rocket doll revue

Showgirl Secrets: Looking Your Best On Stage!

By Desiree De Carlo

Anyone who has attended a Rocket Doll Revue production, or has seen our girls in public appearances, instantly KNOWS how much effort and attention to detail we put into our respective looks. My lifelong obsession with over-the-top glamour, combined with my real life career in the world of beauty (I’ve been in the business since 2009, and have spent the last two years as a makeup artist for Yves Saint Laurent) has resulted in a backstage prep routine that could rival any professional Vegas showgirl. Over the past 5 years, the Dolls have cultivated a troupe culture that encourages self expression and a unique presentation, but absolutely sets the bar for all performers to look their personal best on stage. We have been asked so many times, “HOW do you do it?”, and aside from great lighting, confidence, and good personal habits, it’s mostly ILLUSION. This is not a costuming post, or a hair and makeup tutorial post, but a list of some of our troupe’s most valuable tips and tricks for looking great for your audience. I certainly believe these “secrets” should be accessible to anyone who wishes to create an impactful presentation in the broad spectrum of burlesque performance. This has nothing to do with weight, body type, gender or natural beauty. When you are choosing to become a burlesque performer, you are taking on a great responsibility— to wow a paying crowd. Even if you have amazing dance skills, a killer act concept, or a magnetic stage presence— this is a visual art form, and we must prepare ourselves to DAZZLE! People are here for a show, so your stage time is your opportunity to seize their attention, and give them something much larger than everyday life. Not only will incorporating these techniques help you to appear polished for shows and photos, but they will help you to feel even more confident in your self-created image. This is not the time to skimp on effort— embrace artifice, opulence, sex appeal, and become the fantasy!

Makeup: Wear It. This even goes for the boys! There are so many different ways to paint your face, and burlesque gives us an outlet to try all of the colors, techniques, and special extras! It seems obvious, but it is important to remember that you can (and should) wear way more makeup on stage than you would in your typical “day” face. Everything should be exaggerated. The internet is bursting with information on how to do any type of makeup that your heart desires. But there are a few staple steps that I find to be very impactful, and generally universal when it comes to a stage face.

  1. Lipliner! Use it to define and even change your lip shape. Not only does a good lipliner create a base for lipstick and other products to stick to and wear longer, it gives a polished edge to any lip look. I always recommend lightly filling in your entire top and bottom lip with the liner of your choice, making sure color is distributed evenly (it’s getting covered up, so it doesn’t have to be perfect) and then carefully make your outline. Drawing just on the outside edge of your natural lip, taking care to give extra definition to your cupid’s bow, is a great way to give your pout a plump shape. Then top with your favorite lipstick, gloss, even glitter! Use nude and pale lips sparingly, unless they really add to your overall presentation. Be sure to gently exfoliate your lips with a warm washcloth before a show, and let a bit of balm soak in for a couple hours before you start your makeup. My favorites lip pencils are waterproof versions by Make Up For Ever and Urban Decay.
  1. Complexion Perfection! My head spins at the foundation options available in today’s market. You really need something with more coverage for stage and photography, especially if you are prone to redness, blemishes, or hyper pigmentation. The goal is a flawless canvas on which to build your face. No matter what you choose, make sure it is something with some staying power, and set it with a light dusting of loose translucent powder. Loose powders do not have the filler and binders required to make pressed powder, so they are less likely to settle in and look cakey halfway through the show. I always do my eye makeup FIRST, then use my complexion products to create a clean, smooth canvas. Nothing like getting your foundation perfect and then getting fallout from your smokey eye all over your cheeks. Scotch tape will also help to grab stray product, such as shadow dust and glitter. Learn to artfully utilize basic contouring (cheekbones and underneath the chin/jaw can be incredibly slimming) and highlighting, and always do a pop of blush on the apples. You want to be sure to have plenty of color and definition in those bright lights!
  1. Lashes! I think false eyelashes might be every Rocket Doll’s favorite part of the makeup process. Although you can certainly wear false lashes in your regular life, the use of a flattering pair of lashes is essential for any stage look. There are maybe 2 performers I know that have nice enough real lashes to get away with just mascara for stage. Even if you use primer, or a growth serum, even if you live for those gimmicky “fiber lash” mascaras— it’s simply not enough. Performer 101 is learning how to fit and apply your own false lashes. Most seasoned performers know certain brands and specific styles that suit their tastes and flatter their eye shape the best. You can always trim the band on lashes that don’t fit, or buy demi length if you don’t want to wear them corner to corner. If you are doing a more involved shadow look, you don’t want to choose lashes that are so long or thick that they cover up your hard work. Get a quality glue and just toss the crap that sometimes comes in your lash package (Duo is the gold standard, and although it isn’t as cheap as some, it lasts forever). It’s a good idea to have a spare pair on hand in your kit. If there was a snafu, you would not want to be left lashless. Experiment with layering multiple pairs at once— have fun and give em an eyeful!
  1. Serving BODY (makeup that is). Did you know that most of the Rocket Dolls use body makeup in some form? Whether it’s a little concealer on the bikini line, a tinted moisturizer on the legs, or full on coverage, it is important to give the skin on your body the same attention you give your face. Razor burn, bruising, zits, stretch marks, and cellulite can all be camouflaged! If you are going to be covering a considerable area, or if what you are wearing is light colored, expensive, or will come in contact with extra friction/sweat, I highly recommend choosing long wearing, water resistant products that are actually formulated for use on the body. Regular concealer or foundation can work in a pinch, as can mixing a heavier foundation with moisturizer to help blend it out. Exfoliating and moisturizing pre-show will add to the effect. We always recommend using shimmer and glitter lotions and potions for your body. You’re showing some major skin— why not sparkle in the light?

We are lucky enough to have multiple professional hair stylists in The Rocket Doll Revue. However, it doesn’t take a ton of skill or complicated work to achieve beautiful stage hair. Unless an act specifically calls for it, it is absolutely unacceptable to appear in a show or special event in STREET HAIR. I have seen lifeless styles, limp ponytails, messy buns, even greasy or rumpled hair on performers. There are plenty of ways to achieve show-worthy hair with or without a large time or monetary investment.

  1. The easiest and most time-saving tool I have utilized is a set of hot rollers combined with a thermal setting spray. You can also do heat set classic pin curls on most hair lengths with a curling iron and some clips. Both of these techniques can set while you do your makeup and get dressed. Learning to use a teasing comb is also essential, even if “big hair” isn’t your thing. Dry shampoo is useful for volume, grip, texture and saving too-dirty hair in a pinch. For most of us, the most exciting option for stage hair is the use of wigs, falls, extensions, ponytails and bangs! You can always have human hair pieces dyed to match your real hair, which many of us do. Use a wig cap when necessary, and PLEASE do not slap on raggedy, ungroomed or ill-fitting cheap Halloween wigs (unless the act calls for it of course). Once you learn a few elevated hairstyles and begin building your fake hair wardrobe, your life will be forever changed.

Everyone wants to know how to look good nearly-naked. I can proudly say that through burlesque, our Dolls have developed a real love & respect for the bodies of ourselves and others, beyond what we already possessed. Sexy comes in many different forms, and what you feel inside can easily be reflected in the way your carry yourself on stage. Your personal shape and size is your own damn business— but since you are presenting your body in various stages of undress for an audience, it is good to know some tips for not only looking but feeling your best when baring it all.

  1. Wear your air heels! This applies is scenarios where performing barefoot is appropriate for an act, you break a heel mid-act (I’ve done it!) or more likely in the event you do not want to replace your shoes after a stocking peel. Aside from the fact that they look pretty and make us feel sexy, a big reason why performers need to wear heels is to create a more elongated, flattering silhouette. Wearing heels makes your legs look longer and more toned, your butt perkier, your stomach flatter, and your stride sexier. When we ditch the shoes, we need to remember to put on our air heels! This term means walking gracefully on the balls of your feet, with the heels elevated. Think of a Barbie foot. Practice to make it look and feel natural to you. As a side note, flats are not generally recommended for stage, unless they are act specific, in which case they should be embellished to look like costume shoes, not something you just grabbed out of the closet.
  1. Showcase your booty! Another fab way to add some oomph to your derriere is by wearing elastic leg garters or thigh highs (non gartered) high up on the leg so that they rest under your butt cheeks, giving them a boost. This is a tried and true old school stripper trick, and we are still doing it for a reason! The thigh high technique will also eliminate a potentially unflattering roll at the top of the stocking when wearing a tighter stay-up style. Use of hosiery that is not removed during an act also eliminates the need to use body makeup on the legs.
  1. Bump your bust! For those of us who have experienced sagging or excess skin in the breast area, or those who just wish they were perkier, there is a WONDERFUL trick that I myself utilize in every show and shoot. This technique requires the use of moisture resistant carpet tape. It does not work for very small pasties, as they need to be large enough to cover your tape base. To do the magic carpet tape breast lift, you will want to cut long strips of tape and stick them on the edge of a counter or table. In one hand you will manipulate and center your breast in the general position you desire, and place carpet tape in the area underneath the nipple, pulling upward and securing. You can use several strips of tape until you feel secure and get a balanced shape. Carefully fold in the outer excess so it can be hidden. Then apply tape to the inside of your pasties, being sure to pull the skin slightly upward when securing to the breast. Once you get the hang of it, you will not believe how amazing the effect is. Easier and cheaper than plastic surgery!
  1. Posture makes perfect! Having good posture is not only important for stage, but there are many mental and physical health benefits. Research shows that adjusting to good posture instantly increases self-confidence. Posture is crucial to your stage image, the energy you exude, and for dance technique. Researching ways to improve posture can make a MASSIVE difference in how your body photographs and how the audience perceives you as a performer. Make it a point to check your posture throughout the day, when sitting, standing, walking, and dancing, and adjust when necessary.
  1. The mirror is your friend. When we are rehearsing choreography for an act, we use a mirror. Do not forget that it is SO important to practice a variety of stage faces in the mirror as well! Be in the moment during a live show, but also be reasonably in control and aware of what your face is doing. Everyone has occasional funny or odd face moments, but there is almost nothing more painful than watching someone who cannot get a hold on their facial expression. Obviously a lot of this depends on your burlesque persona and what type of number you are doing, but no matter the mood it is important to engage the audience and perform with your face as much as you do with your body. Vacant stripper face is the worst, as is a performer trying to make overly sexy or cheesecake pinup faces when it does not come across as genuine or believable. Other essential mirror time: look at yourself naked or in lingerie every chance you get. Spend more time naked! I’m not necessarily talking sex or exhibitionism. You have chosen to participate in an art form where striptease and eroticism is the name of the game. The more natural spending time nude feels and the more comfortable you become with seeing your body exposed, the more enjoyable watching you disrobe will be for the audience. Thinking you are body confident and being able to demonstrate it believably are 2 different things.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading what I feel are some of the most important tricks and tools for putting your most glamorous and confident self on stage! I always encourage new and experienced performers to constantly seek out new and better ways to look their best. Never stop learning! Develop your beauty arsenal, and use it to its greatest potential.



  • Coming Up:

    Coming Up:

    The French Connection
    January 21

  • Upcoming Events

    8:00 pm Foxy Follies @ The White Rabbit Cabaret
    Foxy Follies @ The White Rabbit Cabaret
    Feb 4 @ 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm
    Foxy Follies @ The White Rabbit Cabaret
    Leave your troubles at home and come to the White Rabbit Cabaret for a weekend of glamorous burlesque and delicious drinks! Join the Rocket Doll Revue and special guests for 2 evenings of classic burlesque Read more »
    8:00 pm Foxy Follies @ The White Rabbit Cabaret
    Foxy Follies @ The White Rabbit Cabaret
    Feb 5 @ 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm
    Foxy Follies @ The White Rabbit Cabaret
    Leave your troubles at home and come to the White Rabbit Cabaret for a weekend of glamorous burlesque and delicious drinks! Join the Rocket Doll Revue and special guests for 2 evenings of classic burlesque Read more »
  • About

    The Rocket Doll Revue is Indianapolis' one-of-a-kind burlesque troupe rolled into a sexy ball of bouffants, rhinestones and the occasional bucket of blood. Founded in 2010 after a night of tasteful debauchery at a traveling vaudeville show, the Rocket Doll Revue is a tight-knit group of smokin’ hot ladies! Showcasing a dynamic variety of show-stopping talent - from classic striptease to the avant garde - this troupe always provides a vibrant and unique experience.