets damp (and let’s face it, living in England – it’s going to get damp pretty often!)  It gets this really annoying layer of frizz over the top, you know the kind I mean?  It makes me want to gently shave the top layer off.  (Thankfully, I’ve resisted, so far.)

Any product that claims to get rid of this is a friend of mine and so I decided to try TIGI Bed Head Straighten Out.  The blurb on the bottle states ‘98% humidity-defying straightening cream’  So far, so good.  But what’s the result actually like?

The dreaded 'frizz layer'

The dreaded ‘frizz layer!’

Well, firstly I have to say what an absolutely delicious smell it has. I just want to eat it.  The smell lasts also, leaving that lovely smell on freshly washed hair.  The directions on the bottle say ‘Apply to damp hair and comb through for even distribution.’  Sounds pretty straight forward right? (forgive the pun)  My problem with this is that it gives absolutely no indication of how much to use.  This is a primary cause of complaints in hair care – people aren’t using products correctly.  But if the product itself doesn’t tell you how much you’re supposed to use, you’ve just got to guess right?

First time I used it, I squeezed out enough product to form a 2p size amount in my hands.  Clearly this was too much as I found out the next day when my hair already began to look greasy.  Not to be put off, I searched the TIGI website for further instructions.  There’s none there!  So, back to the drawing board, take 2:  I used enough to form a 1p size amount and this was much better, my hair didn’t need washing again for the normal amount of time.

TIGI Bed Head Straighten Out - this is how much I used.  The length of my hair can be seen above.

TIGI Bed Head Straighten Out – this is how much I used. The length of my hair can be seen above. My hands now smell amazing!

But does it do what it’s supposed to?  Actually I found it hard to tell.  Yes, it worked really well once I blow dried and straighten my hair, as the instructions say to do.  This would be impressive except my hair remains straight and frizz free if I do this anyway.  Another time I used it and allowed my hair to dry naturally.  There was the natural wave again and a reduced frizz level, but not gone completely.

Overall I think I haven’t got the sort of hair that demands this product.  It’s slightly beneficial to me, but would be better suited to someone with more problematic frizz than mine.  It’s the sort of thing I imagine would work really well on holiday, in order to tame and style the beach hair look and so I’ll try and save some for my next holiday, whenever that may be.  Realistically, in the meantime, I’m going to continue using it anyway, the smell alone is irresistible.

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Butter London – 3 Free Colour Clash Nail Lacquer

Butter London's Colour Clash 3 Free Collection

Butter London’s Colour Clash 3 Free Collection

Known as the ‘lipstick effect’, recent years of recession have seen sales of cosmetics soar, with consumers wanting a cheap treat to brighten their day.  In 2011 61% of British women bought nail varnish, resulting in £221 million worth of sales.  And yet, so few of us ever stop to think what our nail varnish is made of.

Three often quoted ingredients of nail varnish are Formaldehyde, Toluene and DBP.  Of these 3, I had previously only heard of formaldehyde – it’s what Damien Hirst pickles his cows in.  However formaldehyde is a gas and as such is never used in nail varnish. What is most commonly used is a formaldehyde compound which apparently helps to preserve and harden nails.  Toluene is used to help the nail varnish go on smoothly and stick to the nail and DBP is a plasticiser which helps prevent chips in the varnish.

So that’s the science bit done, why is this toxic trio so notorious?  The simple answer is that they’ve all been linked to health concerns.  Birth defects, certain cancers, underdeveloped genitals, kidney disease, the list goes on.  In recent years the cosmetic industry has been keen to stress that only trace amounts are used in their cosmetics, but this isn’t always enough with the EU and certain US governing bodies banning the ingredients.

Following on from all this, many cosmetics companies now advertise that they do not use any of these ingredients, hence Butter London‘s 3 Free Colour Clash collection.  I was informed that due to the lack of these chemicals the 3 Free collection, although bright, are not as vivid as some of the recent neon trends.  However, with the application of a layer of white varnish underneath, any 3 Free Nail Lacquer can become neon.  Hurrah for that, it’s like having two colours in one bottle (or, more accurately, 3 colours in 2 bottles).

Cake Hole with and without a white base.  *Please excuse my shoddy application!

Cake Hole with and without a white base. *Please excuse my shoddy application!

So how did they fare?  Actually, I loved them.  Firstly I tried ‘Cake-Hole’  a bright pink shade.  I alternated fingers, making some neon and some plain.  Personally I think I preferred the plain version of this.  It’s quite a matte colour and seems thinner somehow in it’s consistency which I felt would make it less likely to chip, clog and dry out, but I’ll have to let you know at a later date if I’m correct.  Moreover, this range is all ‘colour-true’, meaning with 2 coats you have the exact colour you see in the bottle.  Even though it feels quite thin, it doesn’t look thin.

Silly Billy.  Tasty both with and without a white base!

Silly Billy. Tasty both with and without a white base!

Next, I tried ‘Silly Billy’, a bright orange colour.  I’m quite in to orange nail varnish at the moment and this doesn’t disappoint.  Again, I alternated with normal and neon but this time I can’t decide which I prefer.  Both are ace!  Similarly, it’s colour true, nice consistency and a decent sized bottle.  Ok, so at £12-15 it is a bit more expensive than some brands, but the colours are so joyous, the packaging and names are fun and youthful and you know there’s no nastiness in the ingredients.  What have you got to lose?

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How To Make An New Eyeshadow

A few months ago I experimented with how to repair a broken compact.  Through doing this I had the idea of trying to create a personal eyeshadow, using colours of my choice. I have a bag full of broken eyeshadows and loose pigments and so had plenty to experiment with. This is what I did:

The colours I used.

The colours I used.

Step One – Select the pigments you wish to use. I decided on brown, gold, dark blue, turquoise and a dash of black. These are various makes, but generally quite cheap (I didn’t want to use anything too expensive as it’s just an experiment at this stage). The gold and turquoise were £1, the black was the result of a broken Grimas eyeshadow and the brown and dark blue were from Collection 2000.

Put a bit of each colour into a spare pot.

Put a bit of each colour into a spare pot.

Step Two – Mix a little bit of each one in a spare pot. I used a pot I had got from Origins, containing yummy skincare samples. I only used a small amount of each as I had five colours and didn’t want to make too much in case I didn’t like it.

Cover pigments with surgical spirit

Cover pigments with surgical spirit

Step Three – Add a few drops of surgical spirit, enough to cover all the powder, mix it all thoroughly. After this I left the lid balanced on the top, but not screwed on tight, the surgical spirit needs air to dry. Leave for a week or so until dry (mine took 8 days.)

I'm wearing this new eyeahdow over a base of Illamasqua's Liquid Metal in Surge.

I’m wearing this new eyeahdow over a base of Illamasqua’s Liquid Metal in Surge.

Step Four – Wear. I’m wearing mine today, over a base of Illamasqua’s Liquid Metal in Surge. The colour doesn’t show much blue, but perhaps its mixed with the gold to give a slight green touch. Even so, I like it and I like getting messy so I’ll probably be making a few more in the coming months.

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Producers, Posters and Painting Faces – May 2013

bafta-crewIn May I attended my first BAFTA Crew event – a Q&A session with Anita Overland, a top film producer who gave a masterclass for all us filmbods to attend.  It was a great chance to meet other filmies and also to hear from a filmy at the top of her game.  Although I’m not a producer, it’s crossed my mind on a number of occasions that it’s a direction I wouldn’t mind heading down at some point.  For this reason it was a very insightful talk, quite often us production crew members don’t appreciate quite how much work goes into the pre- and post-production of a film.  It certainly hasn’t put me off ever heading down the production route, but it has made me a bit more realistic about the work involved!

Also in May I was back working with PurpleCoat, who I had previously worked with on Titus Andronicus.  This time, we were creating posters for their upcoming Shakespeare production.  The brief was to create glossy, Italian 60s style film posters advertising The Merchant Of Venice set in Blackpool.  Shylock was to be the film producer, Portia the starlet, Antonio the good guy and Bassanio the rebel.  Hmmm, interesting!  Due to the style of the posters quite a lot of make up was required, particularly for Portia and Shylock.  I think the actor was quite horrified when he looked in the mirror, but the posters turned out as planned.

Posters for PurpleCoat's production of The Merchant Of Venice

Posters for PurpleCoat’s production of The Merchant Of Venice

Throughout the rest of May I had bits of facepainting work in various venues.  It’s easy to get a bit snotty about facepainting, particularly amongst certain areas of make up artistry, but it’s actually rather difficult to do well.  Firstly you have to get the child to trust you, then get them to decide what they want and lastly, the hardest bit – get them to sit still for a few minutes.  It can get a bit tiresome painting pink butterflies all the time, or doing Spiderman (spidermen? would that be the plural?)

I much prefer original requests and like to encourage imagination but I was left speechless when one little blonde girl asked me to paint her to look like Will I Am!  Erm, how do you say no to that without having to explain the whole concept of racism to a 4 year old?  A few seconds of quick thinking and I explained to her that I would also have to cut her hair into a daft wedge if she wanted to look like Will I Am.  Cruel perhaps, but she quickly changed her mind and opted for…yep, a pink butterfly.  Sorry little girl, sorry for crushing your imagination!

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Lessons, Legends and Locations- April 2013

During March I was offered a couple of really good opportunities, as you will know because you very diligently read my posts.  The first of these was the offer of a teaching post in a private college in the North West.  Although I am not a qualified teacher, I have had plenty of experience running workshops and the like and so was naturally thrilled to be given this opportunity.  I am now a teacher of Media Make Up and have to devise a scheme of work, lesson plans, handouts etc.  All the things that many of my family members do and I swore I would never do!  So far, I love it.

Applying make up to Catherine, the Fairy Bride

Applying make up to Catherine, the Fairy Bride

The next opportunity I was given was the chance to go on location to Beddgelert to work on a short film called ‘Beneath The Waters Of Llyn Coch’.  The aim is to turn this into a TV series, called ‘Legends Of Old’ with each episode retelling a different Welsh myth.  We had a beautiful song written for the film by the ethereally voiced Eve Goodman and filmed a music video with her alongside the main film.

Wales was very cold in March, and rather wet too.  The wind played havoc with continuity and many scenes had to be postponed or rescheduled due to factors beyond our control.   But there’s just something about filming on location, when everybody lives, eats and works together.  It seems to pull the team tighter and focuses all energies on the film.  There’s no distractions of friends and family tempting you with nights out when your working day is finished.  Everyone is there for one reason only – to make the best film possible.  This was especially true here, as mobile phone/internet signals were temperamental meaning there was even less distraction from our work.  It’s a great way of working and one I particularly enjoy, but can get pretty intense and it’s always a pleasure to get home again.

Creating a killer hangover

Creating a killer hangover for The Morning After

Towards the end of April I had a theatre production to work on, ‘The Morning After’ at the Lantern Theatre.  It was directed by an up and coming young director I have worked with on a couple of occasions previously and this was a pleasure to work on.  The acting was superb and the darkly comic script with a twist in it’s tail personally appealed to me.

At the end of April there was another pay off for my hard work with the premiere of Tamla Rose.  All the cast and crew assembled in New Brighton for the screening before it headed off for Cannes.  Good luck to everyone involved!

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The Best Brush For Blending Eyeshadow

My three favourite blending brushes

My three favourite blending brushes

For applying eyeshadow I like a densely packed brush that holds it shape well.  For blending, however, I much prefer a softer fluffy type brush of which I have several.

Close up of Smashbox Crease Brush #10 bristles

Close up of Smashbox Crease Brush #10 bristles

The first one I’m going to write about is Smashbox Crease Brush #10.  At £19.50 this is an average priced professional brush.  Its bristles are quite long and therefore, for me not very easy to control.  It’s also very soft so would require a bit longer to nicely blend any eyeshadow.  This is a good brush to have in your kit but it’s not my favourite.  I only tend to use it when the others are dirty.

Close up of MAC Tapered Blending Brush 224 bristles.

Close up of MAC Tapered Blending Brush 224 bristles.

The next blending brush I use is MAC Tapered Blending Brush 224. At £22 it’s more expensive than Smashbox, but not really by much. Again, the bristles on this are relatively long and so less precision control.  I received this brush as part of a set which I have decided to keep for personal use, rather than keeping in my kit.  As with the Smashbox brush, this is good for blending if you have quite a large eyelid and brow bone area.  Also, these two brushes, although not designed for this use, are excellent at blending under eye concealer.  For this reason alone, they are worth having in your kit.

Close up of MAC Blending Brush 217 bristles.

Close up of MAC Blending Brush 217 bristles.

And now to my favourite – MAC Blending Brush 217.  At £17 it’s the cheapest of the three yet still, to my mind the best.  Its bristles are slightly shorter giving more precise control and also meaning that it blends quicker than the others.  I’ve had mine for nearly 5 years and it may well be my favourite brush in my entire kit.  It’s excellent at blending anything – powder or cream, hasn’t stained too much and has kept its shape well.  This is always the first brush I use for blending and I can’t see it being surpassed anytime soon.

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Rigid Collodion

Mehron Rigid Collodion scars with and without colour underneath

Rigid collodion is a cheap and effective way to produce scarring. The brand I generally use is Mehron. Collodion is applied straight to the skin and then it gently constricts as it dries, tightening the surrounding skin, producing an indented scar. It can be applied to clean skin, or over a colour depending on the desired effect.

Heath Ledger’s Joker scars

In recent years, collodion has been used by many make up artists as a cheap way of reproducing the Joker’s scars (Mehron Rigid Collodion is £3.66 for 25fl.oz.) However, on closer inspection, the Joker’s scars are a mixture of hypertrophic (raised) and atrophic (indented) scars. Collodion can only do atrophic. A minor point perhaps, but I like to be a bit geeky sometimes.

As effective as rigid collodion is, it does have a downside. It’s extremely flammable and can also irritate skin. I have personally experienced this irritation after dressing as the Corpse Bride for a Halloween party. The next day my skin was itchy and red and I still had marks around my mouth, despite peeling the collodion off several hours earlier.

Mehron Rigid Collodion Scaring Liquid

Despite this, I haven’t been put off using it again; my skin is extremely sensitive anyway. I have used it on various different people, skin types etc. and I’m the only one I know who has reacted from it. Perhaps I’m just unlucky.

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BAFTA, Beggars and Beatles Haircuts – March 2013

In March I was fortunate enough to be accepted in BAFTA Crew – a database/network of industry professionals from across the UK.  We are invited to masterclasses, receive regular newsletters and bulletins and discounts to other BAFTA events.  I’ll write some more about this in the coming months, when I’ve had more of a chance to experience it, but for now it already seems pretty beneficial.  Within hours of being accepted into BAFTA Crew I received 3 really good offers of work.  Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, I like to think not.

Ruth Negga in  Noble

Ruth Negga in Noble

At the very beginning of March I spent a day working on a new feature film Noble  This is perhaps the highest budget film I’ve worked on and, coming into it halfway through was strange for me as I’ve usually been on projects from the beginning.  Noble is a biopic of Christina Noble, an extraordinary woman who travelled from Ireland to Vietnam to create better lives for thousands of people.  The scenes we were filming were set in a nightclub in the 60’s – cue lots of false eyelashes, black eyeliner and wigs for the girls and shaved chins, moptops and long sideburns for the chaps.  (How glad am I that I started extra wig training in Feb?!)

Two Characters from The Beggars Opera.  Nothing subtle about their make up!

Two Characters from The Beggars Opera. Nothing subtle about their make up!

Later in March, I was asked by a friend to provide hair and make up for a production of The Beggars Opera, being staged at The Epstein Theatre.  I’ve never done an opera before, but I like new things so jumped at the opportunity.  I was surprised by quite how much make is required for opera, even in a relatively small theatre.  In my film work, I’m always conscious of HD and so less is more.  Opera throws all that out of the window, which I actually found quite liberating.  My first opera, hopefully not my last.

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