Review of Bettina May’s Bombshell Basics: Pinup Modeling Secrets Revealed

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When I received my review copy of Bombshell Basics: Pinup Modeling Secrets Revealed, with Bettina May, I didn’t quite know what to do with it. Who was the audience for this, I wondered? Who wants to dress up like it’s the 1950’s? What in the world is it for?

Burlesque dancer Medianoche with vintage hair
This is Medianoche, but you’ll be forgiven for thinking it’s Deeta

Looking back, some of the answers should have been obvious. Between the fame of Deeta von Teese, the popularity of burlesque and striptease workouts (of which World Dance New York has produced a bunch), the Mad Men craze, and hipsterdom’s tendencies to fetishize the past, there must be a lot of people looking for this kind of video.

You know what I forgot about though?

I forgot that I spent my teenage years adoring Rita Hayworth, that I basically wanted to be her, that I dyed my hair various subtle shades of red in wary attempts to get the look, that I played with my hair constantly to get those Golden Age movie star curls cascading down one side… at some point while watching the bright red-headed Bettina May do her thing on Bombshell Basics, this started coming back to me.

I also forgot that for a long time, a toned down 1950’s look was my makeup ideal.

How did I forget that stuff?

So, before I get into the nitty gritty, let me tell you what Bombshell Basics did for me. I didn’t dye my hair, and I didn’t set it in rollers. Nor did I purchase a vintage corset and lull about on a Victorian sofa, though if I wanted to, I would have known exactly how to do it. What I did do, however, was pay very close attention to the makeup instruction. And believe it or not, even though I’m no stranger to the ways of liquid eyeliner, the tips Bettina gave really solved some problems for me. I would even go so far as to say they revolutionized my eye-lining.

Then I went to my friendly local MAC store, meaning business. I got a Superslick Liquid Eye Liner, their Brick lip pencil, and after some very determined testing, selected my first Russian Red and the exquisite Viva Glam I. I have to tell you that I am not a MAC fangirl, and it had been years since I found anything to excite me in their store. (I’m way too old for Nikki Minaj’s face to part me from my money.) But I knew that for just the right red lipstick and deep black eyeliner, that’s where I’d have to go.

And then I started wearing it. And I’ve now switched from wearing pencil eyeliner most of the time to wearing liquid black almost as often. And I wear red lipstick. In the daytime. Just like that, because it feels good. And I adore it, adore how it makes me feel. I can’t find any way to write this without being cheesy, but you know what? I’m a grown woman with a job and a man and a child, I’ve earned my red lipstick.

Burlesque dancer Bettina May showing vintage makeup instruction

What’s that? You would like to know what’s on the DVD? Well, ok.

Bombshell Basics begins with two sections on hair, one demonstrating how to set and style short hair, and another on very long hair. Bettina May offers a number of styling ideas, product suggestions, and little old school tricks. (“Grandma’s secrets.”) I was quite confused by this at first, since I didn’t understand why mid-length hair wasn’t being showed, and since we’re not shown how to set the entire head. Since I really don’t know how to put hair in rollers, I thought this would be useful information. I later figured out that a lot of this is covered in Bettina May’s earlier DVD, How to be a Pinup Model. I can understand the urge to avoid repetition, and a lot of the short/long hair ideas can be adapted to a variety of lengths. Still, I would have liked the full hair curling tutorial here.

The next section focuses on step-by-step pinup makeup. This is a guide to one look, a clean, rosy-cheeked, 50’s style look. The actual application is occasionally a bit rushed, but as I already mentioned, I found it contained some really great tips.

Burlesque dancers Bettina May and Sake Fevah showing modeling poses
Sake Fevah models underwear new and old

The final section begins a plaidoyer for vintage undergarments and what they can do for your figure. Sake Fevah models for us, and then demonstrates a number of poses that could be used if someone is taking your picture, or if a flirt-worthy individual happens to be in the room. Duly noted.

So who is this for? I think if you’re into the retro look, you’ll get a lot out of this, especially if you have long and thin hair, or short hair, and want to work the curls anyway. Bombshell Basics is not really a complete course in any one of the topics. Rather, it’s like a workshop, with ideas in every area — hair, clothing, makeup, posing. In this sense, I think it’s also rather nice as general style inspiration. You don’t have to look like a midcentury pinup, but you can still get a little of Joan Holloway’s charm in your everyday life.

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