As a kid growing up in Connecticut, Ben DeLaCreme taught himself the arts of makeup and stealing at the same time. "If you get good at shoplifting, you have a lot of time to yourself with makeup," he says. "I used to love to sit in the mirror and see if I could use my three crappy CoverGirl eye shadows to turn myself into a fancy lady or an old person or a monster or a robot." He brought his makeup skills to Seattle, where he has helped several local dancers, including Inga Ingénue, find their "faces." "Last week," Ingénue says, "I was in the dressing room at ACT when a burlesque performer from San Francisco said, 'All the Seattle burlesque girls always have impeccable makeup—why is that?' Another local performer and I simultaneously shouted, 'Ben DeLaCreme!'"

Between Connecticut and Seattle, Ben made stops in Boston and at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he honed his performance style. It's not exactly burlesque (no stripping, no nakedness) and it's not exactly drag. Ben creates characters and scenes: Once, in a crowded Chicago food court, he irritated businessmen by staging a fake fashion shoot while wearing lingerie made of ketchup packets he'd begged from diners beforehand. Ben's most memorable Seattle numbers break the placid "pretty" barrier: She—Ben likes to be introduced as "she" onstage—will devour a box of chocolates to a Nancy Sinatra song, or star as an alien that gorges on its own limbs, or slaver over a lollipop to a Shirley Temple/Lil Wayne medley. A chewy, sticky subtext is Ben's true talent.