Tonight is the Finale of Skin Wars. I have been fortunate enough to make it to the top 3, in the company of airbrush master Dutch Bihary, and prolific camouflage painter, Natalie Fletcher. It feels surreal to me to be in the top three. I had a vision of standing on stage, and being one of two people to have made it to the end! I always hoped and kept that image in my head, but I really didn’t have a for sure feeling about that, or even be able to conceptualize what that felt like. Standing on stage, waiting to see who’s name would be called as winner, took ABSOLUTELY forever. I feel that I knew the results before even having walked onto the stage, and I was very very calm about the whole thing. The assumed “freaking out” never happened to me. I walked onto the stage, knowing that I had painted my last body paint at Skin Wars, and it was finally over. The only thing left was the judging, and the winner, which was always secondary to actually being able to paint and get through the challenge. What I always wanted to do, I DID. I painted each body with mindfulness, just being aware that I just needed to fight to get to the next level. Then fight to get to the next level after that. I kept in mind, my goal of making it through to the end, and be able to paint every challenge that I could. It has been a struggle for me personally to be accepted into the Body Painting scene where I am from. I have always been told that I ask too many questions, and I was given very vague answers, and told that I “have to pay my dues,” or told that I “step on toes.” These words from my peers really messed with my head for a while, but I just continued on my own path, painting as much as I could, and being my own business manager, creating my own gigs and booking myself and my industry friends at them. It was no longer a concern to me what so-and-so thought about me, my skills, or my ethics because I’m in the business of following my dream, and struggling as hard as I can to get there. Along the way, I was scouted by Jill Goularte, a Hollywood producer. She told me that she had been following my work, and that two body painters in the higher up ranks who have seen me compete recommended me to be a part of this new body painting competition reality TV show, and was I interested. I have seen what television exposure has done for other artists, and I put my ego and my head full of concerns aside and said, “LET’S GO FOR IT!” The producer showed up in Atlanta, at Living Art America, known now as the North American Body Painting Championship, to scout for other artists, and to also watch me compete. Natalie Fletcher was there, Mythica was there, and Nicole Desire Hays was there. We all got called to audition in LA for Skin Wars. The theme was totally open, and required head piece, and costuming elements. I had my friend Carolyn Woods help me create my accessories in advance, and I got this feeling like fish swimming around in my belly, as I boarded the plane, with my carry-on sized card board box containing one head dress. I painted a Peacock Marie Antoinette and LOVED my piece. I still have yet to get the photos for that… it was all very very top secret. At the semi-finals, I painted with 27 other painters, knowing that I would be one of ten chosen. At the semi-finals, I reconnected with Natalie and Nicole and we became best friends over many drinks. Many, MANY drinks. Eventually at the show, when I was about to crack, we were room-mates. It was a lot less pressure and a lot more bonding. Our suite had a fireplace, a jacuzzi tub, a shower with a skylight, and we essentially treated our space like a nudist resort. Come home from the studio, fix and eat dinner, strip, bathe and crawl exhausted into bed, and then get up and do it again, some days at 4:30 in the morning. It felt great to room with these ladies, they were literally my soft spot to land, after a grueling day of anxiety and paint slinging. We kept each other laughing and really bonded over some of the punches that the boys were pulling. People have asked me if I ever doubted my skills or felt like I didn’t belong. The answer to that question is NO, I never doubted my skills. I always felt like, I could paint anything, and because I do my best job that I can every time (within a timed situation) that I wasn’t sure how my design would turn out… (I never do) but that I was in it to win it, and with confidence! I always felt like I belonged. I respect deeply the art that the other contestants have made in their own lives, and am just grateful to be a part of the motley crew which was Skin Wars Season 1 contestants. I was always a part of the gang. Especially if they wanted to eat, I was a part of the gang, because I also fed the troops, up into the very end, with healthy, gourmet style food which I could miraculously make out of the army style rations provided at the reality house. One thing that DID happen was that I SURPRISED myself. I never in a million years think that I could come up with something like this fox… or pour paint on a Sumo like this:
I have to go get ready now, for the big finale on Skin Wars, and the Reunion show which will be sure to turn heads and raise eyebrows. My main point that I want to make with this particular blog post, is that if you have a dream, FOLLOW IT. Work your hardest. Struggle and fail until you succeed. Love deeply and infuse all your work with it. Always take the road less traveled.