Collective says it’s city’s ‘source for feminine totality’

August 20, 2018 GMT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Andrea Lenore Cortez and Alyssa Haley, co-founders of Tainted Inc., call their Hartford beauty-and-lifestyle collective “a source of feminine totality.”

Want a fabulously made-up face?

Want to learn how to fend off an attacker?

Walk in high heels? Dance burlesque or hip-hop? Go to a funky tag sale? Meditate? Do yoga? Just sit and talk about things?

They do it all, and more.

“Women come to us who don’t know who they are or what they want to do. They want to figure out who they are,” Cortez says. “There are so many layers to women. We want to take care of the mind, body and spirit in one place.”


Cortez once worked in the world of corporate cosmetics, which influenced her when she and Haley decided to create Tainted. It even influenced the name of the collective.

“I believe the cosmetics industry is tainted. It preys on women’s insecurities,” she says. The women want to do the opposite with Tainted Inc., promoting strength and wellness in women in a variety of arenas.

And although cosmetics are the linchpin of Tainted — Cortez and Haley run a professional makeup and hair studio, doing weddings and other special occasions — the workshops, presented with corporate and community partners, are a crucial part of their mission.

Following is a sampling of the workshops and classes that Tainted Inc. offers regularly at the studio at 56 Arbor St. in Hartford, either in the collective’s headquarters in room 310A or in the studio in room 103.

“All classes happen once a month except Body Talk, which is biweekly,” Cortez says. “The (schedules of the) classes vary, because we are still experimenting with what works best for our audience.”

The classes, which require registration, are geared toward women, but men are not prohibited from attending. Registration and schedule at

Dance is more than just movement and more than just an art form. At Tainted, it’s an exercise in getting to know every part of yourself. Shimmies and Shakes, a burlesque-dance class at Tainted, adds an element of physical consciousness to its theme of feminine totality.

“I started dancing (burlesque) because I wanted to reconnect with my body,” says Alexa LaFever, the class instructor. “Burlesque is how I express myself. . (Stripping) is a scary thing for a lot of people, but anyone, regardless of body type can do burlesque.”

At a recent class, both men and women, newcomers and return students, got into the burlesque groove.

“I want to come back for every single one,” says Lauren Bis of Ellington, who was taking her second class. “It makes me feel my body and actually feel free.”

Jose Feliciano of Newington, a dancer who specializes in Latin styles, was taking his third class.

“It helps me learn how I move with my partner, and then it’s just fun to do something different and break out of your element,” he says. “It’s nice because you have that element of play.”


The cost of Shimmies and Shakes is $25 per session.

Sit and Steep, a monthly current-events chat meetup at Tainted HQ the first Thursday of every month from 6:30 to 8 p.m., is open to men and women. Attendees sit on the floor, on pillows and in chairs, often packed to the walls in the beauty studio. They write down issues they want to discuss and those slips of paper are put in a jar. One is drawn, a talk is held, and after five minutes, if chatters want the discussion to continue — to “steep” — it does.

At recent Sit and Steeps, discussion topics were “Balance: How do you create or find it?” ″Feelings on Boy Scouts becoming gender-neutral.” ″What would a revolution look like?” ″What is your strongest belief?” ″What brought you to Hartford and what makes you stay?” ″What is the most selfless thing you can do for another person?”

Ben Grippo, a frequent attendee, says he was attracted to the events because, as a podcaster (“Breaking Bread with Ben Grimm,” available on iTunes), he thought it was a good format for asking and answering of questions.

“I also like the intimate vibe you get from being there,” Grippo says. “I’ve met some awesome people the last few times I’ve attended.”

Admission is free but donations are accepted.

On a recent Friday evening, in Room 103, women got together with instructors from Sawyer’s Martial Arts in Canton. The ladies had specific tasks to learn: how to thwart a hair-puller, how to fend off a knife or a gun attack, how to kick hard where it will hurt, how to confront someone following too closely for comfort, what common objects to use to defend themselves.

“Women can’t access their anger and aggression. They are taught to suppress it,” says Chastity Rodriguez, a regular at Tainted activities. “This teaches mindfulness, how to get in contact with that.”

The two primary instructors are women, Jessica Hinman and Jill Goldfarb.

“A male instructor has that intimidation factor,” Goldfarb says. But men help out with the instruction, standing in for the intimidating men that the women need to learn to stand up to.

“You need to learn to be the bitch for the five seconds that someone is following you with an agenda,” said Alexa Pagnani, who both works at Tainted and attends classes. “If someone’s attacking you, get dirty.”

Female Fight Club is $20 per session.

Tainted offers a variety of activities geared toward stress relief and self-knowledge. Clients can take advantage of two kinds of meditation. Light Your Soul on Fire instructors Becky Coates and Tori Cummings use palm torches to enhance the meditative experience. That class is $20 per session.

SoulFlow classes, for yoga enthusiasts and writers, uses yoga to get the creative juices, and the words, flowing. That class is $10 per session.

One evening a month, usually on the first or second Tuesday, people gather for a Talk Back Tuesday, to discuss women’s issues. Also once a month, instructor Kelvin Young uses crystal and Tibetan singing bowls, gongs, tuning forks, rattles and drums, combined with essential oils, for an immersive sound-and-sensory calming experience.

Tainted also offers hip-hop dancing classes ($20), a movement class, Body Talk ($15) and another class that teaches how to walk in high heels ($15).

On the last Sunday of each month from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is a Bohemian Tag Sale. Admission is free.

On Saturday, Aug. 25, Tainted also will host a free “Underwood Afterparty” from 7 a.m. to midnight, with dancing, music, an artisan market and other entertainment.




Information from: Hartford Courant,