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Lights. Action. Camera! How to Look Your Best on TV

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Although I beat stress by
browsing the dime-store cosmetics aisle at the local chain store, I rarely put
on full makeup. As a self-published writer with one book in the stores and
another due out soon, I don’t have time, between quotation marks and list-price
markup, to dot my own eyes.


When I went for my first TV
interview, I rummaged through my makeup, purchased at the local drug and
department stores, and applied my old products. Using a heavy hand, I rubbed
the blusher a bit darker, the shadow heavier than usual. Because of my
inexperience, I didn’t define dark colors with lip liner or eyeliner.


On the videotape, I looked washed
out, pale, and tired. What a contradiction! Here I was, extolling my topic, the
nonfiction history of gangster wives and sweethearts, with all the passion I
had to offer. Yet, my face said I needed a vacation, with lots of sun. And my
hair, as though commiserating with my face, decided to wing out in little
points around my ears. Thank goodness my message came across with focus and
energy, or the show would have been a disaster for me.


That experience taught me not to
go on TV ever again without first having a seasoned television professional do
my makeup.


Find an Appropriate Expert


A TV interview involves lights
that bring out the little problems we all got stressed about in adolescence.
Bed head, facial flaws, and worse all seem glaring. While media training can
smooth your delivery, and correct clothing can enhance your image, your face
must be well prepared too.


Whether male or female, you don’t
want to look comical or overdone. A good makeup artist understands that. Like a
colorist or hair stylist, your makeup artist should realize that you need to
appear professional as well as flawless. You are not Cher, and you know it. A
good makeup artist will bring out your innate intelligence, not the inner


Makeup has always been commonplace
in the world of film and television. Michel Sova, a makeup artist with Makeup
Artist NY, stresses its importance for both men and women. “The last thing you
need is for a shining forehead to take attention away from what you are
actually saying. That would be a shame, given all the work you’ve done to
become an expert in your field.”


Some producers may supply a makeup
person for you. If they offer, accept. Otherwise, you’ll have to find a local
makeup artist yourself. That may not be easy, but it won’t be impossible. Start
by doing a computer search, including a check of <span
, to see who is
available in your area. Call local beauty schools and get referrals. And
remember that you must be ready when the producer calls you, so line up your
makeup artist ahead of time.


Be sure the makeup artist you
choose has solid experience working in television, for either a broadcaster or
production company.


Don’t go to the people who do
demos for specific product lines at the local beauty salon or department store.
The products limit the cosmeticians, and they may compensate by applying too
much in all the wrong places. Bridal technicians, likewise, won’t know the
nuances of television lighting.


Keep—the Look


Once you’ve found a good
candidate, book a trial. The trial is the most important step in the process of
finding your perfect look for television. It should cost significantly less
than the final makeup session, and it might even get you a discount on the
final session if it’s part of a package price. In general, makeup artists’
prices range from $200 to $600 for a television show. Authors should expect to
pay $200 to $300 for a package that includes a trial.


It is important to have the trial
before the day of the taping. It is your only chance to assess the makeup
artist. During the trial, ask questions. The person should demonstrate a verbal
knowledge of lighting, movement, and how activity before the camera
necessitates touch-ups. Use your gut feeling to assess the finished product. If
you look at your reflection and you see a heavily made up but dignified face
that still looks like you, then you’ve found the right technician. But if the
face you see is frightening, then you haven’t got it right.


You may wish to supply the makeup
artist with technical data about lighting and film specifications (which you
may be able to get from a production assistant) that can help the artist
approximate the exact conditions under which you will be filming. With this
information, you might wish to invest in a demo tape, made by a filmmaker,
which would help you see how you would actually look on TV.


The week of the taping, book your
session within two hours of a scheduled appearance. Stop using eye makeup a few
days before to ensure that the makeup artist won’t be encumbered with old,
stubborn stains around your eyes.


During the show, use any breaks in
taping to blot your nose with a corn silk tissue to eliminate shine. If you
have to remain in one spot for long periods, keep a little bag of blotters,
lipstick, and water next to you, but out of camera range. Drink your water with
a straw to keep your throat wet without ruining your lipstick. Men need to
observe these simple rules too because their lips might be lined.


“The most important makeup need
for television is shine control, especially if a man has a receding hairline or
is bald,” Sova advises. “Lights have a way of taking the very slightest of face
oils and making them shine terribly.”


Have a good hair day, too. Your
hair, the complement to your makeup, should not be sticky with spray. Don’t try
a new hairstyle when you’re going to be on television. Have your hair cut two
to three weeks before the show. You are the best judge of when your hair looks
its best; just follow procedures you’ve already established to ensure a perfect
hair day.


How I Kept My Cool


When the day of my TV taping
arrived, I was nervous. The TV crew was coming to my home, where they were to
interview me for a documentary about the girlfriend of legendary 1930s gangster
John Dillinger. By taking the proper steps to ensure that my hair was done
well, and by following commonsense guidelines for dress, I could relax and
focus on the key points of my subject. The interview turned out to be
demanding, as it lasted for several hours. Yet throughout the long
question-and-answer session, my professional appearance kept me cool under the
hot, blinding lights.


Ellen Poulsen is the
president of Clinton Cook Publishing Corp. A 1930s crime historian, she is the
author of Don’t Call Us
Molls: Women of the John Dillinger Gang
, and the forthcoming <span
class=8StoneSans>Vice Girls & The Syndicate:
Witnesses in the Trial of Lucky Luciano
. To learn more, check out



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