CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Stephanie Ojeda didn't hide behind her usual feathered and bejeweled mask this year at Carnaval, a New Orleans themed event at the Clay Center.
Instead she had esthetician Melissa McNeely of Spa Envy in Madison apply her mask directly to her face. The glittery blue and silver design resembled feathers around her eyes and matched her royal blue dress perfectly. The look turned heads among the masked guests at Carnaval.
"I had no less than 20 women ask me who applied the makeup," Ojeda said. "All the comments I received were very positive and several people told me it was beautiful, very original and smart, since they had to carry their masks along with purses."
Her favorite comment came from a man seated behind her and her husband at the auction, who tapped her on the shoulder and told her he was from New Orleans. "He pointed at my 'mask' and said 'you killed it. No one else here seems to understand what New Orleans is all about, but you killed it'," she said.
Ojeda, a Charleston lawyer, came up with the idea of painting on a mask after researching the idea online. She found some wild ideas, but decided to go with regular makeup, professionally applied. Ojeda doesn't consider herself to be a particularly skilled makeup applicator. "I don't even know how to apply eye liner."
She chose McNeely based on a friend's recommendation.
"I asked her to bring pictures of what she was thinking. I freehanded the design and applied glitter to look like a mask," said McNeely, who is a licensed esthetician and massage therapist.
She'd never applied a mask with the airbrush makeup system she'd acquired a month earlier, but McNeely was game to give it a try when Ojeda called. Her clients are usually headed to proms, photo sessions or weddings, not masquerades.
"It took a very steady hand to complete the design, but I thought Melissa did a wonderful job and perfectly captured the spirit of the event," Ojeda said.
Ojeda attended two previous Canavals at which she wore masks that tied in place behind her head. Because she has straight, slick hair, the ribbon ties had to be pulled tightly to stay in place. "And they almost always left marks on my nose or face when worn for more than an hour, and they were not as light as you'd think," Ojeda said.
She also had trouble finding a secure place to leave her mask when she wasn't sitting at a table. In previous years, she either lost or damaged her masks, which usually cost more than her airbrushed version.
McNeely created the elaborate design with her airbrush system and face paint in about 45 minutes and charged her $35. Airbrush sessions typically cost $35. Regular makeup sessions cost $25.
Airbrushed makeup stays on better than regular and creates a more polished look that doesn't smear. McNeely said photographers tell her they don't have to edit or correct skin tone on the portraits they take of airbrushed models.
McNeely wears it almost daily and said it stands up well even on days with lots of physically demanding massages. It lasted well into the wee hours for Ojeda. After an evening of merriment, Ojeda washed her face with makeup remover, soap and water and removed all traces of the exotic design.
Would she do it again?
"If we attend Carnaval in the future, I don't think I'll ever carry another mask. I'd most certainly do it again," she said.
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.