Michèle Burke

Although female make-up artists have always been a vital part of the entertainment industry, their contribution has rarely been acknowledged in book form. That is … until now.

November sees the publication of Leading Ladies of Makeup Effects by husband and wife team Patricia L. Terry and Gary Christensen. This much-anticipated book celebrates more than two dozen top female talents, from Oscar and Emmy winners to the up-and-coming stars of tomorrow.

The project’s inception was when a friend got in touch with Christensen about possible book ideas, and his first thought was a follow-up to the 1980 book Making a Monster, which featured an all-male lineup of make-up artists.

“I thought about the surge of women coming into the effects industry,” Christensen explains. “We decided to focus on the women who do make-up effects, who are under-represented in the industry, as the subject of a book.

Camille Della Santina working on Michael Dorn as Klingon Lt. Worf

“We were initially going to call it Women Making Monsters, but once we began considering how we could approach it, we needed to make the project manageable, so we had to limit the number of women to consider. Since no book had ever been written about women, we thought ‘Let’s start with the Oscar winners.’ We winnowed it down to 17 women, which would certainly fill a book, but I thought, ‘What about TV?’ so I compiled a list of Emmy winners, which was not an easy task. Over the years, there had been 12 different make-up-focused awards so I created a spreadsheet of 700 names, which were sorted into a list of 20 top contenders. That gave us a total of 37 possible interviewees to start with and an idea how to break up the book. And once we figured out the book would focus on award winners, it changed from being about women who make monsters to ‘Leading Ladies’ as a better title.

Tami Lane working on James McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

Once the concept was decided on, it was time to start lining up subjects. Christensen floated the idea to Eryn Krueger Mekash and Lois Burwell at Son of Monsterpalooza in 2015 and got encouraging responses. A list of possible interviews was drawn up and plans were made to contact each one, whether it was through social media or their personal websites. “We contacted some of them through their agents,” notes Christensen, “which was the most difficult hurdle, because agents protect their clients, so those were hard nuts to crack. We also met some of our ‘Ladies’ personally by attending IMATS and other make-up events.

KC Mussman working in her shop

“To be honest, setting up interviews was relatively easy. Once we contacted a ‘Lady,’ and presented our spiel about the book, most of them were very enthusiastic about the idea. Setting up the actual interviews was trickier because they were all working professionals who spent long hours on set without much time off, but we managed to catch them on days off, after work or between projects.

“Of the 37 ‘Ladies’ on our list,” notes Christensen, “some do not appear in the book. Some we were never able to contact. A few we contacted and they didn’t want to be interviewed, preferring to let their work speak for them. And a couple had conflicts of interest related to being interviewed for a book.”

Eryn Krueger Mekash with Justin Timberlake for Alpha Dog (2004)

Despite the fact that their subjects were scattered across the globe, the duo conducted most of their interviews in person. “That was the most fun part of the whole process,” declares Christensen. “I thought, ‘Why not take the opportunity to meet them face to face and get to know them for a few hours?’ So we met most of them in their homes where they could be as comfortable as possible. We did a few phone interviews, but sitting with them in front of you was best.

“During out six-month foray in Italy in 2016, we flew to interview Montse Ribé in Barcelona and met our British ‘Ladies’ in a London apartment we rented before and during the 2016 London IMATS.”

Chloe Sens

“If we could do a face to face interview, we did,” continues Terry, “and each one was an adventure. Going to DDT in Barcelona to interview Montse was fabulous, and renting an apartment in London … how much fun was that? Having the time to sit and talk without pressure or time constraints allowed us to delve a little deeper into their stories, and they were all exceptionally gracious and generous. And each story was unique.”

Mo Meinhart with Doug Jones as Count Orlok on the set of Nosferatu: The Vampire Lives (2017)

And no matter how much research was done on their subjects, there were always a few surprises. “For example, Frances Hannon is a hoarder … who would guess?” asks Terry. “Jane Walker, who carries so much responsibility [on Game of Thrones] has a delightfully wicked sense of humor. Michèle Burke is a wonderful storyteller. We sat for hours, listening to her stories told with an Irish lilt, and strong Irish tea. Lois [Burwell] was a ballet dancer in her youth. Each ‘Lady’ was colored by her family and experiences, and her indomitable drive to do what she loved. Not one of them accidentally achieved success; each of them worked at it, each with their own special twist!”

Carleigh Herbert working on the set of Nazi’s at the Center of the Earth (2012)

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Leading Ladies of Makeup Effects will be released on Amazon in November with an official debut at IMATS Los Angeles in January 2018.