Guest Post: Behind the Scenes with Jules Heptonstall, Strictly Come Dancing’s Celebrity Tanner (For St Tropez)

by Sasha Wilkins on October 26, 2012 · 9 comments

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(Dance partners Colin Salmon and Kristina Rihanoff in action on Strictly Come Dancing 2012)

I’ve known the PR team at St Tropez for a long time so, when I’m hopping off somewhere warm, I often pop in to St Tropez HQ for a spray tan by the lovely Jules Heptonstall, their VIP & Celebrity Tanning Expert, and Make Up Artist Liaison. So imagine my glee when I discovered that Jules is THE official spray tanner for my favourite TV show, Strictly Come Dancing. (It’s the inspiration for Dancing with the Stars in the US.) So, of course, I had to ask him if he would write me a guest post about his weekends behind the scenes at Strictly

“The chances are you won’t know who I am. But that’s ok – my job is pretty much on the down low anyway. I am a tanning and skin-finishing expert for St. Tropez – the UK’s leading self-tan brand. With the creation of the HD lens it was only a matter of time before those in front of the lens needed high definition skin, and so self-tan has become  an essential product for make up artists.

I work mainly with celebrities backstage at various television shows and at fashion weeks to ensure skin is prepped, polished and looking at its best, and have worked with fashion designers Roland Mouret, Erdem, and Roksanda Ilincic, and on TV shows including The X Factor, Take Me Out, The Gossip, and MTV’s Plain Jane. But right now I am ALL about Strictly tanning.

During any television show where the filming carries on for a matter of months, those involved gradually become more and more tired due to early starts and long days and the effect this can have on the skin starts to show sooner rather than later. Skin becomes fatigued in its appearance and the signs of early mornings and long days start to show – no one wants to look grey and shattered in front of the camera!

So here’s how my day looks on Fridays from now until Christmas: Friday mornings I start at 8.30am when my VIP clients come in to see me before the working day begins – my regulars are members of the fashion and beauty press with a smattering of celebs (my lips are sealed though – a tanner never tells). You wouldn’t think a tanning expert would be busy with clients that early, but pre-work slots are booked up fast! Tanning has come a long way since the days of that mud-rolling appearance – the colour you have immediately after a spray tan today is super natural-looking and fine to leave on for the day, so that when you get home, you can simply shower the guide colour off.

In between tan sessions, my morning continues as I help our online teams answer tanning questions from St. Tropez fans on Facebook & Twitter, ensuring the nation is set to tan with confidence over the weekend! My current top tip is: when tanning your back, turn your mitt back to front and apply the product to the bottom of your back and up to your shoulder blade – it’s a winner!

It’s then on to the Strictly studios. I arrive at the BBC for 2pm and by 2.20pm I’m set up with my sidekick Michaella Bolder and ready to roll. We have one space for tanning, and another for getting changed. A tan usually takes twenty minutes, but we only have ten minutes due to a fast moving studio rota – this requires a vast amount of organisation.

Tans are on an express basis – with one of us spraying and the other prepping –a kind of factory line of celebrity bodies! Prep consists of getting the dancer or contestant changed and into a robe, adding moisturiser to the hands, elbows, knees and feet, putting the hair in a turban…and also having a good chinwag, sometimes a hug and of course a giggle! When we’re adding moisturiser we like to give a gentle hand and foot massage to relax them and allow them to unwind after their gruelling rehearsals. We’re a treat for them at the end of the day.

When I’m tanning for TV, we always go for a less is more approach – studio lights can turn a tan radioactive if you’ve gone overboard and I’d be horrified if any of the Strictly cast appeared a curious shade of orange!

I usually finish at the studio around 8pm with a standard dinner of M&S’s Percy Pigs sweeties on the run, and then it’s on to some of my regulars before heading home. This Friday I saw Zoe Hardman and Claudia Winkleman for a bronze and a natter before crashing out –it’s a miracle I can tan in a straight line I’m so tired sometimes.

Saturday morning is always quiet, it’s my chance to unwind after a busy week and I like to start the day with homemade granola, Radio 1 while I update the grooming blog I started  ‘The Beard and The Quiff’ – it’s a chance for me to share all the tips and tricks that I have picked up during the week as well as any
products that I’ve tried and tested.

After some me-time its back to Strictly, and on Saturday afternoon we arrive at the studio for 4pm, and are on hand to finish the skin with the added luminosity and sparkle that the Strictly gang can’t get enough of. We apply contouring techniques and add definition to muscles using bronzers and wash off tan. If one of the male dancers has a routine where he is without a shirt, we can contour his torso to give his muscles shading and definition. You can try this at home to give the illusion of looking leaner and longer – just use an illuminator or my Strictly saviour, the St. Tropez Shimmer Stick, and blend into the natural curves of the body.

I go from dressing room to dressing room to ensure every contestant’s skin is looks at its maximum best, and then it’s down to the cafeteria with the rest of the crew where we sit and watch the show on a tiny screen and admire our handiwork. It’s a really tight knit team and we’ve all bonded over the past few weeks, so it’s actually a great way to spend my Saturday night.

Post show, its off home and I’m generally out cold for the rest of the weekend.’

Follow Jules behind the scenes at Strictly on @jules_sttropez and visit the blog at www.thebeardandthequiff.com

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