Props to the Lady

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These were my favorite glasses to hide behind. They were purchased some years ago to create alien eyes for a Halloween costume. Later, I wore them as part of a groovy 1970s party outfit. Then they were passed on to Lady Liberty who wore them only a few days before her dog ate them. Good thing Costumed Mama had five more pairs just as snazzy for Lady Liberty to borrow.

I was too embarrassed to admit to anyone that I was a “professional waver”… a street performer… a sign flipper… whatever you want to call it. I wasn’t going to tell anybody about my temporary employment. Sunglasses were a great accessory for disguising my face. So was the face paint. Once on the street, I discovered another advantage to sunglasses. They were liberating. When I wore them, which was most of the time, they had a profound effect on my performance. I was free to take chances and be silly because nobody knew who I was. Disguised, I wasn’t afraid to make a fool of myself, but if I took the glasses off for a minute I was exposed and instantly self-conscious.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know I put a lot of thought into venturing out on this marketing adventure. I had determined that weather and boredom would be the biggest obstacles, and now over two and half months into the job, I can say without a doubt that I was right. Today’s post is about how I tackled the issue of boredom.

Early on, the wheels were turning as to how I could keep things fun, entertaining and stimulating on the street – not only for me, but for the audience too. I decided props were necessary – anything that would be fun to play with as well as eye-catching to an audience who could only afford me a passing glance at 35-40mph. The idea of bringing my own style and flair to the job was exciting.  I scoured my closet, garage, costume boxes and my favorite thrift stores searching for materials to incorporate into a routine. This was the fun part and one of the most satisfying parts of the job for me. The goal was to find items that could serve as an extension to my costume and move with me in a unique way. I was on the lookout for lightweight materials that could be twirled, spun, shaken or waved. Anything glittery, shiny, flowing or bright.

Have you ever seen something for sale at a flea market and thought – Why would anyone buy that?

It’s what would have come to mind a few months ago when I spotted a dirty, broken bamboo torch lying among the wooden chachkies at the thrift store. But Costumed Mama snatched up the 75-cent castaway, and after a coat of green paint, some gold tissue paper and some metallic fringe it turned into the perfect torch for Lady Liberty.

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She holds it high as she waves, pumps it when she dances, uses it as a pointer to direct traffic to the office and twirls it like a baton.

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Look at this gorgeous handmade hula hoop! I love it. Costumed Mama bought it from Hooping on the Bay specifically for Lady Liberty. Their up-cycled hoops come in several sizes, weights and colors/patterns. It’s not easy to spin a hoop with layers of clothing and costume fabric bunching up around the waist, but with the size and weight of this hoop I don’t need to put forth too much extra effort. I picked out a hoop covered with bright fabric and tape to provide a nice contrast to the gown.

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I was in the thrift store admiring some huge green and yellow pom-poms when a lady asked me, “Do you miss it?”

Wow. I must have been looking at those pom poms very longingly or it could have been the test run that had me pumping and shimmying in the aisles that prompted her question. “Were you a cheerleader?”

Ha! Not even close. I was the girl who spent school lunches in the library and was bored watching sports.

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I was too cheap to spend 1.99 each on these pom poms, but a week later I found my pair of small blue ones for 45 cents. They are great to use when I get tired of waving and when I’m listening to a really good dance beat. I walked into the office one day after dancing with my pom poms and a tax preparer said, “You were a cheerleader, weren’t you?”  I must be a very good actress with an inner cheerleader screaming to get out.

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     One of my favorite props is the ribbon! I was so excited when I saw this product at the dollar store. I was going to learn how to ribbon dance! It works best when the winds are calm or non-existent to be able to get smooth, dancing tails. A few weeks later I found a huge spool of blue metallic ribbon for less than a dollar, enough to make at least 20 ribbon flags. What luck! I taped strips of ribbon to wooden skewers I already had at home in my kitchen drawer. My homemade dancing ribbons are pictured below.

DSCN6664 DSCN6646And lastly, there is the sign. Liberty Tax Service has a closet full of signs with various slogans and promotions printed on them. I figured learning how to spin a sign or do some tricks would be a fun way to keep me entertained. It’s not easy, but I’m learning out on the street. Time flies when you’re having fun.

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It’s Not Easy Being Green

The first thing I did after accepting the Lady Liberty Waver position was go online and search for green face paint. Not just any green – it had to be a copper green patina so I could create an authentic Statue of Liberty face. The goal was to have it blend in with the costume.

Painting my face would be fun and I was all about making the job fun. Also, as a new employee of Liberty Tax Service, I was committed to doing everything I could to help market the business. Having a green face was one way I’d stand out and get people to notice my Lady Liberty.

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I found Mehron Liberty Green makeup on eBay described as “Statue of Liberty Zombie.” When the tiny 3” makeup tube arrived I was concerned that the 1 oz. supply would only last for one or two applications but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. A little goes a long way and so far I’ve managed to get six applications out of it. I think next time I’m going to have to cut the tube open and scrape off whatever cream is left clinging to the walls for my final green face.

 

 

DSCN6949The consistency is very smooth and it doesn’t crack when it dries. I use water and a paper towels to wipe it off after my shift. It comes off so easily and quickly. I recommend this product, and I can only assume that the rest of Mehron’s makeup line is equally as good.

 

I had a Ben Nye face painting kit already at home so I was excited to think of other makeup designs for Lady Liberty. My palette includes white, green, red, blue, yellow and black. I painted on an American flag one day. It was a rush job, but still, I think it provided a dramatic effect from the street.

DSCN6504I applied a green shamrock with some silver sparkle on my cheek for St. Patrick’s Day. I haven’t done any elaborate designs since my red, white and blue day. I think it would be cool to do something metallic or sparkly but I haven’t come up with an appropriate design yet. I’ve also considered painting a bold star on my eyes or spattering tiny ones down the side of my face. I welcome any suggestions. What do you think?

There was one other bit of research that had to be done before I hit the streets and that was to add some classic dance moves to my repertoire. I came across this YouTube video, which was inspiring and hilarious!

But that’s a completely different story, and a description of my dance follies will have to wait for a future post. For some of you, the mere thought of Costumed Mama performing some of these moves is enough to keep you laughing until the real Lady Liberty video is released.

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As you can see my car looks like a homeless street performer’s cart. I continue to acquire more props to have at the ready, and my next post will focus on these one-of-a-kind toys. I’ll tell you were I found some, how I made others and how I’ve incorporated them into my street routine to keep things fresh.

 

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Audition Time

In the days leading up to my Lady Liberty audition, I wondered who else would be at the audition. Who would be my competition?

I’d seen wavers on the street and assumed, based on my preconceived notions, that these weren’t professional actors, PhDs or people looking for a foot in the door to eventually move up the corporate ladder. At the risk of sounding snooty, I assumed most had limited opportunities and were desperate to make a buck in today’s struggling economy. I mean, why would anyone choose this type of work unless they simply didn’t have much of a choice? Perhaps I’d soon be enlightened.

Audition day had finally arrived. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny afternoon with a forecast that had temperatures nearing 70 in mid January. Good old Mother Nature – what a tease! I imagined her thumbing her nose at me. No more wicked winds to slap some sense into me. Just a warm ray of sunshine tapping me on the shoulder as if to say “Silly, silly, girl, you’re on your own now.”

When I got to the tax office I expected to see a bunch of waver candidates standing around or signing in or seated in the waiting area. There were a lot of people in the office, about 20 men and women seated in front of computers and around desks.

The owner told me they were in the middle of a training session for tax preparers. It appeared I was the only waver there to audition. I sat amongst the tax preparers as they watched me interview. Might as well get used to an audience, right? First I watched a five-minute video on Liberty Tax Wavers. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched the guys and girls jumping, pointing at cars and flipping signs on the side of the street. It was funny to think about me doing that. The video suggested ideas on how to get attention with various actions, props and phrases. It told me I should “avoid sunshine face.” Huh? Sunshine face sounds like a great thing to have when greeting potential clients. The narrator also reassured me that if someone gave me the finger, “they’re just saying you’re number one!“ So far nobody’s told me that, but I thought it was good advice to share with everyone.

When the video was over I needed clarification on one thing. “What is sunshine face?” Turns out it’s the effect one gets when wearing the Liberty crown incorrectly, set on the back of the head with the crown points framing the face like a radiant sun, rather than sitting more on top of the head and pointing toward the sky.

Got it. Respect the costume.

My next question: “Can I paint my face?”

The answer: yes

I’m not saying it would have been a deal breaker, but I would have been very disappointed if the answer was no. It would be an indication that I might not have the freedom to add my creative touches to what I was now privately referring to as “performance art.”

While we were on the subject of costuming I learned that there were several Lady Liberty gowns and they were to stay at the office. Uh oh. Sharing – another dilemma. Would you want to put on a dress that someone just worked-out in or was left overnight to marinate in B.O., cigarette smoke, or anything else that might spill, leak or pour from a body or the sky. I think the quote went something like this, “Well, I don’t want to put on anyone else’s stinky clothes.” She assured me that the costumes were laundered every night.

All right. I’m still in.

Next it was time to discuss scheduling. At this point I didn’t know how long a waver’s shift lasted, but I had given the topic much consideration prior to the interview. I figured I better decide ahead of time what would be acceptable to me. How long could I last waving and dancing on the street before I tired out from physical exhaustion, boredom, or weathering?  10 minutes? Might as well not show up then, right?

I’d made it through a 45-minute aerobics class a few times despite having to convince myself not to walk out every few minutes. I could probably manage double that time, although it was highly unlikely a 90-minute waving shift existed. Fine. I’d be willing to try three hours, but that’s my limit. If it was horrible, I could always quit.

“A waver’s shift is four hours,” she explained. “Is that okay?”

Oh, no, no, no, no… not okay. Four hours does not seem remotely doable.

“Yes.” I nodded. “That works.” Hey, I’d come this far. I had to at least make it out to the street in costume for the try-out.

The next part of the interview was the audition. I was instructed to put on a costume, go out to the street and spend about 10 – 15 minutes waving.

Showtime!

I was giddy with nervous excitement. I was finally going to see what it was like to be one of these guerilla marketers. Maybe the next few minutes would be enough to satisfy my curiosity and I’d move on to the bigger and better things after claiming my 10 minutes of street fame.

There were four other Lady Liberties on the sidewalk. I had no idea if they were employees working their shift or if they were auditioning like me. Either way, I was confident. I was going to burst onto the scene with tons of energy, personality and a few tips that I had just picked up from the training video. My fellow Liberty Ladies were about to be upstaged and they’d either hate me or think that I was a crazy lady. I didn’t have anything to lose, not even my dignity, because I was in disguise.

I pointed at drivers. I jumped up and down. I spun, and danced, and waved enthusiastically with a broad smile. I pretty much acted like I was so excited to see every car and I could barely wait to greet them. I threw in a few cool dance moves too. I was surprised at how much fun it was. I could have gone longer than 15 minutes, and that was a good sign.

I was out of breath when I walked back into the office. Several of the tax preparers complimented me. I learned that they had been up at the window watching. The owner was pleased and said the job was mine if I wanted it.

I wasn’t 100% sure that I did, but I was tired of all my deliberating and self-doubt. Why not go for it – roll with the punches instead of trying to second-guess everything? So I accepted.

I had a new job.

Lady Liberty and I were going to take on the world… well, at least my side of the boulevard.

 

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I play a mean cardboard sign guitar!

 

So what’s the most unusual job you’ve ever had or the oddest interview you’ve been on?

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To Be or Not To Be

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It took me three weeks to gather enough courage to walk into the Liberty Tax office after first spotting the advertisement for costumed wavers.

Get Paid To Wave, the headline read.  How many times had I passed these animated statues and imagined what I could bring to the streets in that costume? It was a ridiculous daydream. I’d be laughed out of my family. What respect would be left within my professional circles? Friends would ask each other, “What happened to her?”

But the idea continued to intrigue me as I stared at the job posting. The audition was that day, only hours away. I’m not that spontaneous. I needed more time to think about it. Did I really want to stand on a street corner during the coldest months of the year wearing a silly costume and holding a sign? I left the computer to take the dog for a walk, and as soon as I stepped outside, cold air slapped me in the face. The 12-degree wind-chill chased me around the block, clawing through my jacket and nipping at whatever exposed flesh it could reach.

Call it an epiphany, but I had my answer in an instant. NO. Of course I didn’t want to stand on a street corner during the coldest months of the year wearing a silly costume and holding a sign. Well, that settles that. I ran back into the house and spent the next 30 minutes wrapped in a blanket, still wearing my hat and scarf.

The next week I saw the job advertised again.

Just as the freaky, 70-degree January temperatures started luring coastal Virginia residents into a false sense of security, I too started to warm up to the idea of waving again. Call us both schizophrenic.

I randomly brought it up in conversation – even posted the idea in a facebook status, fishing for opinions and reactions. I think most assumed it was in jest. I received a range of responses from halfhearted support to cautionary advice to flat out, “Hell, no!” Turned out my old friend, Mother Nature wanted to throw her two-cents in by offering up some damp, chilly, sideways drizzle just in time for my trip to the supermarket. I could barely stand her spitting in my face for the short time it took to load my groceries in the car. I dove into the front seat feeling like I had walked through a Slurpee.

I was seriously considering standing in that for more than two minutes? With a smile on my face? Clearly poor weather was at the top of my list of cons for Professional waver. And so another week passed with my dismissing the opportunity.

Throughout this entire decision making process I had one dear friend who never made a negative remark. She listened to my ideas, my concerns, my vision. She appreciated the humor of the situation, and we shared a lot of laughs and jokes over the thought of me working the streets, but never a word of caution did she offer. Instead she encouraged me. She thought it was great idea – a little wacky and off-the-wall, but she saw the potential.  She inspired me.

“You need to do this,” she said. “It’s so you!”

From that day forward I concentrated only on the positive. It completely changed my attitude, and I became very excited about all the possibilities and the goals I would set.

It was finally time to walk into that tax office with confidence. After all the rationalizing, doubting and wavering, I walked through the doors of Liberty Tax Service, asked for an application and scheduled an audition for a chance to become a Lady Liberty Waver.

This time nobody, not even Mother Nature, was going to talk me out of it.

You want to see what you look like as Lady Liberty? Satisfy your curiosity and “Get Libby With It” here.

What If?

In journalism class we were taught the five W’s: Who, What, Where, When and Why.

For me, no introduction was necessary. These guys had been living in my head for as long as I can remember, constantly interrupting, engaging me in silent conversation, and luring me into momentary daydreams.

I’m a wonderer.

I wonder why people do the things they do. I wonder how things work. I wonder where people come from and what their story is. I even wonder if everyone’s minds operate this way with a constant monologue accompanying their daily observations. It can be a curse, but also a gift. It can lead to stimulating conversation, great works of art, creative stories, marvelous insights and so much more. I’m convinced it drives my creativity. For a writer, like myself, what better way is there to launch a story idea than to ask, “What if?”

Considering my natural curiosity, is it any wonder that this overactive area of my brain goes into hyperdrive every tax season when I spot those Lady Liberty wavers on the street? If you live in any of the Hampton Roads cities, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve probably driven by one of these Liberty Tax Service costumed characters dancing and smiling, enthusiastically waving and jumping, or simply shuffling along the sidewalk half-heartedly flipping a sign as rain drips from the points of her crown.

Who are these crazy people standing outside in all kinds of weather? What are they thinking? Where do they come from? Why in the world do they do it?

Then one day, while scrolling through craigslist’s part-time job listings, I came across the header “Get Paid To Wave!”  I clicked and read, “Looking for outgoing and energetic costumed Miss Liberty Wavers… Make money while having fun… Auditions on Saturday.” My mind was like a bag of microwave popcorn barely able to contain the kernels bursting with each question. BING – What would an audition entail? BING – What would an interview be like for this type of job? BING – Who shows up and what’s their story?

Pop – Pop – Pop

And then my most favorite question in the world… the most intriguing… the most exciting… WHAT IF I auditioned to be a Lady Liberty Waver? Just about then my bag of popcorn burst.

Perhaps it was the reporter in me. Maybe it was the costume lover, or the storyteller or the adventurer. Or it could be that I’m just plain nuts! I think it’s a combination of them all, but I decided to go for it.

While I am neither naturally “outgoing” (I’m an introvert) nor “energetic” (I hate exercise), and my idea of “fun” certainly isn’t standing in the cold for hours (I’ve been known to wear a hat and gloves indoors), I am an actress, and I do love a costume, so I approached the front desk of my local Liberty Tax Service and stated, “I’d like to be a Lady Liberty Waver.”

And so the journey began.

This is the story of one woman who set out to be the best Lady Liberty Waver she could be… to give it all she had… to set goals and accomplish a mission and achieve great things. (all while draped in mint green polyester and pounding a narrow strip of pavement) It’s an unusual tale of someone you’d never expect to be working the streets.

Follow Costumed Mama on a journey of self-discovery, and experience the struggles, the triumphs and the fascinating revelations where you’d least expect it. It’s wacky. It’s funny.  It’s entertaining and inspirational. Oh, and for all of those friends and family who are reading this wide-eyed and breathless, thinking –Oh, no she didn’t! – Believe it. This one’s not fiction. So hop aboard- you know you want to find out where this train is headed.

WHAT IF? What if you subscribed to Costumed Mama’s blog by clicking the “follow” button? What if?

Go ahead – Just do it. It’s the motto I followed, and this is my story.