Reality TV is going back to the basics with the fall Syfy Channel series Naked Vegas, and creating something fresh and novel in the process. The tantalizing title might bring viewers to give the show a try, but it’s the team effort of the five cast members taking on strange client requests and the stunning results of their artistic skill that will keep them coming back for more. Naked Vegas is the name of a recently developed business by body painting artist Kelly “Red” Belmonte. Finding her niche by taking her make-up skills to the one city where you should be able to get recurring body painting gigs, she brings together three artists and a friend with some business savvy and we get to watch what happens. And in an age of tired competition series, it’s a refreshing and fun show to get hooked on.
If you’re looking for name calling, melodrama, and snarkyness, look elsewhere. You might think this series was modeled after the long-successful Food Network cake shop reality series Ace of Cakes. Like that series the team is doing a full-time job and like the actual real world, results are expected and required and failure cuts at your reputation and could tank your future business prospects. But after the first three episodes there are no signs of failure here. Camaraderie and collaboration win out over attitude and emotions, as the skilled team produces stunning works of human art.
The artists include people with their own personality and style and their varying backgrounds contribute to discussions and decision-making where the boss–Red–actually listens to everyone and backs down happily when her team has a better idea. Nicholas “Nix” Herrera was a Face Off Season 2 contestant whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Playboy, Fangoria, Makeup Mag, and Wizard Comics. Wiser Oner is a graffiti street artist whose clients have included Absolut and Bacardi. Heather Aguilera specializes in belly painting and brings her work as a model to understand both sides of the human canvas. Wiser and Nix are well spoken and good teachers, explaining the art techniques in ways novices could adapt for their own make-up projects.
Rounding out the team, like Mary Alice of the Ace of Cakes series, is business manager Drew Marvick, a friend of Red’s who brings a quirky humor to the show and is often used as test subject for paint experiments.
The “naked” in Naked Vegas comes into play in the almost naked subjects of the art projects. Covered just enough to meet public decency standards and basic cable TV, the models and painted clients reveal more than you might think. And so far it ends up with tasteful results. Episode 1 features a couple who wanted to be made up in horror-themed attire for their Vegas wedding. Another segment focuses on a lingerie designer who wants to showcase her work not with fabrics but with body paint. Episode 2 has the artists develop “devil pirate” designs for a music video client, and three aliens for a party held by the CEO of Alien Tequila. But last night’s show gave us a hint at the full potential for the series and the artists, featuring body paint as illusions. They first brought Vegas royalty in as a client as they created an elaborate card trick for Penn and Teller using painted contortionists. The second half of the show featured urban camouflage as they painted two models into the corner of a high stakes room at a local casino.
Fun, refreshing, and entertaining, Naked Vegas appears Tuesday nights on the Syfy Channel.