THE AUGUST 4th premiere of Skin Wars was the second most-watched premiere of a GSN original series of all time. While I cannot explain what it is that drew 1.73 million viewers to the network's most successful premiere, American Bible Challenge, the solid turnout for Skin Wars is fairly transparent: it's about body painting.
The prodigiously popular body painting feature was introduced to the SI audience over a decade ago via pages 66 through 88 of the 1999 SI Swimsuit Issue; under the headline 'Benjamin Moore...or Less;" on the bodies of six gallant models; and by the hand of New Zealand-born makeup artist Joanne Gair. So it makes all the sense in the world that Joanne will appear as a guest judge on the show's "Final Three" episode tonight. add to that equation Rebecca Romijn, the show's host and one of Joanne's inaugural canvases, and it's a television event basically drawn up in Swimsuit's freaking dreams.
Joanne, her assistants, the show's contestants, any model and any editor on set will tell you: body painting is as tedious as it is beautiful. So it took several years before Joanne complied with one particularly intimidating request: recreating the now-iconic Cheryl Tiegs fishnet suit from the 1978 issue.
More from SwimLife
"I just had to wrap my head around that," says Gair who used a custom-made Cali Dreaming Swimwear imitation of the Cheryl suit as a stencil. "That was extremely challenging, and it went really well."
Among the details Joanne and her assistants had to consider were the consistency of their strokes and shapes made by the crosshatching, and the partially transparent quality of the suit (the result of someone throwing a bucket of water on Cheryl during the original shoot). In the end, the paint job which seems to expose the most of Hannah Ferguson's body actually covered her up more than any other of Joanne's 2014 creations.
Not to say that Joanne is a prude. Indeed when planning a suit she observes a model's physical attributes and determines which piece will work best for her shape, and then tweaks the style to to make it work even better—typically meaning skimpier.
"I do exaggerate quite a bit in to make it as sexy as possible because the viewer really wants to see as much skin," she says.
With that thought lingering in your mind, watch Joanne hold the fate of the four remaining contestants in her magical hands tonight at 9 (find GSN in your region here). Also be sure to follow Joanne on Instagram and Twitter to see the full array of her brain-bending talents, from makeup to etching to lots and lots of body painting.
GALLERY: Hannah does justice to Joanne's handiwork, and Cheryl's moment