Behind the curtain at a Charlotte fashion show

When it’s “go” time at a fashion show, the models strut down the catwalk with impeccable grace and glamour.

Backstage, and in the hours prior, it’s anything but.

Makeup brushes fly as artists glide on gloss and rub on rouge. Hairstylists consult digital pictures of the requested ’dos for each model and grab for scorching curling irons and tall cans of hairspray.

Here’s a look behind the scenes at the fifth annual Style Night Out fashion show Sept. 4 at the Morrison shopping center, near SouthPark. The event, put on by Lotus boutique owner Effie Loukas, is one of the city’s larger annual fashion shows and this year featured the fall looks of 21 boutiques across the Charlotte area, both retail and consignment. Organizers say approximately 600 people attended the show.

A portion of the show’s proceeds will go to Carolina Breast Friends, a charity that supports women with breast cancer. Loukas said the donation amount hadn’t been tabulated by mid-week but she expected it to exceed $3,000.

5:55 p.m.: Models who’ve been through hair and makeup sit at booths in the former Arooji’s restaurant noshing on pizza and sandwiches while trying not to muss their extensions, glittery eyelids or intricate braids.

“It’s a myth that models don’t eat – I literally eat all the time,” says Jacqueline Carrion, a model and actress who reports traffic on the radio under the name Jackie Lynn.

Carrion was up at 5 a.m. to report the traffic until 9 a.m., then had a meeting about an acting job before heading to Morrison to get ready for the fashion show. “I’m a little tired right now,” Carrion says. Tomorrow won’t be much better – she’ll be back on the radio at 5 a.m.

6 p.m. Model Mary Spradley finishes up in the makeup chair, her eyelids and lips bedazzled in shiny glitter. Spradley, like all of the 84 models, makeup artists and hairstylists, is not being paid for her work tonight. Everyone here is a volunteer.

Spradley, 22, says she doesn’t just do it to boost her runway experience. She’s taking online courses from her Statesville home to be a Christian counselor and is looking to run fashion shows to benefit A Better World, a nonprofit that serves at-risk youth.

“With this, I get the inside scoop on details of how a fashion show works and how it’s put together,” Spradley says.

6:29 p.m.: Makeup artist Champa Ashlee packs up her rolling suitcase of brushes, sponges and potions. She arrived at 1:45 this afternoon and made up eight faces for Vestique and Pixton Couture Bridal.

“Every boutique has a desired look,” and boutique owners send makeup artists photos and descriptions of what they want each model to look like, says Ashlee, who owns her own makeup studio uptown. The edgier the outfit, the edgier the makeup and hair.

6:55 p.m.: It’s been raining intermittently all afternoon, and the drizzle starts again. Rachel Robinson, the show’s volunteer coordinator, lets out a panicky cry and puts her hands on her head as she hustles in her sequined mermaid skirt from the model prep area to where guests are arriving. “I think we’re on Plan H right now,” she says.

7:05 p.m.: Groups of women arrive and are greeted by seven good-looking men (in T-shirts that say “SNO”), beckoning them to pose for selfies on a pink carpet.

Local event planner George Ouzounidis, a friend of Loukas, rounded up the men, including natives of Honduras, Lebanon, Italy and Ukraine. “I call myself the ‘stud manager,’ ” Ouzounidis says, laughing. “I’ve been with Effie since the first year she did this (event), in her store. It’s amazing how it’s grown.”

7:25 p.m.: Charlotte stylist Whitley Hamlin and J.T. Posh owner Tracy Auten discover a smear of makeup on the right pant leg of a gold jumpsuit worn by model Malayka Viney. The jumpsuit fabric is shiny and pattern-less, so any blemish shows.

Hamlin sprints around the model preparation area and rounds up Q-tips, makeup sponges and club soda, and gets to work. Within two minutes of dabbing, the stain is gone.

7:45 p.m.: As guests are called to their seats and the models line up for their march toward the runway, 18-year-old model Morgan Styers thinks back to her first modeling gig, which was Loukas’ Style Night Out several years back.

Styers moved to Los Angeles last October to pursue modeling and acting. Since then, she’s landed three magazine covers and parts in two short movies, but made a point to plan a visit home to coincide with tonight’s show.

“It’s what got me into modeling, and it just seemed so nostalgic and lovely” to be back, she said.

8:15 p.m.: The models are lined up just offstage, and Sinem “Cici” Bingol is No. 1 in line, in a turtleneck sweater and heavy woven wool skirt from Fifi’s Boutique.

Bingol, a professional model and preschool teacher from Turkey, says she never gets nervous before walking the runway. “I get really excited, and I want to impress people,” she says. “I’m confident. I believe I’ll do great.”

8:25 p.m.: Effie Loukas, decked out in a white sequined ballgown, stands off-stage, just behind the white curtain separating her from the audience. It’s 80 degrees and humid, and she adjusts her dress up and down so her legs can breathe. “God has been playing with me all day today,” she jokes, referring to the off-and-on rain.

8:42 p.m.: After introductions by local fashion blogger Melissa Hess, Loukas and WSOC-TV anchor Natalie Pasquarella, Bingol takes the stage to “Summer” by Calvin Harris – appropriate, because the outdoor venue is sauna-like.

9:16 p.m.: Models release dozens of balloons into the air, signaling the end of the show and the show’s alliance with Carolina Breast Friends. As if on cue, it starts to drizzle.