I am pleased to announce we have finally moved into our new home. It has taken much longer than we expected, and because of an asbestos issue, we have yet to unpack. With everything boxed up, I thought this would be a wonderful time to get back to our chat about how to become a professional pinup model. Let’s dish, shall we?
The Devil is in the Details
When it comes to recreating or paying homage to any historic art form, it is imperative that one does it right. It all boils down to the details, hair, make-up, manicure, pedicure, pose, wardrobe, everything! Once your visage is on film, and subsequently on the page, those little details will make all the difference. The details you miss will haunt your dreams! I kid, I kid, but not really. So, how do you know you’re crossing every t and dotting every i? I’ve whipped up a handy dandy little Top Five list to help you hone your craft.
Dolly Marlowe’s Top Five (in no particular order) Must Do Before You Step in Front of a Camera List. Sorry, I’m at a loss for a pithy title.
1. Do your homework. What does that mean? It means study the masters. Get to know the great pinup artists of the day. You may have heard of Alberto Vargas, but what about George Petty, Gil Elvgren, Art Frahm, Zoe Mozert, or Enoch Bolles? Can you spot their work? Do you know what they’re known for? You should. Nothing screams fraud, especially to true pinup art aficionados, like a model pretending to be in the know. You will learn everything you need to know about hair, make-up, posing, and wardrobe by becoming familiar with original pinup art.
2. Learn how to do your own hair and make-up. You may know how to paint your face and style your coiffeur for everyday, but styling for the camera is very different. While many photographers work with hair and make-up artists, they aren’t always available. I almost always do my own hair and make-up. I prefer to do it myself, but I have on several occasions had to do my own hair and make-up because the artist either didn’t show, or fell behind schedule with other models during a shoot. I have even had to un-do what a HMUA had done because she wasn’t skilled in vintage make-up techniques. Knowing how to do my own hair and make-up makes me more marketable to photographers and brands. They don’t need to hire anyone extra for a shoot because I can do it all! A word to the wise, make sure you know what you’re doing! Don’t advertise yourself as able to do your hair and make-up if you can’t do a professional job. Hot messes don’t get a call back.
3. Practice makes perfect. Just as dancers practice in front of a mirror, models should do the same. Practicing in front of a mirror helps you get a mental image of how a pose feels. That facial expression you think looks like smoldering seduction (in your head) may in reality look like constipation. Try different poses and expressions. Make a note of how you’re holding your hands and feet. Chin up, chin down. Look left, look right. Don’t slouch! Chest up, bottom out. It may feel silly, but practice will keep you from looking silly on set. Remember those classic pinup artists you’re supposed to be studying? Use them for inspiration. Memorize every detail. Make posing second nature because once the mirror is gone and the lights are on, your nerves may get the best of you. Being prepared is what will get you past that.
4. Pay attention to detail. Noticing a theme? I’m a stickler for details. I’ve seen some really great photos ruined by a model’s squared off french manicure or too modern jewelry or not quite right hair or cliche’ polkadot dress and flower hair clip (guilty as charged). Pay attention! Are your legs and under arms shaved? Is your polish chipped? Is your wardrobe steamed? If you’re tattooed like me, you need to work extra hard to get your audience to look past the ink and see the vintage beauty (news flash: not everyone likes tattoos), so nail those details. Scrutinize everything! You’ll thank me later.
5. Be yourself…if only a little better. Every pinup girl is a reflection of the pinup girls who came before. Bringing back that timeless beauty and elegance is kind of the point of what we do. But a word of caution, my darlings, don’t become a carbon copy of someone else. Dita Von Teese shares a great story in her book Burlesque and the Art of the Teese when she realizes her look was patterned a little too closely to Bettie Page after meeting pinup artist Olivia De Berardinis. She promptly set out to craft her own, and even better, trademark image. While every bit of her look is borrowed from the pinups of yesteryear, put together the image is uniquely Dita. That is what every pinup model must strive for, a unique image inspired by and crafted from those authentic details. An example: my own beauty mark. Strikingly similar to Dita’s, non? Well it’s a detail I borrowed to hide a childhood scar that looks a bit like a red pimple. Rather than requesting it be edited out of every photoshoot, I just covered it (it is now permanently covered and part of my face). I got the idea, not from Dita, but rather from my mother who used to paint beauty marks on me when we would play dress-up. She got the inspiration from the 17th century mouches beauty patches (and I’d wager this is where Ms. Von Teese also draws her inspiration). Because Dita’s beauty mark is so very iconic, I must be careful not to copy her look because we have other details in common: naturally pale skin and black hair (though mine grows out of my head this way). I’m not at all comparing myself to Dita Von Teese, but rather illustrating the slippery slope that comes with any historical look. We all eventually draw inspiration from the same places, so be sure to draw from as many places as possible to avoid becoming a clone. If you like Bettie Bangs, by all means, wear them! Just be sure the rest of your look is you.
In closing, remember that ultimately it is your job to make you look good. The photographer is responsible for the overall look of the shoot, but they can’t make the model something she isn’t nor should they. I hope you’ve found this installment of Pinup 101 informative. As always, if you have a question or comment, you can leave them here on my diary or drop me a line via the electronic post: dollymarlowe “at” gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you.