Voilà Lola!

What’s it like doing theatrical make-up and hair on a big, London musical? Here to give us some insight is Lorna Stimson, head of wigs for the west end show Kinky Boots currently playing at the Adelphi Theatre.

Lorna studied at Brushstroke on the 9 Month Make-Up and Hair ITEC course. Since this time, she’s focused on stage make-up and hair – the love of which she puts down to a certain sporting event in 2012:

“The Olympics did it for me – I knew immediately that live stage work was where I wanted to be. I worked on both the Opening and Closing ceremonies and had a wonderful time. As a hair assistant for the dancers and flag bearers, I was able to put my newly-learnt skills to test. Even though my efforts went unpaid, I learnt so much about working with people and being part of a team.”

Lorna went on to work on Cats, Singin’ in the Rain, Funny Girl (with Sheridan Smith) and Gypsy where she was head of department (usually called ‘HoD’). Now, as head of wigs for Kinky Boots, she is responsible for some amazing transformations, as she explains.

The daily regime of a theatrical make-up artist

The working day for a theatrical make-up and hair professional starts well in advance of the performance. Lorna’s ‘typical’ schedule for an evening performance of Kinky Boots, starts around 2pm. Apart from getting the actors ready (she also does the make-up for the leads), she has 30+ wigs to look after. This means following a daily regime to keep the wigs fresh and in good shape for each performance.

Olivier Award winning (2016) Kinky Boots is about the fortunes of a shoe-maker and it takes the audience from the factory floor to the glamorous catwalks of Milan. The cast have many costume, make-up and wig changes so Lorna and her team (a deputy, 3 assistants plus a wig swing – similar to a make-up daily) really have their work cut out.

Getting a wig back into good shape

The Kinky Boots’ wig collection

An ‘Angel’s’ wig

Quick-fire theatrical make-up and hair changes

Applying the make-up for the lead actors (the rest of the cast do their own) takes Lorna and her team 2-3 hours. Theatrical make-up is very different from film, TV or editorial. Make-up for the stage enhances the features of the performers so the audience at the back of the auditorium can see and connect with them.

The Kinky Boots storyline features drag queen Lola and her group of ‘Angels’. Transforming these male actors into stunning performers requires a bit of time – drawing a ‘décolletage’ on their chests for example!

“There are 4 wig plots – which are big changes for us to manage. For example the character, Lola, appears first in drag, then as a boy before finally, switching back to being a drag queen again,” explains Lorna.

That’s a lot of make-up for one face so Lorna has a very simple beauty routine for her clients: “Coconut oil is great for removing make-up and it’s really soft on the skin. I also use micellar water and hot flannels.”

Hair and make-up for 2 different Lolas

Good advice for all make-up students

Having a good team of people working together is so important. As Lorna says, “you spend a lot of time together on a production – whether it’s film or stage make-up you’re doing. So it really matters that you get on, are sociable and respectful of each other.

“My advice to all make-up artists is to be known for doing an excellent job. Be indispensible and a willing member of the team. Passion shows and so does attitude. Always be prepared to demonstrate your skills and capabilities at interviews. If you’re going for a job that involves something specific – like wigs or hair styling – you can be sure you’ll be asked to prove you know what you’re doing. In your own way you also need to perform.” You’ll find more tips about succeeding as a make-up artist in our blog. Also, how actor, Ben Hardy (Bohemian Rhapsody) rates the calming effect of the make-up artist.

Ready but just taking a moment…

Cast members taking centre stage outside

Thank you to Lorna (left) for talking to us about her work as a theatrical make-up and hair artist. Our best wishes also to the cast of Kinky Boots and the whole production team. (Performers featured in this blog are: Louis Clarke-Clare, Momar Diagne and Simon-Anthony Rhoden.)

Please follow Lorna on Instagram and here’s the official UK website for Kinky Boots

Theatrical make-up training is included on our 2 year and 9 month courses – along with all the skills you need to become a fully rounded hair and make-up artist across film, TV and fashion.

2 Year
Make-up & Hair

BTEC, Level 3 Diploma

Our most thorough training to prepare you for a career as an artist in TV, film, stage and fashion.

Film, TV & Stage

The options for make-up artists working in film and TV are endless. Sci-fi movie set, west end stage show or favourite soap?

9 Month
Make-Up & Hair

ITEC Level 3 Diploma

The ideal course for those wanting to change career or work round family commitments.

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