It takes a village of creative geniuses and top-drawer product to make a show like ABC’s hit series, “Dancing with the Stars” come to life.
A show like this lives and breathes on the excellence of the hair, makeup and wardrobe crafts.
One of the show’s key makeup vendors, M.A.C. Cosmetics, celebrated the makeup work of Emmy winning Department Head makeup artist, Melanie Mills, and her hard-working team that brings us camera-ready contestants for the sexy competition that pairs celebrities with pro dancers.
Last Sunday (9-27-09) M.A.C. invited a group of Oscar and Emmy winning and nominated makeup artists, Local 706 President Susan Cabral-Ebert and Academy Governor Leonard Engelman to the historic Music Box Theatre in Hollywood to honor Melanie Mills’ work, and enjoy a show demonstrating dance and makeup art in motion.
Melanie prepared the dancers with two of her Emmy-winning team of artists who work alongside her in the makeup trailer, Zena Shteysel and Patti Ramsey-Bortoli.
Also on hand to glam out the dancers for their specific looks were the crack Emmy winning hair team of Jen Mauserauski and Nancy Stimac, whose exquisite hair designs perfectly complimented the brilliant makeup.
The event was a high-energy live dance demonstration choreographed by Paul Barris, where five key classic dances were demonstrated on stage as Melanie introduced each couple with the dance history and makeup plan of action for each ballroom discipline.
At the end of the show, Mel chose the samba to reveal how the signature DWTS look was built up for the camera on the model.
Melanie shared with Monsters and Critics her philosophy on approaching the makeup crafts with this show, now in its ninth season. “I wanted to bring you up close so you can personally see the makeup and feel the art in motion. Ballroom makeup is a necessity to stand out on the dance floor during competition. It’s used to enhance the drama of the performance and make a statement to the judges... Hair is typically colored ultra white blonde, bright red or raven black always with extreme styles. Makeup is ultra big with dark orange tans.”
The dancers demonstrated the fox trot, jive, Paso doble, Argentine tango and the salsa.
Melanie explained how each and every dance on the show has a unique makeup design was always influenced by the chosen music and the wardrobe for each week.
M.A.C. Cosmetics is one of several key vendors for the award-winning artists, as their pigments and range of color can take on the rigors of such a makeup-strong show.
Some of the products in high rotation that night were Copper Sparkle Pigment , Gold Glitter, Amber Lights Eye Shadow, Zoom Lash Black mascara, Blacktrack Fluidline , #35 Lashes, Orange Alarm crème, Bronze frost, Primary Yellow to name but a few.
Also seen on the models was Deep Soul lip liner, with Sephoric lip gloss and gold Lip mix. The fantastic samba lip look was made with Raw Refined lip liner. Also M.A.C. eyeshade pigments, pressed and loose were heavily used. Also used was Mid-tone Sepia as a contour color; Blossoming and Posey cream blush too.
Melanie told me how she takes on her design for the series. “What I have done with Dancing with the Stars is to Hollywood-ize and Glamorize the standard of the looks while keeping true to ballroom.” Mills, a former art student who came up as a pro in I.A.T.S.E. Local_706 working on TV series and films, shared that M.A.C. Fluidline Eye Liner Gel was a trailer staple. “I can’t live without it,” Melanie said. The extended color range is perfect for the dramatic makeup looks of the show.”
Melanie added that her design all starts with keeping up with the fabulous bright, showy and glittery costumes. “Whenever an actress is nervous and wants to do a test makeup I always say we have to do it with the wardrobe. Without the outfit the makeup tends to look a little big. I do like to match colors to the costumes a lot of the time but I will also take my inspiration from the tone of the crystals or maybe a piece of jewelry or belt that is used to accent the wardrobe. Sometimes I will also do the opposite of the costume colors. A lot also depends on the choice of music or better yet my mood of that week.”
Mel’s extensive team of pro artists she has assembled are praised by her as “the best in the business.”
The energy and spirit inside the custom makeup trailer at the CBS Studio City lot is infectious, witnessing it first-hand for the last two seasons. Mel was effusive about her core group relied on weekly when the show is in full-swing. “Once I am in the trailer on show day with my fabo team… the best in Hollywood... I give each artist a copy of the costume sketch with a swatch of the fabric of the women assigned to them. We will sometimes play the music, I will point out colors, have tear sheets and even movie clips.”
Melanie revealed she has fun with everyone, getting them into character to feel the look of the makeup for that week, setting the scene with descriptive scenarios. “For example, I might say to Patti, it’s the 1930’s you’re in Argentina. It is the town’s big gathering, you’re outside under stars with lights strung by a cord over your head, candle’s burning all around. You are having an affair with José…everyone is watching while you are dancing the tango. It’s traditional but fiery…You love him but you know you have to pretend you hate him...” Melanie laughs, and then brings the look to focus, “Let’s go with Perfect red lip’s a traditional black lined eye, smoked out underneath with espresso brown edging…liquid looking…sexy heavy lashes and a severe brow. You are going to create sexy, Latin and fierce!!”
“We all get a kick out these morning description’s it gets everyone in the mood and in a fun feeling…set to start creating the makeup and handling the women we are about to transform,” Mel added.
The dancers assembled for the M.A.C. event first demonstrated the fox trot, as Melanie introduced the dancers explaining that the cheerful fox trot was originally danced to ragtime. “Today, the dance is customarily accompanied by the same big band music to which swing is also danced,” she shared.
The fox trot makeup was described by Mills as “classic old Hollywood glamour… full lips typically on the red or rose side. High, full arched eyebrows. Perfect liquid or cake black eyeliner. Slight color typically a taupe in the crease and under the eye line.”
She added, “We may do pastels in the crease with a light lid. We try to evoke romance and soft sensual glamour…it is ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and it’s rarely matte so we will sometimes put a light wash of fine glimmer over the eye and sometimes even to the hair line which adds a soft romantic feel.”
The sexy and fierce Argentine tango was described by Mel as the most “physically demanding of the ballroom dances,” saying “it’s always a wonderful opportunity to take our contestants into the stratosphere with classic tailored glamour.”
She explained that the hair and the makeup, just like the intricate dance itself, are precise, crisp and distinct in its look.
The dance is strenuous and the makeup must straddle both the minimal and the dramatic. Mel said, “The Tango is one of my favorite looks to create because it is at once stark and glowing, traditional and precise. The face in the tango is so important to the dance. I think very Latin and Powerful, and try to keep the tan on the lighter side.”
She gave me her game plan for the tango makeup. “It’s severe but still ultra sexy and sleek. Precise lip lined red lip’s of all shades from Candy Apple to deep burgundy can be played out here. Heavy eyeliner typically extended up and away from the eye with different shades of black, brown and wine.”
The makeup design has many inspirations. “Images from Moulin Rouge when they are singing Roxanne come to mind. The boys get deeply tanned with black or brown guy liner and maybe even a moustache,” added Mel.
One of the staple ballroom dances from "Dancing with the Stars" is the classic Paso doble - and like the tango, Mel explained that this is a macho, aggressive dance that is about male dominance and the woman's capitulation.
She explained that this serious pas de deux needs the same in makeup, hair, and wardrobe that reflects the mood.
Mel gave a history of one of the more difficult dances for the contestants to master. “The Paso Doble is the dance for the man, which allows him to fill the ‘space’ with strong three dimensional shapes and movements danced with ‘pride and dignity’.
She continued, “I try to bring to mind Rudolph Valentino and Theda Bara smoldering silently from the screen…I love to play up on the makeup of the 1920’s era, as we go with the cupi' or we just go with a full mouth. The eyes are more smokey with rich blacks, greys, plums, and browns. Extremely spiky lashes with a sensual glamorous cheek…I think fierce vamp with a smoldering edge.”
The men need a makeup look for each dance too. “With the guys I love to do black guy liner and accent a widow’s peak or accentuate the sideburns,” Mel said.
The jive was the next dance demonstrated, as Mel had fun sharing the dance’s musical history in America, from early rock n’ roll and African-American swing music. The jive was born in Harlem, New York.
“On Dancing with the Stars this particular dance is always fun, fast and upbeat,” Mel explained. “I bring the jive to life in makeup with glitter and bright makeup with a 50’ retro twist. Because this dance allows considerable artistic interpretation, I have a great deal of fun creating characterizations for the dancers from a number of songs, movies and television. I like to use bright green or cobalt blue glittery eyes, and always very lash-y with nude glossy lips,” she shared. “Or, we go all in the pink family with soft pink glittery eyes, light pink glossy cheeks and a fuchsia lip, or how we did with Julianne Hough and Cody Linley - the classic Lucille Ball!”
The last dance on stage was the sultry, sexy salsa, described by Mel as a combination of many Latin and Afro-Caribbean dances “No other dance illuminates the makeup for 'Dancing with the Stars' as well as the sensuous and hip shaking, skin baring dance. Makeup for the Salsa is bright and sexy. Very tan…I like to use warm colors.
Coral cheeks. Black and brown smokey eyes edged out with gold, orange, red or silver glitter. Glossy bright orange or red lips,” explained Mel. “Karina from ‘Dancing with the Stars’ comes to mind or even Rita Moreno from the classic film, ‘West Side Story.’
“I try to bring this sexiness and sensuality to the stage,” Mel added.
The last dance was a full makeup on stage, the samba was brought to life as Melanie gave a history of the dance, its roots being African, but brought to life in Brazil for the Carnival Parties. Mel revealed that the samba hit its stride in 1925, infiltrating Europe, and then taking the 1939 world exhibition in New York by storm.
“Movie star and singer Carmen Miranda popularized the samba through the Silver Screen in the 1940’s,” Mel said.
“Skin is bared for this dance and it must be finished to perfection. Makeup is less formal than the doble or the tango, and must evoke a feel of sensuous celebration and highlight and complement the skin, Rich in color.
As Bruno would say, 'sexy, sexy, sexy!' “
If you have any questions about the makeup used and the overall process, talk back below, and I will get answers for you and post here, after my next visit to Mel's amazing makeup trailer in the next few weeks.