As the make-up department head for ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, Zena Shteysel has won two Emmy awards, and been nominated nine times, for Outstanding Make-up for a Multi-Camera Series or Special (Non-Prosthetic). She was recently nominated again for her work on Fox and Paramount’s Grease: Live television special—which originally aired on Jan. 31, 2016. In our exclusive interview in the lead-up to the Emmy Awards, Shteysel talks scene changes, golf carts and the reliability of make-up pencils.


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Zena Shteysel with Barry Pearl | Photo courtesy of Zena Shteysel

Make-Up Artist: Did you reference the original Grease when planning the looks?

Zena Shteysel: Yes. For the most part we kept the looks consistent, but the color choices for Frenchy were different.

MA: What products did you use?

ZS: Mostly M.A.C. and Viseart.

MA: How did you distinguish between “good Sandy” and “bad Sandy”?

ZS: For “good Sandy,” it was a much softer and more innocent look, more clean. I applied a M.A.C. Paint Pot to even her skin tone out and get the eye shadow to stay put, then applied a peach shadow to bring out the blue in her eyes. I used soft peaches and neutrals mainly from the Viseart Eyeshadow Palette 1 Neutral Matte, which has a great range to keep the look soft and pretty. I used a mix of Ardell individual short and medium lashes for subtlety, and the Warm Coral color from Anastasia’s Medium Contour Cream Kit as a soft peach blush. The look was finished with Lise Watier lip pencil in Ginger.

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Julianne Hough as Sandy | Photo courtesy of Paramount Productions

There was a five-minute scene change for when the character gets her makeover, which had to include hair, make-up and clothes—so it was quite the challenge to do her make-up while she was getting dressed and someone was doing her hair! But I kept it simple with pencils and doing things that would have the most impact. I used darker eye make-up, especially under the eye, and did a heavy contour in the crease to create depth. I lined the top and bottom with Urban Decay 24/7 Eye Pencil in Perversion. I prefer eye liner pencil because it is fastest to apply and set, which is helpful on a live production with three stages. And once you fill it in, it stays put! Her red lip was M.A.C. Ruby Woo lip pencil, filled in. I applied a stronger contour on the cheeks to make the look more intense.

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The Pink Ladies
FROM LEFT: Keke Palmer as Marty; Carly Rae Jepsen as Frenchy; Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo; Kether Donohue as Jan | Photo courtesy of Zena Shteysel

MA: What were some of the challenges you had to overcome on a production like this?

ZS: It was a live broadcast, with three stages and over 100 actors and actresses to work on, so there were many logistical challenges! We had a dress rehearsal three days before the broadcast, which is when we really had to figure out where the artists would be stationed. Getting everyone organized, between the artists and the actors and actresses, was the main thing. Knowing who was supposed to be where and when. I had to be sure that I could count on the artists to have their set kits and palettes ready to work as soon as their actor was off-screen. The artists who worked on the Pink Ladies characters had to follow them around from stage to stage on golf carts! There was also a lot of tattoo coverage. There were two artists dedicated to this; they used oil-based products to make sure it didn’t get on the wardrobe or come off if the dancer was sweating.

Photos courtesy of Zena Shteysel

MA: What did you enjoy the most about this experience? What will you take away?

ZS: I loved working with the other artists; most of them work with me on Dancing with the Stars and are like family to me. I know I can trust them and count on them, which is important for a production like this. It was a great team effort; I was happy to be there. And I had a great time with the cast! They all got along with each other. I loved seeing the women supporting each other; they were really like a family. It was a very special experience to me.