“When I was a kid… about six years old… my family and I moved from Forest Hills to New Orleans, Louisiana. This was back in the early eighties, and I was really homesick for NYC. So as amazing as New Orleans was, I had some trouble adjusting. Then I discovered her. This magical woman who painted faces in Jackson Square.
I don’t recall her name, or if I ever even learned what it was. To me, she was simply “The Face Paint Lady”. On Sundays after breakfast at Cafe Du Monde we would cross the street for me to spend my weekly allowance. My splurge of choice was either stickers to add to my ever-growing sticker book collection, or face painting. If I did well in school or did extra work around the house, and my allowance was a bit bigger than usual as a result, then I would indulge in BOTH. Those were the BEST days! A little bag of Lisa Frank and scratch-n-sniff stickers under my arm, and rainbows hearts and stars on my cheeks. Back in those days, face painting mainly consisted of these tiny little colored sticks that would be dipped in water. Once wet, you could use them to scribble on somebody’s face. I think there were all of 6 colors at most to choose from, and it all paled in comparison to what they sell in the industry now. But it was more than enough for this imaginative, spunky, chubby-faced little girl with pigtails in her hair and the magic of make-believe in her heart. The Face Paint lady had a big floppy hat with fabric flowers on it, long flowing skirts, and a gigantic umbrella attached to a wooden director’s chair. I would tell me parents over breakfast, “Today I’m going to ask for a unicorn on this cheek, a rainbow on this cheek, and stars on BOTH.” They would laugh and say “Well you DO have this gigantic chipmunk cheeks! So you certainly have room for all of those things! You silly little chipmunk!” and I would beam giddily into my beignets.
One day, I declared that someday I would move back to Queens and become a face painting lady too! My parents laughed affectionately, and said something to the extent of, “Well, Lenore… when you’re finally all grown up, you can be anything you want to be. Though what you think you want to be right now? That will probably change.” But it didn’t. It never did. And so now, here I am! Fourty four years old, a mother myself, and back in Queens where I belong. And now I am The Face Paint Lady! I’m THE CHEEKY CHIPMUNK! My childhood dream has been fulfilled, because I couldn’t imagine being as happy settling for anything else. Believe me, I tried. But why settle? Life’s too short! And so now it’s MY turn to bestow YOUR children with the gift of imagination, creativity, art, and the incredible sense of wonder that comes with the magic of face painting and children’s entertainment. And if I can inspire other children to believe in themselves too, and to follow their own dreams? No matter whatever they may be? Then all the better! I thank you tremendously for the opportunity, from the bottom of my heart.”
- Lenore Koppelman
Owner, Founder, and Lead Artist at The Cheeky Chipmunk, NYC
Lenore now lives in Astoria Queens with her husband Steve, their little boy Ralph, and their rescue pup, Miss Annie Oakley. She established The Cheeky Chipmunk in 2013. Her other hobbies include painting pet portraits, being an advocate for neurodiversity, volunteering at pet adoption events, and watching super scary movies while eating sandwiches in her fluffy socks.