Friday, June 15, 2012

How to be a bombshell. It's not as easy as it looks

By Katie Crowe
News-Post Staff
Frederick News Post

If you look up “pinup girl” in the dictionary, the definition reads as so: “a model whose mass-produced pictures see wide appeal as popular culture; pin-up girls may be glamour models, fashion models and actresses.”

I assure you, I am none of the above.

Getting gussied up for my senior portrait in high school, or for a “professional” sorority snapshot once a year was about as glamorous as it has ever gotten for me, photograph-wise.

But last week, that all changed. For a few hours one evening, I was transformed.

So what exactly did I do, you ask?

I unleashed my inner bombshell — and it felt really, really good.

I arrived at the home of Luigi Crespo and his wife, Annesses Gross, on Saturday night not quite knowing what to expect. Crespo is the owner of Capitol Bombshell, a business that specializes in “provocateur” photography, as he calls it, or more specifically, retro pin-up, funtease boudoir and burlesque photography. His business partner in this venture is Jennifer Butt, a hairstylist and makeup artist who is the yin to Crespo’s yang. Butt does all the prep work (hair, makeup and dress) before Crespo hits the shutter.

Gross, too, is a large part of the operation. She serves as a wonderful hostess, providing the “model” with snacks before and after the shoot, helps Butt in choosing a well-fitting outfit, and serves as her husband’s assistant throughout the shoot.

I was greeted at the door to Crespo’s townhome in Urbana by Gross, who politely escorted me to the family’s fully renovated basementturned- studio. The space was small, yet tidy, very inviting and more organized than any type of studio — photography or otherwise — I have ever seen.

Crespo — a charming, jolly man with a quirky handlebar mustache — welcomed me and showed me to my own personal dressing room, a fully furnished guest room in the basement, complete with a mini fridge filled with water and assorted sodas, a makeup mirror framed with light bulbs and shelves full of shoes — sparkly, flashy, gorgeous shoes in all sizes and colors. The door even had a small sign on it personalized with my name just for the evening. As Crespo told me, he, Butt and Gross focus on the little details to make sure each woman feels comfortable, at home and as if this is truly her night to shine.

Next, I was invited to choose an outfit from the large armoire filled with dresses, jackets, skirts and plenty of accessories — all separated by size — that struck my fancy. While I gathered several options to try on, I chatted with Crespo and Butt about the business.

I was surprised to learn that Capitol Bombshell is such a new business. Crespo, who has been an event planner and protocol professional for 14 years and owns his own consultancy called Crespo Events, founded the company in January. He said he has always been interested in photography and one day began taking photos on his own at the events he planned, such as weddings, parties and corporate events.“One day, it just all clicked — literally,” he told me.

Always interested in all things vintage, Crespo discovered the retro pin-up niche and began to embark on this adventure. Before he even had a business card, he dropped off his information — name, phone number and the Capitol Bombshell Web address — at the Urbana Hair Cuttery, thinking he could possibly find a hairstylist and, hopefully, business partner who was interested in joining him to tackle the makeover portion of the photo shoots.

Butt, who has worked at the Hair Cuttery for about two years, was given Crespo’s information by her assistant manager, who knew how artistic she was (she has a cosmetology license and an associate degree in fine arts) and that she is into all things retro.

In just six months, Crespo and Butt have made big strides professionally. They have photographed about 40 women, including several sessions with professional Manhattan- based pin-up model Go-Go Amy, have worked with Go-Go Amy to offer a “how to be a pin-up girl” class for women at the studio (the second one is scheduled for July) and shot on location with six girls in Berkeley Springs, W.Va. Roughly two weeks ago, a set of Crespo’s photographs were chosen to be featured in Retro Lovely, the top pin-up magazine in the U.S., according to Crespo.

This month, they will conduct another onsite shoot in Bealeton, Va., featuring biplanes, and they hope to eventually secure a warehouse or a site in downtown Frederick to be able to expand the business.

Now back to the shoot. In the pre-shoot information sheet that Crespo likes everyone to fill out, I explained that one of my most favorite things is Coca-Cola, mostly because my grandfather and father used to work for the company. I collect glass bottles from throughout the world and even have a Coke-inspired tattoo on my foot! Knowing this and because he has a plethora of vintage props, including many Coca-Cola items, Crespo decided we would do a completely Coke-themed shoot, and I was thrilled.

When I finally stepped on to the platform in front of the all-white background Crespo had set up, I was hesitant. He had me perform some warm-up techniques that mostly consisted of practicing my best “ooh!” and “ahh!” faces (being a successful pin-up model, he told me, is all about giving the best, “Oh, dear me! I’m so surprised!” or “Look at me, I’m so cute!” faces). Truth be told, I felt like a complete idiot doing this, but it allowed me to loosen up and become comfortable in front of the camera.

We shot for the next hour or so — just me, a vintage Coca-Cola cooler, some Coke bottles and, at one point, some retro sunglasses — in a variety of poses. And with each one, I grew more relaxed and eager to perform in front of the camera. Crespo continued to offer encouragement, telling me I was doing fantastic and that my eyes were very expressive (who would have thought!).

With each click of the shutter, I felt stronger, more feminine and beautiful.

I was sad when it came to the end — and so was the Capitol Bombshell team. The ladies — who supervise and help Crespo during his shoots so the woman never feels uncomfortable — had to finally tell him to stop. “He always has one more idea, one more thing he wants to try,” they said, laughing.

I removed my makeup, unpinned my hair, suited back up in the shorts and T-shirt I had arrived in, and offered my greatest thanks to Crespo, Butt and Gross. Crespo discussed how my photographs would soon be available on a secure, password-protected site (with a password I had chosen) that never expires, and from there, I could download the photos to my computer, order any prints I liked in any size and on seemingly endless products. He even offers a custom, 52-card deck, with a different image of yourself on each individual playing card. Cool, right?

Although I knew as I left how passionate these people are about what they do, it was Crespo’s words that made it most evident.

“It’s most exciting to see a woman’s transformation,” he said. “Maybe she’s shy, maybe she’s going through a divorce or experiencing a particularly emotional moment in her life … it’s about women trying to see themselves in a holy, fair light, about bringing that femininity back.

“One can be a professional nurse, architect, writer … anything, and still be sensual — not in a sexual way, but in a powerful way. You can be anything you want to be and still be sensual, powerful and gorgeous.”

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