Burbank, California-based pin-up model, boutique babe and vintage maven Doris Mayday talks her first shoot, transitions, sexism, and the truth behind reality TV.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Q: You were born and raised in Las Vegas, and you started college early at age 16 and began modeling right before you turned 18. You’ve stated that you were always a “vintage nerd” and never actually planned to model, but rather that it “fell into your lap.” Care to share how exactly you stumbled upon such a dream job?
A: It all started off as a favor. There was a new calendar coming out called Lucky Betties, and the creator, Jessi Pagel, was friends with my boyfriend at the time. She needed a blonde for one of her calendar girls, so even though I had done no prior modeling, I agreed to it. I couldn’t have asked for a better first gig! Jessi was so involved and passionate that I got to see all the aspects and hardwork that goes into a proper photoshoot. Understanding the importance of hair and makeup artists, wardrobe, lighting, locations, styling, and originality made me fall in love with the photoshoot process. I really enjoyed working with her so much that I ended up helping a lot with promotion. From those events, I wound up meeting a lot of people in this industry and creating relationships. At the time though, my heart was still set on being a sex therapist. I never thought my love of vintage fashion and decor would ever amount to a career, or that I was any good at modeling. To me, I was just having fun, but to others I was told I was a breath of fresh air because I had genuine interest.
Q: You managed the Bettie Page Store at the Fashion Show Mall in Vegas, and you also managed the Bettie Page Store that opened in 2011 in the Mall of America in Minnesota. You started as a model for their company many years ago, right? How did you move into the store management role? Was it a difficult transition moving to Minnesota?
A: When I started off as a model for Bettie Page Clothing, I initially sent in my résumé months prior when I caught wind of the store opening. When the owners knew I wanted to be more than just a pretty face for them and that I wanted to actually work, they hired me! Starting a store, you have a million things thrown your way and I was always rolling with the punches. After proving that I could handle more responsibility and with a smile on my face, when opportunities came up for expansion I was promoted. For the Mall of America location, I did that location on my own. At the time, I had fallen in love with a man from Minnesota. I knew I wanted to move out there, but I didn’t want to leave my company, so I started scouting locations and found a great one! I did all the meetings and paperwork behind my bosses back, and when it was time to sign on the dotted line, I presented it to them with a heartfelt plea for us to expand there. Moving to Minnesota was incredibly easy, and I am still incredibly smitten with the state. Some of the nicest people around, and talk about great vintage!
Q: Speaking of transitions, you’re now the manager of the Pinup Girl Clothing Boutique, which opened in August 2012 in Burbank, California. You met Laura Byrnes (owner/creator of PUG) at a clothing convention when you were only 18 or 19 years old, and began working for them as a model, right? How did that relationship evolve into the position you have now?
A: When I met Laura Byrnes, we instantly hit it off. Shortly after, she asked me to start modeling. I would come out a few times a year to Los Angeles to shoot and we would always wrap the end of the day with a great dinner with long talks. There was always mention of one day of them having a boutique, but Laura is a perfectionist and always was holding out for all the stars to align. Last year, I found myself in Minnesota at a cross roads where I was no longer feeling challenged and that I was missing opportunities. I decided to quit Bettie Page and move to California and give it a go since a lot of TV and modeling jobs are there. It so happened that the time couldn’t have been better, and Pinup Girl was finally ready. Laura knew of my work experience and asked if I would manage the opening. Thank goodness! Now I don’t have to be a starving artist in LA!
Q: Tell us about the process of opening the boutique! Now that the shop has been open for over six months, what have you found to be the most rewarding aspect of the job? What have some of the biggest challenges been?
A: Pinup Girl allowed me to be incredibly hands on and involved with getting the store in tip top shape. There were a million renovations we had to do from construction, to new tile, painting, sanding, molding and styling. I’m pretty sure I can start a new business called Pin Up Handy-woman! There were many 20 hour days in the final stretch before opening. But having customers come in and say how impressed they are with the final look made it all worth it.
Q: I was intrigued (and surprised!) by a post about the PUG Boutique receiving its first hate mail. Some angry passerby slipped a note through the doors of the shop stating, “not to take it personal, but why would anyone want to be a pinup girl? They are only ‘whack-off’ objects!” Understandably, your team shook it off as funny, but also considered that it’s sad that some people still think that the only reason a woman would dress nicely is to attract a man, as opposed to simply wanting to feel good about herself. This also made me wonder – as a well-known pin-up model, have you had people react that way to you/your job as well? How do you respond to those people (if at all?)
A: Unfortunately, sexism is still very much around in 2013. There have been countless times where people have doubted my intellectualism as well as my motives due to my appearance. Some women use that to their advantage and can play the dumb or promiscuous female role but I think that just ends up hurting women worse. I understand that there is a time after the 1950s where women wanted to throw on the pants and power suits and prove their equality to the male counterparts but at Pinup Girl our argument is that there is no reason why you can’t be respected in a well tailored dress. If someone is going to view you as a “wack-off object” or an inferior female that’s their problem and it should never steer you away from how you want to dress.
Q: Being that you’re a lover of vintage style, I was surprised to learn that you typically shy away from wearing vintage hats, thinking that they don’t flatter you or that they’re too “over the top.” I enjoyed reading your resolution to make 2013 “the Year of the Hat,” and that you’re trying to wear at least one hat per week. So far you’ve said that it makes you feel “classier, ladylike, mysterious, and even sometimes spy-like,” and that more of us should get over the notion of feeling silly in hats. I love this idea and was wondering, how is your hat-per-week goal progressing? Are you still getting the reactions and feelings that you were initially?
A: With any resolution you start off with a bang and I was doing rather well in the beginning. I have slowed down a little bit but recently I rocked a fabulous turban that has put the fire back under my tush… or should I say my hat! I’ve realized that I have to keep my hats on display in my beauty room so that I’m reminded to put them on.
Q: Last year you were featured on TLC’s “My Crazy Obsession” for your “obsession” with all things related to 1950s culture and style, which given the nature of our magazine, we can totally appreciate! What sort of reactions did you see from viewers? Were any of your friends or family surprised by the fact that you appeared on the show or some of the things that you said or did? I’ve seen some of your fans comment that they felt like the show exaggerated your “obsession” and was edited to play up the “craziness.” Do you have any thoughts on that? Knowing what you know now, would you still have agreed to be featured on the show?
A: When I first signed onto the project there was no name for this production and it was described as a documentary. They seemed generally interested in my life as well as my boyfriend at the time who is in a rockabilly band. I spent months coming up with a story line for filming that would be realistic. As much as people want to think that reality TV is real, it is generally scripted so I wanted it to be as genuine as possible. After signing my life away I found out 2 days before filming that the show was going in a new direction and called “My Crazy Obsession” and eccentricity was the key subject. All of a sudden I was being told what to say and do. I had to act like I didn’t have a cell phone or computer and risk spraining my ankle by putting silly bags on my feet instead of modern snow boots. It is easy for people to say how they would never do that but when you have a camera crew who flew out all the way from New York sitting in your living room on a time crunch who are being yelled at by their superiors, you will do anything to just get it all over with. My boyfriend was rather disappointed with the new direction the show had gone in and they didn’t even showcase anything about him, even though initially we were told it would showcase his band. In interviews they only got him to crack once and say something forced, so of course that’s the only clip they used of him. It was rather embarrassing but a majority of the feedback I received was positive. I think people were too busy looking at my clothes and furniture to notice the ridiculous story line… Thank God! We did get to go on Anderson Cooper which was an amazing experience. Being able to go out in public and use a cell phone is now like putting on a mustache and glasses. I literally have had people whisper how they think I’m the girl from TV but there is no way because I’m on a cell phone. So all in all I don’t know if I would do that again.
Q: Though it’s a topic I’m sure you grow weary of discussing, let’s chat about your hair for a second. I read an interview from 2010 in which you mentioned that your signature blonde locks quickly became a trademark, and at that time you mentioned that you wanted to change your hair color but couldn’t. Obviously, you made the leap to go dark since then, and last summer you went red! What changed your mind about making the switch? I’m sure your fans are quite opinionated about your choices of hair color, aren’t they?
A: You would think I kicked a puppy when I dyed my hair from blonde to brunette! People apparently view my hair as their domain and almost seemed offended I would change it. I was always called the blonde Doris and it was getting on my nerves. Why couldn’t I just be called Doris? What was the big deal about being blonde? Thankfully I did some photo shoots with the dark locks and people really started to like it. I started getting references to Sherilyn Fenn, who is a girl crush of mine so I knew the change was a good move. I actually wanted to go red before dark but at the time I had an abundance of red headed friends. When I moved to LA I thought it would be a good time to try red. I think changing my hair color has actually been a good thing because I can be more relatable to different people. People are always going to have an opinion on what Doris they prefer, but frankly dear… I don’t give a damn.
Canadian burlesque performer, pin-up model, pin-up photographer and vintage stylist Bettina May talks burlesque Green Cards, $8 weekly food budgets, veganism, and the New York Burlesque scene.
Q: The New York Daily news dubbed you the “Jiggling Genius” when last Fall you earned your Green Card and were the first to be awarded the moniker of “Alien of Extraordinary Ability”. You may be the first burlesque performer in history to have earned a green card based on excellence in the field. Can you walk our readers through the process? Did you find you had to explain what burlesque was to government officials, or even though there was no “burlesque” checkbox on your application, you found people were pretty aware of the art form?
A: It was a real uphill struggle to get where I am now. For one thing, no one involved had ever heard of burlesque before, including my lawyers, first for my two consecutive O-1 Visas, which were each good for one year, and then with my Green Card in New York I had to repeat the same research over again when I got a new lawyer. I had to work so hard to school my lawyers on what burlesque and pin-up are, and they in turn had to explain that in a way that defined it as the art form it is to the US Government. I only ever got to speak to two actual government officials over the many years it took to get here, and they had no idea what burlesque was.
Q: When did you decide you wanted to make the U.S. home and why? Was it simply for work reasons akin to every great immigrant story or is there more? Do you plan to pursue citizenship, or will you remain a Canadian citizen?
A: I think I’ve always wanted to live in New York City, ever since I was a little girl watching old musicals about showbiz, I knew this is where I wanted to end up. On a broader scale, the US simply has a greater population density than Canada, so it’s much easier to be a touring performer, and once I started touring all over the US (I think there are only a handful of states I haven’t performed in, maybe Wyoming and Michigan?) I realized the only place I could make a full-time living as a burlesque performer was in New York City. The scene here is so diverse and it’s a town that really appreciates live entertainment. I’m definitely going to apply for US citizenship when I’m eligible in a few years, but fortunately I don’t have to renounce my Canadian citizenship to do that. I still love my home country, and love going back to visit.
Q: Speaking of your native Canada, how has the Canadian burlesque scene evolved in the past ten years since you were performing there full time, or has it?
A: I left Canada in 2009, and the scene there was already thriving, particularly in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. I feel like it’s really exploded in recent years, with weekly and monthly shows in the major markets, and a great presence of performers from my hometown of Victoria and across the country at international festivals.
Q: You have been living in Brooklyn for 3 years working on this process. To afford your legal fees, you allowed yourself a weekly food budget of $8, which is virtually impossible to pull off anywhere, let alone in New York City. What did a typical meal look like for you?
A: Pretty much every day I ate some kind of soup made of whatever dried bean or lentil was on sale that week, and the cheapest, heartiest veggies I could buy. My other meal of the day was pearl barley (cheapest grain you can buy) and steamed kale. That saw me through the better part of three years; it’s amazing what you can get by on.
Q: Speaking of food, I watched a recent interview where you talked about your passion for veganism for both environmental reasons and animal compassion concerns. What are the three biggest things you wish everyone knew about veganism?
1. Vegans love food! People always assume I eat boring food or don’t like it, but we’re almost always foodies and eat amazing food all the time!
2. It’s not as hard as you think! I’ve eaten vegan out of a tour bus all across the Deep South, and actually went vegan in Paris, France of all places. Vegan food is everywhere, you just have to know what to look for.
3. Chocolate is vegan! You don’t have to go without favourite foods, we even have delicious cheeses made from cashews that even the most devout cheese lover goes crazy for!
Q: You are a household name, due in a large part to your years of extensive touring. Have you always been a traveler at heart? Can you please share some of what you’ve learned over 10 years of touring- a little do’s and don’ts list so to speak for gals considering taking their show on the road?
A: I’ve always loved traveling, I think from when I was a little girl camping all over the west coast with my family. Gosh, this question could fill a whole book, so I’ll just leave it at this: Take a shower and shave every chance you get on the road, sometimes you never know where your next one will be! And always be a gracious visitor when people are hosting you. You are representing your hometown and the burlesque community at large, and if you leave them with smiles on their faces, they’ll be much more likely to bring you back and others like you!
Q: Speaking of traveling, you have taught your infamous Pin-Up Class all over the country, in which you teach women of all backgrounds- from housewives to performers, how to achieve the perfect pin-up look for them. What are your top three make-up tricks every gal should know?
1. Have a good blue-based red lipstick in your kit, it’s the only thing you need to wear on a daily basis.
2. Lose the bronzer and get a good rosy-cheeked blush!
3. Shape your eyebrows, and define them for stage and photos, either with eyeshadow and a stiff angle brush or a sharpened pencil in your shade.
Q: Bettina’s Bombshell Basics was just released by World Dance New York, which is essentially your workshop in DVD form. Can you tell our readers a little about the inception of this project? Who approached whom? Did you maintain all creative control? Any hilarious behind the scenes stories our readers would enjoy?
A: World Dance New York contacted me a few years ago wanting to expand their dance brand into lifestyle videos, and wondered if I could put together an instructional video about being a Pin-Up model. We did our first video then, “How To Be A Pin-Up Model”, which is everything I teach in my class. For this second DVD, I wanted to show how to use pin-up styling techniques of a wider variety of hair types, eye shapes and also how vintage style lingerie is great for curvy gals. They are great producers, giving me complete creative control. We filmed this video backstage at one of my regular burlesque gigs, a Dances of Vice show produced by Shien Lee called Nuit Blanche at Beaumarchais in NYC. If you look closely you can see performers getting ready in the mirror behind me and you may even see Albert Cadabra, the host of the night walking past in the background too.
Q: You seem to wear so many hats: burlesque performer, pin-up model, vintage stylist, make-up artist, costumer, hair stylist, photographer, teacher, producer….. What’s next for Bettina May? Any new upcoming projects you are eager to share?
A: I’m getting set for another big burlesque and pin-up class tour of the West Coast in March with an amazing musician from back home in Victoria, Lily Fawn, starting in Portland, OR and ending at Viva Las Vegas, where I’ll be modeling in the Secrets In Lace fashion show, teaching a class on vintage lingerie and also offering private photoshoots. People can see my full schedule and sign up for my classes at http://bettina.ca/calendar/. A long term goal is to open up a pin-up photography studio in Manhattan; I currently have one in Brooklyn. Also within the next year I hope to be launching a new product line, but that’s all I can say about that at the moment.
Micheline Pitt, Production Manager for Pinup Girl Clothing, designer of Deadly Dames, pinup hair and makeup artist, and model talks fleeing the South for the big city, bursting glamour bubbles, comics, Wonder Woman and toy-collecting.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Q: You grew up in a small town in Georgia and eventually moved to New York where you started your makeup career. When did you move to Los Angeles and what made you take that leap?
A: I did in fact grow up in a rather small town in Georgia; it was about 22 miles outside the city limits of Atlanta. Both Atlanta and my home town were very different back then. I remember my mom saying the town had one stop light, and we were one of the few houses on the block. We were lucky to have a Goodwill and a Kmart. There wasn’t much but trailer parks and churches. I often visited Atlanta to see family and friends, and I think that is where my real interest of moving to a large city came from. Atlanta was so much bigger than my small town, but it was still a small town in my eyes. The community was a bubble, everyone knew everyone and the thought of having a boyfriend there or any real relationship was frightening. You would always be dating someone else’s ex-boyfriend or husband. The girls did not take kindly to this and there were often fist fights and quarrels among them because of this. The south wasn’t for me anymore, and the only place I could see going was NYC, it was closer than LA which is where I really wanted to be and at 18 NYC seemed a lot less scary.
I didn’t see a future for myself in Atlanta on any level; it was comfortable and easy but I didn’t want easy anymore, I wanted a challenge. So I sold off most of my toy collection from the 1980′s – He-Man, She-Ra, Transformers that sort of stuff, made a few grand and had money saved from one of my many jobs at the time and moved. When I got there it was a rocky start. I was young and lost for the first few months. The only place I found my footing was with MAC Cosmetics. In Atlanta people would have to wait for someone to die to get a job with MAC, since no one ever left, and in NY there were so many opportunities. I remember walking into the MAC store in Long Island and securing an interview for myself. I was so full of energy and passion I must have exuded it because they gave a barely 18 year old a chance. I had practiced on myself and so many of my friends, but I had not honed my skills fully at the time.
I was really lucky to join them while the company was still protected by the original contract before Lauder was able to change things. I was able to be around real artists and fellow creative types, I was a sponge. I soaked up everything they would teach me and pushed myself further. I worked on magazine shoots, fashion shows, photoshoots and anything in-between. It was so surreal. But as glamourous as this all sounds, I was hit by the hard gritty truth that my one job was not enough to survive. In Atlanta I worked several jobs because I wanted to have money to leave one day, not because I had to. With NYC I found myself sleeping on the train between jobs. Doing make-up for go-go dancers and stage performers at clubs, then going and working a full shift at the MAC store.
I had found my first real love working at that first MAC store, someone who made the harsh world of NYC so much more livable. The only downfall of falling in love in NYC is it is often a born and bred NYC type, who lives and dies by the city. NYC was just a pit stop in my life, and not where I saw myself. At the end of the day and over 2 years later I left it all behind. I couldn’t handle the city’s lack of trees, blue skies, stars and affordable rent. To buy a 1 bedroom apartment was 1.2 million dollars when I left… and a poor girl from a small town in Georgia will never be able to afford that. So I knew I needed to find my place elsewhere.
Having done make-up in the fashion industry I decided it was time to try my luck of doing makeup in TV and film, and that was the real reason for me to come to LA.
Q: You work 40-60 hour weeks as the Production Manager for Pinup Girl Clothing, but not many folks realize how much goes into your role behind the scenes. What’s a typical work day in the life of Micheline?
A: You know it is funny, the internet makes my life seem so fun and glamourous… and I hate that. They think everything we do is easy and perfect and it is so far from being that. Being with Pinup Girl for 7 years I think this month (I am like a guy and horrible with remembering anniversaries) I work Monday through Friday from 8 am till 4:30 technically. But I often find myself starting earlier, or staying later till 6:00 when the factory closes. Now my main title as Production Manager means, I am the sole person responsible in the quality, fit, production and product you buy from one of our varied house brands. I have to oversee all the fabric purchases, qualities, dye lots and expenses. I also handle all the trim purchasing, lace, bows, piping, zippers, hangtags and labels. I have to make sure we keep constant stock in all of our current materials inventory, yet keeping us at or under budget by the end of the year.
Now each time we receive fabrics they have varied bolt widths or shrinkages, meaning I have to cut and press blocks for every fabric, run the math and adjust markers and grading properly. If one or two percent is off the entire garment will not fit, leaving thousands of dollars in damages and un-usable product.
I also attend all the fittings for head designer and owner Laura Byrnes, on all the garments that are made. Most designs are tailored to her fit, and I have to ensure that the product produced matches this and that the pattern makers make the correct changes to the patterns before they are digitized and graded.
I juggle all of our fabric vendors, constantly looking for and designing new prints for the collections along with Laura Byrnes’ guidance and input. Luckily we have a quality control person that checks all the garments when they come out of production. I used to have to do this position but we were running smaller productions. Now it is a full time job in itself to ensure you’re shipping a quality product. Just this last year I got a Production Assistant and she is great! When you have Fall production starting at multiple facilities, this year we have 4 and then you have to prep and begin patterns, fittings and fabrics for Spring, and things can get pretty crazy.
Things constantly explode and break in production, things get sewn wrong, fabric comes in damaged and takes weeks to replace making your delivery date 2 to 4 weeks later than expected. Fabric gets stuck in customs and holds your production back by 2 weeks or your fabric doesn’t come in because it was wrong and you missed an entire season of dresses… these things have all happened and will always happen. This is the nature of the beast of production. You can’t control every factor, but you learn to expect the worst and plan to correct every mistake that happens. We stand by creating a quality American-made good and that is what I spend my week doing.
Now as far as other things I do, many things take place at home after work, I make flyers, events and art for any and all projects requested by anyone at the Pinup Girl office. I just spent 3 hours this last Saturday making flyers, posters, postcards and event pages for our new Pinup Girl Store. I also do all the Make-up and some of the hair for all the photoshoots you see on the website, much like Laura Byrnes, the owner who is our main photographer, she has her escape to do her passion of photography and I have my escape doing make-up and hair. The Pinup Girl photoshoots are the most enjoyable, yet often stressful things I get to do. Our huge collection photoshoots are very involved and often take an entire day or several days to complete.
I love my job, and I work really hard for them because they worked hard themselves to start this company and I owe them the same efforts to continue to make it grow and succeed. It all started with Laura in her house making clothes and that is amazing when you think where we have come in the last 12 years.
Q: How did you get started with Pinup Girl?
A: I think this is the part of the story people pay the most attention to. They think it is like a Fairy Tale or a means to an end for themselves, but in reality it is my path and my journey… and that age old saying being at the right place at the right time. I don’t know if history will repeat itself, I think these sort of things only happen once in a lifetime.
I had known of the website since I was a 17 or 16, it was shortly after they had begun the site. A girlfriend at the time showed it to me. It sat there in the back of my mind for several years until I was cast on ANTM [America’s Next Top Model]. It was a brief flash in the pan moment of bad reality TV, but through it I found Pinup Girl again. People were telling us both that I should model for them and we connected that way. I didn’t know Laura that well after only modeling once, but I knew a co-worker and what she had told me of the company. At the time I was working in Animation as a Character Designer and doing Make-up for celebs and music videos. I hadn’t gotten paid in months and I remembered the employee telling me that Halloween season was their busiest time, and I asked if I could send my resume and have an interview with Laura. Laura had to be persuaded to even interview me, and with confidence I told her all the things I was capable of, and what I could do if she would give me a chance. I am sure there was a mental eye-roll of sorts, as so many times people often talk the talk and never walk the walk.
So I began part time, and seasonal help shipping Halloween costumes. I would hand pull all the orders that were placed on the site and Kevin would ship them. There were only 5 employees then and things were so different than you see them now. So much like I promised I did all the things I said I would do, I kept my word in that interview and I made sure to do right by Laura and her company since she went out on a limb to hire me. They are my family and this business means everything to me, and I will stand by it and protect it for as long as I am here to do so.
Q: In late August you posted a blog entry on Pinup Girl Style called, “How to become a Pinup Model – The Truth Behind the Red Lipstick” in which you were, in your own words, “brashly honest” about the expenses and work involved in being a pinup model and/or burlesque performer and the multitude of misconceptions about how some women view pinup as means to becoming rich and famous. I found your honesty very refreshing, and I wanted to know if you care to elaborate on any of the topics discussed in the blog.
A: I think like before in my previous answers, people just see big sparkly photos and think our lives are filled with free rides and hand outs and they are so very wrong. Being a Pinup Model or Burlesque performer is not glamourous. They all have real jobs and lives so very different than the ones portrayed on the internet. Most of them won’t ever tell you about them or pull back the veil and show the ugly truth… but that is something I do and I think it is important to do. For some strange reason this one scene in Beetlejuice keeps playing in my head when I think of this topic, “If I had known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have had my little accident.” The receptionist, Ms. Argentina holds up her slit wrists. I know it may seem a little morbid but I think that quote, just the words she says, not the actions, speak to this. I think all these young girls that write on all the models and burlesque performers walls saying “I want to be like you.” “I want to be you when I grow up.” “How do I become you.”
None of them tell these people the hardships and money and time that go into creating images or performances, you won’t ever get paid for, or maybe if you’re lucky you might have the venue where you have to change in the bathroom will give you 75.00 bucks for getting down to your pasties. I have heard and seen all these things happen to people I know and yes even myself. Now I am not a burlesque performer but I know what it takes to make a legit costume, props and music and it is so incredibly expensive. There are people setting un-realistic goals for all these other women who think they will get rich or famous from modeling, or doing burlesque. I am not rich or famous, nor do I desire to be either. I find myself to be relevant to my culture of people who I cater to for my job, and I live in an apartment, I don’t own a home, or fancy cars, and I think the most I spend on clothes are the ones I get from work, as the rest comes from Flea Markets and thifting.
Being famous is not something I ever wish upon myself, ever. To lose all privacy and have cameras in your face… it is not worth it. Most of those people are so wrapped up in themselves and they usually crash and burn as they spend most of the money they make letting the world know they have money. If you want to model or do burlesque do it as a hobby, as something you love, knowing you will never get any monetary return it, but you will have memories, photos and experiences you will be able to share for years to come.
Q: Speaking of that blog entry, I was curious what sort of responses you have received from your readers. I read many supportive comments, but I was wondering what kind of feedback you were given.
A: I have had mostly positive, where people thanked me for being so honest with them, and I think I may have convinced a few that this is not a career path, which is great. I did have a few negative responses, where I may have hit a nerve or two. Many girls are very sensitive when it comes to this subject and I kind of burst the glamourous bubble they have up. The truth hurts sometimes, but I think it was worth it.
Q: You’re the designer of the Deadly Dames clothing line, and you’ve said that your “first line was inspired by 1950s Barbie and John Waters’ Cry Baby.” How has the Deadly Dames line evolved since its inception and what’s in store for its future?
A: I think that line describes what the line was when it was first created. It has evolved into many things as I take inspiration from many different places. My last Fall collection was all French and Victorian-inspired color palettes and prints. I tend to air on the more “slutty” side of designing dresses. “I make things for boobs.” My current line takes inspiration from 1950′s bad girls and old Fetish comics. I think the bad girl quality will always be in my line. John Waters was always so good at creating unique and quirky characters, so I think I do that with clothing. I don’t think I push as far as he does, as I need it to be relevant and wearable, but I like to think I push past the basic wiggle dress.
The future will hold many things and ideas, but if I tell you what they are I would have to kill you .
Q: It’s known you’re an avid comic book fan. What are your favorite series and why? What made you fall in love with comics?
A: I have been an avid comic lover since I was about 6 years old. I think the comic book store in my town still has a Spiderman I drew when I was 8 hanging on the walls. I also think my mom has Zealot from Wildcats on the fridge from a year or two later. I don’t know, I think Disney movies triggered my interest in comics. Animation and Comics kind of go hand in hand and since I drew as a child I was obsessed with them and the idea I could make that stuff for a living one day. Being an only child and often staying home alone my escape was TV and comics. I wrote and drew my first comic series in 3rd grade, I still have it, it’s pretty awful, yet awesome. My favorite series growing up were; Lady Death, Purgatory, Wildcats, Spiderman, Batman, Swamp Thing and Vampirella. I also had a ton of re-issues of old EC Comics for Tales from the Crypt and anything monster or horror related.
Q: I also hear that you’re a toy collector. What kinds of toys do you collect?
A: I am an avid action figure collector and toy collector. However, I keep things tailored down, as I don’t want my collection to consume my home. I mostly collect all Universal Monster stuff, Frankensteins and the Creatures make up the most of that though. I collect some DC figures, Batman and Wonder Woman mostly and I own most of the Beetlejuice and Ghostbuster toys. As much as I love toys and action figures, I also collect creepy and strange board games. I own three of the rarest games; Green Ghost, Kabala and the Mystic Skull. I have a ton more, but those are my prized pieces. I also collect anything Mars Attacks Martian related. I don’t know why, but I was obsessed with those vintage trading cards when I was younger.
Q: You have an instructional DVD for pinup hair and makeup in the works. How is that progressing? Any idea when it will be released?
A: Oh the DVD, it had to be pushed back as I invested most of my DVD money in the new Pinup Girl Boutique store along with John and Laura of Pinup Girl Clothing. I plan on having it out in time for the next Viva [Las Vegas]. I am writing my edit script and having to plan some re-shoots for some voice over stuff, and eyebrows. It is not a big budget film, by any means, but for what it is, I am proud of it. I am going to make it really affordable for people, and plan to wholesale it.
Q: What’s next for Micheline Pitt?
A: Marriage, a puppy, a kitten… these are all things I don’t have currently. For myself, I look forward to settling down, having a home and vacations… lots of vacations. Pinup Girl will continue on and I know we will have a great joinery together. One day when I retire I plan on writing and drawing children’s books and possibly toys.
Renee Stone, founder of the pin-up dance group the Diamond Bettys talks troupe dynamics, Viva Las Vegas, and divas.
Q: While you were born in Texas, the Diamond Bettys were actually born in Los Angeles, California. Can you tell us a little about the inception of the troupe from concept to first performance?
I am originally from Texas but lived in Los Angeles for 7 years as a professional dancer and performer. After dancing in several dance troupes around Los Angeles, I decided to start my own troupe but wanted to do something different then any dance troupe that was out there at the time. So I took my love for pin up girls and dancing and started The Diamond Bettys.
Q: I’ve had the pleasure of seeing you perform and was astounded by the dance ability and solid choreography of the troupe. This isn’t a “let’s see if we can wear a dance hat and increase our bookings” kind of production. Do you ever have trouble trying to explain to folks what the Diamond Bettys are? You’re not “just” pin-up models, and you’re not burlesque. How do you explain the troupe to folks?
Yes! I have a lot of trouble trying to explain to folks what The Diamond Bettys are! You kind of have to see our show to understand what we do. That’s how we got to perform at Viva Rockabilly Weekender in Las Vegas the first time. I remember asking Tom Ingram the first time about booking the Diamond Bettys explaining that we were a Pin Up Doll dance troupe and he literally laughed at me. So the next big show we had in LA I begged him to come watch the show and he did…. he booked us for Viva 2 days later.
My best explanation of who The Diamond Bettys are is that we are a high energy pin-up doll performance group consisting of tapping, dancing and singing in the era of the 1940′s and 50′s; but it is really something you just have to see to truly understand the greatness of it! It’s a refreshing show that will leave a smile in your face.
Q: Managing a successful and happy troupe can be incredibly hard work. What are your top three tips for success?
My 3 tips to managing a happy troupe are:
1- You can’t have any divas in the troupe; you want to get women who are appreciative, and excited about being a part of your troupe.
2- You want professional talent- girls that are good at what they do and take passion in being their best.
3- Take care of your performers. If you take care of the performers and make sure that they are paid for their talent, and treated like the professionals they are, they will be happy!
I try to hire the most beautiful and talented women “inside and out” to be a part of The Diamond Bettys. To be a Betty you have to have a great personality, great attitude, appreciative and a professional dancer, tapper or singer!
Q: What does the future hold for Renee Stone and The Diamond Bettys?
The future for The Diamond Bettys is endless. I can see us doing a production show/musical based on the Pin Up Girls of 1940′s and 1950′s. We continue performing at various venues and events around the world. We perform at private parties, festivals, trade-shows, charity events and many more events….
Pin-Up Model Angelique Noire talks the main steam vs. pin-up modeling industry, natural hair, DIY beauty regimes, and faith.
You have a ton of professional “main stream” modeling under your belt- both in the realm of runway and print. With such a successful “main stream” career, why make the transition to pin-up?
My career is a model, which can include pinup modeling too. I just look at pinup modeling as another avenue to explore because I don’t plan on hanging up my heels anytime soon.
Have you noticed any backlash from the mainstream community due to your involvement with the pin-up community?
To date, I have not experienced any backlash from the mainstream community about doing pinup modeling. For the most part, I keep them separate. My regular modeling career is for my agents to manage with my real name. Angelique Noire is my pinup persona that I manage. So in a way, my professional modeling and pinup modeling don’t really cross paths much, but have the ability to enhance one another. I definitely have been contemplating on just working as Angelique Noire though.
In your Pin Up Passion interview you mention that one of the biggest differences between your commercial print background and pin-up, is that in the world of pin-up you are the creator of your own destiny. Let me clarify: You have reached a point in your professional “main stream” career, where you have agents and marketing people working for you to promote you. In pin-up, you are talent, booking agent, marketing team, and promoter all in one. What tricks have you learned to both manage your time, and to choose which booking requests you will make a priority, verses the large amount of offers your receive monthly?
The juggling act of my pinup ventures is still a work in progress and learning experience. Not only do I have to keep organized all that is entailed with the goings on of Angelique Noire, but I have to find balance to take care of my children and household too. On the days I am not working with a client, I spend it planning future photo and video shoot concepts; editing and retouching photo and videos; performing the duties of stylist, MUAH, as well as model for some of my photo and video shoots; answering interviews; communicating with “fans” and potential clients; submitting photos for various projects; posting pictures all over the internet; the list goes on. I try to get most of it done while my children are at school, and while they are sleeping. All that I do is time consuming and necessary in promoting Angelique Noire. I have to make myself visible being that black pinups have minimal visibility. If I don’t do it, who else will…for free? I just put my abilities to work, and priority goes towards projects that have deadlines.
In my 15+ years in modeling, I mainly did jobs and castings that my agencies would send me on because of safety precautions. I don’t want to step on my agents’ toes, so my regular modeling jobs booked through them most often take priority over my pinup modeling.
The order of priority that guides the decision making process for jobs are as follows: Catalogue jobs supersede magazine editorials (unless Vogue Magazine or other popular high fashion magazines are interested in booking me the same day); Advertising supersedes catalogue jobs; National television commercials supersede all print work especially if print work is included with the commercial job. All print and commercial work trump runway jobs. In essence, it all comes down to whichever project will pay out the most, and/or how much media exposure I believe I will receive. Time is precious so I have to make the most of it.
You have a list of favorite photographers that you’ve worked with, as well as an extensive list of photographers from all over the world and in many different industries. What are the qualities that your favorite photographers have? What should gals look for when selecting photographers with whom to work?
The majority of my favorite photographers are mostly photographers that I have worked with on numerous projects throughout the years. For example, I worked with Matthew Rolston for over 10 years on various print and commercial advertising campaigns. If you look at his website, you would see only a fraction of his celebrity clientele and completed projects. He has incredible lighting techniques, and a phenomenal creative team of stylists, makeup artists, hair stylists, and more that he regularly works with. He has a meticulous eye and gives his input on all angles of the project. Though he is not specifically a pinup photographer, I constantly see the pinup styled pics that he has done of celebrities like Christina Aguilara, and many more floating around pinup websites. Not only do I admire his work, many photographers do as well. I have several others that I have named on my website but there are still others that I would love to work with too.
During my pin up modeling ventures I have been able to work with the amazing personality and super cool photographer Laura Byrnes, the Supreme Overlord of Pinupgirlclothing.com It is not often that I get to work with female photographers, so I am grateful that she has come into my life. Team PUG is pretty darn great.
I don’t have much advice for girls looking to work with photographers. The main reason being that in regular modeling, the photographer and/or client select you for their project. This is how I get my work. If I want to take photos outside of that, I most often contact friends of mine, and sometimes consider working with photographers that approach me. I don’t know if I can get used to the idea of contacting a pinup photographer to shoot in pre-made concept shoots that a bunch of other women have used. I definitely recommend this for aspiring pinup models though. In looking for a photographer to shoot with, pretty much browse the photographers work on their website, and go from there. Work with the photographer if you like their work.
What are the top three mistakes that beginning models make? What is the difference between a model you would list as amateur or a hobbyist, and someone you would consider professional?
I wish I could break it down so easily to name three mistakes beginning models make. Each situation is different. The same choice may be a mistake for one person, and it might not be for another. It’s hard to say. The biggest advice I can give is to make sure that whatever agreements are made, to follow through. Be on time to whatever shoots or appointments that are made. Also, don’t be afraid to say no if you don’t feel comfortable doing something, and be polite about it.
I consider a professional model to be someone who does this for their living. Most often professional models are also represented by agents that are paid commissions.”Model” is the profession that is claimed on their tax returns. An amateur, hobbyist, aspiring model are those who can be in their fledgling stages to becoming a professional model. Every story has a beginning.
You’ve discussed lots of great DIY beauty care regimens in your interviews. What are your five favorite beauty products that are easily made yourself from household items?
I use Extra Virgin Olive Oil to moisturize my skin and hair. I also use it to remove my makeup. My next favorite product I use is baking soda to wash my hair with, as well as to exfoliate my skin. Unfiltered Organic Apple Cider Vinegar is wonderful for many different skin and hair treatments also. I use it as a toner after washing my face, and to rinse my hair after washing with baking soda. I make different facial masks and hair conditioners with eggs. Finally, I keep my cabinet stocked with an assortment of essential oils to include in my different beauty regimens too. Most of how I use these products are posted on my YouTube channel .
In addition to beauty blogs, you also have some great hairstyling videos for gals with natural hair. You also have an extensive portfolio that includes images of you with both natural and processed hair. Do you have any strong feelings one way or another about the black American hair industry, and fashion’s role in it? You now keep your hair natural exclusively, correct? What was the thought process behind this decision? Is it still a bone of contention in the fashion industry?
I am all about options. I like to wear a variety of outfits, and I like to do a variety of hairstyles. I like my hair in it’s natural state, as well as I like using wigs and hairpieces. I do not ever want to have a relaxer put in my hair again just for the simple fact that relaxers are very damaging, and they contain harsh chemicals that enter the body. I totally think that the media has conditioned women into thinking that they are more acceptable or beautiful if they have straight hair. The majority of beauty ads, high fashion editorials, runway shows, etc. show models with straight hair. The main reason being that most of the time these non Black models that are used frequently, have naturally straight hair/loose wave pattern. Instead of waiting for a hairdresser to try to figure out what to do with my textured hair should the client all of a sudden want my hair to be straight too, I just slap on a straight wig that they can work on. My wigs My hair protect my hair from heat damage too. Over the years that I have been modeling, I have been able to appreciate that more images of Black women with kinky/curly hair that are being produced. Hopefully, the natural hairstyles that I do with a retro 40s/50s twist can permeate the pinup world too.
Your website points out that you are “the first black pin-up of the 21st century”. I’m curious as to how you became so inspired by the original pin-ups of the 40’s and 50’s when for the most part, with very few exceptions, they were all white girls. What was it that you related to in those earlier images?
Beauty. I admired how each image was put together. The clothes, lingerie, swimwear, shoes, hairstyles, accessories, etc….all of these in their various combinations showed an image of a classy, sexy, ultra feminine woman. I am sure you can browse through a magazine, look at the models who don’t look like you, and think how you can totally see yourself in the same dress, pair of shoes, etc. that they are wearing. Just because the women were predominantly white didn’t keep me from seeing myself as being able to look classy, sexy, and ultra feminine too.
In watching and reading interviews you’ve done, it is very clear that faith, in particularly Christianity, plays a strong and important role in your life. This is a trait you share with Bettie Page, and we saw her struggle with her faith verses her work. How does faith enter into the decisions you make professionally?
I grew up going to church and still enjoy having a relationship with God. My grandfather is a preacher, whose church I helped renovate and attended while growing up. My faith in God has shaped and molded me to be the person I am today. I can understand that Bettie Page had reservations about the jobs she would do because of the nudity involved, which was very taboo of that time. Do I think it’s “bad” and “ungodly” to show the parts that God gave us? Not necessarily. I do however think that nude photos can be done without looking obscene, vulgar, and offensive. The Sistine Chapel has nudes all over it for goodness sake! So nudity can be tasteful and artistic. I personally don’t want to put all of my goods on display. Look at examples like Rita Hayworth, Jane Russell, and Betty Grable who did many photo opts without ever having to expose all of their body. A woman can still behold an abundance of admiration without showing everything.
As far as my faith goes, it’s what I do when I am not in front of the camera that guides my choices in life. I feel it’s important to treat everyone I meet with respect no matter if they are an A list celebrity or a janitor…even at times when people don’t deserve it. I have also learned that I can voice my disagreements and concerns without having to resort to verbal degradation, and I choose to avoid verbalizing profanity in my conversations. I give a percentage of all the income i make, to various ministries I follow, and charities that I like. I also choose not to drink alcohol, never tried drugs, nor do I smoke (mainly because I don’t like it more so than because of my religion). I am in no ways flawless or trying to be Ms. Goody Two Shoes, but these are standards that I set for myself to uphold.
What has been the reaction of your immediate and extended family? Do they understand your move to pin-up (I am speaking from the faith, lack of relate-ability, and the professional standpoint)?
When I first expressed my interest in modeling as a teenager, my parents and other family members were pretty leery about my participating in what they saw as the negative side of modeling- the nudity, the drugs…the “fast” life. I reassured them by showing the results of the work that I would do. Modeling is modeling to my family…whether it is pinup or regular catalogue work for a department store. I think that as long as I am not showing all my goods, they are happy.
You have paved the way for more black pin-up models to emerge on the scene. How does that make you feel? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I am totally thrilled when woman of all ages and races look to me for inspiration. A lot of times I get messages on the various websites I manage like Facebook, Youtube, Tumblr, etc. saying kind words, and asking advice about modeling. I try my best to answer them all, but it’s extremely time consuming so I apologize that I can’t respond to all compliments, but I do try to answer questions that are asked. At the rate things are going, I can totally see myself being as visible as Dita Von Teese and Bernie Dexter in 5 years.
Does pin-up have more longevity than mainstream modeling? If there is an Angelique Noire legacy thirty years from now, what do you hope it looks like?
Pin up modeling does seem to be more accepting of woman, rather than teenagers made to look older. I do see my pinup modeling contributing to more opportunities for me. In addition, I have seen the demand for women over 30 growing in the advertising market. I have agencies that have “classic” women’s divisions, where the models are over 40 years of age. I guess the reason being that there are a lot of celebrities that have made it more accepting to be celebrated as mothers, business women, and sex symbols even if they are not in their mid 20s.
The legacy of Angelique Noire thirty years from now, I hope is as an icon. I hope I am viewed as having the class of Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable, and the mass media marketability of Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page. More than anything else I hope that people remember me as not only being exceedingly blessed, but also a blessing to many others because of the various charities, ministries, and people I have and will continue to donate generously towards. I definitely believe I am blessed to be a blessing.
Texas pin up model Lorelei Lee talks being petrified, Marilyn Monroe, American Pin Ups, burlesque performance and inspiration.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
How did you get started with modeling? (I read that you did a shoot to send photos to your husband stationed overseas, and that you were bitten by the pin up bug, if you will.) Please tell us about the development of Lorelei Lee as she is today.
I sure did! My husband was stationed overseas and I thought it would be a fun idea to have a few pin up photos taken for him. I came across 666 Photography and thought that their work was just beautiful. I was absolutely petrified when I got there. I didn’t even look at myself in the mirror after Lisa the makeup artist had dolled me up. I was very stiff and felt like I would look horrible. Gayla (the photographer) was absolutely wonderful and was so good at helping me out. After I got the pictures back I was in awe at how they turned out. My husband was pretty happy too.
Truth is, I had always loved the pinup girls of the past. As a teenager, my room was filled with Marilyn Monroe pictures. I just didn’t know there were people who still embraced that lifestyle. As I made more friends on My Space I started finding all these pinup models and photographers. It was so amazing. It was like this whole world opened up.
After that first shoot I booked with Miss Missy Photography and I was much more at ease, moving freely from pose to pose. I got a few more shoots under my belt and I started thinking about a pinup name. My love for Marilyn Monroe hadn’t changed and I decided on Lorelei Lee; which was her character’s name in a movie called Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
You’re starring in a new local reality show, American Pin Ups, along with Flossie Carmichael with the involvement of local photographer Rene Soliz. You’ve also been hosting a weekly Sunday Night Drive-In Movie on the same local channel (TXA21). The show is described as “Two Broke Girls” meets “Project Runway” and is supposed to document the balancing act between being pin up models and your everyday lives (being moms/wives.) Can you share with us how this project got started? What has the experience been like so far?
Flossie Carmichael and I just started hosting the TXA 21 Drive in Movie which comes on Sunday nights at 7pm. It’s been a pretty fun gig! Our first episode we just got to say some basic lines and by the second one we were asked to start doing interviews. It’s not a long segment but it is on air experience and we get to try to get better at being in front of a live camera.
We also have a reality show that we are working on called American Pinups. It is being shopped around to various networks. This will be an exciting show for DFW. It will revolve around our lives at home with our family and out at shoots, the fun parts and the not so fun parts. The love and support we can give each other and the cattiness and drama that can also be a part of it. But it will also showcase other local pinup models, businesses, photographers, etc. It will be a great way for the pinup world to be showcased to the rest of America. There are a lot of people who have no idea what a pinup is. Or they think it’s something dirty. The wonderful thing about pinups is we come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. I am so excited about this show, and you can see more at www.americanpinups.tv .
American Pin Ups is definitely not your first foray into television. You’ve been in multiple episodes of Lone Star, The Good Guys, Chase, as well as the pilot of Dallas. What other acting experience do you have? Do you have any other television or film projects currently in the works?
Working as an extra on those TV shows was a lot of fun. Chase was my favorite because I was lucky enough to become a regular on that series. Believe it or not, I played a US Marshall on that show. In 2011 I did 3 movies. The first two were very low budget movies. The first one was called The Might of Me. The director actually contacted me on Facebook and asked if I would be interested in being in his film. My character Julie wasn’t even in the script. So I went down to Austin and played one of the main character’s date for the evening. On our second date we broke up. All my lines were ad libbed. The second movie I did was called Fess Up (a murder mystery). It was written by the same director as the first movie. This time, my part was written for me. I played Julia Krane. She was a woman who was used to getting what she wanted no matter the cost. The last movie I did was called The Merchant. It is a horror western that takes place in the 1895. I got that part because of a photo I did with Halo where I am the Lady of the Lake. The writer of the film saw the picture on Facebook and he messaged me to see if I would be interested in being an extra. I saw some clips from the movie that were all ready posted and was in awe at how good it looked. Before we started filming the writer messaged me again and told me a featured extra couldn’t do the movie anymore and he wanted to know if I would do it. Be featured?? Of course!! So I played a townswoman who became possessed by a demon. I got to do my own stunts with their stunt man. Kick a little butt. It was an amazing experience. All three movies will be out sometime this year.
Aside from modeling and acting, you’ve also been involved in the Dallas and Fort Worth burlesque scenes. You’ve been a stage kitten as well as dabbling in performance as well, right? I’d like to know about your first performance. What were the biggest challenges for you? What was your favorite aspect of performing? Do you plan to pursue more burlesque performance in the future?
Burlesque is absolutely amazing. I love how empowered the performers seem to be. The confidence that pours out of every gland or that could just be a lot of glitter. Vivienne Vermuth, the creator of Broads and Panties, was kind enough to let me kitten at some of her shows. After a while, I was becoming more and more interested in performing. All my life, I have been afraid to try new things. Afraid of what people would say about me. Afraid at failing. Afraid at losing. I always stayed with what was safe. So doing burlesque was a giant leap for me. Once again, the wonderful Vivienne took me under her wing and gave me a shot and I am so, so grateful to her for that. I would love the chance to perform more. Unfortunately, it’s pretty difficult for me to do. I actually turn down a lot of shows simply because I do not have the time to come up with costumes, put together a routine, and most importantly practice. I don’t want to do something half ass. If I do a show I want it to be a performance that Vivienne will be proud of.
Which models/photographers are you the most inspired by?
There are so many models/actresses that inspire me. Bettie Page, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, Louise Brooks, Brigitte Bardot, Clara Bow to the modern Bernie Dexter, Dayna Delux, Doris Mayday, Angela Ryan, Courtney Crave, Miss VHaven, oh the list could go on and on. As for photographers, Bunny Yeager, Andre De Dienes, Viva Van Story, Miss Missy Photography, 666 Photography, Shannon Brooke, Angela Morales, Vara Pappas. I’m sure I’m missing many many more.
What’s next for Lorelei Lee?
What’s next for Lorelei? I hope to just continue staying busy, healthy, and happy. I’m enjoying the ride. The last few years have been amazing. I am very lucky to get to work with some amazing people and to come home to a wonderful family.
California girl Gina Elise, the creator and face of Pin-Ups for Vets, talks the 1940’s pin-up aesthetic, fundraising and volunteering at VA hospitals, her late Grandpa Lou, appreciation from the troops, and more.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka. Photos: Mark Menchaca
When you first created the Pin-Ups for Vets pin up calendar, your purpose was threefold: to sell calendars to raise money for hospitalized veterans, to deliver the purchased calendars to actual ill/injured vets with messages from the donors, and to send calendars to deployed troops to help boost morale. When exactly did you start this project? Can you tell us about the process of creating your organization?
It was 2006, two years after I graduated from UCLA, and there were many news stories coming out about VA hospitals that were underfunded, overcrowded, and struggling to properly care for the big influx of patients. The number of patients was increasing due to the aging Veteran population and also the Veterans coming back from the combat zone. I really wanted to do something to help out. Our Veterans sacrifice so much for this country, and I think that they should be getting the best possible medical care. I’d always been a big fan of the pin-up culture, and I adore the art of the famous pin-up artists such as Vargas and Elvgren. I decided to create a pin-up calendar that would raise funds to support these VA and Military hospitals across the USA to try to improve their healthcare programs. The first calendar released was the 2007 edition, and the rest is history! $50,000 donated to VA hospitals across the U.S. and six “Pin-Ups For Vets calendars produced to date! It was definitely struggle to get the organization off the ground, as it is with any start-up. I created a website and started sending the website link to the Milblogging community (Military Bloggers). They welcomed the project immediately and started reposting the website link and asked me to do interviews about the organization. I also started to appear at live events such as car and air shows that always attract pin-up fans! It has definitely been a grass-roots effort to spread the word. My first supporters started sending the website to their friends and family. They also started donating calendars so I could ship them to deployed units. And after a while, I started getting a lot of e-mail requests from deployed units for these calendars. They became popular with our deployed service members who have requested them year after year. Supporters of Pin-Ups For Vets now collect the calendars, and many of them pride themselves on having the entire set! There is so much thought and production that goes into making the calendars; they are more like art pieces. I try to remain true to the aesthetic of the 1940s pinups; classy and glamorous, but with a girl-next-door quality.
You had some very personal inspiration for starting this project, right? Your late Grandpa Lou served in the U.S. Army for 4 years during World War II, and the 1940’s retro pin-up seemed a fitting aesthetic for the project. Can you tell us a little about Lou and his service?
My grandfather was a pharmacist for the Army. He was in charge of the Army pharmacy on his military base and did such a good job that he received a letter of commendation from his superiors who recommended that he attend Officers Candidate School. He was always very proud of his military service. He would take my mother to the cemetery on Memorial Day so she would understand about the sacrifices made by his comrades. I still have his military dog tags. I am inspired by the medical care that my grandfather gave to Soldiers almost 70 years ago during WWII, and I feel that I’ve been able to take that torch and carry it on into this generation to help our current hospitalized Veterans.
Since starting Pin-Ups for Vets, you’ve received a remarkable amount of recognition for your work. In 2007 you were named “Outstanding Young Californian,” in 2008 you received the “Daily Points of Light” award from Washington D.C., and in 2009 you were named “Volunteer of the Year” by the Los Angeles Business Journal as a part of their annual Women Making a Difference ceremony. Not only that, but you’ve also collected 9 certificates of appreciation so far and 8 American flags that were flown by our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do you find yourself surprised by the extent of the gratitude of the vets and/or the community for the work you’ve been doing? Did you ever expect that the project would grow into what it is today?
You know, I did not expect that Pin-Ups For Vets would have become my life. I created this fundraiser calendar thinking it was only going to be a one-year project. Towards the end of the first year, I started getting e-mails asking me when the next calendar was going to come out, so I created a second calendar and the project grew, little by little, with the passing of each year. It is quite an honor to have received these awards. I was very humbled by them, as I feel that I am not doing anything extraordinary–it is our service members that should be getting the recognition. They are the ones that put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms. I am just doing my part to support them.
As a more personal type of recognition, you have also received hundreds of letters from troops in Afghanistan and Iraq telling you about their experiences overseas. I can imagine that you’ve heard all kinds of stories, from the uplifting to the downright horrifying. Can you share a few personal anecdotes that have been shared with you by the deployed troops?
In general, the e-mails I get from deployed service members show so much appreciation for the simple fact that people on the homefront are thinking of them. They want to know that we are behind them, that we support them, and that we have not forgotten about them. I just received this a few days ago: “Dear Gina, We are currently stationed in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. We received your calendars a few days ago, and I personally wanted to thank you on behalf of those in the shop, for not only bringing up our morale, but also giving me, along with several others, assurance knowing that there are still proud Americans back at home that love and support us for what we do.”
I understand that the proceeds from this project are donated to military and V.A. hospitals throughout the country to help with costs of healthcare programs. You’re also an advocate of volunteering at V.A. hospitals to assist our vets firsthand in their recovery. Any advice on how one can get started with volunteering?
Absolutely. It is as easy as contacting the Volunteer Services office of your local Veterans Hospital to inquire about how you can give back. The offices are always so happy to get new volunteers.
You’ve made a point to personally deliver gifts to hospitalized veterans at V.A. hospitals all over the country, as well as working with other non-profit groups to send care packages to deployed troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. We do cater to the pin-up crowd, so do you have any insight on what steps a gal should take if she wants to send pin-up goodies to deployed troops?
I would say to start by asking friends and family if they have any loved ones deployed and ask them if you would be able to send some care packages to the war zone.
What’s next for Pin-Ups for Vets?
I am right in the middle of a 50-state hospital tour. It is my goal to visit at least one VA or Military hospital in every state in the U.S. to boost morale of our Veterans across America! I have 31 states to go! If there is anyone reading this that would be interested in sponsoring a trip for me to their local VA Hospital, please contact me through the website http://www.pinupsforvets.com . I just hope to continue to give back and support our brave heroes for as long as I can. There is a quote I love, “You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.”
Anything you’d like to add?
I have many deployed units requesting calendars for the holidays. And I’m also planning some hospital visits in the near future. If you visit the website to purchase a calendar for yourself, please consider donating one as well for a hospitalized Vet or deployed service member. These gifts of appreciation will put some BIG smiles on the faces of our Nation’s heroes!
Fetish model and performer Mosh talks injured elbows, creative control, fetishes, competitive cheerleading and starting over.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
You were born in Russia (which was then the Soviet Union.) Your bio states that you moved to the states at “a very young age.” How old were you exactly? At that same time your parents began your extensive training in gymnastics, which you did for more than 10 years. A devastating injury ended your aspirations of getting a college scholarship for gymnastics. Could you please describe for our readers how the injury happened and how you handled the drastic life changes that occurred as a result?
I believe I was around three years old when we moved to the states. Soon after I did start my training in gymnastics, with my parents as my coaches. The scholarship was really my mother’s plan to get me through college without the financial stress, however it wasn’t exactly an aspiration of mine. By high school I decided if I were to go to school, I wanted to go to art school, where a gymnastics scholarship wouldn’t have helped me anyways. The injury happened during my first year as an acrobat, where I fell from a stunt and injured my elbow. After some time and rehabilitation, I wasn’t able to fully go back to gymnastics, and switched to rhythmic gymnastics instead. Later I ended up joining high school cheerleading squads in two different states. I suppose the injury could be considered drastically life changing. In fact, had it not been for the injury, I may not have even had the opportunity to do what I do today. Life works out in interesting ways.
In addition to being a model, for the most part you are very particular about styling yourself and doing your own makeup. Are you entirely self-taught? Have you always done your own styling or did something happen to lead you to that decision? (I guess my question is that if you haven’t always done your own, did you have any really bad styling/makeup experiences that made you want to just do it all yourself, or was there another motivator?)
Yes I am entirely self-taught. When I started modeling and putting my shoots together, MUA’s weren’t really readily available for a new model, or required payment, which were funds I didn’t have. I’ve always had an interest in cosmetics too, and have been applying makeup on myself for years before my modeling for the competitive sports I participated in. So I picked up the styling and makeup myself, mostly due to interest, and partially due to necessity. Later I learned that I have particular things that I liked and disliked when it came to doing my makeup. There were certain looks I felt looked best on me, while an MUA might have other ideas. So it could become a battle for creative control. I decided I wanted to have full control over the looks I would create for myself, and just did all of my own makeup and styling.
Unless I’m mistaken, you started your modeling career simply using Model Mayhem when you were still in high school while also maintaining a job, an internship and extracurricular activities as well. Do you have any suggestions for other aspiring models who are trying to launch their careers?
Yes that’s correct, now when I think about those early years of modeling it makes my head spin! I really have no idea how I pulled together my schedule, but it worked. If you want something badly enough you’ll make almost anything work. My only general suggestion is that you keep your mind focused on your work and stick to it. Various things in life can distract you, and lead you further away from the goals you may wish to accomplish. Stick to your goals, concentrate on doing the best photo shoots you possibly can, and work hard. Modelmayhem.com is a great place to network. Spend your time connecting with photographers that inspire you. Always remember to have fun. When you thoroughly enjoy what you’re doing, it shows in your images. You’ll have no trouble finding yourself thinking about modeling regularly, planning for it, and creating beautiful work as a result. It’s a great thing to have something to look forward to during your regular job, it makes you want to work that much harder to create the best imagery you can. A strong portfolio leads to many opportunities, so use all the tools you can to build it.
In addition to your extensive modeling credits, you’re also a fetish performer and you do burlesque as well, correct? How long have you been performing and what are your aspirations as a performer?
I believe you could call me a fetish performer. I’ve done shows where I’m encased in latex, or the idea of the show has plenty of fetishistic elements a part of it. In fact, I believe all of my shows have that! Corsets, lingerie, and stockings can all be considered as part of a fetish. Although I primarily say I’m a burlesque performer when asked what I do for shows. I’ve been a performer for longer than my modeling career, and specifically a burlesque performer for about four years. My earlier performances were performed at half time shows and corporate events as an acrobat, dancer, tumbler, and fire performer. My burlesque shows came after a year of modeling. I combined the fetish elements of my work with the earlier performances I knew. My photos contained the same tease and the strip that burlesque held, so it seemed only natural to me to develop my own fully stylized shows, bringing my own creations to life like I would in a photograph. My aspirations as a performer are simply to bring my ideas to the stage, hoping that perhaps my simple strip tease and the complex and glamorous sets and costumes provoke the viewer’s imagination and emotions. I thoroughly enjoy performing, and feel lucky to have the ability to produce my own shows from scratch and then see them come to life on stage.
I loved being a competitive cheerleader. If I could do it all over again, I’d still be a part of a squad. The sport is thrilling, and requires a lot of endurance, preciseness, and trust. I was always a flyer, meaning I was the one being tossed in stunts. You’re up there several feet from the ground, balancing on one or two people below you. It’s quite dangerous, and quite exciting! When you see the coordination, the teamwork, that comes together when a routine is completed, it’s a great feeling of accomplishment all around. Three girls lifting a fourth one over their heads, while the top girl balances on one leg and pulls the other high over her head. Then you dismantle the stunt and run into position to do a fast dance sequence in a structured formation. Then you go do some flips, then go pull a few more stunts all while keeping up with the beat of the music. You must run a mile during one routine with all the zigzagging you do to get to all of your positions. This sport is astounding, I don’t think it receives the credit it deserves.
Your fetishes include everything from heels (especially six inches or more), corsets, stockings, latex and leather. Any other fetishes you’d care to share? Please tell us more about what led you to develop those fetishes, especially the specific photographers and/or images that inspired that in you.
Those are my main fetishes. There are a few more, but I find some fetishes more fun just to keep to myself! I found these fetishes here and there during my early teenage years. I somehow stumbled upon fetish imagery online. I found everything from photographs to illustrations, and found that I really enjoyed looking through them. There was everything from girls encased in latex, girls cinched in corsets, stocking clad legs, girls bound in ropes, etc. I found something more than just eroticism in the imagery. It was something more than erotic and enticing. I just felt “at home” looking at these images, imagining them as part of my own life. When I started modeling I immediately pulled my small collection of latex at the time, into all of the shoots I could.
After finally adjusting to life in the states on the east coast, you dropped everything and moved to LA to pursue a career as a full-time model and maintaining your paysite. Obviously the transition wasn’t as drastic as moving from Russia to the U.S. but what were the biggest challenges in taking the plunge and heading west? Do you miss the east coast, and if so, what specifically?
The biggest plunge was most likely quitting my regular day job. The recession was kicking into high gear at the time, and therefore probably the worst time I could pick to leave a stable job in favor for one that’s considered unstable, no matter what the economy is like. Then moving all the way to the opposite coast with nothing but a few suitcases, and start a new career from scratch. I was fortunate though, and had the support from someone close who would be there for me should my plans not work out. The other challenge was leaving my family and friends behind, as it would be for anyone. I do talk to them regularly though, and see them multiple times a year. Besides family, the only things I really miss about the east coast are the memories. I have had many experiences within those years to look back on, a lot of which shaped me as the person I am today. I also do miss the seasons, something that I immediately take back once I land back on the east coast in freezing weather after being comfortable warm in sunny Los Angeles. I do love the beginning of fall, the springtime, and even the humid summers. The other thing that I enjoy about the east is its architecture. The west coast is much newer compared to the east, and has stunning art deco buildings and striking mid century homes. The east however has an endless supply of architecture from the deco era and below. As much as I love mid century, there’s something enchanting about an older city that I get to enjoy during my visits. In terms of my move to the states, I came to the US at such a young age, I don’t even recall having to adjust! The east coast immediately became my home.
Between constantly shooting, emailing, editing images, and updating your site, you don’t have much free time. How do you relax when you are fortunate enough to have a free moment?
“Free time”, hmm, I believe I read those words in some fairy tale long ago. Joking aside, I don’t mind my constant busy schedule, in fact I’m very fortunate and happy to be able to continue my work in this manner! When this “free time” appears however, I like to spend it with a favorite person and enjoying a delectable meal together at a restaurant, taking a walk, or watching a good film. I also take any chance I get to hunt for antiques. eBay is great for when I’m too busy to go visit an actual shop or flea market, but when I get the opportunity, I love seeking out antiques and vintage pieces in person.
Anything you’d like to add?
Just a thank you!
Meet the Pinup Angels
A group of girls gathering in a quaint living room, writing love letters, signing photographs, and sorting through piles of snacks would like the makings of a good old fashioned slumber party, but for The Pinup Angels this is business as usual. Founded in 2007 by US Marine Miss Kitty Baby of Seattle, The Pinup Angels seek to “use [their] Pinup Superpowers to send morale care packages to our deployed troops”. Their super powers have now grown to hundreds of care pages being sent out every other month corresponding with the national holidays, by Pinup Angels from all over the country. Care packages include all kind of goodies from practical items like socks and snacks (jerky, nuts, and candy are popular items) to fun items like pin-up magazines, toys, thank you cards, and of course- signed pin-up photographs. Inspired by Kay O’Hara ‘s personal approach to supporting our troops, the gals take the time to make sure each package has a hand signed photograph and hand-written note or letter.
Unlike the first wave of war time pin-ups, which included famous names like Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth, our modern times mean that now it’s not just men serving in the armed forces. Depending on which stats you read, between 15-20% of our military is made up of enlisted women; as a US marine herself, Miss Kitty Baby is acutely aware of this. When quoted the statistics regarding the incredibly high number of female soldiers with sexual harassment and rape reports against their male counterparts, and asked if she ever had concerns about the safety of sending pin-up care packages to male soldiers, Miss Kitty responded, “We send our pinups for the purposes of morale and a friendly face from home in a manner that mimics a wartime history. With that intention, we don’t worry too much about it being taken the wrong way because we know in our hearts they are sent with love and respect”.
In fact, many female soldiers request care packages from The Pinup Angels, and they fill those requests with “gal packages” for female soldiers, which in addition to girly items, also include pin-ups. “We get wonderful feedback from the females thanking us, telling us how we motivate and inspire them, and that a shipment of our pinups always raise morale”, says Miss Kitty Baby. It seems a love for the All-American pin-up is common among all soldiers, regardless of gender.
All of the care package items are paid for with donations from Pin Up Angels fans via their website: www.thepinupangels.com or at one of the seemly endless fundraising events the Pin Up Angels produce or attend to raise awareness and money for their mission. Which begs the question, how can we help? “We really just need anything that can be added and sent that comes from our community. Unique items like calendars, promotional images, and magazines from our subcultures are always nice because they are something that can’t be normally bought on the news stand. “, says Miss Kitty Baby. To send Items
One of the really neat & unique things about the Pinup Angels is that you don’t have to be a member to donate pin-up images to the troops! Are you a pin-up model or photographer with images to give? Send pin-ups.
Meet some of the gals:
Miss Kitty Baby- Founder, Seattle
Q: Are you personally connected with a veteran, or anyone currently on
As a veteran myself, I hold a personal connection to all those who are serving or have served in our military forces.
Q: Fondest memory as a volunteer with The Pinup Angels?
Our first veteran’s hospital visit. It took the least effort and had the most instant impact on the veterans we visited. Every single other thing we have done as a group follows closely behind though!
Q: Favorite cocktail?
Q: Favorite vintage film?
Sands Of Iwo Jima. John Wayne as a Marine…Dreamy!
Q: Who should be cast as you in a movie about your life?
A younger Susan Sarandon.
Christina Rini- Team Lead, California.
Q: What is your favorite Fourth of July tradition?
Singing the National Anthem before or during our fireworks show.
Q: Are you personally connected with a veteran, or anyone currently on active duty?
I come from a family of Marines. My brothers have served several tours of IRAQ, and I have several Marine friends who are serving now or whom have served. I am also involved in my local VFW, Post 6213.
Q: Fondest memory as a volunteer with The Pinup Angels?
I will never forget my first year with the Pinup Angels at Ink N Iron. We had a father and son come to our booth. The father had come across us at previous show and naturally we gave him our information and what we do as an organization. We sent a package out to his son. So that first show at Ink N Iron I had with the angels, both father and son came to our booth. It was very moving to see his son, alive and in one peace and grateful beyond all belief for us sending him a package. It was just great seeing how much they appreciate the little things, and that’s when I knew I was in the right place…helping out with an amazing organization!
Miss Lilly Day- Team Lead, East Coast
Q: What is your favorite Fourth of July tradition?
Fireworks at the Beach!
Q: Are you personally connected with a veteran, or anyone currently on
My husband is active duty Coast Guard
Q: Fondest memory as a volunteer with The Pinup Angels?
My most favorite would have been at a show we did in Pongo, VA that was a 1940′s Valentine’s Day Hanger Dance. I had the honor of meeting a WWII Veteran, who spent a wonderful hour telling me stories and how much myself and The Pinup Angels reminded him of the better days. The smile alone on his face warmed my heart so much and at some moments brought tears to my eyes!
Q: What is your biggest indulgence?
Vintage Purses! Can never have too many!
Becky Lee- Volunteer, Las Vegas
Q: Are you personally connected with a veteran, or anyone currently on
Yes, my grandfather is a veteran who served in WWII in the Pacific, my uncle is a Vietnam War veteran and in my boyfriend’s family are Marines.
Q: Fondest memory as a volunteer with The Pinup Angels?
Tough question because there are so many, but I would defiantly say meeting the men and women that received our care packages when they were deployed. It is such an awesome surprise to be working an event and have them come up to the booth and introduce themselves.
Q: Your perfect date scenario would be:
A night of sushi, dancing and snuggling would be awesome. Or going to the fair, ride the Ferris wheel, eat cotton candy and deep fried Twinkies.
Mighty Mo- Volunteer, New Mexico
Q: Are you personally connected with a veteran, or anyone currently on active duty?
My husband is a veteran and a recipient of a Purple Heart and many of his Army friends are still actively serving stateside as well as overseas.
Q: Fondest memory as a volunteer with The Pinup Angels?
My fondest memory was seeing faces of the wounded warriors light up when we smothered them with love and attention during the Wounded Warrior Project Auction we attended at the Playboy mansion as well as our visit to the Seattle and Lakewood VA hospitals on Veterans Day and spending time with the old vets in the dementia unit.
Q: Who should be cast as you in a movie about your life?
I think it would have to be Milla Jovovich. Being that I am not American I would love to be played by her. I think she would do me justice. Hahaha…
Q: What is your biggest indulgence?
Shopping for vintage things. Whether it is an old blender or a beautiful gown, if it is of the right era and in good condition I simply cannot turn it down.
LA based make-up artist, model, and burlesque performer Kira Von Sutra talks her love for Danny DeVito, blood and gore, and shares her Zombie Apocalypse plan with us, which of course- involves whisky.
By: Vivienne Vermuth
Q: You describe yourself as a “makeup slingin’, gore-lovin’, burlesquing model” from Tulsa, Oklahoma. How long were you involved with burlesque in Tulsa before moving to Los Angeles? I imagine the two scenes are dramatically different; what are the biggest differences you’ve noticed?
The Tulsa scene is obviously smaller! I was in the 1st revival troupe in Oklahoma; we started in 2003, so I was performing Burlesque for 6 years before I moved to Los Angeles. We didn’t have the option of taking Burlesque classes; we had to figure everything out ourselves. The resources there for costuming are also pretty crappy. You have to order everything online so it tends to be more expensive. Now that I live in LA I have the fashion district at my finger tips. It makes it 100% easier to achieve the costumes and characters I have in my head.
Q: Currently you are in school studying makeup artistry. What have been some of your favorite experiences doing makeup? Any celebrities?
I actually finished school over a year ago. I have worked on my share of celebs: I did the makeup for the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia live show, the comedy short for The Golden Gods Awards on VH1, and makeup for www.funnyordie.com and www.thebloodfactory.com
Doing makeup for and on and for Danny DeVito is always a treat. Not only is he hilarious but he is hospitable and genuine. He fed the workers on set better then I feed myself! Dan Aykroyd was also amazing to work with, but when I did makeup for the Golden God awards I was silently freaking out. I am a HUGE fan of metal. I got to work with and be around some of the most famous and talented musicians in the metal world.
Q: How would you describe your burlesque style? Do you try to interject your love of horror into it and your modeling?
As much as I love traditional burlesque, rock and roll and horror burlesque is where my heart is. Combining the two is heaven. Performing burlesque to Shout at the Devil dressed as a glam ram-horned Satan while spitting blood at people pretty much sums me up as a person and a performer. As far as modeling goes it’s the same. I love the idea of looking like a traditional pinup, wearing latex, being covered in blood, and wielding an axe. I find that there is SO much traditional pinup and burlesque that I like to spice things up my way. Horror has played such a huge roll in my life since I can remember; I completely surround myself with it. It’s in my house, tattooed on my body, and in my blood. I grew up with Freddy as a hero. My Grandmother and Mother are big fans too so as a family we used to watch movies and old TV shows together.
|Q: Speaking of gore, you recently talked about your contingency plan in case of zombie apocalypse. Care to share with us?
Sure! My boyfriend and I are HUGE zombie fans. We know where the closest gun store is to us. We’ll head there first, grab supplies, then haul ass to Texas for my boyfriend’s father’s ranch to hold up. He has lots of firearms and whiskey!
Q: What’s currently on your plate? What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
Currently I have been working hard on sewing, millinery, making hair accessories, and costuming for burlesque performers. I’ve also been heavily considering getting into designing latex lingerie and clothing.
I’ve been in cahoots with the Fishnet Follies to start burlesque classes in LA to teach a few different makeup classes: Makeup for Stage and Makeup for Everyday. I want anyone to be able to attend, not just performers. As far as my own burlesquing goes- I started to hone in my sewing skills to work on making bigger and better costumes for myself. I am ready to take things to the next level.