RuPaul Body Paint Series Skin Wars Was High on Art, Light on Drama

I'm continuing my deep-dive into "lost" realty gems that are finding new lives via the magic of streaming. This time, I'm taking a look at a quality reality competition to binge: Skin Wars, originally premiering on GSN August 2014 and currently found on Netflix. The show featured professional body painters competing for a chance to win $100,000. Hosted by the lovely Rebecca Romijn with judges RuPaul Charles, Craig Tracy, and Robin Slonina, the challenges are crazy, the designs immaculate, and the best part? It's mostly free of contestant drama- but judges trying to instigate drama? That's a different story.

A look at the first season of Skin Wars (Image: GSN)
A look at the first season of Skin Wars, with Rebecca Romijn and RuPaul Charles (Image: GSN)

Each episode there are two rounds; the first one a small design that grants the winner an advantage into the main challenge when they face elimination. The contestants paint super hero's, sea creatures, elements, their fears, attire, even a few drag queens. Truly the most immaculate are the rounds in which models must blend into their background, present well underwater, and the most challenging, using five models to form one unified design. It's beautiful, it's fierce and you really fall in love with some of the contestants as they grow as artists.

While the show has received a lot of heat for poor judging and unfair decisions based on bias, personal interest and relating to some contestants over others, I for one don't really pay attention to the judging itself but rather enjoy the show for its masterpieces. The first season for me is the best, although I did love some of the talent featured on season three and was ecstatic that Rick Uribe won. While some of the other contestants may have shown greater skill set than him in the beginning he truly emerged as a unique artist.

Season one featured probably the most brilliant artists Dutch Bihary being most likely everyone's pick to take home to win, but wah wah wah – he didn't. Natalie Fletcher who won the competition and was crowned the first Skin Wars champion had spunk, talent, and personality. The woman arranged her contortionist's models in the shape of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Her camouflage was immaculate and the work she did painting her greatest fear on her own face stunning. Lawrence "Gear" Duran another just mind-blowing technical painter exquisite detail work, imagination, and drive. Could have done without the Gear and Natalie drama, but it's a reality competition after all.

As much as I love the show and frequently leave it on in the background I was not too fond of the spin-off Skin Wars: Fresh Paint hosted by RuPaul where non-pro body painters are paired with a mentor. It feels like a catty run-down version of the original. Would love a season four although I would recommend they dress Romijn better (was there zero budget for this thing?). She's a model and an actress, but I spent more time than I should have wishing she wore outfits that flattered her body smidge better. Maybe instead she should just have her entire body painted each episode, but I digress. So go and enjoy Skin Wars but be warned: you'll enjoy it for its art, creativity, and the possibilities the body presents as a canvas- but you'll be left disappointed if you're here for a drama show.

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About Margo Staten

Margo Staten is a Ukrainian born, raised in Brooklyn, organically driven, coffee loving, twice-divorced mother of one baby Einstein. Has a passion for books, yoga in the park and all things 80’s and New Orleans.
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