Dancing with the Stars: Emmy winner Melanie Mills interview, the secrets are out!
By April MacIntyre Nov 6, 2008, 22:13 GMT
Lucci, the day I was there, makeup by Mills, photo M&C
The queen of daytime television was eliminated last night on the ABC hit series, “Dancing with the Stars.”
Susan Lucci’s passionate paso doble with Tony was a hit with the judges but it wasn’t enough to keep her in the game.
Erica Kane sadly did not make it to the final five.
Last week I was in the makeup trailer all day of DWTS, and I asked Susan what her favorite part of the experience was for her.
“Oh, it’s all this”, she said waving her hand inside the makeup trailer of department head makeup artist, Melanie Mills. “It’s the makeup, the hair, the wardrobe, all of it, that’s the best part of this show for me!”
The consummate professional left the competition on a high note, both in scores and her overall attitude as she told the audience “I have had the most incredible life experience here.”
You may think it is all about the dance, but “Dancing with the Stars” really is about hair, makeup and wardrobe.
These three crafts shine in a finely honed confluence of brilliance, like a perfectly turned out Tango. The geniuses behind the scene take your average comely celebrity and transform them into a golden Glamazon from another era in time.
ABC’s Dancing with the Stars: “Episode #503” took the 2008 Emmy for Outstanding Makeup for a Multi-camera Series or a Special (non-prosthetic) for good reason.
The statues went to I.A.T.S.E. local 706 MAHS members Melanie Mills, department head make-up artist, Zena Shteysel, key make-up artist, Patty Ramsey Bertoli, additional make-up artist and Nadege Schoenfeld, additional make-up artist.
I died and went to heaven last Tuesday, as Monsters and Critics was invited to spend the day inside Melanie Mills’ custom makeup trailer getting the scoop on what goes down, and what is actually used that makes these stars look so great on camera.
You know we had questions.
When it comes to product, a huge variety of brands were used, but there were favorites and ‘old faithfuls’ that did the job and created the unique look of a signature DWTS makeup.
I asked the artists about their personal favorites that never failed them.
St. Tropez body makeup was a staple, as was Melanie Mills’ own signature body color called “Mel’s Mix” that made the arms, legs, décolleté, and backs of the stars glow and look flawless, without any transfer to clothes.
They covered Cloris Leachman in it for the strapless sleeveless dress she wore that fateful day she learned she was leaving. She looked sunkissed.
“We spray self tanner on the stars on Sundays,” Mills shared with me, showing me the arsenal of special color mixed just for DWTS.
“After final dress rehearsal we sponge even more tanning solution on them to even the coloring out,” she added.
Another product Mills showed me was ‘Perfect Legs” that hearkened the WWII days when women made up their legs too, as hosiery was hard to come by and the materials were used for the war effort.
One side of Mills’ trailer is literally a wall of storage space that contain the makeup product and back stock; she opened three huge drawers of nothing but false eyelashes, a staple for any TV show, especially a glammy one like DWTS.
“We use the Ardell lashes, especially 117, 110, wispies and demis, plus 118, 114, those are real stage lashes. We rock these,” laughed Mills, as she fished out a relatively normal pair for me to practice with. (Hint: Use DUO adhesive and an orange stick to secure the strip right into the lash line, after you have done your eye makeup).
Revlon and MAC lashes were representing too, but the Ardells were the staples for this show.
The array of product in each artist’s bay was dizzying, and if you are a girly-girl and you love makeup (check and check for me) it was good times. My senses were overloaded as I was experiencing a contact high from inhaling the brush cleaner.
I marveled at the see-through jars of pulverized glitter mixed into anything for the body painting and makeup amidst a gurgling Asian fountain and fine wine (courtesy of Warren Sapp) sitting like pieces of art on the pristine white counters over the drawers.
When it came to the actual makeup, the variety was an interesting mix of high-end retail and beauty supply standards.
Some of the artists preferred the look of the Armani Hydraglow Fluid Sheers foundation (flawless coverage, I tried it on, and it was favorite on Susan Lucci, shade #3, and Cheryl Burke). Armani’s shade 7 was a pearlized glimmer.
Lucci had introduced Mills to her favorite foundation, Clé de Peau crème foundation that Mills’ actually used as a bit of a concealer.
Other foundations of note were the new MAC mineral makeup, RCMA crème foundation palettes, Christian Dior’s Visiora - especially used on the men - Lancome’s tinted moisturizer too.
Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage dual concealer was representing heavily. Personally I have used Mercier’s SC-2 in real life for over 10 years and recommend it highly. YSL’s Touche Éclat was a concealer workhorse, brightening up everyone in the trailer. It’s worth the $40 price tag.
Brows were filled in with Benefit Brow Zings, a cool easy to manage tinted wax kit with powder to color and fill in. Great shades.
MAC Fluidline Eye Liner Gel was a staple: “I can’t live without it,” Melanie shared with me. The extended color range is perfect for the dramatic makeup looks of the show. Tigi Bed Head lip and eyeliners were also praised.
Also MAC eyeshade pigments, pressed and loose were heavily used, as were Benefit’s Shimmer Eye in the pot. Urban Decay was present in the trailer; their high intensity pigments for the eyes and their Glitterati pens were loved.
Cheeks saw the likes of easy application Tarte cheek stains, Cargo powder blushes, MAC powder palettes, Guerlain Bronzer, Makeup Forever crème rouges, “I am a huge fan of crème blush,” added Melanie while she was using a cool tool on Warren Sapp called the “Beauty Blender” that looks like a blue rounded out makeup sponge. After wetting and squeezing it out, it takes excess product off the face without messing up the job.
Other tools of note: Ve Neill’s Makeup Brush line (Neill is a mutli-Oscar winning artist who always works with Johnny Depp), J Branded Vegan brushes (Heather Mills’ insisted), and Epicuren’s line of makeup removers.
“Heather Mills was a delightful woman to work with,” shared Mills. “She is a kind woman, a good mother; I really loved working with her.”
When I asked about the lips, it elicited a slew of shout-outs from everyone in earshot touting their personal favorites to color the mouths of Susan, Kym, Lacey, Cheryl, Julianne, Editya, Brooke and Cloris.
In no particular order:
Kiehls lip balm and Epicuren lip balm to prep. Side note: Epicuren is less greasy feeling than the Kiehls.
Stila’s “Cinnamon” “Strawberry” “Papaya” “Mocha”
MAC’s “Plink”, “Russian Red”
Cancun Coral Lip Gloss
Guerlain #500 Kiss Kiss “Very Gold" lipstick
Nars “Baby Doll”
All the Dior and Guerlain colors were shown the love by the artists, and the Tarte Double Dose lipgloss too.
Melanie shared her secret skincare weapons with me; the items that de-puffed, smoothed and lifted the stars magically before any application.
Angels lifting pads; vials of a collagen-type solution that soak into the application pad and sit on the skin for 15-20 minutes. (Beauty supplies like Naimies, Frends and Cinema Secrets stock this)
Clinique Moisture Surge, a gel moisturizer / instant hydrating mask that quickly absorbs and allows makeup application to proceed beautifully.
M.B. York Beauty Ammo Kit, a three-stepper that has a Collagen Eye Mask, Line Putty, and Camouflage Eye Disguise. Genius stuff, made Cloris Leachman look 30 years younger in a sitting.
Monsters and Critics had more questions for "Dancing with the Stars" makeup department head, Melanie Mills.
How do you decide on the particular episode that gets nominated for an Emmy? What is that process?
MM: Everybody that does get nominated, they have to submit one episode of the season they’re submitting. So my main team - because I am only allowed to nominate four people total - even though I have 20 artists that help me in the beginning and a good solid 10 at the get go there are only four main players basically, I have to chose three.
We all sit down and we look at every season, and go through each show by show and we just pick out the best show, the cleanest and best looking and most outstanding - and to us it was season 5, episode 503 - and it was the Jive Tango- it was the one where Jane Seymour wore this short dark wig, smoky eyes, red lips she looked really dramatic - Marie Osmond went for the Spanish diva with hints of the forties, Jennie Garth was in a vintage orange-red lip with Marilyn eyes, Sabrina was in hot pink lips with glittery eyes, Mel B also glittery, smoky…
What was Mel B like?
MM : Mel B was wild, she’s wild, she has a wild energy, fun, wild extremely busy person.
Wayne Newton was in this episode we actually put a mustache on him and did this extra tanned skin on him and eyeliner. All of our dancers looked fabulous too, Editya (Silwynska) was in this twenties vision as I put it, dark lips dark eyes.
Cheryl (Burke) looked gorgeous, red lips on too that day, it was all like very tango Latin very Jive, flirty and fun and sparkly and glittery… we also have to judge from top to bottom how (host) Samantha (Harris) looks , Carrie Ann (Inaba), all the judges; everything we take into consideration so we felt that out of the season that was the cleanest makeup most dazzling, just a stunning show, and luckily we won it for that.
So you get here an hour before the cast on Monday…
MM: And then we end our day when the show ends basically , so when they go to press we don’t get into what most shows do with the taking down, and are gone. They’re so busy as it is, literally, ‘bye bye’-- which I love, it’s nice, I give them Epicuren remover, sometimes some oily stuff and sometimes if we do some intense body art we take it off, or if they go to the club they can rock it out, wear it.
How important is your key artist and all the rest?
MM: Everyone is vital in the trailer, jumping in all over the place, my second Zena Shteysel is very vital; she helps me stay organized; she helps with the budget surplus product and same with Patty Ramsey Bortoli, Angela Moos and Nadege Shoenfeld, all very critical.
I try to give everybody two women and the guys kind of come in and we get them done, and its great having a separate body department; we even paint their nails, toes.
It’s a lot of work; somebody will be painting, glittering, stoning; the team is great, we work really well together; we have a good time in here; there are no egos.
I can give a note, like, we need more of this or that, there’s no argument about it.
Sometimes they will be ‘but, is this and that…” then its valid, so it’s not like ‘I’m always right’ and not always the one, but 90% it’s my stamp. I can say to them and say lets go rock n roll with this color and they get it.
How does wardrobe interact with your department?
MM: The overall look and feel for the makeup design is totally determined by the sketches and meetings I have with the wardrobe department. They give us the era, the moment we have to correspond the look of the makeup, and I give each artist I am working wth a ‘brief’ on the era or the picture of what we want to accomplish for that week.
Like a schematic, I present a design to the team, and of course the talent has their opinions too…
Talk about how the Stars react to the dramatic face makeup of DWTS?
MM: Yes, (laughs) whenever we do our celebrity for the first time each season, we consult with them before the season actually begins. When they come into the makeup trailer and actually get ‘done’ usually a panic attack occurs, when they get the full DWTS makeup.
Like Susan (Lucci) she loves a smoky eye, neutral palette, and I was like ‘trust me, I am going to get you to love color!’
And she did. She had never worn full strip false lashes before…It does take some getting used to though in the beginning.
How did you wind up an artist in makeup?
MM: After high school I did not know I wanted to be a makeup artist really had no idea, loved doing makeup and was the one I was the one in high school and College doing peoples’ makeup.
I did it for fun, not professionally. I went to Florence, Italy and lived there for a year, studying Italian and the fine arts, considered becoming a linguist because I wanted to live in Italy.
I became very cosmo, met tons of European friends and traveled the world with them, I would come home—I worked as a waitress at Acapulco—I would come home waitress for three months, save my money and go back, then, on one of those trips, I met one of my friends in Milan who was going to take a makeup course.
I went with them when they went to put their down payment, and it happened to be the last day of school where everybody was doing their big finale, ‘look at what I learned,’ and I went, ‘this is fabulous’, what another great excuse to get grandma to help me live in Italy another year, it looked like fun.
I grew up with my best friend Heidi whose dad was Larry Wilcox, Officer Jon Baker from ‘CHiPs’, so I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I could live in Italy for another year, do makeup, and maybe he could help me get into the TV and film world.’
So I came home, told my grandma about it, Grandma was like, ‘no, you just did this whole other thing in Italy, I’m not really in the mood to do another one of those.’
I was telling my hair dresser about it one day, and she said that my roommate is a local 706 (MAHS I.A.T.S.E) makeup artist, you should meet her one day.
That night, happened to be in a club, and they randomly happened to be there — wasn’t even set up. And we hit it off, and two days later, her name was Michelle Warner, she called me and said, ‘hey, I just got called to intern on this film, which I am like beyond interning, you should do it.’
Never been to makeup school, nothing. They drove me down to the set, it was on Hollywood Boulevard—I’ll never forget it. It was for this movie called, ‘Everything’s George’, and it never got printed.
So they drove me down to the set, literally the trailer was on Hollywood Blvd, I’ll never forget it. They walked me in, and they were asking me questions like, What’s my sign. They didn’t care about my skill; they just wanted to know if they could work with me 17 hours a day, basically.
What is your sign?
Apparently the right sign to be.
MM: I guess it was. I can’t remember the makeup artist’s name, but the hairdresser was Lori Baker, and she was very influential in getting me started because after that film she started hiring me as her assistant on low budget films for (Roger) Corman, and Pierre David, and PM Entertainment, and I was basically assisting her on makeup and hair on films like The Dentist 2, The Wishmaster.
Anything starting with ‘The’, like 'The Stray,' 'The Nanny', 'The Stepdaughter', things like that. Then she got a job in India and I just started taking over the projects and then they just kept hiring me.
Luckily, one of those films, big film, called 'Lockdown', mostly an African-American cast that we shot in New Mexico, went union. And it’s just been a stepping ladder…
And then you became part of 706.
MM: Yes, I became 706, and had to start over again. Started on shows back then, like ‘She Spies’. And I did ‘Six Feet Under.’
How did you like working on 'Six Feet Under'?
MM: That was great, really cool to be a part of. There were some really old school people like (hairdresser) Randy Sayer, who’s now a business rep for our union, and Donna Lou Henderson. Just important people to me, very influential.
Bruce Grayson is another makeup artist who I started doing the Emmys and the Oscars and a lot of those sitcoms with him.
You know how it is, you just keep working…
I met my husband on this film called ‘When Billy Beat Bobby.’
It was a made for TV movie with Holly Hunter, I was the second on that. It was about Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs.
We met on that film…that was a really hard film, I won’t even mention who the makeup artist name that I worked under, but a real bear, a really mean lady.
And I worked for a lot of people like that for years, just really mean, really. ‘You need to climb this ladder-mentality’ and ‘really earn where you’re gonna go.’
I think that’s helped me become the boss that I am, because I don’t want to be that mean person.
I don’t want egos like that, I don’t want the negativity in the trailer. I feel like working for all those kinds of people who were a little nuts, and working for fabulous people has just helped me…
You would rather have a happy cool environment that works like a smooth machine?
MM: Yes, exactly, because I’ve been in those situations, especially in those episodics where you’re working 70 hour weeks and you’re miserable.