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What Makeup Does This Professional Dominatrix Wear to Work?

As with all things in life, says Siren Vandoll, sometimes things don't go according to plan—whether it's a liquid eyeliner disaster or a client who doesn't know what they want.

by Siren Vandoll; as told to Sirin Kale
Feb 26 2019, 3:36pm

All photos by Siren Vandoll

Whether you're a drag queen or a doctor, everybody's makeup bag has a story to tell. Compact Report takes a look inside people's cosmetic toolkits to see what they say about our lives—broken palettes and all. This week, Australian dominatrix and sexuality educator Siren Vandoll takes us inside her makeup bag.

I’ve been a dominatrix for four years, although I mix it up with other stuff: I’m a kink and BDSM educator in addition to my work as a dom. My favorite thing about sexual domination is playing with people’s senses. I love giving them space to explore the full spectrum of human experience.

In the industry, basically everyone refers to makeup as war paint. I view it like a transitional tool: The time I spend doing my makeup is when I can transition my energies away from running to the shop or doing chores and access a different part of myself. When I’m doing my makeup, I meditate on my intention for the session. It’s quite transformative.

Aesthetically, I’m a big fan of the vintage 1940s look: I like to go with a cat eye and a red lip. When I do my makeup, I’m changing my character. It's like role-playing, and quite a deliberate thing. Because the client you’re giving that session to is paying for a fantasy, I can’t just rock up in Chapstick and mascara: I have to create that fantasy for them. If it’s a really physical session, though, I won’t wear heavy makeup, as it will go everywhere. Otherwise, I do a full face.

I always wear black NYX Professional Makeup Matte Liquid Liner ($4). Makeup is really expensive in Australia—I’m not going to spend $40 on an eyeliner, so this is my go-to. It lasts forever and it’s really cheap. I bullied myself into having a super-steady hand. It helps to practice with marker pen–type eyeliners, then transitioning to the thin brush. There’s also a degree of zen acceptance that comes with wearing winged eyeliner: If it smudges, then so be it. I think that translates into sex work, too: You can set all the intentions in the world, but sometimes a session with a client just doesn’t go as planned. Maybe the client has a really specific, blow-by-blow idea of what their fantasy is, but when you start doing it, you realize it’s not actually what they were after, so you work out what it is that they want instead.

I never spend a lot of money on mascara. I use Maybelline Volum’ Express The Colossal Washable Mascara ($7), which comes in that iconic yellow tube. I also use cheap lashes, from ELF ($1.60) or DAISO ($13.44) because I wear them a lot and get body fluids and sweat on them, so you don’t want to be wrecking $60 mink Huda lashes. My one superpower is applying false eyelashes. The trick is blind confidence—you just have to be a bit fearless. Also, give the glue a couple of seconds to dry. Don’t go in with wet glue, because it will make you eyes sting, and it won’t stick.

My go-to lipstick is Redrum by Jefrree Star ($18). We’re not meant to like Jeffree at the moment [after videos of the YouTube star using racist slurs were unearthed], but it’s a bloody good lipstick, and I bought it when it first came out. I like it because it will not smudge at all, and it’s a real power red. It’s taken time to learn how to apply liquid lipsticks, because you have to be more precise with an applicator. I have a full bottom lip, and I have to overdraw my top lip to balance it out, which is where things get dicey. But you build up muscle memory when you do the same thing over and over again, using similar products. Kat Von D also does a really good liquid lipstick, but I stay away from her products now, because she’s an anti-vaxxer. My girlfriend has cystic fibrosis, so I can’t agree with anyone putting out anti-vaxxer views. It sucks, because her lipstick was great.

I’m lucky because my skin is quite good, so I don’t have to wear foundation if I don’t want to. In Australia, if you’re working in the summer—and most of my work is quite physical, whether I’m flogging someone or pegging them—the last thing I want is to be sweating through foundation. If I wear foundation, I'm going to wear foundation: I go with Mac Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15 Foundation ($30), which is pretty heavy.

Depending on the session, I’ll usually dust Mac Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation ($30) over the top. With the 40s look, you’re not necessarily going for a really heavy contour: It’s more about defining the cheekbones, which suits my aesthetic better. I use Jefree Star Skin Frost in Peach Goddess. Highlighting really helps me define my character and persona. If I’m a school mistress or a disciplinarian, I won’t use much highlighter, as I want to be grounded in reality, whereas if I’m channelling a goddess vibe for a session, I’ll go quite heavy on the highlight. A lot of the makeup decisions I make are grounded in my intentions for a scene.

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Siren Vandoll. Photo courtesy of subject.

I use Nars Deep Throat Blush ($30), which is always a bit of a giggle. As someone who is very sex positive and likes to have fun with makeup, I love the name. But I think given the current political climate, with SESTA/FOSTA passing in the US, it’s important to remember that things are really dangerous and scary for sex workers right now. I wish people would be more mindful when they use the phrase "sex worker." It’s like: sure, call your lipstick color "Stripper," but also encourage the people who buy that lipstick to call out whorephobia on social media, and vote against anti–sex work legislation.

Finally, I’ll setting spray the fuck out of my makeup, usually with Mac’s Prep + Prime Fix+ ($27), which is God’s gift to my face, although the NYX Setting Spray ($8.50) is also good.

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Before I became a sex worker, I worked in retail, which actually made me hate makeup. It was only when I got into burlesque and sex work and found creativity in makeup again that makeup stopped feeling like a chore. But, of course, sex work is work—so there are some days where I just throw on eyeliner and turn up at a booking and hope it'll be fine.

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