The Bellydance Blog comes to YouTube!

I have been thinking about doing this for quite a while, and I’d like to do more YouTube videos on common topics that keep coming up in the belly dance world. I’d perhaps even like to revisit some of my old posts in video format.

Let me know what you think and if you’d be interested in seeing more videos! :)

P.S
It’s terrifying putting yourself online like this – so be nice! :)

Racism in Belly Dance

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RACISM IN BELLY DANCE

*warning: this post contains my opinion. If you don’t like it, stop reading and go and look at photos of puppies and kittens* This is also a wordy post with no photos.

*If you would like to get riled up; read this: http://www.salon.com/2014/03/04/why_i_cant_stand_white_belly_dancers/ *

Wait, what?! This blog is supposed to be about all the light and fluffy stuff, right? And RACISM in BELLY DANCE?! How on Earth do those two go together? (This is what I imagine you all to be thinking, when in reality I’m sure you’re just a bit nosey ;) )

 

So a few weeks ago, one of the top belly dancers in South Africa was tagged in a video on Facebook of her dancing at a workshop, alongside a drummer. A comment was made on this video that said: “How about giving other cultures a chance too.” Followed by this, when asked to elaborate:  “There are many unique lovely cultures here but belly dancing belongs to easterners and westerners. We don’t dance with our bums out instead of in. Brutal but true.”  (Spelling errors fixed, but otherwise copied-and-pasted)

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The dancer in the video was a black woman. Now, why didn’t I mention it at the start of the story? Well, because it simply. doesn’t. matter.

The statement made by the dancer shocked everybody in South Africa, to the point of her being banned from performing at some events all over the country. Dancers all over rose to offer words of support to the dancer who was attacked and it does make me quite proud of our community – to see that we are not tolerating those who think like that. Not only are there incredibly inaccuracies in the statement/insult, but it’s just plain racist.

But this whole incident got me thinking about who is “allowed” to belly dance and who isn’t. What makes it more acceptable for one person, and not another? Mere skin tone? Because if that is the case, as a pale white African, there is probably a lot I shouldn’t be doing! (Like calling myself African? ;) )

Cultural Appropriation

So cultural appropriation is a topic allll on its own, and if I were to go into a lot of detail here, I think I’d end up with pages and pages of info. Basically, cultural appropriation is when one culture adopts elements of another culture. I believe that this isn’t inherently bad, but it can be a slippery slope. This has been done (especially in art) for thousands of years.

How does this tie into belly dance? Well, there is a school of thought that belly dance should only be performed by those of Middle Eastern blood. Now this will exclude a lot of people in the world (there are 1.3 billion people in China who “aren’t allowed” to belly dance by that logic) and quite frankly I think it’s a bit ridiculous. Belly dance has a notoriously dodgy history and I have never read a single article that can pinpoint its exact country of origin. There are assumptions, yes, but there is no proof.

This whole thought of belly dance not having a specific country of origin (Turkey? Egypt? Morocco? *insert country here*?) has an appeal to it, in that it is a dance form that allows for everybody. We often hear “anybody can belly dance” preached from the rooftops by dance teachers as well as statements like “belly dance at any age!” and “size and weight irrelevant!” and I think that is part of the appeal for a lot of people.

I think the key to doing it correctly is honouring and understanding the cultures it comes from. Although I believe there is no clear indicator as to which is the country of origin, we do have a general idea of where it comes from. And let’s face it – if you’re performing Egyptian style belly dance, then you should understand and appreciate the culture of Egypt. Even more so if you are performing folkloric styles that feed entirely off the cultures they come from.

This ties into race because a lot of people believe that it shouldn’t be performed by people who simply aren’t of Middle Eastern descent. They also tend to view it as an insult when non-middle easterners perform belly dance. (we are “stealing their cultural heritage”) I totally disagree with that.

I think belly dance has made the shift from being a cultural dance (originally) to being art. I think that this changes how it should be viewed. Women in the USA performing cabaret belly dance are not doing the “cultural” side of it, but I think rather the “art” side of it. So I think it’s evolved past the point where it is just for one culture or country.

I think that people who believe that it is insulting for a non-Middle Easterner to belly dance are trying to hold onto the art form and essentially not allow it to grow. Art is something that grows, changes and shifts into different directions. Wanting to keep it “pure” just holds it back and I think actually hurts the art form far more than it helps.

I don’t think that just because somebody else is doing it, that it takes away from what you are doing and why you are doing it. If you allow it to bother you that somebody out there is doing something that you love to do and that you associate with “you” or “your culture” or “your family” – I believe there are deeper problems than just “That’s mine! You’re not allowed to do that!”

In essence, belly dance is a SOCIAL dance and from all the history we’ve seen, it’s always been that way. I have never heard of it being a spiritual dance (historically, that is) and I was always told that it was performed in social settings.

I don’t see why this can’t transcend cultures and be a “world dance” rather than belonging to X or Y or Z.

What we get out of dance is universal.

We get body acceptance, a sisterhood, a feeling of unity, fitness, confidence, focus, memory, creativity and coordination. These are things that transcend race and culture.

Belly dance is a universal dance form that belongs to all of us. I think as long as we treat it with respect, don’t go out of our way to insult the cultures it comes from, it will continue to grow and belong to us all.

 

*warning again: this post contains my opinion. If you didn’t like it, go and look at photos of puppies and kittens* :)

 

(as a side note: is it “bellydance” or “belly dance”?)

 

Henna: My hair dying experience

As a child, I was one of those kids with the bleach-blonde hair and blue eyes. As I got older, my eyes darkened, as did my hair. I started to be more conscious about tanning and skin damage and all that jazz, so I stopped spending as much time outside in the sun. As a result, the blonde in my hair faded and went to this dull mousey brown/ash blonde colour. My hair itself was very shiney and healthy, but the colour just wasn’t very exciting.

I then spent some time browsing the internet, hitting forums, Google Images, Pinterest in search of advice about dying hair with henna.
I posted on my Facebook status that I was thinking about dying my hair with henna. Wow! What a blow up that turned out to be! I got a bunch of people all commenting and telling me how bad henna was and that I would regret dying my hair. A few people warned me that this was permanent and irreversible if I didn’t like it.
Between all these negative comments were one or two people saying that they never had any issues with henna and actually loved it.

I was initially quite discouraged at this reaction. Not nice wanting to do something & have everybody tell you what a bad idea it is!
After getting over the initial discouragement I set about to do even more research about henna. I found this incredibly helpful blog post about henna: Click here

I recommend reading that link as it talks about real henna vs other things that are dangerous and bad for your hair.

I had dyed my hair previous in 2010, and the colour faded and just generally looked “blah” after 2 months, so henna sounded like a good option.

One of my friends, Roxanne, helped me with doing my hair (she helped with the initial 2010 experiment, too). Roxanne and I have been friends for the last 10 years, and when I told her I wanted to dye my hair with henna & asked if she could help, she winced and then said ok, she’d help. A great friend – she knows telling me “no” would just make me more determined. ;) (I found out later she just winced because she had no idea how to use henna)

As no post from me is complete without photos, here are they:

Before hair. This was taken months ago. Around May 2013.

These photos were from a shoot I did with a good friend & fellow photographer, Adele Kloppers for use on my website. She also curled my hair like this! (I’d have her curl it every day if I could…)

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Had my hair cut at Neil James salon. (nicest hair cut I’ve ever had!)

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Random back yard shot taken the week before dying my hair.

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VERY IMPORTANT: I did a test strand first! I took a tiny bit of hair & dyed it with the henna to see how it would react & to see what colour it would go. This was the result:

It’s important to do this incase your hair reacts badly with the henna. You never know and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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I don’t have any photos of what the henna looked like in the pot, but mine came out quite brown instead of the green colour that many other’s reported.

I looked this up & figured out that henna can go stale & can turn brown as it gets old. Since mine had the right texture and smell, didn’t burn my hair off, I figured it was alright.

Henna goes the lovely texture of mud when you start to put it on. This makes it incredibly messy and difficult to apply. Get a friend to help out.

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I wrapped my head in the towel & cling film for 4 hours. We watched series, spoke crap and ate a lot of food. (I went to the shop in this towel… :/ ) I also smeared Vaseline all over my hairline to stop my head from dying. I checked on it every now and then to make sure it was ok.

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I then removed the towel & we washed my hair while kneeling in the shower. Not very glamourous. Roxanne then dried my hair with a hair dryer.

And ta-da! (there’s Roxanne in the background!)

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Still slightly wet, in the sun immediately after: It was MUCH MUCH more orange than this. It was scary orange at first. However, henna does take a few days to “settle” and come to it’s true colour.

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The next day:

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And now, the truer colour: It is actually darker than this in person, but it’s SO difficult to get the colour right on camera compared to what my eyes see.

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Check out that shine!!

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A quick pros and cons list of using henna:

PROS:

* No chemicals! True henna doesn’t have any chemicals or additives.

* You can use it repeatedly. Because there are no chemicals, you can use it a lot more often than conventional dyes.

* Makes your hair healthier & shinier. Also strengthens hair.

* It doesn’t make your hair darker/lighter, it just changes the colour of the hair by adding red/orange.

* Cheap compared to conventional dyes.

* Leaves hair feeling thicker & full of body

CONS:

* Permanent colour. This is both a pro and a con because it means you have to wait for your hair to grow out. I have heard you can dye over henna, but I can’t vouch for that.

* Difficult to apply & very messy.

* Time consuming. I had to sit for 4 hours with the henna on my head, but I didn’t really mind.

* Can loosen natural curls (no idea why, I don’t have curls, but I have read that this happens.)

So there you go! For the people that told me not to do it… oopsy! Looks like I didn’t listen ;)

I love the way my hair looks now, and when I decide not to continue with the henna, I will just let my hair grow out. I’m not fussed about that.

Have any henna experiences? Let me know below!

Here’s the pin-able photo: (Or click here to repin my pin)

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Bellydance Bra: A How To Tutorial

First post of 2014! One I promised to do nearly 5 months ago… oopsy!

Life got in the way a bit in 2013, but I’ve promised myself that I’ll write blog posts more often. I need to get into it for my photography site as well, so it’ll be a year of blogging!

So this post is a bit of a tutorial on how to make a bellydance bra. I don’t promise that this is perfect or the only way to do it. If you do something differently to the way I do – let me know in the comments below so I can try out your methods! As they say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. (ew.)

First, you need to find a bra to work on. This means doing a bit of shopping. Try on different shaped bras to see what suits you best. I find that this “sweetheart” styled bra fits me quite well and makes me feel very secure, which is really important since you’re going to be (hopefully) flinging yourself around in it.

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Check that the back of the bra isn’t riding up. That is a sure sign that it doesn’t fit properly! A good bra should sit relatively low in the back (as this lifts the girls up in the front), the straps shouldn’t dig into you & you should be able to do the “arm test” (scroll down to see that)

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When I try on bras, I do this silly looking test that I call the “arm test”. I lift my arms in front of me (as illustrated below) and I see if the bra gapes. If the bra gapes, then I usually don’t buy it. Simply because if I am in the middle of a choreography and want to lift my arms in front of me, I won’t be able to do so without flashing the audience. (Not sexy)

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Like I said, silly looking. :)

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I encourage you to always buy bras that are “multi way”. This is because if you want to make halter straps, the bra is already designed to be able to move that way. If you buy a bra that doesn’t have the multi-way function, and you make a halter neck, it will distort the bra and make it gape.

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I recently bought bra cups at our fabric shop. I still want to try them, but stuck with what I knew for this tutorial.

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What you will need:

* Fabric of choice

* Scissors

*Thread (in the same colour as the fabric, unlike me. Don’t do as I do…)

*Pins

*Needles

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And optional: A sewing machine.
This was the first bra I have ever sewed using my machine. I just used it for the straps, as other parts of the bra are too thick to sew through and I didn’t have the right needles.

It just means it goes faster and is slightly neater.

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Not optional: Delicious snacks to get you through the process.

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* Interfacing

Below I have a photo of a bunch of different types of interfacing. From top to bottom:

* A reasonably thick vilene. Doesn’t bend when it’s folded & is not the iron-on stuff.

* Buckram. Very hard & difficult to sew through. Best used for reinforcement.

* A thin vilene. Thin like tissue paper. Not ideal for building straps.

* Thin buckram. Flimsy & soft. Not ideal for building straps, but useful for extra reinforcement.

* Denim (not pictured) I used this for AGES for building my bras & belts. Soft, long lasting & easy to work with.

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STEP 1:
I cover my bra. I usually take a corner of the fabric and try pinning it in different ways before cutting it. Cutting is very final. Buy extra fabric if you’re worried about it.

I first pin the top and then the bottom. The top will always be pinned the same way, but at the bottom you can either use a dart (folds sewn into the fabric to give it a 3-dimensional shape) or ruching (gathers of fabric used to form ruffles.)

I spent a good 2 hours pinning my bra. I wanted to show you how a dart would look, as well as ruching (which is what I went with in the end)

Pinned at the top:

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A very messy dart:

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Ruching Pinned: (lots of pins!)

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Ruching sewn.

With ruching, I just sew at the bottom of it. I don’t sew further up the cup because I don’t want stitching on the cup as it will be visible. I don’t know if this is the correct way to do it, but it is the way I do it.

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STEP 2:

Cut out straps. I used the first Vilene mentioned above to make my straps. I had a pattern from straps already lying around that I had cut out of the thin buckram.

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Placed the pattern on the Vilene. I folded it to end sooner because I wouldn’t be making straps that connect in the back. This is up to you. I

I folded my vilene in half and drew one pattern. I then cut through the 2 layers so that they would be perfectly equal. It also saves time.

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I used this handy little pen to draw on my vilene. It fades in 48 hours or so, so it’s perfect for mapping out your pattern on fabric.

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I place my strap onto my bra to see if it fits. I made a mark with the pen to show where I would need to cut it.

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Before making a commitment to making the straps, I check out my stash of loops & rings that I’ll be using for the straps.

With this, you want to make sure that your loops aren’t much bigger that your straps. If they are, they tend to move around and can end up not fitting quite right.

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I added grosgrain ribbon to my straps for extra reinforcement. This is a new thing I am testing out. Seems to work well!

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Now, take a break and eat one of your snacks. Hmmmm. Chocolate.

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This is the bra with the straps covered & one of them pinned onto the bra. Covering the straps is as simple as putting the fabric over it, pinning & sewing. Nothing fancy or difficult there.

Note that the original bra straps are still on.

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The backs of my bras are always insanely messy. I have started lining my bras (you will see why in a bit) but that can only be done once it is totally decorated.

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One half of the bra has a top decoration on it. This is just a silver lace I bought, and folded over the top of this bra.

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The inside again.

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I used my loops on the back straps of the bra, and pin in place. I hand sewed this because my machine can’t get close enough to the loops. (I tried & broke a needle in the process)

At this point, you can cut off your side straps. You can see in the picture above where I cut mine off. Usually where there is a bit of boning in the strap.

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Next, make your top straps. Using vilene (or your base of choice) and grosgrain ribbon, sew them together & cover them in your fabric. Pin to the bra & sew in place. (Again, I did this by hand)

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Ta-da! You now have straps!

NOT PICTURED:

Adding the loops to the top straps & sewing in place.

Then go outside and take some photos in your fabulous new bra!

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Below you can see the reason why lining is so important. the tiny bits of fabric will sneak out of the bottom of your bra and show. (I have no idea how to line stuff – I just make it up as I go along!)

Harem Pants & Necklace: Also by me! ;)

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Back of the bra:

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You can see that it is still very rough, but I am fine with that, as I will be covering all those seams.

I know some of you like to pin my stuff, so I’ve done this picture below that you can use as the pinned picture:

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If you cant seem to pin it, find my pin here (click click) and feel free to share! :)

If you have any questions or suggestions, let me know in the comments below! I love to hear from you!

xx

New Costume

In the last week, I decided to make a new dance bra. My older ones don’t fit as well as they should and I felt like they weren’t very adjustable. We have a performance coming up in October and I wanted something that I at least felt comfortable in.

So I went to the fabric shop, saw awesome fabric and bought it. I then realised I needed faux suede to go with my new fabric and bought some the next day. I spent my evenings making and embellishing this bra, and finished it in a couple of days!

Here is the bra I have been working on:

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This is also the first time I’ve ever lined a bra!

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I realised half-way through that my last bra “how-to” got pinned on Pinterest a couple of times and it had brought lots of people to my blog. Since I was half way through and hadn’t taken any photos of said bra, I decided once the work craziness has died down a bit (October-ish) I will do a tutorial for my blog. With prettier pictures and proper step-by-step instructions. (After all, prettier pictures means getting Pinned more often!)

In this upcoming tutorial, what would you like to see discussed? 

I also have some cool ideas for blog posts, so hopefully after the tutorial and work-craziness I’ll be able to post some more. :)

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New video

So here is a video, of me in studio last night. I love this song by Beats Antique and I finally decided to just try a bit of improv!

I obviously see a lot of mistakes and things I can do better in. I like improv though and I’d like to try and get better at it. I am actively working on dancing more and doing yoga more often, so I want to document any progress I might make.

Seeing yourself on video is a double-edged sword. It’s cool that I can see what I’ve improved on, but at the same time it shows me what I still need to do.

I’m trying to see that in a positive light – that I have never learned it all and that there is always so much for me to do! It’s a never-ending journey! :)

My Makeup Transitions & Some Tips

I have said before that I know next to nothing about make up. I was always hopelessly lost when I needed to buy new things for dance and I ended up just going with items that clearly showcased my lack of knowledge. I’m almost embarrassed to post this, but I do want to show you how far I’ve come in my make up choices!

I’ve also said before that I grew up with a mom who didn’t wear a lot of makeup – which I’m totally grateful for now. Because as nice as it is to know how to apply makeup properly, it’s even nicer to have a mom who taught me that appearances aren’t everything. After all, make up is a skill you can learn if you practice enough.

Since I started working, I realized how important it is for me to wear a bit of makeup. I find that I look too young (and in people’s minds, therefore inexperienced) and makeup helped me age a bit. Every month or two I’ve bought at least one new makeup product. Nothing over R100 (+-$10) but just enough to play around with.

So if you’re not experienced with makeup, or can’t afford the high-end products, don’t worry. You can learn how to apply makeup and you can do perfectly fine with cheaper/drugstore products.

I started out with using incredibly cheap products. Pretty much whatever I could get at any R5 Shop or Mr Chen Superstore was the kind of thing I would go for. After all, I started dancing and performing when I was 16, so R8 for a bunch of eyeshadows really was the only thing that was affordable for me.

My first performance ever (in 2007), in which the eye makeup was inspired by makeup that could be found in the Sims 2.

Below you can see one of the looks I would go for at the start of my Tribal Fusion career, typically:

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Mainly a liquid eyeliner. Actually… only a liquid eyeliner. I was messy with it and didn’t really know what I was doing.

I did get better years later at the eyeliner, but also started experimenting with eye shadows. I also started watching YouTube tutorials to learn a bit more about makeup. Since I didn’t know what I was looking for, I watched random videos and picked up a few hints from them. One of them being the use of sticky-tape to create a solid winged line by your eye. I did this for a really long time, and I actually want to try it again sometime, using my newer knowledge of makeup application.

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Not being used to make up, you can see in a lot of these images that I was too light handed with my shadow and I should’ve been piling it on a lot heavier. If you’re not used to makeup, any makeup is a lot to wear!

I am lucky in that my studio occasionally has a “dress up” class where we get to wear new costumes to test out, or try new hair/makeup tricks. I used a lot of these classes for experimenting with makeup and I’m very grateful for that – otherwise I might still be doing the liquid liner…

I also started to use concealer (very recently actually – only about a year ago) for performances because I have quite bad under eye circles and it became more noticeable when I had darker shadows on my eyes.

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Here are a few things I’ve learned that you might find helpful too:

  • NO LIQUID EYELINER!! That deserved both of those exclamation marks. Use the liquid eyeliner to… *gasp* line your eyes, don’t do the entire thing in plain ol’ black eyeliner. Yucky.
  • Blend Blend Blend! Swiping your eye shadow over your eyes and walking out the house never looks nice. Take time to blend your eye shadows out so that it gently fades rather than abruptly stops.
  • Using JUST a kohl/pencil liner on your bottom lid doesn’t make for very pretty eyes. It tends to make the bottom lid look heavy and very harsh. Either tight line (upper water line) your eye or blend it out so it’s not a hard line.
  • Using cheap products will NOT take you a long way. You don’t need to buy ridiculously expensive products either – just be an informed consumer by reading reviews before buying.
  • False eyelashes. Wear them. You don’t need to buy the super expensive ones like Ardell (which go for between R50 – R90 here). If you want to test falsies out, buy the cheapies at the China shops for about R10, but definitely buy quality glue! The stuff that comes with the cheapies is mostly useless.
  • Mascara is your friend.
  • Filling in your brows is something that people seem to not talk about very often. Ever seen Zoe Jakes without makeup? Nearly no eyebrows. On stage? Super amazing eyebrows. That girl knows her brows. Honestly though, it’s important to fill in your brows if you’re performing. Having thin brows makes them disappear on stage and it can look a bit strange. (also, really thin/non-existent brows is NEVER flattering!) If you ARE going to fill in your brows, use a powder to do so. Loads of brands stock an “eyebrow kit” for doing exactly that. *
  • Don’t go for a lipstick that is too dark. It can often look black and black lipstick is never flattering. EDIT: As Rasha Nour pointed out in the comments – don’t wear a lipstick that is too light/natural either or it can fade away. I think your best bet is to go for a vibrant red or bright colour.
  • Use YouTube. There are plenty of YouTube gurus who can help you out with ideas and tips for the perfect look for you.
  • Make sure your foundation matches to your skin. Nothing is weirder than seeing somebody’s face is shades lighter/darker than the rest of them.

I’ll be writing another post soon about some of my favourite YouTube gurus and makeup videos – if you’re interested!

Here are some of my more recent make up looks, and I think I have improved dramatically!

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And my most recent, taken just a month ago at International Bellydance Day!

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I hope some of this was helpful to you, and if not, I hope you had a giggle at my earlier makeup. It’s a bit cringe worthy, but hey – what was your makeup like when you were 16? ;)

I didn’t want to talk about buying things too much in this post, because I believe that there are plenty of makeup blogs that cater specifically to that, and I also don’t believe that expensive products mean better results. It’s often about how you apply the products, and there are plenty of cheaper brands out there that are perfect for dancing.

To finish this post off – I do think that knowing how to do your makeup is a very important skill to have if you’re a performer of any sort. With the internet and YouTube tutorials, there’s no reason you can’t learn!

Until next time! *waves*

*I have a bit of a thing about eyebrows.