‘Naked Vegas’: The Art of Body Painting

By Rich Heldenfels
Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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Artist Kelly "Red" Belmonte air brushes paint on a model in the new six-part docuseries "Naked Vegas." (David Becker/Syfy)

For some viewers, the appeal of Naked Vegas is in what its title implies: a closer look at the barely clad denizens of Sin City. But while the series shows off significant flesh, it is more about skin as a canvas for art — in this case the art of body painting.

Premiering at 10 p.m. Tuesday on Syfy, the six-episode series follows a group known as the Naked Vegas Team that specializes in painting bodies for different shows and events — “when casinos, clubs, events, conventions, celebrities, magicians, fashion designers — or anyone in between — wants to throw a memorable opening,” says the show’s announcement.

In the series premiere, for example, a couple who met in a haunted house decide to give their wedding a zombie theme, with bride, groom and attendants painted and dressed to look like the undead. A second segment in the same episode focuses on the team replicating a lingerie designer’s wares — by painting the designs on nearly bare bodies for a fashion show.

The show is somewhat connected to Face Off, the fantasy-makeup competition that has proven a hit for Syfy, which recently ordered a sixth season; Nicholas “Nix” Herrera, who competed in the second Face Off season, is one of the Naked Vegas painters. But in the premiere, at least, the star is team leader Kelly “Red” Belmonte, who is adept at body art and business, as well as having a sharp way of explaining both the craft and how to deal with temperamental clients and some venues’ no-nudity rules. As she said of one place’s policy: “You can still show the girls, just not the eyes.”

Think about it.

Indeed, the major crisis in the premiere involves a change in plans when the first version of body-painted lingerie has to be scrapped because there’s not enough skin covered underneath. But there are also challenges involving whether things look right, and making the deadline for the wedding. (Painting one person can take up to eight hours, the show notes, and in that case there was a whole wedding party to paint.)

As with most reality shows, there are moments that seem contrived. A seeming complaint about some paint jobs turns out to be a joke. And there’s never a mention of what this painting costs, not even a discussion where Belmonte urges a potential client to go for more work than was initially sought. But the first hour was surprisingly entertaining. And the paintings themselves are pretty remarkable.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.


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