(Photo by Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro) Coty Alexander and Stacey Whitton before their transformation into Madonna and Shania Twain.
There's no secret that a little makeup can go a long way. But with a little shading here and some highlighting there, makeup can totally transform a person. During StyleBistro's recent trip to Atlantic City, I caught up with Stacey Whitton and Coty Alexander from the famous 'Legends in Concert.'
About an hour before show time, I sat down with Shania and Madonna — errr, Whitton and Alexander — and learned what it truly takes to make the transformations into these legendary women.
Becoming Shania Twain:
(Photo by Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro) Whitton gets ready to become Shania. Notice the Marilyn and Shania wigs in the background.
Stacey Whitton has been impersonating celebrities and performing with 'Legends' for over a decade. During her time with the company, she has been not only Shania Twain, but Martina McBride, Gretchen Wilson, Katy Perry, and even the timeless Marilyn Monroe. Although, Whitton calls Reno home, she spends ten months out of the year on the road performing. 'Legends' has taken her all over the world, including to my home state of Missouri (Hooray, Branson!). Whitton shared with me her favorite song to perform, her talent for making vintage floral brooches, and exactly how she becomes Shania Twain.
Characters performed: Shania Twain, Gretchen Wilson, Martina McBride, Katy Perry, Marilyn Monroe
Favorite character to perform: "I don't have a favorite, and that's why I've probably done so many. As an actress, you want something new!"
Favorite song to perform: "As Shania, my favorite is 'From this Moment." And most of the time, I get to do that as a duet. I love the harmonies. And the audience loves that song! It's fun to do songs that even if the audience isn't a die-hard Shania fan, they know that song because of weddings. Eighty year olds are like 'My daughter had that at her wedding!' Plus, I think that's the only really romantic moment in the show. I like that one because it's so romantic."
How to become Shania: "I use all Mary Kay products. I've been using them for 20 years, and that's definitely been the best thing for me. And I would say for all my characters. If you're lucky enough to have an even palette makeup wise, it's not too difficult to transform your face with hair and makeup. But I don't use prosthetics at all! We have to naturally look like our characters a little bit. But to become Shania:
1) I have to make my eyes look smaller.
That means no eyelashes. To make your eyes look smaller, use eyeliner in the center, not all the way around your eye. Use dark eyeshadow to make your eyes look a little receded. Also, I don't pull my eyeliner out to far. I stop short to make the eyeball look shorter and smaller. But Shania does the opposite with her eyes! She makes them look bigger. For impersonating, for me it's about doing your makeup to look like their structure, not trying to create the makeup that they do.
2) I don't do a ton of shading. I do more highlighting.
(Photos by Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro) Whitton lays out her tools, I mean makeup, before beginning to make the transformation.
Highlighting rather than harsh shading to gives a soft look. If you do too much shading, you start to look hard.
3) I have to arch my eyebrows more.
(Photo by Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro) Whitton adds some bling to her glamorous Shania look.
She has a distinct arched eyebrow that's higher in the center.
4) I have to make my lips smaller for her.
(Photo by Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro) Whitton has to draw on new lips in order to capture Shania's look.
Basically, you would use concealer to draw new lips on. I probably have to get rid of my upper lip for all of my characters, even Katy Perry. She has this kind of this pouty thing."
Time it takes to become Shania: "About 45 minutes to get ready for Shania. It's mostly hair for me. Her look is going to be dominantly hair. I have short hair, but when my hair was long, people would say, 'You look like Shania.' I don't really have to do that much to my face. Oh and costumes are huge!"
Favorite things to do in Atlantic City: "I like to jog on the boardwalk and walk on the beach. People watching is so fun here. Also, we raid Juicy Couture. It's now 75 percent off! We like to go shopping at The Pier."
Fun facts: She has her own vintage brooch company, Whitton de Fleur. "I had an attic full of my grandmother's old doilies. So when I was playing Martina McBride, I was making a vintage country bustier. So I started making these flowers for that, and I just got so many people saying 'Oh my gosh where did you get those?,' so I started making headdresses and bows. And now I sell all over the world and in little boutiques in every place I perform."
See some of Whitton's brooches here:
(Photo by Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro) Whitton displayed some of her brooches in her dressing room.
(Photo by Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro) Alexander pre her Madonna transformation.
Coty Alexander has been performing since she was five years old. As a child she sang, danced, and acted in LA before moving to Las Vegas, where as an adult, she was hired to perform as a Madonna impersonator. She then joined the 'Legends' company as Gwen Stefani. In addition to playing Madonna and Gwen, Alexander has been Marilyn Monroe, Lady Gaga, and even Britney Spears. She spilled all the details about becoming the Material Girl, her love of singing ballads, and her awesome hidden talent (no seriously, it's so cool!).
Characters performed: Marilyn Monroe, Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and Madonna
Favorite character to perform: "They're all favorites in different ways. Madonna has a very meticulous nature in her attitude and her choreography. It's very specific. Gwen Stefani was kind of a fun, edgy, rock chick, so that one was really fun for that. Marilyn is a character people love, so they're just fascinated when you're dressed up like Marilyn. They love you for no reason at all. Lady Gaga I enjoy because she's so current, and I like her music. I'm one of those dance club people who likes that kind of music. For me, with her it's about the music."
Favorite song to perform: "As Madonna, I love 'Like a Prayer.' I really, really love that song. And 'Vogue' is great. As Gaga, I really love the song 'You and I.' It's a ballad. I think any singer who has the opportunity to perform a ballad, that's going to be their favorite."
How to become Madonna: "For most characters, it ends up being about the eyes and the lips. And I would say the eyebrows and the lips, for me mainly. Change the eyebrows and the lips, and I've got a new character, almost. Madonna requires a lot of shading.
1) I have to change my nose quite a bit.
(Photo by Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro) Shading is the key for capturing Madge's distinct nose, Alexander explains.
For shading, we all just find our little things. I use a Maybelline eyebrow color. I use both the dark and the light colors. I use the light for shading and the dark for the eyebrows.
2) I put a gap in my teeth. And it makes all the difference in the world. These really are trade secrets, you know!
3) I use white eyeshadow.
(Photo by Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro) Alexander attaches fakes eyelashes prior to the show.
I use another Maybelline product, white eyeshadow. It's kind of the Marilyn look: a white eyeshadow and then a dark liner.
4) I use Mac lipstick in Russain Red.
(Photo by Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro) Alexander puts the finishing touches on her Madonna look...about four minutes to show time!
For her bright lips!
5) She's got a jawline, so I'll darken underneath the neck. It's not like you can just take their whole face and do your make up exactly like that. That does not work. It's how your face is going to look like that person. It is very specific, and it's not easy."
(Photo by Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro) Alexander pins her hair back before applying Madonna's signature high ponytail.
Time it takes to become Madonna: "It takes me over an hour."
Fun facts: She's a professionally trained sword fighter! "At one point in my life I learned some martial arts. But aside from that, I was trained in sword fighting, and it's so cool. It's kind of like dance, so since I was trained in dance, I guess it was something that I could do. They say this is your choreography: 1, 2, 3, 4. And the other person does the opposite, and then suddenly you have this sword fight. I don't do it really anymore. I still have my swords in my garage. I keep them there more so for protection now!"
Favorite things to do in Atlantic City: "Go to dinner at Phillips Seafood or Buddakhan. Or go shopping at The Pier."
(Photo by Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro) Alexander applies her Russian Red lipcolor and Whitton works on creating voluminous hair.
After spending an hour with Whitton and Alexander, I learned that both are total pros at this. Neither was phased by a voice from the hallway alerting them it was 7:54 p.m. (The show started at 8 p.m., and they weren't in costume yet!)
They both are also very particular about their characters and how they should look, down to the very last detail. That's why they both make their own costumes. "We know the details we need to make because we're looking at the details closely and recreating the character," Whitton explains. "You give a picture to somebody to make a costume, and they do their version sometimes." Alexander adds, "And again, we may want it to flatter our bodies more so than the other people would. Stacey and I like it to sparkle more, too."
"And people expect that," Whitton chimes in. "When they come out to see a show, they expect it. They expect that million-dollar look!"
And boy did they both have million-dollar looks. From the classic Madonna bustier to Shania's cheetah-print jumpsuit, Whitton and Alexander nailed their characters down to a tee. I think it's safe to say I shared an evening with Shania Twain and Madonna just as much as I shared an evening with Whitton and Alexander.
See the ladies' completed transformations below:
(Photo by Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro) Alexander and Whitton in full makeup as Madonna and Shania Twain.
Read more about my night with Whitton and Alexander, here!