The Best Dressed Ball board meets virtually to plan this year's event, which takes place this Saturday, August 8, on Facebook Live. Photos courtesy Best Dressed Ball.

Behind the screens: Best Dressed Ball board members share tips for a picture-perfect Zoom meeting

In the olden times (aka before March of this year), a bad hair day or a surprise blemish might take several extra minutes to cover up in the morning, from heating up hot tools to blending concealer to spraying and powdering everything in place. But these days, we feel lucky when someone besides our bathroom mirror gets a glimpse of us before the 5 p.m. grocery run, and—silver lining alert!—it might not even involve the high-def scrutiny of real-life. 

With nearly every event taking place behind the glow of a computer screen—including work meetings and cocktail hours with friends—the world has learned to adapt beauty to this digital phase, emphasizing the importance of good lighting, or even a well-balanced background prop. This weekend, for example, will see one of the city’s biggest fundraising events, the Baton Rouge Best Dressed Ball, celebrating its 53rd anniversary on August 8 in a virtual version called the 2020 Essential Experience, with board-members-slash-cover-stars Tonya Toups Gautreau, Michelle Lanoix, Brooke Bickley, Dallas Cockrell and Chantelle Larussa finding ways to raise money for the American Cancer Society while still looking good behind the scenes—uh, I mean, screens. To learn more, we checked in with a few of them for some tips and tricks for shining bright from afar:

Tonya Toups Gautreau on a planning call with the Best Dressed Ball board.

Tonya Toups Gautreau

  1. It’s all about the angle! This tried and true photography trick is even more important when your computer camera is close enough to catch every imperfection. The best way to control the shot is to invest in a decent webcam that can be detached from your computer monitor so that it can be positioned at eye level. Or for an easy fix, add a few books under your laptop to elevate its height.
  2. Second, and equally important, is the lighting. Typical overhead lighting casts terrible shadows on the face. Using an 8-inch ring light to cast the right glow instantly helps you feel like a celebrity vlogger. Extra points for using a floor tripod with the ring light! This allows you to reposition your light as needed throughout the day without the need to rearrange your desk.
  3. Another important aspect of a great virtual experience is your background space. Keeping in mind that your audience sees everything behind you, it’s important to make sure the background portrays the image you’re projecting. And don’t be afraid to use a separate lighting device to brighten up the background too.
  4. Finally, put on a fresh face and smile! Considering the majority of the frame for most video conferencing will include a close-up of your face, it’s important to draw the attention to your best features. At minimum, eliminate tired eyes by focusing on your brows, some under-eye concealer and black mascara.  Then add some color with a little blush or bronzer on the cheeks, and a pop of gloss on the lips. You’ll be flawless and ready for your close-up in five minutes!

Michelle Lanoix

  1. Looking good virtually is all about smoke and mirrors. When I started having multiple Zoom calls for work, personal meetings and volunteer responsibilities, I knew that I needed to create a space that not only was comfortable for me, but aesthetically pleasing to my fellow participants. I purchased a ring light, set up a chair by my computer next to a window with some natural light, always promised to wear at least lip gloss, and made sure that—at all costs—I gave the dog enough treats and toys to keep him from barking. That didn’t always work, and sometimes I showed up in a baseball cap, but lip gloss was always on! 
  2. Make sure you are in a space that you can mute if necessary and where you won’t lose your connection a hundred times, which has happened to me. That’s the best protocol.

Chantelle Larussa

  1. Being a mom of two active teenagers, many of my Zoom calls happen in the car, so being able to know how to use the mute button to silence the background noise and then jump in quickly with the important stuff I need to share is a new learned skill. 
  2. Also, having a cute “profile” pic to put in place when you can’t have the video on while you are running around is so necessary! Zoom has made it so easy to be connected no matter what else you have going on.

Dallas Cockrell at last year’s Best Dressed Ball.

Dallas Cockrell

  1. My biggest focus for anything virtual is my eyes. I feel like if your eyes look rested and awake, then the rest of your face doesn’t matter as much.
  2. Hydrate! Since I’m at home all day, it’s pretty easy for me to keep a full glass of water with me at all times, and using a straw makes me drink it even faster. I use metal or rubber straws because they are reusable and better for the environment. 
  3. Good sleep. I have tried to get at least seven  hours of sleep each night. As tempting as it is to stay up late knowing I don’t have to be anywhere the next day, I’ve tried to make myself get in bed at a decent hour to ensure lots of sleep. I also spray lavender sleep spray around, use a sleep mask and listen to my Calm app
  4. Ice roller! I wake up in the morning and use an ice roller on my eyes, along with Peter Thomas Roth gel eye patches. This is a game-changer.
  5. Lots of under-eye cream in the morning and at night. My new favorite find this weird quarantine season of life has been the tinted eye cream from Tatcha called “The Pearl.”
  6. Lightly filling in your eyebrows and a light coat of mascara make all the difference in the world on a Zoom call.
  7. Finally, a headband and some lip gloss will pull it all together. Ask anyone, my headbands have made it to almost every single Zoom call this year!

To learn more about the virtual 2020 Essential Experience happening this August 8 at 7 p.m. on Facebook Live, check out our cover story from the August issue.