BWW Interview: BWW Interview: The Hair and Makeup Team Behind Dolemite Is My Name Talk Being Oscar-Shortlisted
The hair and makeup team behind "Dolemite Is My Name," Vera Steimberg, Stacey Morris, and Carla Farmer took the time to speak with us about their work on the film and being Oscar-shortlisted.
Tell us a bit about your backgrounds. How did you each decide to work in the film industry as hair and makeup artists?
VS:I'm from Argentina, and never thought I could make a living as a makeup artist. I used to go see my aunt who was an actress at the theatre and loved the prep process!
Once I moved to LA the only thing I wanted to do was to work on films, so I started assisting and working on student movies until I finally joined the union and was able to work!
CF:I always did hair. I used to receive 75 cents to braid the guys' hair in my neighborhood so their Afros would appear larger after the comb out.
SM: I grew up on the east coast raised by my mother who was a designer and model. My father was a record company executive and my biological father was a music producer and songwriter. I experimented barbering on my brothers and soon discovered my innate talent as a barber with an intrinsic flair. My reputation developed and I was sought out by many in the industry. I was basically a product of my childhood environment consisting of music artists, entertainment and fashion. I took my skill and made the industry my platform. The industry chose me. My career developed serendipitously.
Congratulations on being Oscar-shortlisted for your work on "Dolemite Is My Name," what was it like working on that film and with Eddie Murphy?
SM: This was the most nostalgic, indelible and fun project in my career thus far. There was so much talent involved and the energy and work ethic are unmatched.
CF:I've worked on two movies with Eddie now, and it's been a dream come true. The first time I visited a movie set was on an Eddie Murphy film, and now 30 years later I have been a co-department head for two of his films. He is the GOAT!
VS: Working on Dolemite was an incredible experience. Learning about Rudy Ray Moore and recreating his story in the 70s was a dream come true. I've been working with Eddie for 20 years and seeing him in this movie was brilliant!
Is it true over 200 wigs were worn in the film? Tell us about the wigs!
CF:Yes, there were over 200 wigs used, mostly from my own personal collection. We used both human and synthetic hair. We had a staff of people who worked countless hours making sure the wigs were washed, maintained and ready for each scene. Lillie Frierson and Debbie Pierce led the background wig department.
"Dolemite Is My Name" is based on a true story, how much and what kind of research did you all do when preparing for this film?
CF: We did extensive research. We started research before our deals even closed. We watched countless hours of 70's movies, and of course we watched all of Rudy Ray Moore's movies. We even looked through personal and family photo albums. We also watched concert films of the time, to get a sense of authentic hairstyles for audience members.
VS: We got together as a team to gather as much information and photos as we could find to create an accurate look for the movie.
Did you work closely with the costume department when deciding on hair and makeup looks?
VS: Yes! We've all worked with Ruth Carter before so we went to see the wardrobe, drawings and color palette she created. That gave us great ideas for the makeup looks!
CF:We worked closely with Ruth and her amazing team. We would utilize hats and Ruth would suggest styles to complete some of her costume looks.
How involved was Eddie in the decision-making processes?
VS: Eddie was very involved in the process. I've worked with Stacey for such a long time that we all know how to collaborate and create the look as a team.
Since both are portrayed by Eddie Murphy, how did you decide to differentiate the looks between Rudy Ray Moore and Dolemite?
VS:With makeup, I had a few changes with the sideburns and moustache. I collaborated with Stacey to match the hair texture and change either the length or width of the sideburns and moustache depending on the look. I kept him with a shine to make it as organic as possible. I also covered tattoos as we didn't see that back in the 70s.
SM: The hair had to tell and reflect the progression of the story. The Rudy look was Rudy as he was in everyday life. The first Dolemite look (out of the closet) was after Rudy decided to create the Dolemite character with his cosplay. It was an infantile look from when he first began developing the character.
The Dolemite movie within the movie look was after Dolemite's signature look was clear and was being shot by Rudy hopefully for the big screen.
Then we have Rudy done up (wearing an actual wig) to go see the premiere of his Dolemite movie. That differentiates him from the character he made up for the movie.
Rudy wore wigs in real life so it was essential that he had a plethora of looks along the way.
Do each of you have a favorite look you've created for a film over the years?
SM: My favorite film looks that I've created were for "Dreamgirls," "Mr. Church," "Dolemite," "Norbit" and hair that will be seen in "Coming 2 America."
VS: I really liked what Stacey and I did with Eddie on the movie "Mr. Church." Especially as he started aging.
CF: I love the look I created for Craig Robinson's character. The multiple parted style was inspired by the DUKE GLOBETROTTER. We found that style during the research process. After I decided I would put it in the film, I then actually saw a picture of Rudy Ray Moore in the same style and I knew we were on the right track.
What is one thing you wish people understood about your career that maybe not a lot of people know?
SM: I'm a self-taught licensed cosmetologist with honed expertise in men's grooming. I've been doing hair since I was 12 years old and I've been professionally self-employed since the age of 18. Although my life and career have been very rewarding, all that glitters is not gold.
VS: Our career is very exciting but a lot of times it's not as glamorous as people think. We work really long hours and sometimes have to shoot outside of our hometown which keeps us away from our families. That can be very hard!
CF: What we do as hair and makeup professionals impacts the tone of the work day on set. We are usually the first department the actor sees when they come to work. The trailer is a place where they go over their lines and get into their characters.
Is there one person you'd love to collaborate with that you haven't had a chance to yet?
VS: So many! It's hard to mention them all. From actors to make up artists, directors, and so many other departments.
CF: I would love to work on a biopic about Whitney Houston. I would love to do all the different looks from the 80s, 90s and 2000s. If you were to ask who I feel would be a great Whitney Houston, it would be KiKi Layne. She has an amazing voice and is a great actor. She even looks like Whitney.
Do any of you have advice for anyone pursuing hair and makeup as a career, like anything you wish you knew when you were starting out?
VS:Don't give up, try hard and get really good at your craft! Practice, practice, practice.
CF: My advice to anyone who has a dream of doing hair or makeup in the film industry is to never give up! Always do your best work without looking for awards or recognition. IT WILL FIND YOU.
Congrats again on being Oscar-shortlisted and good luck!!
Photos courtesy of Vera Steimberg, Carla Farmer, Stacey Morris