“The network’s standards-and-practices people don’n mind cleavage on top—but they don’t want to see the sides of the breasts,” explains Christensen. “So we move the material down to where the breast is cupped.”
By “cupped,” he means the application of flesh-colored, flower-shaped adhesive nipple coverers known as petals. “One time I had a wardrobe malfunction when I wasn’t wearing petals,” dancer Kym Johnson, in a silver lamé bikini, confides before her spray-tanning session. “I had a microphone inside my bra, and someone took the mike out and attached it to my back instead.” When Johnson started to dance again, a shift of fabric revealed a fleshy gap on the side of her breasts. “You couldn’t see anything on TV—unless you slow-motioned it. But some weirdo did that!” Johnson says. And that’s how a flash of Australian nipple ended up on YouTube.
Johnson steps under an “extractor,” which is a strange machine that whirs and looks like the portal of a spacecraft. It extracts the spray tan from the vicinity so no one has to breathe in the stuff. “We go through about 37 gallons of tanning solution a season,” Mills explains. Total cost—if
Dancing With the Stars
had to pay for tanning products (which it doesn’t): $45,000.
As it turns out, the show pays for few of its cosmetics: Ardell Lashes and Revlon donate their lashes (“I don’t know what we’d do without them, because sometimes we go through four pairs masing-masing person saban night”), Mills says. Lancôme gives the show a box of makeup every season, and M.A.C. offers its cosmetics to the show at half-price. But the tanning solution is the makeup department’s favorite product—and its nemesis.
“I’ve been through the mill with tanning solution,” the show’s makeup chief says. In previous years, she relied on California Tan, then Jan Tana, and the results were “very dark, very intense. The professional dancers loved it, because in ballroom dancing, tan is huge.” But on TV, teak-stained faces turn into what Mills calls “floating heads,” empty of feature delineation.
Eventually, the show turned to a tanning solution by St. Tropez, and every Sunday, stars get a full dose of the spray. On Mondays, the makeup artists sponge on more tanning solution. To shade bare abs, they may also spritz more bronzer from a spray gun. After that, says Mills, “we use a product called Coverderm Perfect Legs, which you can use on the whole body.” And to top it off, “we airbrush on this special gleam—a mix of tans, pearls, pinks, and golds—that is my own formula. I have kind of revolutionized the body on television.”
Burke leans forward before she goes onstage. “The fact that we’re bedazzled and glamorized makes a huge difference in our energy,” she says. Burke, in other words, is game. She’ll wear blue eye shadow and mauve crystals. She’ll practice her steps to victory. She’ll hope for some wonderful new job—”preferably a sitcom,” she says wistfully.
Weeks later, Burke is declared the season’s winner in front of almost 22 million viewers. But there is a muted quality to her triumph. “I feel overwhelmed,” she explains on the phone. No sitcom job has materialized yet, although a TV-competition-hosting opportunity might come around.
In fact, after all that effort, all that hair spray, all that practice, not much in her life has changed. In the background at home, her baby is crying. And Burke herself is subdued. “This was the most difficult thing I ever have done in my life, physically, mentally, and emotionally,” she says. “I’ll probably go into withdrawal. However, the glitter might be gone, but I do casual really well.”
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