Demystifying Highlighting and Contouring

Corrie Dubay is a makeup artist extraordinaire and owner of Femme Makeovers, an amazing transformation studio in Minneapolis.  She is a friend and hero to girls everywhere.  She is beyond talented and I am lucky to have worked with on photo shoots in the past.
Corrie has a newsletter that she sends out with helpful makeup tips like these and is reprinted here with her permission.  I am certain you’ll find this useful!  You can sign up for her newsletter here.
Love, Hannah

How are you?? Please forgive me as it’s been several months since my last newsletter. I hope this finds you doing well. And….can we get a HALLELOO!?!?!…Seems as though Spring has FINALLY started to show her lovely face. 😀

XOXO  from your favorite makeup guru,

Highlighting and Contouring How-To
Highlight and Contouring: What the hell….why the hell….how the hell….These are all questions I am frequently asked during lessons. I know it can be extremely overwhelming even thinking about adding highlight and contour to your makeup routine.  I mean – even I get overwhelmed when I see some of these YouTubers and Instagramers highlight and contouring every inch of their face. It’s one of those things I truly don’t understand…why? Mainly because it’s NOT necessary!!! Those YouTubers and Instagrammers might disagree, but let’s be real here. How many of you have three hours to put your face on before you go out? I surely don’t. Put it on, blend it out and off I freaking go….end of story. So let’s break this down and get on with our nights, yes?

First – what is highlighting and contouring? Simply put – it’s how we can restructure or accentuate certain features of our face using light and shadows. Remember these two things: contour (shadow) shades or pushes away, highlight (light) emphasizes or brings forward.

Why would I want to highlight and/or contour? For a number of reasons. Let’s say you have a very square jaw line – we can use contouring (or shadows) to soften it and create a more feminine looking jawline. Or – you want your nose to look narrower, a sharper, more pronounced cheek, narrower looking forehead…the list goes on. You can easily do all of that with a little bit of highlighting and contouring.

All of this is great, but do I HAVE to contour and highlight? Of course not. You don’t have to do anything. Do what your comfortable with. In fact – I tell people – get efficient with your basics first (beard coverage, foundation, eyes, etc.) before tackling highlighting and contouring.

Okay – so how do I do it??  There’s a couple ways you can highlight and contour and achieve similar results. Before you can do that – you need to choose colors. For my contour, I typically like to go several shades (2 – 3) darker than my foundation and always choose a matte – no shimmer. I also like to use something that is very cool-toned. Some people say to use a bronzer as a contour. Technically – yes, you COULD use bronzer. However – a bronzer’s purpose is to warm you up – make you look like you were out in the sun. A true shadow has coolness to it, so many times, using a bronzer as a contour can make your face look dirty, not shadowed.

For highlight – I like to stick to a shade or shade and a half lighter than my foundation base (also in a matte form to start). You can over-highlight, making your face look like it’s glowing…but not in a good way!!! Many highlighters have shimmer in them – which is totally fine. We just want to use the shimmer highlighters in specific places (top of the cheek bone, a light touch on the forehead, etc.), otherwise you may end up looking sweaty or just shiny all over…which is not what we’re after.

Back to products….the first (and my personal favorite) is to use a creme or liquid product (in conjunction with your creme or liquid foundation). Start by applying your base (foundation). Before powdering the foundation, apply your highlight and contour and blend out with your sponge or brush. You want to blend in, not away, making sure you don’t have any hard lines between the foundation/contour/highlight. We’re looking for a nice gradient when we’re done. Once blended, set with powder and continue on with your application. I prefer cremes because I can create a very natural looking contour and highlight.

The second is to do your foundation and set with powder, then apply your highlight and contour in POWDER form over. Remember – we need to keep like products with like products. For example – if you want to use a powder highlight/contour, you need to be putting it over powder (a powdered creme or liquid foundation). A creme or liquid highlight/contour has to go over a creme or liquid foundation (BEFORE applying powder). If you mix the two or flip back and forth, you can end up having a difficult time blending and run the risk of your foundation cracking/flaking because it got too heavy. I generally use a powder contour and highlight as a finishing touch if I need to bump up my existing creme contour or highlight a touch.

Let’s talk about a few of my favorite highlighting/contouring products and then we’ll move on to placement. I really like the Sephora Highlight Lowlight Face Contour Duo. It has both a contour and highlight color in stick form (creme). Application is super easy, blends nicely and is super affordable.

I also really like using the Graftobian HD Glamour Creme Hi-Lite Contour palette. It has both highlighting and contouring colors you can mix and blend easily. It comes in a light and dark version depending on your skin tone. LOVE Graftobian!!!!

For Powders – I’ve been OBSESSED with Smashbox lately. They have these great little three color highlight/contour palettes that blend like BUTTER when you put them on. I just got the Cali Contour Palette (this has highlight/contour, blush, bronzer and a shimmer highlight – so lots of bang for your buck) and it is my new fave!!!

MAC also recently came out with these great highlight and contour palettes. They are six-color palettes available in light/medium or medium/dark depending on your skin tone. Super love these as well.

Okay – let’s talk placement. Now as I mentioned before – you can watch videos and tutorials with people going bananas applying highlight and contour. That is not necessary. I suggest you only highlight/contour what you want to emphasize. You want a more pronounced cheek, do the cheeks, you want your nose to appear narrower, do your nose. You can so as little or as much as you want or have time for.

Generally speaking – unless someone asks for specific highlighting and contouring, these are the areas I normally do: cheek bone, forehead, jawline and nose. I also like to throw a little highlight under the eyes to brighten things up a touch. Here’s a diagram of my general highlight and contour placement:

Lastly – I want to touch on blush quick. We don’t want to forget our blush. Blush adds the color back into the face we’re missing. It gives us a nice glow we all need – especially this time of year. I like to put the blush on the apples of the cheek and blend up and out. You can check out my tips and tricks on blush application here.

Earlier on, I mentioned how I do like using shimmer highlighters but in specific places. I mention blush as well because I like to put my blush on first, blend, then add my shimmer highlight after. I like to apply the shimmer last because it can lose it’s shimmery-ness (?) if I’m putting something matte back over the top.

Okay – are your heads spinning yet?? I realize this is a lot of information to take in so if you have ANY questions at all – please ask (I can be reached here)!! I know it seems kind of scary at first but give it some time and practice and you’ll have it down in no time.

Alright my darlings – I hope you’ve been well. If you have any questions or want to book a session – holler!!

Questions or want to request a session? Call/text (612-860-6739) or email Corrie at:

Be sure to check for more info.

Love, Hannah

Be Worth It

If you are reading this, there is a really good chance you could, and do, identify as transgender.  I define that term rather broadly so whether you are on hormones, living full-time or just wearing a cute pair of panties or have pink toenails there’s a really strong likelihood you fit within that definition.

Based on the comments on this blog and the emails I receive, I suspect that most of you are like me.  I happily go back and forth between genders, I am secure with who I am, I have no plans to transition and I am at peace with who I am.

I am also happily married.

Relationships with those like us are not easy.  For either partner.  We wrestle with if we should tell our partner, how we should tell them as well as the fear of what will happen if we do.

I will make the first one easy for you  YES TELL THEM.  Tell them while you are dating.  Tell them when the relationship gets serious.  Tell them when it feels like you want to be with them for a long time.  Tell them before any commitment is made, whether that commitment is moving in with each other, getting engaged or getting married.

You need to tell them because this part of you is not a phase.  It is not going to go away.  It will not fade over time.  You will not outgrow it.  Some of us hope that we will because it creates a lot of conflict and tension within themselves.  It scares them.  I understand.  We all wonder what this means, why we want to wear heels or eyeliner or feel a little… strange when someone calls us a typical guy.  We wonder if we were born in the wrong body, we wonder if we need to transition.  We wonder where all this is going.

Our partners wonder the same thing.

Truly the only way you can determine for yourself where this is is all going and what it means is to let yourself find out.  We need to embrace and accept this part of us.  We need to stop being in denial about who we are and what we feel.  If you want to wear that dress or skirt, then you need to wear that dress or skirt.  How does it feel?  How do you feel?

Does the next step feel right?

Growing up I thought all of …this was about pretty panties and lingerie.  When I got older I realized it wasn’t.  In my early thirties I had a makeover, a wig and a little black dress.  I kept going to the next “level” and each step felt…well, it felt wonderful.  It was normal (and scary) for my wife to think about what was next.  But there was nothing next.  I continued to, well, let’s call it evolve, but there was no consideration from me about hormones or transitioning or anything.  I was done.  I found out where all of this was leading.  I even attended PFLAG meetings to talk to others like me and discussed this with a therapist to make sure I wasn’t in denial.

In terms of how you should tell your partner, well, I can’t answer that for you.  I get emails several times a week from others like me asking me to email their partner, girlfriend, wife, spouse or family and talk to them and explain this to them.  I’m not going to do that, obviously.  It’s not my place.  Coming out to our partners, or anyone, is a private and personal conversation.  The best advice I can give is to approach this as it were potentially devastating.  We have all had to break difficult news to someone.  We needed to be gentle and honest in those times.  We need to be gentle and honest with this.

It’s normal to be afraid of the aftermath.  No matter how well you know someone you will never be able to predict how they will react.  That fear is no excuse for not being honest with your partner.  They deserve to know so they can make their own decisions about their relationships.  If they do not feel they can, or want to be in a relationship with someone like us they deserve the right and ability to make that choice.

If this is a deal-breaker for them that does not make them a bad person by any means.  If it is, then they should be respected for being honest.  And you should know that you did the right thing by being upfront about who you are.

But if this is not a deal-breaker, then the two of you learn how to live with this.  And it likely won’t be easy.  Compromises may be made, boundaries may be set.  For the love of God please respect them.  If they ask you not to post photos online or leave the house, then don’t do it.  Just don’t.  It is a violation of respect and trust.  If you get caught then why should they believe anything you say?  I believe lying about this is the worst thing you can do to someone.

The dust will settle, the shock with subside and the two of you will enter into a new reality.  This new reality could take on many dynamics.  It could be ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, it could be the two of you getting makeovers and hitting the mall.  It could be a million different things in-between.

Every marriage is different.  Every marriage handles things in different ways.  It could be finances, raising children, or how two people adapt to the husband rocking a miniskirt.   I could write a book about relationships and being who we are but the point I want to make is that you know who you are and so do they.

Even if the two of you go out to the movies or the theater or dinner dressed to kill, there’s a good chance that it took a lot to get there.  It could have been a lot of time, patience, tears, conversations, arguments, counseling or anything else.  Regardless of where the two of you have landed, it was not easy to get there.

For either of you.

This is not an easy thing to discuss or understand.  Tying to help someone else understand who we are is almost impossible.  It’s a dynamic that most people don’t anticipate having to deal with in their relationships.  It could be a lonely thing for a wife to live with.  In a way, this is not as simple or direct as their husband having an affair.  This is not something that many people can relate to.  Many spouses may feel like there is no one they can talk to that might help sort out their feelings.  They may just keep their feelings to themselves where the fear, doubt, confusion, or perhaps resentment, grows.

If you are a partner of someone like me and are struggling or looking for support or understanding, please seek out a local PFLAG support group.

We as human beings and as partners need to be the best people we can be.  Always.  It’s kind of a basic thing, you know?  But for those like us we need to be better than the best.  Our partners are coming to terms with this side of us just like we had to come to terms with this side of us.  This is not something most partners anticipated living with in their relationships.

So, be worth it.  They are, or have, struggled with this.  They may be stressed, scared or lonely.  Be gentle with them, not only when it comes to this but also with everything else the two of you live with.  Be honest.  Surprise them.  It could be with flowers or power tools or a massage or anything else they might want.  Talk with them about anything besides this.  Be their husband, be their boyfriend, if you know they need their man, too.  Fixing something or wearing work boots does not diminish this other side of you in any way.

We always need to show our partners we appreciate them.  However, just like there is something a little bit more to us, we need to be a little bit more to them.

Love, Hannah



Transformation… Transformed!

The world is a more beautiful place thanks to Corrie Dubay.

Although the world has many talented makeup artists, I can’t imagine anyone better than Ms. Dubay.  Corrie is the owner and makeup magician of Femme Makeovers, a makeup and transformation studio wedged comfortably between Minneapolis and Saint Paul.  I have had the honor of Corrie doing my makeup many times and she has also given me a private lesson as well.  She has also invited the MN T-Girls into her studio for private makeup demonstrations on several occasions.

If Corrie can make me look this good, imagine what she can do for you.

Cherry Dress 3
Photography by Christi Williams


Like many of us, Corrie’s studio is forever evolving.  She has recently completely renovated her space and has added more clothes and more heels and more wigs.  I had a chance to see her new studio and was blown away by what she has to offer.

The waiting area (perfect for a photo shoot!)
Time for a wardrobe change!
Smile for the camera!
Some of the clothes and shoes Corrie has to offer
It’s time to put on makeup!  It’s time to light the lights!

If you are looking for an experience like no other, I encourage you to reach out to Corrie for a makeover or a private makeup lesson.  You’ll have the time of your life.

Love, Hannah



T-girls know the purge.  How many times throughout our lives have we decided we are DONE, that we are NEVER EVER going to wear “girl’s” clothes ever again?  That this was a phase and we are MANLY MEN and men don’t wear five-inch black patent stilettos?  Into the trash they go!

But… in a matter or weeks, months, years or even hours, we regret it.  We hit the mall and begin rebuilding our wardrobe.

Again and again and again.

I am decades passed thinking that I would be able to resist who I am.  I knew it was never a phase, that I would always want to wear what I want to wear, but I thought I could control it.  I remember the last time I threw everything away and hoping I could tough it out.  These days my wardrobe and shoe collection are larger than it ever was.

But I still purge every once in a while.  I go through my wardrobe and closet, drawers and makeup, and toss out and donate what doesn’t fit or what I don’t wear anymore.  I like de-cluttering and it gives me more hangers and closet space for new stuff.  🙂

Yesterday I organized my jewelry and tossed out earrings that I can no longer find it’s mate, bracelets that fall into the “why did I buy this” category and necklaces that I can’t wait to wear now that I have untangled them.  I found the first pair of earrings my wife bought me, the first necklace I wore outside my home and the bracelets I bought on a shopping party the MN T-Girls attended.

I can’t speak for all t-girls, but I have a deep, personal connection to what is considered girl’s clothes and things.  This yellow dress is more than a dress, this is a dress that I was able to wear to wear after working so hard to lose weight.  It represents hard work and determination.

yellow dress 14

I have many stories and there are meanings to so many things I own and wear.  I bet you have these stories and memories too.

This is who I am.  It’s who I grew up as and who I will grow old(er) as.

I have always been transgender, even before I knew there was a word for it.

My definition of transgender is rather broad and it basically comes down to any feeling, thinking, clothing preferences…whatever, that go against traditional societal norms about what boys and girls “should” wear or act.

I can trace back to when I tried on my first article of clothing that traditionally boys don’t wear.  It was a pair of my mom’s boots, found in the back of a closet in our basement.  I was around five or six years old.

As a child, I was fascinated by and  in love with dresses, makeup and shoes.  I still am.  My adoration for these things was always there, even before I could ride a bike without training wheels.  How’s that for perspective?

All throughout my childhood I tried on as many things as I could.  I suppose some would describe this as “experimenting” with girl’s clothes but I wasn’t experimenting.  I knew who I was, I knew what I wanted.  I didn’t think I was born with the wrong body, I just didn’t understand why simply being one gender meant that I wasn’t “allowed” to wear what I wanted to.

I remember the first day I was brave enough to wear panties under my work clothes.  All throughout my shift I was terrified but proud of myself.  I was fifteen.  I liked wearing dresses (or tops, skirts, anything) whenever I had the chance.  Wearing panties was, and still is, an intimate and personal connection to who I am.

I do not want to transition, I like who I am and I like being able to go back and forth between whatever gender I choose, but for some of us we know that presenting as male is required for most of what we do.  In a world where no one cares about gender and societal norms, sure, I suppose I could wear that dress to work, but I don’t see that happening in my lifetime.  It is enough to be able to wear a lacy pair of pink panties under my suit.  I smile inwardly when I have to do something MANLY like drive a forklift while I think about the cute undies I have on under my jeans.

The most common question we are asked is WHY.  Why do we do this?  Why do we want to?  Why do we choose to wear bras and heels?  We fumble and incoherently answer these questions without a convincing or satisfying answer.  We don’t know why we are who we are.  Usually the answer to these questions is simply “I just like wearing skirts” or “I love to feel beautiful”.  These answers are honest and real and true, but also vague.

But we also ask these questions of ourselves.  There is no answer.  There are reasons, but there is no real explanation.  We know how to go and come back from the moon and why the sky is blue but not why I love to wear lingerie.  Besides the obvious reasons, of course.

Underdressing (wearing a cute cami, panties, bras, stockings, etc, under male clothes) keeps me connected to who I am.  I wear panties, I want to wear panties, and by my definition of transgender, that alone makes me transgender.  This would also be true if ‘panties’ were replaced by ‘nail polish’ or whatever.

I need to clarify that every trans person is different.  I know many t-girls who wouldn’t wear high heels for any amount of money.   They choose jeans over dresses, sneakers instead of pumps.  I know some cis-women like that, too.  Wardrobe and makeup alone do not make you trans.  Some of us are trans because they simply (or complexly) felt like they were assigned the wrong gender at birth, or that they have anatomical features that contradict with their identity.  These feelings have nothing to do with a cute pencil skirt.

For me, gender identity and clothes, like tangled necklaces, are forever entwined.

Love, Hannah






The T Word


I get a lot of emails from girls like me and it never surprises me how similar our experiences are.  For most of us, we started dressing when we were younger and whether it was conscience or instinctive, we knew we had to hide this.  Some of us felt shame, some of us were embarrassed, some of us terrified of being caught.

We usually started to experiment a little more with this as teenagers.  We started to buy (and hide) clothes, usually starting with panties.  Endless cycles of shopping, shame, terror, purging and ultimately shopping again.  Like a caterpillar into a butterfly, we are constantly trying to be beautiful.

We suppress it as we start to date and find committed relationships and we either hope this side of us will go away or that we will ignore it.

But we cannot outgrow this part of us.  This is who we are.  It will never go away.

I’ll say it again in case you don’t believe me, but this is a part of you and it will always be a part of you and it’s a beautiful part of you.

I think feelings of shame, embarrassment, and fear for some of us come from the perceived link between sexuality and wearing lingerie or anything else.

Every single one of us knows that what we wear has zero connection to who we want to be intimate with or who we want to be in a relationship with.

But not everyone knows that.  If you’ve ever come out to someone, whether intentionally or not, you probably have been asked if you’re gay.  The first time I was asked that I was a little taken aback.  I knew there was no link between what I wore to bed and who I wanted to go to bed with.

People who ask this about us can be forgiven, though.  For many, the first introduction to our world, whether we are trans, gender non-conforming or something else is drag.  The world of drag is typically dominated by gay men dressing up in a very exaggerated fashion.  For most of us, that is not who we are.  We know the difference between wanting to dress up and hit the mall and glamming up to strut the stage at a drag show.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  🙂  Or any of this.

The point I am trying to make is that a label can be very divisive when it comes to who we are.  We might be offended by one label, we may need to clarify a different one, or change our label at different points of our lives.

Of course, I don’t care for labels, but I understand the nuances our community has and in come cases, a specific label might be useful.

The big T word is a loaded word.  When I identify as transgender, I often will clarify what being trans means to me.  Yes, Caitlyn Jenner and Lavern Cox are transgender but I am not trans like them.  I have not transitioned nor do I feel that I want or need to.   I resisted identifying as transgender for a long time until a t-girl friend of mine said that her definition of trans was anything that went against the societal norms of the gender you were assigned at birth.

So, you like to paint your nails?  Trans.  You’re rocking eyeliner?  Trans.  Wearing a beautiful matching bra and panty under your suit?  Trans.  Looking amazing from wig to heels at the mall?  Lipsyncing to Madonna in 7 inch platforms at a gay club?  Trans.

I know that this is a very broad definition and that’s what I like about it.  When I identified as a crossdresser, at a certain point I felt that the term didn’t really encompass who I was.  It was more than just clothes but I didn’t feel that it was appropriate to call myself transgender.  Using the definition my friend gave me, I accepted that a crossdresser was also transgender.

I embraced that term and never looked back.  I like identifying as trans.  People know the term.  If needed, I can get more in-depth about what being transgender means to me specifically, but more often than not, just identifying as transgender is enough.  When I used to schedule makeovers I could, if needed, tell the salon I was transgender.  These days I don’t because I don’t think it matters; makeup is makeup.  Every face is different, regardless of gender.

As I said, people know the term.  Over the last few years the rest of the world has gotten a crash course in the different ways someone can identify as when it comes to gender.  It’s been exhausting for many of us as we often take on the role of educator and explaining the difference between terms like cis, trans, non-binary and many others.  It’s also been heartbreaking as we see our community lose our rights, attacked, misunderstood and portrayed in completely inaccurate ways.

It’s a complicated term for some of us in our community, too.

I often get emails from girls like us who are looking for support and looking for friends and others like them.  Many of us start by identifying as a crossdresser.  For some, they just want to look beautiful.  Some just want to wear lingerie.  Some want to have adventures in the real world presenting as the gender they (sometimes) identify as.  Crossdressing is a comfortable label for them.  I get it, I was there.

When someone is looking for support, more often than not I refer them to PFLAG.  According to their website, their mission is in uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends, and allies, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education, and advocacy. PFLAG has 400 chapters and 200,000 supporters crossing multiple generations of American families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. This vast grassroots network is cultivated, resourced, and serviced by PFLAG National, located in Washington, D.C., the National Board of Directors and 13 volunteer Regional Directors. 

I attended PFLAG meetings years ago, back before I identified as trans.  The meetings were wonderful and I got to meet people who loved and accepted me regardless of what I was wearing.  The support groups were important too as I met others like me, others who wanted to be beautiful but were happy to live most of their lives as male.  PFLAG meetings and support groups are also a safe way to go somewhere dressed, especially the first few times you go out.  It’s helpful to know you are going to be surrounded by people who will not bat an eyelash at a girl like us.

Some people get angry or offended when I suggest PFLAG.  They insist they are a crossdresser, not transgender.  They want to emphasize that they are straight and do not want to transition.  They like wearing lingerie, dresses, they have a femme name but they are not transgender.  They just want to meet others like them and to talk about this side of themselves to others.

Number one, yes, you are transgender.

And number two, that’s what PFLAG is for.

I don’t want to transition.  I do not, and have never wanted to date men.  But I am transgender.

We all remember the first time we wore…something.  Whether it was a pair of panties or a high heel we remember that thrill.  We also knew that it was a complicated moment.  What did it mean?  We tried our entire lives to understand this and why we do what we do, but there is no reason.  Nothing to understand.  Just something to accept and embrace.

We tell the media and the cis-world to not be afraid of the word transgender.  We shouldn’t be either.

My Favorite Letter.  And shoes.

Love, Hannah



Little Black (Mesh) Dress!

This is the second outfit that I wore for my teeny-tiny photo shoot with Shannonlee  last month.   When I first started to dress beyond lingerie, I was really, really into little black dresses.   I have quite a few of them but every once in a while I find one that I HAVE to have.  This was one of them.  The slit is a little high but I don’t mind at all. 😉

Makeup expertly done by the fantastic Corrie Dubay.

Mesh Dress 1Mesh Dress 2Mesh Dress 3Mesh Dress 4Mesh Dress 5

Love, Hannah