Synchronized SwimmersSynchronized swimming might seem less intense than other Olympic sports, but look at the facts: These ladies are bobbing treading a lot of water while wearing makeup. And a bedazzled costume. Intrigued, we sat down with Leah Pinette, a veteran member of the USA Synchro National Team, to find out how it all comes together.
Real Beauty: So what's your synchro-story?
Leah Pinette: I'm a flyer, which means I'm kind of the gymnast of the team and do a lot of the flips and stuff. I started on a club team when I was about four and never got formal training for it. People always ask me where I learned how to flip and who taught me. I don't think anyone really taught me-I just started flipping around as a little kid!
RB: We can't ever remember watching a synchronized routine…how long does one last for?
LP: There's two different programs like in ice skating: a short and a long program. There's a technical one, where you have to have the same seven elements as everyone else, and then a free program, which is more open. That's where you see more lifts and artistic stuff.
RB: Are they set to music?
LP: Yep! We have an underwater speaker so we can hear it when we're in the pool, too. Sometimes you hear it better down there because above the water so many people are cheering and screaming.
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RB: Does spending so much time in chlorine affect your skin and hair a lot?
LP: Dry skin is a really big thing for us, so I lotion up every single time I get out of the pool. Since we have goggles on so much, we get red marks where they sit underneath our eyes. The chlorine also burns off your arm hair, so it's really short. Sometimes I don't even have any! It burns off your eyebrows, too, so I have to draw them in every time I'm out of the pool. It's really crazy. My sister has light skin and hair like me, but she has eyebrows. I'm like, "I can't wait for the day when I don't have to keep drawing them on…"
RB: Are your eyelashes not affected because you're wearing goggles?
LP: Well, we practice with goggles but don't compete with them. A lot of us have contacts, but even if you don't have a prescription, you wear a pair because it protects your eyes from the chlorine.
RB: What do you do with your hair?
LP: We have a cap on when we practice, but when we compete it's up in a bun. We actually use an unflavored gelatin rather than regular hair gel to keep it all in place. You have to heat it up until it's a liquid, and then you actually paint it on until it hardens.
RB: Is it horrible to get out of your hair later?
LP: You just need a lot of hot, hot water. It takes about a half-hour, but it'll dissolve and then you just pick and scrape it off.
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RB: Have you found that it's bad for your hair?
LP: It actually seems to make it a little shinier, but it also grabs at dead hair, so we end up loosing a lot of strands.
RB: Do you wear makeup when you're practicing?
LP: Most of us just wear a little waterproof mascara so we look alive. If someone has no eyebrows and no mascara, our coach will say, "You look really tired today…"
RB: What about for competitions?
LP: It's more or less a full face of makeup. We use Chapstick as a primer for our eyes, since it seems to work better than actual primers, and then we just cake on a ton of eye shadow. Up close it seems crazy, but from far away it looks normal.
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RB: At the end of a program is it all gone?
LP: Nope, it's still completely on.
RB: Do you use foundation?
LP: Yep. We don't use any specific brands or prep the skin in any way, and it usually stays on the whole day.
RB: Do you use cream blush rather than powder to deal with the water?
LP: I think we all use powder, actually, and it seems to be fine, too.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.