I was contacted by a member of the Fitzwilliam college ball organisation committee, they had seen my website and specifically the section where I hire out myself with real mannequins.
The committee had designated a room as a chill out space with sofas to relax on. In addition to this, they wanted to do something “arty” in the space, some kind of activity that the ball goers could participate in, if they so wished. They thought it would be fun to have mannequins standing around the room, with of course, one of them being a living mannequin, i.e. me.
One activity proposed was dressing up the mannequins from a dressing up box with hats and scarves. With this in mind, I contacted the mannequin hire company that I’ve used previously, as they have some mannequins that are similar looking to me. Unfortunately the cost of hiring these was outside the college balls' budget, so we agreed on some plastic mannequins that were cheap enough to buy outright, although they would be harder for me to blend-in with, and would not be supplied with wigs. This was probably for the best, as I had also been slightly concerned that the hired mannequins might be get damaged given the boisterous reputaion these parties had.
Over the course of a few emails we bounced around a few ideas and eventually came up with the idea of having all the mannequins dressed in white coveralls as blank canvases, putting some coloured pens in each of the mannequins’ pockets and encouraging the party guests to doodle whatever they liked on the mannequin’s white coveralls. I as the human mannequin would be wearing the same matching white overalls, standing motionless with the real mannequins, as a human living canvas, changing position throughout the evening, so the guests would never quite know which of the mannequins were human or which were real mannequins.
I initially suggested that the mannequins should all be wearing some shoes, but this turned out to be ouside the budget so we decided to just use disposable shoe covers over the mannequins’ feet, and I would wear the covers over my shoes so that we all looked the same. I also asked them to provide another mannequin stand base so that I would look the same as the other mannequins.
With the initial plan, the mannequins were not going to be wearing anything on their heads and this provided me with a bit of a challenge as these mannequins were very bald! And didn’t have wigs of any description, and I would be under fairly close scrutiny as the party guests were doodling on my coveralls. Also I understood that the room was going to have normal lighting. I toyed briefly with the idea of shaving my head but decided in the end to try using a bald cap, which I then purchased from Kryolan. I also bought the necessary spirit gum and spirit gum remover.
A few days before the event I started preparing the bald cap. I very gingerly started cutting away the excess as I didn't want to cut too much away. I left it so that I had a roughly the right shape and size, with holes for my ears to go through.
After a few more discussions we finalised all the deatils and decided that all the real mannequins and me, the living mannequin, would wear black caps; I still wanted to try the bald cap to see how it would look. The mannequins were then ordered with and extra stand and so were the coveralls from Dickies Workwear.
On the evening of the Ball
I arrived at 6 PM in plenty of time as the ball wasn't starting until 9 PM. I was taken around the grounds, which seemed vast at first, and then shown where I would be performing and changing.
I then discovered that the shoe covers hadn't arrived and all the mannequins were barefoot. This left me with a bit of a dilemma, wear shoes and stand out? or go barefoot? I decided that wearing shoes would stand out too much, so I decided I would go barefoot, which would mean making-up my feet too. I’ve made up my legs on a few occasions before as living mannequin, but usually I prepare by shavingbmy legs first.
Around 6:30 I decided to start the make-up and started on my feet, these took about 30 minutes and required 3 or 4 layers of latex to get a good strong colour. Then I started working on my head. I fitted the bald cap as described in the instructions, gluing it down using the spirit gum, I was really impressed with the effect. Then I started applying the liquid latex to the bald cap. After I had finished applying a few layers of latex on my head, I started applying the latex to my face and then started working down to my neck. The whole process took 1.5 hours, half an hour longer than normal.
I had a borrowed one of the manikin’s heads in order to be able to match the make up as close as I could. The mannequins that had been supplied were quite brown in colour and my more flesh coloured make-up didn't have the same hue, but I had discovered that the chillout mannequin room was lit with low level blue lights, so the colour difference would not be noticed.
I had agreed to do 8×20 minutes which is longer than I normally do and I was due to finish at 1:00 PM. I actually stood in the room for two hours without a break. Then took a break for about 30 minutes and then stayed in the room until 12:45.
In the same room was a chocolate fountain which drew in lots of the guests, their reactions were fantastic, most of them were totally fooled.
Unfortunately, not many of the guests actually took up the challenge of writing on the mannequins at least not on me which was a bit of a shame although I did get many people taking selfies with me or coming up and touching me to find out if I was a mannequin or not.
As the evening drew on, the real manikins had their hats and sometimes the body parts removed or rearranged which was quite amusing, many of them had lost the caps by the end of the evening, or arms and heads; I mirrored this by removing my cap and replacing it awkwardly on my head or at the end of my outstretched arm.
In conclusion, it was a great evening for me and the college, with a huge number of scares; everyone I spoke to said I was amazing, and it was such a great idea.