The Last Page: Ben Johansen

By : Jeremy Williams
Comments: 0

The Last Page is dedicated to individuals who are making a positive impact on the LGBTQ community in Central Florida and Tampa Bay.

This issue, we check in with Embellish FX co-owner Ben Johansen from Central Florida. Keep an eye on this space to learn more about the movers and shakers of your community.

Hometown: Unionville, Connecticut

Identifies as: A big ol’ gay!

Out Year: 1992

Profession: Co-Owner of Embellish FX with husband, Timothy Vargas

Professional role model: My father; a police officer of 30 years

Title of your autobiography: “He’s Dead!”

Hobbies: Photography, dogs, cosplay, cooking

What do you do professionally?

I’m a small business owner. I run a costume and special FX makeup empire!

How do you champion for your local LGBTQ community?

I’ve been a very vocal and colorful member of the Orlando LGBTQ community for just over 15 years. Moving here helped me come out of my shell and be the gay man I am today. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t move to Orlando.

What is your favorite thing to read in Watermark?

Divine Grace’s column, of course—totally honest, no BS! And my gawd, she is the best Winifred Sanderson in Orlando!

What is your favorite local LGBTQ event?

Pride of course. So many rainbows and smiling faces.

What is your favorite thing about the local LGBTQ community?

The hug that’s there whenever I need it.

What would you like to see improved in the LGBTQ community?

For more people to believe that a gay man or woman can be president of the United States.

What would you like our readers to know about you?

I love gummy candy and tequila. Not together, of course.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Just keep swimming. You will get there.

What led you to open your business?

Luck. I was in the insurance and financial field for 25 years. My life got rocked after I got laid off (after seven rounds of layoffs). I thought it was the end of my world, but then the phone rang and it was my old friend Karl of Century Costumes (down by Pulse Nightclub). He said that he heard about me losing my job and that he was going to close his shop. He asked me if I had any interest in being an owner of a makeup shop. I thought about it, talked it over with Timmy and he ran the numbers.

The next step was to take a leap. We did. This Oct. 31 will be Embellish FX’s seventh year getting Orlando ready for their Halloween parties. It’s been an amazing adventure with my husband and I’m thankful to have him guide me into a better person and business man. Tim is the hidden face of Embellish FX. I owe Embellish FX’s success to Tim. I’m so grateful.

As a costume expert, what do you think will be the top three Halloween costumes this year?

Well, I can tell you right now, scary clowns will be EVERYWHERE again this year. Scary clowns like Pennywise are going to be huge. Another favorite that won’t die are zombies. Right now we have about 200 appointments booked for Halloween makeup, and 50% are zombies. I’ve seen a lot of people coming in for classics this year like vampires, witches and werewolves. I think it’s going to be a classic Halloween with a few scary clowns thrown in.

Share this story: