The further we peel back the patriarchal bull that keeps us thinking that fewer clothes means fewer morals, the better everyone in society can represent themselves. Recently I watched Burlesque: Heart of The Glitter Tribe, a new documentary that chronicles the splendor and intrigue of burlesque performers and the lives they lead. It's really well done, and between all the stars, there is enough glitter to cover America.
The film explores performers of many gender expressions and their motives, and it's a deep dive into a really unique space. It was really special to see all the steps that go into a burlesque show, from choreography to rhinestone-gluing, and all for the love of self expression. The performers use every emotion available to bring their fun and daring personas to center stage — some are comical, some are sexy, most are a combination of the two.
I caught up with Zora Von Pavonine, a performer in the documentary, to discuss self care and self expression, and how beauty kings and queens put their best face forward. During our chat, I discovered she had plenty of beauty tips us non-burlesque performers can put to good work. Von Pavonine is the couture queen of the West coast Burlesque scene, and she has her beauty life down pat.
Zora Von Pavonine is humorous sometimes, glamorous all of the time. Her style toggles from drag-esque exaggerations to even more minimal looks focused on natural beauty. Her ideal day-job-to-performance product is Susan Posnick ColorFlo Foundation, which has SPF to protect in the day, but the buildable coverage necessary to translate into a full performance face. Basically, get you a foundation that can do both day or night — preferably both, consecutively.
Cream blush formulas are another of Von Pavonine’s stage essentials that do a very important job: stay put. Perfectly blended powder blushes look incredible and airbrushed, but that doesn’t read on stage, nor does it stay on for hours in regular life. Her fav is Tarte Cheek Stain in Tipsy. Build it, blend it, and you’re ready to go.
Cat eye and a mean bold lip is a classic performer look, and these days it’s a go-to everyday look as well. That doesn’t mean your look shouldn’t be impeccable, and no one knows a perfect cat eye better than a burlesque performer. Von Pavonine prefers Lorac Front of the Line Pro Black Liquid Eyeliner for the perfect calligraphy eyeliner style. NARS, the staple lip of boss people everywhere, especially Funny Face and Charlotte, get her in character like no others, she says.
Ritualistic self care is important when you deal with the public in any capacity. So much energy goes into performance that if you don’t spend time on yourself, you can do long term damage. Von Pavonine rocks a rose water mist from either Jurlique or Evan Healy, followed by a sheet mask to get her skin ready for a performance — and to unwind from one. She adorns herself with essential oils to prepare her mind and body with intention before her act. She also believes baths are an important part of the process of being in the moment with yourself. She is lucky enough to have friends making custom flower scented bath salts to luxuriate in when it’s personal time.
Wearing scents to express your mood or theme of the day is another powerful tool of self expression Von Pavonine swears by; her everyday scent is No. 12 by Leitmotiv. She tells me this scent leaves her feeling settled and compassionate, as well as receptive. When feeling bossy, she grabs Orlando by Jardim's D’Ecrivains. It’s a tougher incarnation that she says gives her “Don’t back down” power.
After watching Burlesque and getting beauty tips from Zora Von Pavonine, I feel like a whole niche that was long pigeonholed is becoming a fully realized movement. Spreading the spectrum from hilarious and pointed to acrobatic and erotic, these people are performing humanity in a way not often done. It’s very reminiscent of drag, over-the-top self expression, cultural commentary, frank humanity put on display. The vintage appeal is one of the differences, and it's what also roots burlesque performance in our collective history: It's been subversive as long as its has existed.
Photos: Courtesy Brightwater Media (4), Casey Campbell (1), Selena Belakis (1), Lincoln Lease (1)