Emmy-nominated cosmetics and coiffure pros reveal how they stayed true to the era ('80s hot-roller sets!) and used old artifacts (wigs from MGM's archives!) to help stars tell a story.
"I used to get in trouble because I would stay up really late to watch it when I was a kid in the '80s," GLOW hair designer Theraesa Rivers says of the original wrestling show that inspired the Netflix comedy. "The little girl in me who was obsessed with the show is now nominated for an Emmy for helping retell those stories. I can't believe it."
Makeup designer Lana Horochowski, who also was a fan of the original series, relished re-creating retro looks from her adolescence. "I got to pull out all my old looks from my childhood," she says, adding that the key to authenticity was "making sure everything appeared 'homemade.'"
To perfect the imperfect aesthetic of Alison Brie and the rest of the cast, Rivers (who also is nominated for her work on Amazon's The Last Tycoon) and Horochowski opted against wigs and modern beauty tools. "We stayed true to what was used back then: mousse, gel, hot-roller sets and hair spray. Nothing fancy," Rivers says, noting that Brie and several of her co-stars "committed" to cutting their hair for the sake of embodying their wrestling personas. "Every girl rocked their own hair. It looks — and feels — more real that way."
A beauty blender was nowhere in sight on set. "The '80s were all about severe, harsh lines," Horochowski says, revealing she "went as fast as I could" in the chair. "I applied the girls' makeup as if they were applying it themselves really quick for a show," she explains. "If something was a little wonky, I'd just leave it."
Each actress spent only about an hour and a half in hair and makeup each day. However, Horochowski and Rivers — who worked together on AMC's Mad Men — had plenty of time to prep before filming. "We had a solid month to put together look books," says Horochowski. "Creatively speaking, those might have been the best four weeks of my career."
Makeup designer Joe Dulude calls Jesus Christ Superstar "one of my favorite movies," which is why turning John Legend into the Son of God for NBC's live production of the rock opera was such a thrilling task.
"I grew up Catholic, so I know the Bible pretty well. But we didn't want John to look like your typical Jesus," says Dulude. "John Legend was portraying someone who would have been greeted with similar excitement and reverence, so we didn't want to lose his star quality."
While Legend decided against wearing a wig — "Putting him in pressed, long hair would have just been ridiculous," says hair designer Charles LaPointe — Sara Bareilles used bundles of extensions to transform into Christ's confidante Mary Magdalene. "Sara felt like her own hair was too thin," LaPointe shares. "The length and thickness really helped her get into character."
Dulude kept the cast's makeup "pretty straightforward" — save for an array of intricate, apostolic tattoos — and LaPointe, an esteemed wigmaker, relied on actors' natural locks to create the majority of their "apocalyptic" hairstyles. But much thought went into crafting an accurate portrayal of the crucifixion.
"We were hesitant to use too much blood. But we ended up conceding that it was necessary to represent what Jesus had gone through, even though the audience doesn't see him being nailed to the cross," says Dulude. "From his wounds to his lashings to his last breath, we wanted to illustrate Jesus' death as best we could."
When drag queens Raven (David Petruschin) and Delta Work (Gabriel Villarreal) competed on seasons two and three of RuPaul's Drag Race, respectively, neither could have imagined that, nearly a decade later, they'd be working with the Supermodel of the World himself.
"Who would have thought I'd be doing Ru's makeup one day?" ponders Raven, who rejoined the VH1 reality series behind the scenes with Delta during 2017's season nine. "It's still such a trip to me."
It's a "dream come true" for Delta, who takes her role as the show's resident wig maestro very seriously. "I loved competing, but this is what I was really meant to do. We're creating a look for not just a drag queen, but the ultimate drag queen," says the hair designer. "There's no room for error, and certainly not 10 years into the show."
While RuPaul has the final say on every detail, the host's big runway look for each episode is indeed a collaboration with Raven and Delta. "All of us vibe off each other when it comes to putting together the hair, makeup and gown," Raven says, admitting that the trio "figure it out the morning of."
The work (and fun) begins after RuPaul lands on a dress. "Then Raven decides on a palette, and I start styling one of Ru's custom wigs," says Delta, who adds that it takes about three hours for RuPaul to get ready. Adds Raven: "But we take a lot of breaks. We have breakfast and listen to music, dance to Taylor Dayne."
Raven loves highlighting RuPaul's "perfect" cheekbones, and Delta revels in reinventing his signature "big, blond and wild" hair. But the most rewarding part of their job is spending quality time with their idol. "I pinch myself every time I paint Ru," says Raven. "He teaches me and Delta something new every day; not just about hair and makeup but about life."
When Westworld hair designer Joy Zapata walked onto the set of the HBO show's Emmy-nominated episode "Akane No Mai," she knew it was something special. "I broke down in tears," says Zapata, who dressed more than 25 geisha wigs for the monumental dance scene inside Shogun World's teahouse. "It was so beautiful and something that I always dreamt of doing."
Zapata — who used authentic wigs from MGM's archive and borrowed several that had been employed in 2005's Oscar-winning Memoirs of a Geisha — says she "tried to stay traditional because the actors, the Japanese actors in particular, were very precise about the way the wigs looked. Every ornament has meaning."
Makeup designer Elisa Marsh was able to take more creative liberty. In a subtle nod to the sci-fi series' title, Marsh painted a "W" on the back of the geishas' necks.
"The back of the neck was considered very sensual in ancient Japan," she says, adding that it took nearly three hours for a geisha to complete hair and makeup, including Akane, played by Rinko Kikuchi. "There's usually a part of the neck that's left open, and we did our best to make the white makeup look like a 'W' instead of keeping it rounded. That was one of our little secrets."
Another secret? Zapata (who won the hairstyling Emmy for Westworld in 2017) and her team of stylists were deeply worried that their heavily decorated wigs would be no match for the geishas' intense choreography.
"[Co-creator and showrunner] Jonathan Nolan told us, 'Akane has to do this dance where she spins around with a sword and she's going to flip her head back and forth,'" Zapata recalls. "You could see our own necks cranking back and forth. We were holding our breath, just waiting for the wigs to fly off. But, by the grace of God, everything stayed in place."
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.