Thanks for visiting my blog again! We have a special guest today. I’m interviewing Mel Licata from season 10 of Face Off. She’s a very accomplished makeup artist with many impressive skills. Mel is also a very delightful woman, so I think you guys are going to enjoy the interview. By the way, the photo above is from Syfy.com. I want to give Syfy some credit.
Q: How long have you been working as a professional makeup artist?
A: I have been in and out of the field for over seven years now. However, I became full time with makeup as my career in the last few years. Before that, makeup was a hobby, or just a dream I had. It feels good to be finally and officially working in this field.
Q: I know you have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Rider University. What valuable skills did you learn in college?
A: I loved attending Rider and it is actually where I discovered my passion for makeup. I was a one-woman makeup department head for my school's theater department. It wasn't a coveted position, so I was able to experiment and work without too much competition, or training for that matter! It was a really positive way to grow artistically. I liked to be challenged and trusted, plus I got tons of support as well!
Q: Let’s talk about Face Off a bit. In my opinion, the judges seem very direct yet honest in a positive way. Did you find their criticism, praise, and comments helpful?
A: The judge's advice is amazing! But you have to be open to hearing it. I still think about many of the critiques the judges gave me and apply them to my work regularly. People get upset because makeup is an art form, so people take critique so seriously. But criticism is a good thing! Criticism is what helps you grow as an artist. I learned from both my successes and failures on that show. The judges only want the best for you and to maximize your potential. I feel really grateful for their input, even when it was sometimes hard to hear at the moment.
Q: How did you feel about the experience? Did it seem exciting, intimidating, frustrating, or a combination of things?
A: The experience is definitely a combination of every feeling I've ever had! It's so intense and exciting. Everybody just wants more time- but you cant have it! So you adjust. Learning to overcome obstacles and extremely stressful conditions made me feel like I could do anything after the show was done. I laughed, cried and sweated like a crazy person almost the whole time, but it was so worth it. I grew so much.
Q: Are the show’s challenges an accurate representation of professional makeup gigs?
A: It depends on what you mean. I had to create character's like I've done on the show, but NEVER with such little time. The time frame is so unrealistic by industry standards. It only works because we have everything we could ever dream of available to us in the lab. Also in my real life, I am executing someone else's vision. Whether I'm working for a director or working with a client on a commission, I am attempting to create what they see in their mind. I don't have to come up with my own concepts for my work. That was a big hurdle for me on the show because I really struggled coming up with ideas! Executing a pre-established idea is way easier for me than having to come up with one in the first place.
Q: What was your favorite challenge?
A: My favorite challenge was the children's toy challenge. Everybody thinks that's because I won top looks for that makeup, but it's really because the experience was just so positive and fun. Me and Anna (who are still very close by the way), were real underdogs in that challenge. We had a whimsical toy challenge and we picked an old watch as our inspiration piece, like idiots! No one knew how we were gonna pull it off and we didn't either to be honest. We had a rough start, but refocused our energies and hit it out of the park the second half of the challenge. I felt so grateful to have Anna help navigate that challenge and ultimately pull out the win!
Q: My books have a post-apocalyptic twist, so I naturally gravitated to your rendition of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” Would you mind telling us some details about the experience?
A: That was nuts. The gauntlet takes an already difficult set of circumstances (plain old, Face Off) and makes it extremely more difficult. I am so grateful I got to compete in all three levels because I really proved myself to, myself! But I did not want to be involved at the time. I would've gladly phased out in the earlier rounds. It was so stressful and I was competing with some of the people I was closest with in the house. The other nice thing about the gauntlet is that having so little time really forced me to commit to my first idea, which ended up being pretty good! I second guess myself frequently, as many artist do, and being forced to trust my instincts was liberating.
Q: Do you still keep in contact with anyone from Face Off?
A: I still keep in touch with everyone on my season! You really get trauma bonded for life. The people I remain closest with though are definitely Anna, Walter, Yvonne, Melissa and Ant. I bug them all the time. Me and my boyfriend just flew to Chicago to visit Anna! Ant joins me and my friends for our poker nights each week, and we watch Survivor together. Ant lives about half a mile away from me and we may have never met if it weren't for the show.
Q: Now I’m going to talk about makeup art that’s separate from the show. I don’t have any skills in FX makeup. Some roles require prosthetics. Is it difficult to apply prosthetics in a way that seems believable to the viewer? A: Applying prosthetics is a skill like everything else. It is easier if the appliance has nice edges, but experience and know how will guide you through any application. I learn something new every time I apply on set. If there are other makeup artists on set with me, I always try to pick up new tricks. Special FX is a very collaborative industry, so you can learn a lot just by asking.
Q: FX makeup looks quite tedious with a lot of detail. Does a makeup artist need to have a lot of patience?
A: A makeup artist does need a lot of patience for a few reasons. Safety and cleanliness are paramount and sometimes you must compromise your vision for safety. The majority of your work involves another person. Your actor / model's patience, attitude and perseverance intensely effects your experience when applying. Many actors are into it and excited, but just as many hate it- and you still have to get good results! As a makeup artist, you are always applying under different limitations, including the actor's safety and comfort as well as maintaining the director's vision while never having enough time! There are always a million balls in the air, and you have to keep them all moving without looking too stressed out. I love being a makeup artist, and being ok with tedious tasks and details is everything.
Q: I know you worked on commercials and YouTube videos. Are you willing to share some details about those makeup jobs?
A: I am a full time freelancer, so I am always working on a bunch of different projects. I have worked with Jontron for the past year on a monthly basis and continue to do so. He is my most consistent work and I love that crew. We're a very tight group and I think we do some pretty good work too! I would recommend you to go check out his channel.
Q: You probably have an appreciation for science fiction and fantasy. Do you have a favorite movie or television series from those genres?
A: I love Pan's Labyrinth! Generally speaking, I find all Guillermo Del Toro movies to be both fascinating and inspiring. His use of practical effects really help create this amazing and immersive world for the audience. I think I am definitely drawn to fantasy more than science fiction, but who isn't into a bad ass alien? I know I am!
Q: I feel like throwing in a question about steampunk. Call me biased. Are you familiar with steampunk at all?
A: I am familiar with steampunk, but I would hardly call myself an expert. I enjoy and respect the style and design elements, but I have only had the opportunity to work on a couple of steampunk projects.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: My next big goal is to get into the makeup artists union. Getting into the union is very rigorous process, but the pay off is big. Along the way, I am reminding myself to be grateful for all the unique and small budget passion projects I get to work on now. When you're in the union you can no longer work on non-union productions, so I'm trying to appreciate the splendor and insanity that is my life right now. My life is exciting, and unpredictable- but I wouldn't have it any other way.
Mel, I really enjoyed talking to you. There was a lot of great information in your interview. Thanks for taking the time to chat. I’m sure you’re going to have a bright future.
That concludes another interview on my blog. Leave a comment if anything comes to mind. I'm leaving a couple links for Mel. She has a really cool official website- melanielicata.com. It includes her resume, a portfolio with all kinds of impressive pictures, and her Etsy shop. If you want to see some of her makeup art, that's the right website to visit. I'm also posting a link to her Instagram page- melanie_licata. Next week is going to be interesting because I'm participating in an annual blogathon called Steampunk Hands Around the World. This year's theme focuses on “Making Life Better.” Let's see what happens. Enjoy the rest of your week!
Mel's Official Website
Mel's Instagram Page
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.