Saturday, 14 November 2009
BEAUTY - Behind The Scenes at Strictly Come Dancing
Occasionally as a blogger, an opportunity comes up that is just too good to miss, and today was one of those days. I was invited to go backstage at Strictly Come Dancing, to see the work that goes into getting make-up and hair to look fabulous for the show. It's not as easy as you might think. After getting shown around, myself and fellow blogger Lil, from A Storm in a Teacup, watched Kristina have the finishing touches done to her make-up. We chatted to Lisa Armstrong (Ant McPartlin's wife) who is head of make-up on the show about the work her team does.
Each contestant gets 1 hour in make-up she explained. Amazingly, at only 1 pm it seems most of the celebs have already had their make-up done. But they'll be in for a couple more touch-ups before the live show we're told. One minute the room is full and bustling, the next there's no one here. But the scheduling has to run like clockwork to ensure everyone is ready for the dress rehearsal so there's time to fix anything that doesn't work quite so well. Celebrities even get a few last-minute tips from their partners as we saw when Katya was critiquing Phil's posture while she was in make-up. I'll be watching to see if he keeps his arms up high.
The make-up artist's kit
Looking around the room, there are bags of product on every surface, from the well-stocked MAC palettes, to Bobbi Brown eyeliners and Chanel foundations. MAC is often favoured for stage and show make-up because of the high pigment levels. The Chanel base is liked by Lisa because it gives a strong coverage - but with anything like this, each dancer is different. Katya, dancing with Phil Tufnell, told us that the Chanel foundation caused her to breakout. She prefers to use an Armani base and bareMinerals products. The magpie in me though was instantly drawn to the bag full of glitters in every colour under the sun. If only make-up like this could be worn every day.
The routine for the dancers is to start with eye make-up. Eyeshadow first, then liner and false lashes. After this the under-eye area looks a little panda-like, but water toner is then used to cleanse the face under the eyes . At this point the make-up artist will put the base on. Any glitter used has to be mixed with something to ensure it sticks and won't fall all over the face after dancing, often very energetically. When I over-exert myself I tend to go the colour of a raspberry so I wondered why the dancers don't get the flushed look. Down to the make-up? Apparently, rose water astringent really helps reduce redness in the face and combats every make-up artist's foe... sweat! After a dress rehearsal make-up still tends to need re-doing though, it's just one of the pitfalls of this environment.
Choosing a make-up look
When it comes to choosing a make-up look, lots of things are considered. The dance that the star is doing and of course the costume and hair style are also both key. Each dancer has a folder (you can see Katya's above) with their dress designs in, any cuttings for hair and make-up ideas and their own eyeliner, mascara and lashes for the evening. We spotted quite a few pairs of Girls Aloud lashes, but Kristina gets her's from America. She did a lot of her make-up herself and her false lashes really were amazing and super-long.
The make-up artist's tips... use a line of glue very close to the lash line then wiggle the lashes in as close as possible to the lash line and not on the actual eyelid. Eyelids are oily and that's often what causes them to peel away. Once in place, fan the area for 10-20 seconds and then open the eye, pull the lower lid down and then push the lashes up and away from the eye. Kristina swears by putting her lashes on before eyeshadow so they stick better. To put it in perspective, by the end of the series the team will have gone through over 200 pairs of false eyelashes!
One of Lisa's favourite looks from this series was Ali Bastian's Paso Doble make-up in week 7 (See below). They went for a dramatic eye with 3 flicks of eyeliner in the corners. The upper lashes were quite spiky and Lisa's team added a lash to the lower lash line that flicked out at the side for a really wide-eyed and dramatic look.
Doing something different
Lisa tells us that Ali's pretty open to ideas for her make-up, tonight she has pink, green and yellow eyeshadow with stick-on crystals. It sounds crazy, but in this setting it totally works. It's really important for the team to have the trust of the person whose make-up is being done. After a few weeks everyone knows what people like and don't like and things become much easier.
Others like Jade, who don't tend to sit and have their make-up done as part of their day job can be a little harder to convince. Tonight Jade is wearing a bold tangerine/red lipstick which looks fab on her, but she's not someone who would usually wear lipstick. "Sometimes it takes you a while to get used to it" Lisa explains, it's a dramatic new-you when you look in the mirror. To keep thing fresh and interesting the make-up team swap around and don't keep doing the same people's make-up every week. Lisa says "We don't want things to look stale".
Others don't need any convincing. Aliona would happily have a little bit of everything when it comes to her make-up; colour, glitter, crystals... more glitter. Some even liken her to a Christmas tree but it's fun and she always looks fab. If you can't go OTT with make-up on Strictly Come Dancing, then when can you!
Make-up for the men
I asked what the men on the show need to have done make-up wise. Of course there's the anti-shine and powder which everyone needs on TV, but anyone exposing their chest is also like to need some bronzer. As we walked around the building, we just so happened to see a rather dashing Ricky Whittle hanging out in the corridor in a slit-to-the-waist top. The guys also get a little extra help looking fresh-faced with some under-eye concealer, after all they work really hard all week so by Saturday everyone's a little bit exhausted. More often that not it's making sure that they are clean shaven if it suits the dance or have a little bit of stubble that works better for the style they are doing.
High pressure work
The pressures on the make-up team are high though. The show is shot in HD and that means there's less margin for error. 'Everything has to be immaculate' Lisa says. The team are constantly covering up bruises from the celebs and dancers being thrown about and sometimes it's not until the costume's on that you can see what needs to be covered. When it comes to the face, Lisa uses the mirror to work as her camera, showing her where there might not be perfect symmetry.
Moisturisers and body glitters are used less than you'd think. The costumes the dancers wear are really expensive so anything with a colour in it is a no-go. A slight body shimmer mist is all they can get away with, and hair spray can be a problem too as it dulls the crystals on the gowns. Nail varnish has to be fast-drying in case someone is called on stage and nails can't be too long either - anything that makes it harder to fulfill a lift or hold just isn't going to happen.
The worst thing about the job has to be the constant brush cleaning. With that many people coming and going, clean brushes are vital. And the best thing about Lisa's job, "I can be really creative" she says.
Watch Strictly Come Dancing on BBC 1 each weekend or catch up on the iPlayer.