I was overwhelmed with joy when I was told to be a makeup artist. This could be my ticket to a second career. Or perhaps, it could be my turn to impart some beauty tips to the missus.
But, almost like clockwork, disappointment is never too far from happiness. My dream of a second career was cruelly snatched away from me as I entered the studio.
What greeted me weren’t lipsticks and mascara but moulds and prosthetics of ghastly creatures. From gorgeous to grotesque in 60 seconds.
As I stood there dumbfounded by the hundreds of moulds and prosthetics on display. My mentor, Entertainment Costume Assistant Manager June Goh, dropped another bombshell: she only has two full timers and they will be responsible to apply makeup on some 400 scare actors for HHN3.
Luckily, she recently added 38 more part timers to the roster. Not that it will be lighting fast though; the artists only have two hours to put on the prosthetics, fake blood and all.
As this is the first year that the team is making all the prosthetics for HHN in house, preparation started a year ago. Prosthetics could take as quickly as four hours to weeks to make.
My first job of the day was to make a relatively simple brow using the pungent liquid latex. I had to apply a layer, popped it into a heater and then repeat the process until it was thick enough. “It’s a bit like baking a cake,” said June. Well, at least a cake is edible.
Next up was a bald cap. It wasn’t particularly tough but the level of attention could be really taxing: a total of seven layers of liquid latex had to be applied and I had to blow dry each layer before moving onto the next.
If making that brow was like baking a cake, then I was making a kueh lapis. 15 minutes into the process, boredom seeped in, steps were skipped and disaster was just round the corner.
After the tedious repetitions, the completed bald cap was finally in my hands. I started looking for my guinea pig. Who else but my editor, Jimmy Sho? For the next 30 minutes, June and I applied tonnes of gel, glue, latex and cream foundation on him. Talk about getting back at your editor.
And my shoddiness returned with a vengeance and bit my behind, hard. The latex nearer to the skin was too thin and cracks started to appear, which inevitably turned into holes.
As June began her rescue job of salvaging the cap, she consoled me, saying: “It’s your first try and it’s pretty good. Plus, it’s for Halloween, so it’s ok.” Thanks, June, thanks a lot.
Being a makeup artist certainly isn’t easy; it requires heaps of patience and dedication to the craft.
“Not many people know the amount of work the job requires. They think we can just pull things out quickly. When they see a goblin mask, to them it’s just a normal mask. They don’t see the sculpting, finer details and the preparation work,” said June.
Indeed, behind all the glamourous productions and impressive sets, makeup artists remain the foundation of entertainment.