There is another amazing woman, I would like to remember, Pandora de Pledge. She passed four years ago today. Pandora was the one who first showed me what I could be back in 2004 and with that gave me the confidence that I could do anything. She is responsible for a lot of firsts (at least 7 of them).
During the 90s and early 00s, Pandora offered one of the best transformation services in England, possibly the world. The only problem was that she was over 5400 hundred miles away. So when I had a chance to travel back to England for an academic conference I jumped on a train to north London and walked up to her door. This was only a few months after I had first come out to my future wife, so I was still very nervous. She welcomed me into her house, as did her two giant husky dogs – the only proper analogy would be Siegfried and Roy’s Siberian tigers. Their size was only matched by the size of her personality. As I was just growing out my hair, she gave me a lovely layered haircut (#3). I think my first reaction was “OMG .. I look like my mom”. This was the first time that I truly felt beautiful (#4). Pandora had a distinctive high glam look, that worked for girls of all sizes. She was particularly good at eyes, shaping and sculpting with layers of smokey shadow and liquid liner.
With my look complete, I was invited out to a local London bar (my 1st gay bar – #5) with her friends. Growing up in southern England as a kid, London was just where I went to the dentist. This was a whole new experience. Not only was I accepted, other girls were hitting on me (!!! – #6). Don’t worry, I was faithful to my girl back home. I probably looked like a deer in the headlights. That didn’t stop me from putting my name in for karaoke. I sang “Rocket Man” with the idea that I couldn’t possibly be worse than Shatner. The highlight of the night was an adorable gay couple who did the best rendition “You’re the One That I Want” I have ever seen – hitting all the high notes. Olivia would be proud. I was hoping to follow it up with a moving rendition of the “Wombling song” (as what American bar would have that?) but luckily the bar was saved by the bell. So I took a taxi back to Pandora’s to stay the night (first time in a Taxi in drag – #7). At the time I thought I was being ripped off, later I learned that UK taxis cost when you want to leave. Next morning, I still remember relaxing with Pandora in the living room, surrounded by these giant dogs, talking about life, my fears and dreams.
I am not the only one whose eyes were opened by Pandora. Countless girls were welcomed through those doors. Even though she is gone, she set the stage for other great British makeup artists, the Boudoir, the Fourth Space. I know you are not supposed to ask a girl her age, but she was far far too young to go (44!). RIP Pandora, we miss you.