By Margo Greenman
The body art spectrum is vast. It can be as temporary as henna or as permanent as a tattoo. With so many ways for people to express themselves creatively through body art, the options are limitless.
Jennifer Jensen, owner of Tacoma’s Alter Ego Beauty Bar, learned this while working for a children’s entertainment company several years ago. What began as a job as an event planner quickly changed when the company needed additional help in their face painting department.
“I thought it sounded fun so I learned how to do airbrush face painting, and I discovered that I really, really loved it,” says Jensen. Wanting to expand her skill set, Jensen learned how to do freehand face painting and then took a class from international artist Pashur. Pashur is a face painter and also a skilled and well known body painter. “After I took the class I saw that there was so much more that I could do. I fell in love,” Jensen explains.
In 2010, Jensen decided to start freelancing. Wanting to promote her services, Jensen decided it was important to have a good Internet presence and invested in the development of her website. It paid off. She was quickly contacted by the Washington State Fair and was asked to have a face painting booth at the multi-day event. In the years since, Jensen’s booth at the fair has grown from one booth and one airbrush to three booths complete with eight airbrushes.
But, while it was face painting that piqued Jensen’s interest and got her business going, it is just one of the services that she offers today.
Following her first year at the fair, Jensen decided a license in cosmetology would complement her business, and it has. A quick scan at Jensen’s services and it’s plain to see that she has a lot to offer. From hair and makeup for photoshoots and events to body painting by the hour and event services for birthday parties and more, Jensen has something for everyone.
Although, since Jensen’s work has ramped up in the past few years, she says she doesn’t do as many big events as she used to. Regular hair, makeup and body painting appointments keep her schedule full, but she likes it that way. She especially has fun with the body painting portion of her job.
Jensen says a lot of her body painting clients are women looking to take a different approach to boudoir photos. “Some ladies want to take it further,” she says. “Some may want to not [wear] lingerie, but instead have their honey’s favorite sports logo painted [on their body]. It’s really customizable,” explains Jensen.
But this is just one example of what might bring someone in to get their body painted. She says her clientele is vast. From convention-goers wanting to wow the crowd with a full body painted costume, to artfully decorated “baby bumps” designed to commemorate a pregnancy, Jensen says the options for body painting are many.
Sarah Mattox visited Alter Ego Beauty Bar while she was pregnant. After a previous miscarriage left Mattox worried that she would have complications with future pregnancies, when she found out she was having a baby she wanted to do something special to celebrate the pregnancy. “We did a baby bump maternity painting,” Mattox explains. Jensen says the goal behind body painting is to create a “walking, breathing piece of art,” and that’s exactly what she did for Mattox.
Mattox wasn’t sure what it would be like to get her body painted, but Jensen helped prep Mattox for the transformation by providing an overview of what the session would entail. When it was time to get painted, Jensen draped a towel over Mattox so that the only part of Mattox’s body that was exposed at any given time was the part Jensen was working on. “She made sure I was comfortable, and it was very professional,” Mattox says of her experience.
Mattox then had professional photos taken of her painted body, images that she plans on having framed and hung on her wall.
Jensen says body painting can be an empowering experience for a woman. Whether celebrating a birth or just helping a woman feel positive about her body, body painting can be a liberating experience. “One woman I painted had a pacemaker in her chest,” Jensen explains. “She thought it was an eyesore and didn’t want to look at it. After I painted her she said she hadn’t felt that pretty since she got the pacemaker. She cried a little bit.” You can view a time lapsed video of a full-body painting session by following the link here.
Because of the range of services that Jensen offers at Tacoma’s Alter Ego Beauty Bar, located inside Sanford and Son, there is something for everyone. Whether you want traditional hair and makeup done for a wedding or night on the town, a sultry body painting session for a boudoir shoot or a memorable baby bump to commemorate a pregnancy, Jensen is ready to help. But she’s not alone. Jensen works with a talented team of photographers, like Justin Suyama, and other makeup artists, including her business partner Serena (who Jensen raves is the “best makeup artist I’ve ever worked with”), so you’re sure to be in good hands.