Tuesday, July 5, 2022 Jul 5, 2022
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The Still Life of the Party

Why is it that the hottest bodies at Dallas’ biggest events are there just as adornments?
By Stacey Yervasi |

It’s difficult to pinpoint when it became de rigueur for dallas party planners to decorate their events with scantily clad, painted models—now they’re as ubiquitous as cover bands and champagne. But a good guess would be 1999, when Candy Smith and her twin sister, Chris Seay, launched the Body Art Ball to raise funds for the Deep Ellum Center for the Arts. Smith, who likened the body art concept to “human still life” says, “Body Art Ball was the first time it was accepted by the $100 ticket buyer.” The result was a “couture” display of living and nearly naked canvases whose artistic value somehow trumped taboo.

That it continues to trump taboo is a testament either to Dallas’ appetite for art or for skin. In 2001, after watching scenes from a Canadian MAC show, local fashion show producer Rhonda Sargent Chambers enlisted makeup artists from the cosmetics company to paint models for the DIFFA fundraiser she was producing. The 12 models she used took three hours each to paint. “It’s not for the fainthearted at all,” Sargent Chambers says. Gala go-to guy Todd Fiscus has since used it liberally at events he designs and says, “It’s that look-but-don’t-touch thing that makes it popular and slightly forbidden.” Model and fashion producer Jan Strimple says the use of decorative models parallels the growth of the events business in Dallas, and the need for groups to distinguish themselves in a competitive social calendar. “You have to come up with something that will evoke a response,” Strimple says. Donny Boaz, a Kim Dawson model whom Sargent Chambers calls “the most painted model by far,” describes his time in the paint as “a mind out of body job.” His first booking seven years ago featured only a coat of purple base paint, undies, and a pair of angel wings. He says he didn’t mind it.

But Candy Smith, who started it all and whose annual event celebrates the human form, says that when it’s done poorly, as it has been at times, it’s terrible. “The no-clothes factor wears me out.”