I recently had the pleasure of touching base with the stunning Blue Haired Betty. Not only is this Betty a proudly South African pin up gal, but also one of my style icons and possibly the loveliest babe you will ever have the pleasure of meeting. Grab a cuppa and have a look behind the scenes of one of our own iconic Pin Up girls.
“As a person who has always thrived on dancing the 1950’s style music by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Elvis have made my soul sing and feet move since I was a kid. It was amazing to discover a whole lifestyle and culture which went hand-in-hand with these golden oldies.”
For as long as I can remember, the Blue Haired Betty has added colour to the Pin-up scene in South Africa. Can you tell us more about how you discovered your love for pin up culture?
Many like to say that Rockabilly is where Goths go to die. I like to view it as a natural evolution. I’ve always been a little ‘different’ or ‘alternative’, but found my perfect medium when I discovered the rockabilly/pin-up lifestyle. I can express my individuality and sense of style, and rock ‘n roll edge, but also thrive in a culture where it’s cool to be kind and well-mannered, as I was brought up to be.
About seven years ago fiancé-then-boyfriend KC Royal, purchased a 1971 Fairlane, which we started taking to car shows and then founded local rockabilly band The Ratrod Cats. It was a natural progression for me discovering first the music, then the cars, the lifestyle and fashion that is all incorporated within the rockabilly lifestyle. Through the rockabilly lifestyle I discovered the world of pin-up and this was also a gradual progression into this.
Thinking back I like the idea that it wasn’t something I dived into head first, or that I did an overnight pin-up make-over. I think one gains a better understanding of it all, as well as how to incorporate it into your everyday life, when you open yourself up to discovering, learning and progressing and evolving as you go. It’s interesting to also see how your look evolves from when you first start dabbling in the pin-up style (there are always polka dots and black, white and red involved) and then once you get more comfortable your wardrobe suddenly explodes in a dizzying array of florals, tropical prints and kitsch-but-cool vintage finds.
Pin Up culture is so much more than red lips and victory rolls, what does being a Pin Up mean to you?
The pin-up and rockabilly culture has always been a place where I felt accepted and where I could be the most honest version of myself – the ‘me’ I liked seeing in the mirror and who I was proud to be to the outside world. First and foremost the pin-up community has always been a place where I could freely express my unique style, and where being quirky, over-the-top or not a Size 10 isn’t frowned upon. It’s also a lifestyle in which I found that perfect balance between rock ‘n roll and prim and proper…as I like to say…prim and proper with a touch of rebellion! I also love that I can use it as a platform to promote and encourage the causes that are close to my heart, and just being a kind human-being…because it really is cool to be kind. I use my journey and my life to break down stereotypes and hopefully encourage people to not judge a book by its cover, but also, to dare to be different.
However, I must admit, that another very important aspect of the pin-up culture is something I only discovered very recently, during my time partaking in the Miss Viva Las Vegas Pin-up Pageant in 2015. This is the camaraderie and sisterhood of the pin-up community. Never before had I felt to included and supported by fellow females, despite the fact that we were all practical strangers from all across the globe, and technically competing against one another. I love that the local pin-up community that has blossomed has such a strong sense of sisterhood and support and I am very honoured to be a part of such a positive community.
Vintage styling has been a sought after and enigmatic style of dress for years. How do you think that you and Anonamiss Beauty Emporium have helped shape the way pin up is perceived?
Obviously my influence and love for the pin-up style and lifestyle would have an influence on my business, but the goal with AnonaMiss was to promote and include all forms of beauty that were different to the norm. Our motto is “style is not about blending in; style is having the confidence to stand out of the crowd.”
Photography & Retouching by Grethe Rosseaux Photography
I’m the more girly pin-up gal, and my business partner Mishca is more of an edgy rock-chick, and I’ve always thought that was a great combination. To show that you can use the same products and wear them in your own unique way, to suit your specific style. Also, obviously through the way I look and dress, and dealing with people within the business world, such as accountants, lawyers, bank managers etc, to break down stereotypes of what a young, business woman should look like. We’ve always promoted uniqueness and daring to be different, and I would hope that this has inspired women within and outside of the pin-up community.
In my own personal capacity I do my best to get involved in as many local and international projects as possible where I am able to highlight, promote and showcase the beautiful qualities of the pin-up culture, and this way try to introduce and educate more people on what it is really all about – not just being a pretty face.
I can only hope that I’ve only ever been a positive ambassador for the community and have hopefully changed the perception of one or two people out there.
As one of (who I consider) the founding Pin-Up girls in South Africa, how has the scene grown and changed over the years?
Both the rockabilly, and so in relation, the pin-up scene has seen resurgences of popularity over the last decade in South Africa, with periods of huge popularity, with new bands, events and people on the scene. As the popularity ebbs you’ll find a group of old and new dye-hards that remain. I believe this is how the scene has been slowly growing and gaining a small foothold over the years. There has however been a huge boom in the local pin-up scene over the last two or three years, which I think has a lot to do with more exposure to the international pin-up community. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram allow us to educate ourselves and draw inspiration from what is already such an established culture in other countries, and also feel connected and a part of this global community. Although I’ve been into the pin-up lifestyle for a number of years now, it often seemed like we were just a few girls each doing our own thing; it is only recently that I feel there is a true community and culture emerging locally.
You’re a natural in front of the camera, what sparked your love of being photographed? Can you remember your favourite photoshoot of all time?
That’s very kind of you to say Miss Flash, thank you!
I’ll admit I have not always been comfortable in front of a camera. Growing up I was always very judgmental of myself and hated most photographs taken of me. However, as mentioned previously, I have been a dancer and stage performer for most of my life, but in the past number of years have found it difficult to maintain this side of my life.
Through posing for photographs I suddenly discovered a new outlet for my creativity and my body to move. I tend to be in charge of the styling aspects of my shoots as well, so I get to be creative in putting my outfits together and ensuring they suit the concept and the location etc. I also love shoots that challenge me with my posing, where I have to make my face and body look comfortable even in the most awkward positions.
I am still critical of myself in photographs, however now it’s “oh no, that hand doesn’t look right” or “okay, I need to arch my back more or bend my knee another way” or “oops there’s a wardrobe malfunction!”
I wake up the next morning after many of my shoots feeling like I’ve had a bitchin’ leg day at the gym!
What will probably always remain one of my most fondly remembered shoots is the shoot I did at Ratanga Junction theme park with Kim van Zyl and Mandi Ireland, leading up to Miss Viva Las Vegas. Firstly it was in off-season, so the park was closed, and we were the only people in the whole park, being driven around in a little golf-cart. I had to climb a windmill and hang off it, and pose one a ledge at the top of Monkey Falls, overlooking the entire Ratanga theme park. There were a few terrifying moments where I envisioned myself falling down the waterless waterfall, and some pokey, uncomfortable rocks, but I loved the challenge of working through that all, and I think the results were darn great!
You manage to make pin-up hair and makeup look easy. Have you always had a flair with MUAH?
Being a stage-queen from a young age, I’ve always had a love for all the glitz and sequins that go along with it, and along with making my own costumes, had to always do my own make-up as well. So much so, that after I matriculated I decided I wanted to work in the world of film and make-up.
Although no longer a profession, I am a qualified make-up artist and production designer. Turns out my OCD nature was not suited to the world of freelancing, however I have always maintained my passion for it. Vintage hair is a beast all on it’s on, and even professional stylists with many years of experience aren’t always able to master it. I’ve discovered that more than the technical skill there has to be an understanding and knowledge of the era and the style and a keen eye for a balanced hairdo. I am by no means a vintage hair pro, and still experiment and learn new tricks as I go. I’ve had the great privilege of attending a His Vintage Touch hair workshop and would give a limb to be able to attend one of Miss Rockabilly Ruby’s one day!
You’re marooned on a deserted island. What five survival essentials have you got with you?
Pina Colada Cocktail Mix
I could do with a vacation and some ‘alone time’ to catch up on my reading!
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Dare to be different!
In my family we have this ‘be careful what you wish for’ joke that my mother always tells…”Growing up I told my children to not be sheep, to dare to be different…and look what I got!”
I’m so thankful that my parents never tried to stop me from experimenting with my look (although my dad was not a fan of all my facial piercings back in the day) or from tackling any project I set my mind to.
Looking back I think my parents were crazy for letting me do and wear some of the things I did, but I turned out alright, so they obviously knew what they were doing!
Do you have any advice for future pin ups who are waiting in the wings?
What are you waiting for!? Get out there and do your thing…life is short, so don’t waste it waiting for a right moment. What I’ve always tried to make people understand is that ‘pin-up’ is not some club, or society that you need to be invited in to. It’s a lifestyle that you can choose to life for yourself and you can do it even if there is no one around you that gets it or dresses the same way. There are so many different variations of the look and style, and different aspects you can choose to incorporate into your lifestyle or not.
Some people live in mid-century era homes, with all the furniture and knick-knacks, some have a vintage car, some dress in the style, but don’t do the elaborate vintage hair, some girls do the modelling others don’t. Find the elements that you love or work for you and just start incorporating them into your daily life.
Don’t think pin-up is just about posing and taking photos. I maintain that pin-up and photography go hand-in-hand and that somehow the two just cannot resist one another, but take the camera away and the pin-up girl will still remain.
The Blue Haired Betty was the 2nd runner up at Miss Viva Las Vegas in 2015, which definitely helped put South Africa on the Rockabilly map. Do you plan on returning to Sin City on a regular basis for the iconic festival?
If and when money allows I would in a heartbeat! My initial trip was a business trip, where due to a lot of work-commitments and the pageant commitments I was unable to experience the true goings-on, buzz and fun that surround the myriad of activities that are constantly on the go all weekend long…I did not even get to have one cheesy novelty hotel cocktail!
I would love to be able to return in more of a personal capacity to catch up with some of the amazing guys and dolls from all over the world, who return to Vegas every year, and to soak up the true Viva experience – glamorous wardrobe, novelty cocktails and rockabilly pool party all included!
Obviously I also got engaged on the Vegas strip the evening after the culmination of Viva, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. We would love to be able to return to Viva 21 to celebrate our 10 year anniversary…heck, if you get proposed to in Vegas, isn’t it fitting to get married by Elvis?
What sneaky fact would surprise your adoring fans?
I actually grew up in a hotel. Not your modern, multi-story kind of hotel, but a small country hotel out in the Swartland region of the Western Cape. It wasn’t a strange thing for me to order lunch via room service after school, and no one batted an eyelid at the ten year old packing their liquor purchases in the Liquor Store on a Saturday morning. At age twelve I also commandeered one of the old hotel lounges and started offering hip-hop and modern dance classes the public. My students ranged from to kids younger than me to adults twice my age. The Samoa Hotel was such an iconic part of my and all of my friends’ childhoods.
What are your hopes for the future of Pin Up and Rockabilly in South Africa?
I sincerely hope that it continues to blossom in a positive light. I hope that in the near future when you say ‘rockabilly’ or ‘pin-up’ to a person on the street they will know what you are talking about. It would be great to build more ties with the international community and to be able to be counted and involved in international projects and connect and have a rapport with other like-minded people across the globe. Maybe someday we will have people travelling to South Africa to attend the Dusty Rebels and The Bombshells Rockabilly Festival, just like they travel to Viva Las Vegas.
You work very closely to raise funds and awareness for numerous pet centred charities. Can you tell us more about your charity work and the charity work of the Pinups for Pets project?
I’m the crazy dog lady. I’ve always been an avid animal lover, and since adopting our first dog eight years ago I’ve become an avid believer and supporter of pet adoption.
I know many people would like to help, but always think that they don’t have the means (mostly money) to make enough of a difference. My belief has always been that every little bit counts, and if each one of us does something small, there will be a larger positive impact. Be it throwing a few coins into the donation tin at the till, sending an sms donation to a local charity, going to volunteer on a Saturday morning, or just being a positive role-model as a responsible pet-owner, by having your pets spayed and ensuring they are collared and tagged.
I love that as pin-ups we are able to use this platform to be positive examples within our local communities. I am not linked to one specific charity organisation, but try to offer assistance wherever I am able to, be it animal welfare or a local community project. I was honoured to be able to assist Lady Flamingo with her nationwide Pin-ups For Pups Picnic, in which the Cape Town chapter was able to donate a car-full of food and pet products to local Cape Town welfare Fallen Angels.
The Pin-ups For PETS project came about with me looking for a way to assist with more fundraising and awareness, even though I didn’t have the finances to make a big difference. Although I didn’t have money to donate, I did believe that I had a great network of people, who were just as passionate and charitable as I, and I believed that by combining our skills and offering up some of our time, we would be able to put together a project which could potentially raise the money required.
I modelled for the 2015 PETS – Pets Empowerment In Townships calendar, and the organisation founder loved my pin-up look. I also realised throughout this process that she was having to do all the co-ordination and planning of the shoots and the calendar herself. I thought that if I was able to offer my skills and take the pressure and time-consuming co-ordination of the project off her shoulders, she could rather dedicate all her time and energy to what really matters – uplifting and saving the lives of township animals.
The local pin-up gals and photographers from all across South Africa did not disappoint, and pulled together in amazing fashion to make this project come to life! Keep your peepers and pockets open for the calendar release later this year!
As one of the founders of the Miss Bombshell Betty pageant, the first of its kind in South Africa, how did you take your experience from Miss VLV to create the pageant?
Although the pageant was already an idea and pipedream before heading to Vegas, it was my experience there that really drove me to make it a reality sooner than later and to ensure that it would carry the same principles and values and offer local ladies the same personal experience as what I got to experience overseas. Thankfully the Dusty Rebels ladies were very open to my feedback of my personal first-hand experience and keen to ensure that our pageant offered that same support structure and positive upliftment.
What I took away most from the Miss Viva Las Vegas Pageant was the encouraged camaraderie and support amongst all the contestants, as well as the feeling that more than the competition, the experience was about me as an individual discovering more about myself and a personal journey of growth.
It was extremely important for me to ensure that each of the Miss Bombshell Betty pageant entrants had that same experience. That there was no feeling of competing against other girls, but that you are merely focusing on being the best version of yourself and in the process maybe discovering some confidence and qualities you never knew you had, as well as walking away with new life-long friends and supporting fans.
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Until next time.