The World Premier of The Makeover

| Nov 26, 2018
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Like any other single female cougar, I like to patrol my territory in search of a mate. My natural territory includes the mid-Atlantic States and I am always on the lookout for a good house party. So when Elizabeth (Beth) Taylor and Giselle Frances Ni Donnhaile. (aka Jizzie) announced they were having a house party on a Friday Night in early November to celebrate Beth’s Birthday, I inked it onto my calendar. Beth’s Birthday Backroom Band Bash, as it was billed on Facebook, featured sets of live acoustic music from a three-piece band called Swamp Poodle that features Jizzie on guitar. The one night stand grew into a weekend doubleheader, when it later became evident that Beth & Jizzie would be attending the World Premiere of The Makeover on Saturday. The premiere was part of the highly acclaimed Alexandria Film Festival

Never having attended a world premier before, I wasn’t sure what to wear. I surmised that 2 or 3 outfits would have been the justified and prudent, but I suffer from acute pack-o-phobia — the fear of packing. So I packed 6 pairs of panties, five pairs of shoes, four pairs of tights, three sheath dresses, two tunics, and a partridge in a pear tree. Plus, jeans and t-shirts for that relevant as hell, carefree, casual look. I wanted to leave work early and high tail it down 95 from Philly to D.C. in plenty of time for the first set from Swamp Poodle. Didn’t happen. Not only did I have to stay until 5, but it was raining hard and Google Maps re-routed me over the Ben Franklin Bridge to the Battle Zone of Camden, New Jersey due to an accident on I-95. By the time I got there, both sides of the street on Beth and Jizzie’s block were jammed with cars. You can always judge a good party by the lack of parking.

The party was in full swing when I arrived and there was a fine spread of Fall-themed dishes including 4 kinds of chili with all the trimmings and a fine assortment of beverages. The party was a blast, it was everything that you always imagined a party at the home of two movie stars would be. Between Swamp Poodle sets, I made new friends and caught up with some familiar faces for idle gossip about shopping, hormones, relationships and surgeries. Since. I would be staying over, I partied til the final beer bottle scavenger hunt cleanup meltdown.

Giselle and Beth.

The very next morning Giselle made wonderful omelets topped with left-over chili, a side of thick bacon, and wonderful thick toast that we washed down with Prosecco. After brunch, I had Beth recommend some new cosmetics for me to embellish my daytime look and then began primping in earnest to attend the premiere.

Before we get started on my account of The Makeover, you will need some background. Let me fill you in. Elizabeth Taylor is a multi-talented D.C.-based makeover artist, whom I have been Facebook friends with since January of 2014 according to Facebook statistics. At the time, I admired the results of her makeovers for transgender clients and put a makeover with her on my wish list. Fast forward to Keystone 2017, having traded messages with Beth for three years, I finally met her in person at a makeup session she was giving at The Keystone Conference about strategies for deep set eyes. Since I have deep set eyes, I volunteered to be her model for the session, and thus snagged a free makeover over of sorts (Mama did not raise no fool). Our friendship has grown from there and we have been on several epic bike rides up the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.

Lynda’s friend Traci Lynn with the festival sign.

So anyway, I headed down to the Alexandria with Tracy Lynn in her Jeep to take in the World Premiere of the The Makeover at the 12th Annual Alexandria Film Festival. The festival was a four-day affair from October 8 to 12 with screenings on Saturday and Sunday in a perfectly normal looking theater complex and features independent short films in a variety of genres. Now there were, oh I don’t know, let’s say 50 to 60 films at the Film Festival (what did I do with my program??, well you’ll just have to take my word for it ). Tracy and I met up with Cloe Webb and joined leading ladies Beth and Jizzie in one of the back rows of the theater.

The making of the The Makeover started back in 2015. The directors Jane Pitman and Sarah Park (oh wow. . .who gets top bill? Might be Sarah) were making a documentary about another couple that featured a cis-gender woman and a gender fluid man to explore the intricacies of their relationship and they were going for about a ten-minute film. Their original couple didn’t work out, because they were too uptight about getting into the up close and personal Barbara Walters treatment. Enter Beth and Jizzie, who were about to get the break that would catapult them to Almost Famous status.

Jane and Sarah picked up with Beth and Giselle and began filming their exploits. At the time Giselle was Tom, and Tom had no intention of transitioning. He was living the old double lifestyle so many of us do. On the one hand, he was married, had a nice family with accomplished kids, and a job in National Security consulting. But, Tom enjoyed spending time as Giselle. In the opening scenes, we see Giselle getting makeovers from Beth and enjoying time modeling in high heels. In the early days of their relationship Beth and Giselle enjoy forays into the world of BDSM clubs. Now, I realize that BDSM may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but mutual respect and communication are a very important part of the scene. Relax, this film is all bark and no bite.

I am not an expert on Beth and Giselle’s relationship, because I didn’t come into the picture until Beth and Giselle’s relationship was well underway. But the arc of the film follows a familiar path that many of us who transition follow. You think it’s a sideshow, but then you realize that you honestly and truly believe deep down that you want to live your life as a woman. And sharing this revelation with your spouse leads to divorce, which leads to new opportunities. Jane and Sarah started out to make a 10-minute film in 6 months. But Beth and Giselle’s relationship grew from that of makeover artist and client into much, much more and so the final cut was 38 minutes long and covers a two and a half year time span. They let the story of Beth and Giselle unfold in front of the camera.

For me this film resonated on so many levels. Number one, it’s very cool to see two good friends on the big screen in an open-kimono expose of their lifestyle. Number two, it features cameo appearances by some of Beth’s clientele that includes some familiar faces as she discusses how she transitioned from a career in the Navy to a career as a makeover artist for the transgender community. Number 3, as the film progresses, Beth takes up bicycling with a passion. What can I say? Bicycling is my favorite sport and I treasure the rides that Beth and I have taken together. Now, in these scenarios, you are always a bit worried that the other half is going to be jealous of the quality time that you are spending with their significant other. However, Giselle is not an avid cyclist, so she fully endorses and encourages our rides.

As we all know, our lives are complex and for those of us who want to transition in later life, we must somehow balance the demands of shaking our money maker, trying to keep our relationships intact with our deep desire to transition. In one scene, we see Tom, the national security expert, testifying in front of some very important people about planning for National Security. And in another particularly poignant scene Giselle reads a heart letter to her son attempting to explain her new path in life. No this is not a Hollywood style plot line. This is the transition of a talented man who is deeply embedded into society into a talented woman who takes over that very same deeply embedded role in society with some major adjustments along the way. Spoiler alert, this film has a very happy ending;

After the screening the audience pummeled the directors with questions. Since I loved the film, I gave it a rave review on the film critique questionnaire, and guess what? The Makeover won the coveted “Audience Favorite” award at that Festival. After the screening, Tracy and I joined the directors, Jane and Sarah at a Russian/Uzbekistan tea room themed restaurant called Rus Uz (what a surprising name huh?), which was conveniently located right next to the theater, where we enjoyed toasts of Prosecco, samples of flavored vodka and Russian cuisine.

But wait, there’s more. Though Beth and Giselle missed the triumphant toasts at the tea room, the two stars, joined the two directors, Tracy, me and Annette at Bistrot Lepic and Wine Bar in Georgetown for more celebratory toasts of fine wine and a feast of French cuisine. The world of independent film making is, I have learned, very competitive, so it is hard to say when and where The Makeover will appear next. Assuming that it is showing somewhere within my territory, I will be there to hobnob with the stars and directors. Seriously though, I thought this film covered the topic of gender transition in the real world better than any other film I have ever seen. It’s up close, it’s personal and it’s a fun ride. In short, it’s femtabulous! Go see it, if you get the chance. The End

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Lynda Martini

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