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The Beauty Behind the Beauties

Aynie Olmstead
Aynie Olmstead
Photo courtesy Aynie Olmstead and Jammy Straub

Before a burlesque dancer takes the stage, she spends hours preparing her hair, make-up, and the costumes that will transform her into the magical creature she becomes. The application of faux eyelashes, the outlining of the lips, and the extra sparkles and glitter that separate her from those in the audience...the glamourous touches that turn her into something extra special. But, who are the people who help make this happen? The people behind the scenes play just as crucial a role in making a show happen as do the dancers onstage. For Indianapolis's Bottoms Up Burlesque, some of the most key members of the troupe are rarely seen on stage, but their shows would never happen without their help.

Aynie Olmstead has been with Bottoms Up Burlesque for more than three years, although she has appeared onstage on only a few select occassions. She is one of their most creative, active, and beautiful members, but prefers to play a more behind-the-scenes role as the primary hairdresser and make-up expert for recent shows. Aynie has been doing hair professionally since 2005 after completing her schooling at A Cut Above beauty college on Indianapolis's south side. Originally inspired to learn how to add extensions to her own hair, what started out as a hobby turned into a career. After getting her license, a certificate in cosmotology, Aynie apprenticed at Vanity on the west side (now closed) before going solo at Alchemy in Fountain Square. Now Aynie can be found at Shag, also in Fountain Square, where she works with clients of all kinds; children, men and women, from dancers to chemists and everyone in between. In addition to her loyal clientele, Aynie's work can often be seen on display at local events, through her roles with both Bottoms Up Burlesque and the roller derby team the Circle City Socialites.

So, what sort of things must a hairstylist to the burlesque stars know? There are three basic hairstyles that can instantly transform any girl into a burlesque diva. Although some styles work better than others on any given haircut, these traditional hairdo's are as tried and true as pasties and corsets in bringing burlesque to life.

1. For women with shorter hair, nothing conveys elegance like the "finger wave." This style came to life during the 1920s and 1930s when women started wearing their hair in shorter bobs, as exemplified by stars like Josephine Baker and Bonnie of Bonnie and Clyde. It is difficult to involves wetting the hair, adding styling cream, creating a deep part on one side of the face, forming ridges, letting it dry, and brushing it out. This sort of style would be very difficult to do to oneself, but after spending the time to have it done, is the picture of elegance on stage.

2. Another hairstyle that will never fail is the "classic Marilyn Monroe."  This hairstyle involves curling and setting with pins, then spraying and brushing out after a twenty-minute set time. Bouncy, full curls are always playful, sexy, and glamorous, and are relatively easy to do to oneself.

3. And lastly, a noir hair trend that evokes the pin-up heyday of the 1940s is the "victory roll," made popular during World War II by women all across the country. This style involves pinning the sides up with rolls at the top, curled and pinned into place. A quick online search provides numerous descriptions of how to create this style on ones own head, and it is commonly found in classic pin-up imagery.

On Saturday, April 24th, the ladies of Bottoms Up Burlesque will take the stage at Radio Radio in Fountain Square, Indianapolis. What attendees will see onstage is the result of months of planning, practice, and preparation. However, their look will be the result of Aynie's expertise and knowledge of not only the girls themselves and what works best on their hair, but the traditionals and styles evocative of burlesque. The artistic vision she brings to the troupe is just as crucial as the choreography and the costumes, and just as much as part of the show as the numbers themselves.

For more information on Saturday's show, visit Aynie and Shag can be found on Facebook. Make an appointment today!


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