All posts for the month February, 2015

Face Off Season 8 Episode 7: Queens of the Insect World

Published February 26, 2015 by vfdpixie

With 10 artists left, this week they went straight into a Foundation Challenge that would grant the winner immunity.  At the lab, McKenzie had some elaborate and crazy hats for them to choose from.  They had to create a character inspired by the hat and their guest judge was Lois Burrell, who had filled in for Ve last season.  She wore a cute hat herself, and told them that a hat compliments the makeup as well as the character.  She would be looking for technique, skill and most of all, a clean makeup.

The artists all did a great job, but the winner was Emily who chose a large jewelled hat that looked like an art deco chandelier.  Her character was an asymmetrical goddess that had a dark and light side.  Lois liked the huge amount of work and colour transition, and thought that Emily understood colour, form and shape.

For the Spotlight Challenge, they headed out to the Canyon Ranch where shows like The Office and True Blood were filmed.  This was a unique challenge:  the artists had to create an insect queen and her companion BUT their lab was the outdoors.  Working in teams of two, they had to choose a vibrantly coloured insect and their staged habitat, and create their characters outside.  Oh, and the other catch was to do this with nude male and female models because it was a body painting challenge.  Yikes!!  I personally have never done body painting in my makeup artist career, the closest being bronzing a bikini model before a photo shoot, so I felt for the artists, who had also never done body painting either.  I have friends who do it and it does not look easy.  The mentor for this challenge was season 2’s Nix Herrera, who is a body painting expert.  His advice was to use the whole body as a canvas, and have fun with colours.  The judges would be relying on photos of these creations for the reveal stage, so a lot was riding on proper positioning of the models. They paired up and hoped for the best!

Stephanie and Darla picked the Jewel Beetle.  Their initial concept was to create an insect queen and use the male model as a burnt log.  Coach Laura had to help them with this concept because the camouflage makeup ended up being really difficult.  They went with the male model as the queen’s wings, positioning him behind her.  Darla painted the wings and Nix advised her to make the makeup pop with iridescent powders.  They worried that the male wasn’t showing enough and the rush for time.  The final makeup was problematic.  I thought the posing of the female model was not flattering but the colours were nice.  Ve thought the models breasts were too front and center, and it made the character look too human.  She also thought the wings looked like they were coming out of the model’s neck instead of her back.  Glenn thought the wing paint was superb, but they all thought the second model wasn’t used enough.  They ended up safe.

Logan and Julian created their own version of a Cuckoo Wasp.  Logan was especially freaked out because of the body painting, but soldiered on.  They decided to use the male model as the thorax of the wasp, placing the models butt to butt after Laura recommends that they think out the concept.  Nix told them to create more depth, and their final makeup was really cool!  The judges thought it was a clever use of the second model, and liked all the iridescence and highlights that created a false light source.  Neville thought they made smart, unconventional  choices with the use of the models.   They were in the top looks.

Kelly and Ben worked on the European Hornet.  Kelly wanted to do similar positioning of models, with the male as the thorax, but Ben had other ideas.  He wanted to do a camouflage makeup that would blend the male model into the landscape.  Coach Anthony was concerned this was a boring makeup and told them to change it up to create more interest.  Nix told Ben to be aware of the sunlight as the positioning would change the colours.  The end result was “eh” for me.  The judges thought the camo makeup was successful but didn’t compliment the overall makeup or concept, and the female looked like she had an animal muzzle instead of an insect look.  The artists admitted to not working that well together, and the judges agreed and felt it showed in the final looks.  They were in the bottom.

Adam and Rob worked on the Lady Bug.  They wanted to mimic Adam and God from the Sistine Chapel, with the queen Lady Bug reaching to the male model who was a larvae.  Nix liked the concept but told them to create more depth and make it look less busy.  Rob and Adam switch off so Rob finished the queen’s face, and Coach Rayce told them to add highlight to the larvae, but their final look was not that great.  I thought the queen’s face was too dark, and the judges had no idea what the male model was.  They felt the queen wasn’t elegant, and looked more like a cross between the Cowardly Lion and a Kabuki makeup.  They too were in the bottom.

Emily and Jamie got the Honey Bee.  They made a queen bee and her amorous drone, going for a more abstract look.  Emily wanted to create a honeycomb pattern on the queen for interest and was willing to take the risk.  The judges liked all the details in the makeup, and the honeycomb pattern worked because they noticed and liked that too.  Ve thought the queen’s makeup was one of the best beauty makeups on the show.  Their graphic design and beautiful composition of the photo, along with the lover back story got them a place in top looks.

The winning team was Logan and Julian.  The positioning of the models was difficult to pull off but they did it, and the winner was Logan because the queen really stood out.  Rob went home because he didn’t have a standout contribution this time around.  He was surprised but felt his family would be proud of him anyway.

Team Rayce has 2 artists left!  So far, Team Laura is doing the best, but we shall see…

Face Off Season 8 Episode 6: A Troll For Every Bridge

Published February 18, 2015 by vfdpixie

This week, the artists went to a bridge over the L.A. River, where scenes for movies like Terminator 2, Grease and Chinatown were filmed.  It was a fitting intro for the next Spotlight Challenge:  Trolls!  Described as “oafish but devious”, trolls often live under bridges.  The artists had to create their own trolls inspired by bridges from around the world: The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, The Corvin Castle Bridge in Transylvania, The Dragon Bridge in Bali, The Helix Bridge in Singapore, The Tower Bridge in London, and the Python Bridge in Amsterdam.  McKenzie told them to keep in mind the location, design, and cultural setting of the bridges when coming up with a concept.  They also got a special treat-the great character actor Doug Jones, know for his roles in Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy, was going to come in on application day to help the models get into character and work on movements for their specific trolls.  He would also be a judge on the reveal stage.  It was really cool to see him work with each model to bring out the troll characteristics.  He was amazing interpreting the makeups for the models, and just watching his lanky, lithe frame transform was a treat!

Anthony picked the Helix Bridge.  His troll lived in a rainforest and fell asleep only to wake up in modern society.  He wanted the troll to blend with, and become a part of, the bridge by genetically altering himself in order to fit into this new world.  He sculpted the face with a rocky texture that faded into a more modern, angular shape and wondered if the judges would get his troll.  The makeup was interesting, but the judges felt the character didn’t belong to the bridge, and Doug thought the transition was a problem.  There was confusion in the sculpt and the design lacked a clear goal.  He was in the bottom.

Julian picked the Corvin Castle Bridge.  He went with a troll that was a servant of Dracula.  His final makeup was a bit rough-looking, but he made it through to next week.  Stephanie worked on the same bridge, and created a troll that blended into the trees.  Her troll looked like the cousin of the Crypt Keeper from Tales from the Crypt.  I though it was cool though, and she was also safe.  Adam chose the Dragon Bridge, and created a fallen warrior that was cursed.  He made a hump back from a piece of foam, incorporating vine and leaf shapes as well as a snaky texture.  The face of his troll was really good, and he too was safe.  Logan’s Golden Gate troll would have a burnt look.  He really liked the character, and even though there was a cool mask detail, the judges thought the concept wasn’t appropriate for a troll.  He was however, safe.

Jamie worked on a troll that lived under the Dragon Bridge.  He was the protector of the dragon statues on the bridge and blended into his environment.  She was advised by Mr. Westmore to go easy on the vegetation to show more detail, and she sculpted a wood texture for the makeup.  Her troll was very nice with a solid sculpt.  The judges loved the chest, paint job and wood sculpt, and Doug told her he loved the details and would wear the makeup himself!  She was in top looks.

Darla picked the Python Bridge, but she had trouble with a concept.  She struggled for a bit, and even with help from coach Laura, was hating what she came up with.  Laura was a little worried about the lack of direction, and hoped for the best.  Mr. Westmore told Darla to go more traditional route with the troll features like a bulbous nose, and add some depth to the sculpt.  Her troll was “meh”.  Not enough detail for me, and the judges thought the round shape didn’t read troll-like, although they did like the paint.  For someone who started out strong, she seems a little lost lately.  Luckily she was safe.

Rob’s troll lived under the Tower Bridge.  He was a prince who loved a princess but was cursed by her disapproving father, the king.  He wanted to extend the back of its head and horns.  He noticed the troll was starting to look like an alien, but kept going especially since Rayce approved.  Rob was happy with the end result, but the judges thought otherwise.  They felt the forms were flawed, and the face was mask-like.  Glenn did like the paint but thought the anatomy did not look troll enough.  He was in the bottom.

Emily picked the Golden Gate Bridge.  Her troll was a girl who jumped off the bridge and take on the shapes of the rocks on the nearby island.  She added rock textures to the sculpt, but ran into some problems in the mold room.  It was her turn to have a mold lock on her, and to add insult to injury, her chest piece cracked.  Ben helped her open the mold, but she would have a lot of patching to do.  Her foam edges were also really thick.  She had to paint fast to make up time for all the repairs.  Her colours were nice,  but the judges thought the edges were hard, and not literal enough to look like rocks.  Ve thought it wasn’t a beautiful character for this challenge, and Doug didn’t like the transitions but liked the paint.  She was also in the bottom.

Ben chose the Python Bridge.  Since kids go swimming there, he wanted to do a fun troll who went disguised as a little girl.  He had to put a more fantasy spin on in according to Mr. Westmore, and so he did.  He added a beer belly for some fun, and a hyper exaggerated face.  His troll was different to anyone else’s, and that worried him, even though he liked his troll.  His was my favourite!  It was hilarious, and beautifully sculpted.  The judges loved the sculpt as well as the whimsy, and Neville thought it was a courageous move to go so different.  Doug loved the laughter and the way the model portrayed the character.  Glenn thought it was the best detail work of the night, and that it all worked.  Ben was in the top looks because of his bold choices.

Kelly’s Tower Bridge troll was a mother who haunted the bridge where her child fell to his death.  After Mr. Westmore told her to troll up her makeup with more lip and nose, she went for it.  Coach Anthony put the brakes on her momentum when he noticed her paint was getting muddy, so in last looks, she had to change it up.  I really liked her troll.  It was a really great sculpt, and Glenn thought it was astounding.  He liked that she used the model’s features  and Ve liked the monotone colours.  Neville didn’t think it was a troll but it was still good, and Jones liked the performance.  She was in the top with her washed out colour palette and creepy, compelling character.

Rayce had to speak up before any decision was made because two of his team, Rob and Anthony, were in the bottom.  He had given his team a pep talk before they started the challenge, telling them to think outside the box and skip making a traditional troll, and I think he felt responsible for their weaker showings.

The winner this week was Jamie!!  I was really happy because I like her.  She is quiet but one to watch and seems to have a very likeable character.  The judges loved that she embedded the culture and history of the bridge, as well as the wood sculpt.  They thought it was her best work so far, and encouraged her to keep up her focus.  Bravo Jamie!

Anthony went home.  His paint job and un-troll-like character did him in.  The judges were impressed by his passion and expected him to do well as this was just one step in the right direction.  He felt it was a life changing experience and was revved up for the future.

So far, Team Laura still stands with one artist gone and Rayce and Anthony have both lost two artists. I am really loving this team twist this season!

Women In Horror 2015: An Interview with Ashlee Blackwell, Our Graveyard Shift Sister

Published February 12, 2015 by vfdpixie


When I first started this blog, I did it because I loved horror and had something to say about it.  That was my first intention, just to write about what I loved, but I always wondered if there was anyone else like me out there, a Black woman who had been immersed in horror from an early age. I would soon learn that I was not alone.

I still have the email my best friend sent me in 2013, asking me if I had heard of a blog called Graveyard Shift Sisters.  When I looked it up I was floored!  Another Black woman thoroughly obsessed with horror?  Can it be?  I sent the creator and founder of the site, Ashlee Blackwell, a quick message telling her how happy I was to find the site, whose apt tagline is “Purging The Black Female Horror Fan From The Margins”, and that started my fan girl following of a blog that has truly strengthened and transformed the way I see horror and women of color.

Based in Philadelphia, Blackwell has had a passion for horror from a young age, incorporating that love into her professional life with a thesis focused on women filmmakers and feminism in horror that earned her a M.A. in Media and Cultural Studies.  She is a writer, an “avid media consumer”, and has been a panelist and speaker at several conferences on women in horror such as Geek Girl Con 2014 and the Southwest/Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Association Conference.  For this double whammy Black History Month and Women in Horror Month, I wanted to get some of her insights on women of color in horror, and I was lucky enough to have this busy horror academic and brand new editor of Ax Wound Zine answer a few questions.


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The lovely Ashlee Blackwell!


1.  What is your first memory of horror?

I remember watching Beetlejuice for the first time on VHS in my apartment living room on N. 39th street in West Philadelphia. Maybe it was a trailer, I don’t entirely remember fine details but I do remember standing in the middle of the living room mesmerized by the images on one of those huge wooden-paneled televisions that was all the rage back in the 80s. First thing I remember thinking was that I was “weird” which, sounds sad I suppose, but I guess more accurately, ‘”different”[…]because it was already programmed in my brain that girls aren’t supposed to like “stuff like this” so much. I think I was about five then.

But I loved all the talk of ghosts, this pale chick wearing all black, sandworms, and the wildly inappropriate Michael Keaton title character. From there I just kept my eye out for any fringe TV or cinema that dealt with these themes. I didn’t have a way to express my love for a genre I wasn’t quite sure how to label back then, I just knew I loved the fantastic.


2.  What were your expectations for the Graveyard Shift Sisters site, and how have you seen it grow?

Graveyard Shift Sisters started with a question: Am I the only Black female horror fan? Answering myself, I said that this question is ridiculous, so let me start this blog as a clarion call and also tell people I’m sick of feeling invisible in this genre, and do a thoughtful job of showcasing all of the Black women who have appeared in horror films over time.

I let my creative expand from there, giving other women the opportunity to have their say. Everything you see on the blog now was not planned or intended, it just happened. If anything, it’s been an exercise in really challenging my imagination to produce ways of serving online content that’s fairly unique. I think and hope I’ve been successful at doing so.


3.  You approach discussions about horror in an accessible but highly academic manner, which I love, and present a place where you showcase other women who do the same.  Why is that important, especially with the specific subject matter of women of color in horror?

Horror in general struggles for respect in academia. You won’t (or can) believe how many prefaces or introductions I read in books about horror where the author and/or editor laments about reactions of their critical work. How many have had to stop looking for “approval” and really believe that the work they’re doing matters.

Women of color are an important subject matter to discuss in horror simply because they’re a part of the genre. They’ve played the roles of voodoo conjurers and maids all the way up to a heroine here and there with a plethora of authors, bloggers, etc. in between. And it’s taking quite a bit of work to do the digging to prove that Black women have a rich history here.

I have a grad degree in the humanities so I’ve been trained through-the-mud to do this kind of work, and come from a university where it’s emphasized to ‘stay grounded’ in a sense, when it comes to our work. I don’t “try” I just “do”, so it makes me thankful that particular lesson translated well so that readers of the blog didn’t feel isolated but affirmed and enlightened.


4.  You are now the Editor for Ax Wound Zine, so congratulations!  What do you hope to bring to the table?

We’re still in the phases of giving it order. Since Hannah Neurotica, its founder and genius, decided to embark upon its revamp as a blog, she is also looking towards a future for the zine to gain its stride again as physical media. There’s a lot of planning that needs to happen and I’m just lucky we work so well together.

Ultimately, I’m looking forward to shining a light on fresh and well-established voices from both the arts and academic communities who have invested an immense amount of effort into the horror genre and feminism, both men and women. The discourse on the two has only magnified since, for example, Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film and Feminist Film Theory have been published.

Additionally, I want this demographic to be as culturally and ethnically diverse as possible. With artists and academics of color, they tend to bring forth concepts of intersectionality in their texts and as horror moves forward; this is a terrain that has not been well trekked and feels to me like an evolution where we look at how horror looks at matters of race and culture in the 21st century, more importantly from creators of color.


 5.  This may be difficult, but if you could narrow it down, what are your top 5 favorite horror movies?

I never in good confidence can answer this question without feeling like I’m betraying the other 1000 horror films that fall into a “favorite” category. There are particular films I love for very specific reasons. It’s difficult because it’s impossible for someone like me who is a self- confessed neurotic about horror. It’s my favorite film genre because it’s the only one where I have much more open mind and willing to watch anything under the moniker. Anything. That’s probably scary in and of itself.


Although Blackwell works tirelessly to have the horror genre seen in a more serious, academic way, she is always up for some fun!  Honouring the nostalgic feeling of watching a late-night horror film, she started #FridayNightHorror, a way to connect with other horror movie fans and share a discourse via Twitter and the ever popular hashtag.  Followers comment in real time, like they are at one giant sleepover, while watching some favourite classic titles like Lamberto Brava’s Demons.  It’s a great way of building community, and you can read about its genesis here.  Be sure to join in this Friday February 13th for a live tweet of none other than Friday the 13th Part 1 at 10 p.m. E.S.T.

A big thank you to Ashlee for her efforts to bring horror fans and women of color enlightenment and a place to flourish, and for her time!  Be sure to check out her site:


and follow all the action on Twitter:




Face Off Season 8 Episode 5: Sounds Like…

Published February 11, 2015 by vfdpixie

The lab was the stage for the next Foundation Challenge.  The 12 artists left had to work in teams of 3 at four different stations:  Orange, Purple. Green and Blue.  They were to work in a relay race-each artist had 2-20 minute slots to work on a makeup, and they had to hand a new prosthetic to the next artist to continue the makeup without talking to one another.  Their inspiration for the looks were claws on the models, channeling infamous characters like Freddy Krueger and Edward Scissorhands.  Their guest judge was Julie Wagner, from the show Wipe Out and one of the stars of Teen Wolf.  She wanted to see flow between the claws and the whole makeup, and lots of detail, especially around the mouth.

This was a cool challenge because as McKenzie pointed out, on a real Hollywood set, makeup is usually done by several artists in a somewhat chaotic environment, so it was great to see the artists running around getting things done with no communication,  There was a burnt cyborg (team Orange), and Egyptian goddess (team Purple), a toy factory explosion victim (team Green) and an alien ice queen (team Blue).  Julie loved the alien ice queen, and Adam won immunity for his choice to add a wig and chin prosthetic.  Before they headed off for the day, Rayce told them that he had to deal with a client, so to take his place was R. J. Haddy from Season 2.  The gang was happy he was there.

For the Spotlight Challenge, they met at the Fox Studios historic Newman Scoring Stage, where legendary films like The Sound of Music and Jaws were recorded.  They met 5 time Emmy winner and 2 time Oscar winner Erik Aadahl, the Hollywood sound engineer.  This time, they would be creating a character inspired by a distinct sound made exclusively for them by Aadahl, which was pretty cool!  He wanted them to find the personality and soul of the character through the sound.

Logan and Rob had an intense snarling.  They wanted to create a large bog creature with multiple, snotty nostrils.  It would be a head-to-toe character with a lot of fabrication.  They had to refit the bodysuit for the model, and had to actually put the entire thing together in last looks.  The mouth had issues but because the model was tall, they figured the judges wouldn’t see it.  The judges felt there was too much texture in the big mossy fella, and a tad messy.  They ended up safe though.

Jamie and Emily got a clicking and water sound.  They created a prehistoric bird creature with porcupine spines on the head.  Emily created a latex and paper towel shell to insert the quills, as well as a full body paint job.  Their character was really cool and looked like it lived in the Amazon.  The judges loved it and thought the profile was amazing.  They were safe too.

Adam and Regina worked with an electronic robotic voice.  Regina was dead-set against a robot, and she also didn’t want to deal with a lot of fabrication, so that left them struggling for a concept.  R. J. really got on them to work out a concept because they were running out of time, and they came up with an alien super soldier.  They were behind but managed to get to the mold room by the end of the day.  Adam fabricated some arm pieces, and Regina created a clear visor for the alien.  In last looks, She couldn’t find the paint colour for the helmet, so just went with something else.  She was nervous about some of the “missed steps”.  The judges felt it was not successful because the face sculpt was rough although Neville liked the visor.  They were in the bottom.

Anthony and Darla had a ghostly moaning sound, and they created a cool concept of Satan’s servant that collected souls and wore their faces, and as Darla put it “make Hell”.  Anthony cleverly used imprints of Face Off models to create multiple faces of the tormented souls, and they seemed to be doing well with their makeup, but when they got to the reveal stage, it was a different story.  Although it may have looked cool to the untrained eye, the judges felt the head was well rendered but the jaw line was weird.  They also thought it was directionless and the face was too big.  The animation of the faces was also seen as silly by Neville.  They were in the bottom looks.

Julian and Ben had a hard time figuring out what to do with their sound.  It consisted of heavy breathing and scraping metal.  Coach Anthony and Laura helped them brainstorm until they came up with a demon executioner that wore the face of his victim.  Julian was worried that the stretched face was too tight over the model’s eyes, but the end result was pretty scary!  The judged liked the “Face Off” demon and thought the sculpt and the proportions were well done.  They were in the top looks.

Stephanie and Kelly had a clockwork ticking sound.  They skipped doing a clockmaker, instead creating a back story about how he made a clockwork doll of his dead wife.  They wanted a 5os feel with a weathered cracked look to the “porcelain”.  Stephanie even created a small portrait of the couple for the doll to carry.  It was a stunning makeup!  The judges thought the profile and female forms were beautiful, and the story motivated the decision with the aged look.  Ve thought the portrait detail was adorable, as well as the screw earrings, and  Neville felt it was a beautiful graphic look.  They were in top looks as a result.

Before the final judging, the team leaders spoke up for Darla, Anthony, and Regina who were in the bottom, to remind the judges of what they could do.

The winning team was Stephanie and Kelly.  They matched their sound the best and Stephanie was the winner with her concept and portrait detail.  The person going home was Regina.  They liked her concept but felt the character was confused.  They were sad to see her go, but knew she would go far.  Regina said she found her heart, voice and passion, so I wish her the best!

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