What do fashion design, house flipping, pimping out your car, catching Alaskan King Crab, dating Flavor Flav, extreme sports and cooking have in common? That's right, they are all the subjects of successful reality television shows. And now add body painting to that list. And add local painter Natalie Fletcher (along with the winner of the last cycle of America's Next Top Model, Jourdan Miller, and Melanie and Savannah, the sisters on True Life "I'm Jealous of my Sibling") to the list of Central Oregon's reality TV stars.
Hosted by Rebecca Romijn with esteemed judges including world renowned body painter Craig Tracy and the queen of transformation Ru Paul, "Skin Wars" premieres on the Game Show Network (GSN) on Aug. 6. The winner is promised a hefty prize package: $100,000 cash, a one-year supply of paint and a featured guest artist slot at IMATS, the premiere body painting tradeshow in New York City.
When Fletcher moved to Bend three years ago, she started her journey to becoming one of the nation's top body painters after answering an artist wanted posting on Craigslist.
"When I moved to Bend, I started to rewrite my story," explained Fletcher. "I wasn't a body painter before I moved here. I was a portrait artist. I did pin-up girls and had just graduated from art school and I was trying to find my niche because I can't do the same robotic shit everyone else does."
After her first few experiences using skin as her canvas, Fletcher fell in love with the craft.
"Since I started body painting I haven't stopped," she explained. "I've done everything...yeah I'm going to paint multiple people, yeah I'm going to paint big fat people, yeah I'm going to paint anything and everyone in every style. I love doing camouflage, it's my favorite, but I've also done super heroes, and apparel, and special effects because I want to be well rounded."
The chances of making the show were slim, as the casting directors were talking to just about every body painter in America, said Fletcher. But after making it through initial screenings and a mock episode filmed in LA with 25 competitors, Fletcher was one of 10 finalists chosen to compete in the official show. Fletcher was cast in "Skin Wars" as the "nature chick," as she describes it. While she wasn't allowed to talk about the outcomes of the episodes just yet, she gave us a sneak peak of the first challenge, a body story-telling painting about the contestants' homes. Fletcher took an unexpected approach and painted her birth state rather than where she lives now.
"I hope Oregonians aren't pissed about this, but I didn't do Oregon," said Fletcher. "I did Texas. You don't get the internet, you don't get to look things up, which I usually do, I normally have tons of references. But I thought about what I know about Texas, the state flower and songs, I remembered my childhood, bluebonnets and rattle snakes. I figured someone from Colorado and Vermont might look similar to Oregon paintings, but no one was from the south so I went for it."
With five hours to complete her live painting, Fletcher was in her zone.
"I think a lot of the other painters take time. I don't ever really do that because I normally paint out in harsh conditions. If I'm doing camouflage, people are hot, the sun is changing, the clouds are changing, so I usually rush through it an hour, an hour and a half."
While her quick brush was an advantage, the challenge was something new for Fletcher.
"I'm usually only [painting] one side of the body and it's camouflage not telling a story," said Fletcher. "It has to flow and go with the body and tell a story and it has to look good. You get judged on creativity, technique and implementation of the challenge. That type of concept is totally different. I've only done that when I've competed, and I've only competed once."
Watch Fletcher compete against the nation's best body painters on GSN. "Skin Wars" premieres on Aug. 6 at 9 pm. Watch at Riverside Market, 285 NW Riverside Blvd. Stay tuned to the Source's BENT Blog for updates on Fletcher's progress.