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Tricks and tips in mastering the art of feminine mystique/.

Chalk it up to spending a weekend night at a drag show. After lip-syncing along to Whitney Houston as the queens strutted through an audience of enthusiastic admirers, I realized there was a lot to learn from the art of drag performance. Mastering the balance of exaggerated femininity and tawdry humor, power and flirtatiousness, look-at-me bravado and love-me-please vulnerability takes serious skill.

So on a Friday evening, I stopped by The Cabaret in Over-the-Rhine to chat with former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Mystique Summers (née Donte “B*tch I’m from Chicago” Sims) to pick up a few tips “real girls” can use. I joined Mystique backstage in the dressing room, a wonderland of sequins, lights, wigs and mirrors — and enough makeup to make even the least girly girl feel like a kid in a candy shop. As she put on her face she said, “I’m all about bright colors and having fun and being bright on stage. I could spend 12, 13, 15 hours putting on makeup.” Clearly, I’ve come to the right person.

CONTOUR CLUB

I ask Mystique about contouring, which, despite having watched numerous YouTube tutorials, I still haven’t managed to master. “Contouring is god’s gift,” according to Mystique. It’s a way to create shadow and de-emphasize certain features. It can make your face look thinner, your nose look smaller, etc.

To achieve the illusion, you’ll need a shading powder, a highlighting powder and a brush. For shading, Mystique suggests, “Black girls need a nice, healthy brown with a bit of burgundy; a light brown works for white ladies.” You could also try bronzer. To increase the contour effect and enhance the areas where light would naturally fall on the face, highlight your cheekbones and browbones, Mystique says to use a powder “one to two shades lighter than your skin.”

HOW TO CONTOUR:

  1. Apply the contour powder to the perimeter of your face along your hairline, jawline and then under your chin to elongate. Next, hit the sides and tip of your nose with contour to make your nose appear longer and straighter, and then apply underneath your natural cheekbones, parallel to your jaw, to emphasize them.
  2. Use a buffing brush to blend, blend, blend. There shouldn’t be any obvious lines — everything should be a nice, subtle gradient.
  3. Focus on applying highlighting powder to the area around your eyes, your browbone, down the center of your nose, the top of your cheekbones, the middle of your chin and in a “V” shape from the middle of your forehead.

A COMPLETE FALSIFICATION

Applying false eyelashes is another makeup trick that stumps me, and it seems I’m not the only one. I’ve noticed quite a few women with asymmetrical tarantula-like lashes hanging from their eyelids, which is obviously not a good look — you need to use lashes that are at least somewhat realistic.

“The length they sell at Walmart and Walgreens is fine,” says Mystique. “The ones you get at the $1.99 beauty supply …” she trails off disdainfully. Apparently, that’s when you start heading into tarantula territory.

HOW TO APPLY FALSE LASHES

  1. Bend the lashes into an arc several times to make the band more flexible. You want a shape that will closely fit your lash line.
  2. Put a thin line of lash glue on the back of your hand and then dip the band of the eyelashes lightly into the glue. Let it dry for a few seconds until it’s tacky to the touch. “I use hair glue,” notes Mystique (which is not necessarily recommended for day-to-day).
  3. Start applying the lashes at the inner corner of your eye and work your way out.
  4. Finish blending your natural and false eyelashes together by curling them and adding a few coats of mascara.

HEEL, GIRL

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You don’t have to wear heels. However, if you’re teetering around OTR like a drunken mummy in your Kardashian-esque platforms, please take note: Getting your strut on in heels requires skill and skills require practice.

The best way to practice? “Put on your heels and vacuum,” Mystique advises. “That way, you’re walking, not thinking about your heels.”

HOW TO WALK IN HEELS

  1. Practice on carpet and start small. “Start out with a three-inch heel,” says Mystique and work your way up from there.
  2. Think about putting your heel and the ball of your foot down at the same time. It should look and feel like your entire foot is hitting the ground in one smooth motion.
  3. Adjust the length of your stride. This is one of the trade-offs of wearing heels — it’s just not possible to walk as quickly as usual. A shorter stride puts less stress on your hips and calves.

Filled with newfound knowledge, I leave the dressing room to let Mystique finish getting ready for the show. The next day, she sends me a picture of her finished makeup look, all sparkling orange eyeshadow, violet lips and lashes for days. Admiring the photo, I’m reminded that a flick of eyeliner, a bold stiletto or a dramatic lip can accentuate whatever part of my personality is dominant at the moment. That “you can be anything” feeling I get from watching drag queens perform makes me feel powerful. And maybe that’s the most important lesson.

Create a chic, feminine storage gift for the girl who has everything.

Instructions

Materials:

  • Glass or ceramic bowl roughly the same size of the doily bowl you want to make
  • Clear plastic wrap
  • Masking tape
  • Doily of your choice — the larger the doily, the larger your bowl will be
  • Liquid starch
  • An additional bowl to hold the starch

Instructions:

  1. Wrap the entire outside of your bowl, including the bottom, with the clear plastic wrap.
  2. Tape down the plastic wrap on the inside of the bowl to ensure that it stays in place.
  3. Pour liquid starch into the extra bowl, about halfway full.
  4. Completely submerge the doily into the bowl of starch.
  5. Let the doily soak for about 1 minute in the starch, then ring out the excess starch into the same bowl (you can reuse this starch to make multiple doily bowls). The more starch you ring out of the doily, the quicker it will dry but the less stiff it will be. The less starch you ring out, the more remains in the doily resulting in a longer drying time but a stiffer bowl.
  6. Place the starched doily over the plastic-covered bowl, carefully lining up the bottom of the doily with the center of the bowl. Gently push down and around the doily to mold it to the form of the bowl.
  7. Allow it to dry completely. The drying time depends on the amount of starch still in the doily, the size, the humidity level and the temperature. It’s a good idea to allow at least 24 hours to dry completely, but sometimes more time is necessary.
  8. When the doily is completely dry and stiff to touch, hold the bowl with the inside facing up and remove the tape that held down the clear plastic wrap. Lift the plastic and doily from the bowl and carefully separate the two.

Photos by Emily Lie

A personalized all-level applique project.

Supplies:

  • 1/2 yard pillow fabric
  • 1/2 yard applique fabric 
  • 12” x 12” piece of fusible web 
  • 12” x 12” piece of fusible interfacing 
  • 16” square pillow 
  • Fabric scissors 
  • Iron 
  • Perle cotton thread
  • Embroidery needle 
  • Pen/pencil

Instructions:

  1. Cut one 17” x 17” square and two 12” x 17” rectangles from the fabric that will be used to cover the pillow. In this example, it’s the floral print.
  2. Decide which letter to applique onto the pillow — we used the letter ‘h’ for Her magazine — and then print an image of the letter from a computer the size that you want it to appear on the pillow. 
  3. Trace the letter onto the rough side of the fusible webbing (the side with little glue dots) with a pen or pencil. 
  4. Press the rough (sticky) side of the fusible webbing onto the wrong/back side of the fabric you want to use for your applique. Cut the letter out of the fusible webbing and fabric. Peel the paper away from the back of the letter to reveal more glue.  Place the letter in the center of the 17” x 17” square of pillow fabric. Press in place.
  5. Using an iron, fuse the fusible interfacing onto the wrong/back side of the same 17” x 17” square of pillow fabric. Make sure the fusible interfacing is behind the letter that is fused onto the front of the square. When heat is applied, the fusible webbing and interfacing will act as an iron-on adhesive to glue the two layers of fabric together, and also stiffen the fabric. 
  6. Reinforce the applique by sewing it to the pillow fabric. To machine applique, use the zig-zag stitch on a sewing machine to stitch around the edge of the letter. Choose a contrasting color if you like the stitches to show up as a decorative feature. To hand applique, use a blanket stitch and Perle cotton thread to hand-stitch around the letter.  
  7. Set the 17” x 17” square of appliqued fabric aside. Working with the two 12” x 17” rectangles, hem only one 17-inch side of each rectangle. To hem the side, fold and press each edge 1/2 inch and then 1 inch. This will completely enclose the raw edge. Sew the hem in place using a 3/4-inch seam allowance. This can be sewn with a sewing machine, or sewn by hand. 
  8. Place the appliqued 17” x 17” square of fabric down on the table, pattern-side up. Place one of the rectangles pattern-side down on top of the square, aligning the raw edges on the left. The patterned sides will be together, and the hemmed edge will be near the center of the square. 
  9. Place the second rectangle pattern-side down on top of both other pieces, aligning the raw edges on the right. Pin the pieces together. (In the photo, the edge of one rectangle is folded back to show the pieces beneath it.) 
  10. Using a 1/2-inch seam allowance, sew around all four sides, either with a sewing machine, or by hand. If you are sewing by machine, pivot at each corner. Trim each corner by cutting off a small triangle of fabric, being careful not to cut through the stitches. 
  11. Turn the pillow cover right/pattern-side out. Use a chopstick or the eraser end of a pencil to poke the corners out. This will make them nice and pointy. Place the pillow in the case. 

Graduated lip color transitions from runway to real life.

Ombre hair, ombre nails, ombre clothing … it seems this multi-tonal trend is making the rounds. Taken from the French word for “shade” or “shading,” the ombre color effect, in which pigment moves gradually from light to dark, can be (and is being) applied to anything from fabrics to hair color. And it looks like lips are next.

Inspired by runway shows, this high-fashion makeup statement can be translated into a more wearable style. Graduated lip color looks vary from a subtle, almost wine-stained pout to a bold pink and orange combo. Either way you wear it, the end result can be artistic and intriguing, not to mention effective — the shading creates the illusion of fuller lips.

Subtle

This ombre look will make your lips appear both plumper and more defined. By applying a lighter colored lipstick to the center of your lips, you’re essentially creating a highlight, producing the effect of a rounded pout.

1. Decide on two lip colors in the same color family, one light (in a frost or matte finish) and one dark (in a matte finish). On the runways, makeup artists frequently paired red with a wine color.

2. Apply the darker lip color to your entire lip like you would if you were putting on lipstick normally.

3. Apply the lighter lipstick to the center of your lips, top and bottom. Or try concealer instead of a lighter lipstick.

4. Lightly blend the lighter lip color into the darker color with your finger.

5. Finish with a swipe of clear gloss.

6. This effect can also be applied in reverse, with the darker lipstick in the center of your pout and the lighter lipstick on the outside, creating a sexy, purposeful merlot-wine-stain look.

Dramatic

A more dramatic lip requires a steadier hand and some patience. Select adventurous colors and the direction you want the ombre to fade.

1. Select three or four lipsticks in various colors. For an even more detailed look, use only colored lip pencils/liners.

2. Start with the darkest lip color. Line your top lip with the pencil, or use a lip brush, and then gently blend the color inward with your finger just inside the lip line.

3. With the help of a lip brush, apply a thin line of a lighter lipstick where the pencil marks end, and blend downward.

4. Repeat this step with one or two more light colors, lining and blending them into each other, until you reach the end of your bottom lip.

5. Finish with a clear gloss.

6. The ombre effect doesn’t have to fade from top to bottom. You can also create a gradual side fade by applying the darkest color on the top and bottom of the left side of your lips, getting progressively lighter as you move to the right.

Tips:

  • Moisturize and exfoliate your lips before applying a matte lipstick to avoid flaking.
  • With lips this bold, keep the rest of your makeup neutral.
  • Products used: Benefit High Beam highlighter; Make Up For Ever Rouge Artist in “Intense” and “Natural;” M.A.C. lipstick in “Media,” lip pencil in “Chestnut,” eye pencil in “ebony” and Gloss Creme Brilliance; NARS eye shadow pencil in “Calabria;” Sugar Rose Tinted Lip Treatment.

Create temporary rainbow-colored highlights.

Hair chalking is an easy way to dress up your locks with bold and bright color accents! The chalking process can be done at home or at the salon, and creates matte texture and fanciful color without commitment. By applying color to your hair with soft artist pastels (purchased at any arts and crafts store), you can hop on the dreamy hair hue trend without the permanence and damage of bleach and dye. 

Celebrities from reality-star-turned-fashionista Lauren Conrad to comedienne grande dame Joan Rivers have been sporting bright pink strands, and Chanel’s Cruise 2013 campaign was laced with lilac, mint and strawberry bobs. And the good news if you look terrible with periwinkle highlights? No need to panic. Just wash your hair and you’ll be back to your pre-pastel self.

Supplies:

  • Flat iron or curling iron
  • Spray bottle filled with water
  • Wide-tooth comb 
  • Good quality soft pastel chalk (Do NOT use oil pastels)
  • Towel or robe to protect clothing 
  • Hairspray
  • Gloves, if you don’t want chalk on your fingers

Instructions:

  • Select a 1-inch strand of hair and spritz with water until slightly damp.
  • Twist strand slightly at the ends and rub hair with the pastel in small up-and-down strokes. If the color isn’t showing up, dampen hair again and repeat with a brighter color. Apply color to both sides of the hair strand. The better quality pastel you use, the brighter the pigment will be.
  • Comb through the colored strand with a wide-tooth comb and allow to air dry.
  • Go over the colored strand(s) with a hot iron to set color. Color will rub off on your hot iron, so use an old one or one you don’t care about coloring.
  • Continue steps 1-4 on different strands of hair until you have achieved the desired effect.
  • Finish your hair with a light hold hairspray to help prevent smudging. (Fun fact: Soft pastel artists also use hairspray as a fixative to protect their finished paintings.)

Tips:

  • Chalking will work on all hair colors, but keep in mind the lighter your hair, the longer the color could possibly remain in your hair. 
  • Try using two colors on one strand. 
  • You can chalk one strand or many. Try chalking just the ends to create an ombre effect.
  • Do not chalk hair too often. Powder pigment can suck up a lot of the hair’s natural moisture. Follow each chalking with a deep conditioning treatment.
  • There is a possibility the chalk will rub off on your clothing, so keep that in mind when you’re getting dressed. If you’re worried, try an up-do, and avoid rain, sprinklers, etc.

Jessie’s Product Recommendations:

  • Any brand of good quality soft pastels 
  • Davines No.7 Crystal Fixative Hairspray 
  • Davines Solu Shampoo
  • Davines Nou Nou Pak Hair Mask

Budgeting for everyday scenarios.

There is no end to the number of budget articles advising you on what items you should splurge on and what items you should save on, so instead I’ll just share my personal approach to spending. In a nutshell: Spend money on the things that make life better and don’t spend money on things that add no meaningful value.   

You don’t need to deprive yourself, but identifying the real value you derive from purchases will help you determine if you truly need these things. Before opening your wallet, take a second to ask yourself, “What does this really do for me?” Also, take a good, hard look at your credit card statement. Seeing your charges, line by line, in black and white, may surprise you and help you rethink the way you spend.  

And now for my two cents in common spending scenarios: 

Eating 

Spend:You are what you eat. Food is fuel and what you put in is what you get out. It’s reflected not only in your health and energy, but your hair, skin and nails. You don’t need to break the bank to eat well. Instead of going out all the time, spend money on fresh, high-quality, natural (preferably local and organic) food and then cook at home.    

Save: Cut back on the alcohol. Two drinks with dinner can easily double your check. Next, cut the crap: soda, juice, chips and anything processed. Easier said than done but that non-essential stuff adds up fast. Examine your receipt next time you leave the store and see how much you’re really spending on those little guilty pleasures.

Dinner Party 

Spend: Fresh flowers on the table are an easy way to brighten a room. Scented candles in the bathroom are a must!  

Save:Everyone knows how much a bottle of Yellow Tail costs, so skip it. Visit a local wine shop and ask for a good, inexpensive Spanish red. You can get a great Tempranillo for $10 and no one will know what you spent because they won’t recognize the label. A signature cocktail is another great way to avoid the expense of a full bar. One liquor, one mixer, possibly a garnish and a bag of ice, done and done. Those flowers? Get ‘em at Trader Joe’s. 

Closet 

Spend:Buy a pair of jeans that makes your butt look amazing. Pay the extra $10 to have them hemmed, if necessary. Own a nice pair of high heels that don’t make you wobble when you walk. Buy a blazer you can wear to work or on a date. Replace your white T-shirts and tanks annually — sweat stains are for teenage boys.   

Save: Don’t get hung up on name brands. Who are you trying to impress? They aren’t worth the interest that MasterCard charges you! It’s much better to have a few quality, classic pieces that fit really well than dozens of disposable trendy items. Sure, we envy the girl that always has a new outfit, but not nearly as much as the girl who always looks great in her favorite dress.    

Looking Pretty 

Spend: My mom once took me to have a professional make-up artist select my colors and teach me proper application. I occasionally freshen up supplies and update my look, but not much changes. The result? A tiny cosmetic bag and a three-minute routine. Spend the money on a professional consultation and a few high-quality staples. And if you’re putting chemicals and dyes in your hair, splurge and get it done right. 

Save:Get creative! I am a huge fan of apple cider vinegar as a skin toner, and I do a weekly face mask made with Greek yogurt, crushed aspirin and honey.  

Birthday Dinners  

Spend:Whether it’s a close friend or acquaintance, these are always expensive and can induce anxiety in the best of us. Order the steak because you’re going to pay for a nice dinner no matter what. 

Save: If money is tight, the friend isn’t your BFF and you truly cannot afford it, politely bow out. We’ve all been there and your friends will understand.  

Final Splurge 

Try to shop locally! Websites like Amazon and Zappos may be cheap and convenient, but local shops employ your friends, family and neighbors. So mix it up and spread the wealth around a little bit.

DID YOU KNOW:Women With Low Levels Of Financial Literacy Are More Likely To Engage In Costly Credit Cards Behaviors (Incurring Late Fees, Paying Only The Minimum Balance) Than Men With Low Financial Literacy, According To A 2012 Study By The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Become a self-sufficient, fresh-catch samurai with these tips…

If you’re anything like me, you rarely think about the process of how baked tilapia, grilled salmon, or lemon and pepper trout arrives at the table for a scrumptious seafood meal. As far as I was concerned, fish came ready-made in those cute little rectangular slabs, right? Much to my surprise — or revelation — there is a skill needed to bring fresh fish from the water onto your plate. 

I chatted with Tom Keegan, owner of Keegan’s Seafood in Mount Washington, about how to fillet a fish. Unlike us, landlocked in the heart of the Midwest, Keegan grew up with seafood at his doorstep in Long Island, as well as in the Bahamas. And he brought his love of East Coast gourmet seafood shops to Cincinnati, offering fresh fish, crab and other underwater goodies in his own store. As an encyclopedia of under-the-sea knowledge, Keegan offers a plethora of piscine cooking lessons at his shop, including this fillet primer. 

First, you’ll need to pick out a nice piece of fish. Remember the words “eyes, gills, smell.” The eyes should be bright, the smell should be of clean water, and the gills should be bright red. Good, fresh fish should feel firm when you touch it, like touching your arm. Trout is perfect for filleting and deboning, and Keegan also suggests porgy or sea bream. For this demonstration, he is using bluefish.

What You Need: 

  • Cutting Board 
  • Sharp knife, preferably a fillet knife 
  • Tip: Put a little bit of salt on your fingers to make it easier to hold the delicate tip of the fish. 

Steps:

  1. Place your knife at the head of the clean fish, behind the gills, and slice down until the knife meets the spine. “Cut toward the head. There’s a lot of meat between the gills and the head,” says Keegan. 
  2. Using the tip of the knife, cut back along the spine in one smooth motion, parallel to the cutting surface. “You want to go from the head of the fish to the tail of the fish and scrape [the knife] right alongside the spine,” says Keegan. “Cut as close to the center of the fish as possible, pull your knife down; that exposes you to the meat and you can guide your knife.” 
  3. If you have a really sharp knife, Keegan says you can feel it scraping along the edge of the bone, which is helpful. “You want to get as much of the fish off the bone as possible,” he says. Gently cut the meat of the fish away from the bone. Now you have one side of the fish filleted.  
  4. Flip the fish over. Again, cut toward the head to access the meat un- derneath the gill spot, and then scrape the tip of the knife along the belly bone. Cut the fillet loose. 
  5. To remove the ribs, slice between the bones and the meat and then pull the ribs out. Remove the smaller, “floating” pin bones with your fingers and/or tweezers. 
  6. Admire your fine fillet work, and fry, bake, sauté, or whatever your gourmet heart desires for your newly deboned delicacy.