All dolled up: Students discuss how they use makeup to express themselves

Nikki Reifler, a freshman creative producing major, dressed as Palimpsest Poxy, performs in drag. Photo courtesy of Nikki Reifler

Before performing a standup routine, freshman creative producing major Nikki Reifler uses makeup, a handmade wig and anything available to transform into drag queen Palimpsest Poxy.

Poxy sometimes uses construction paper as hair and glues construction paper to create a 3-D eyebrow look for Poxy.

Makeup is an art form that can be used to transform, create and express in many different ways. Many Chapman students use it as a way to convey a character’s personality or transform their looks completely, and let their art change their outlook on their community.

“To me, drag makeup is not just performing on a stage, drag is everyday life and dressing how you want the world to view you,” Reifler said. “So you are kind of doing that every day when you’re choosing what to wear. Whatever makeup you wear, or how you dress is how you want to be perceived by the world. So to me, drag is just an expression of a way that I see myself at times in a very colorful and comedic sense.”

Drag is more than just putting on some mascara, Reifler said, it’s a complete shift in someone’s identity.

“I like the transformation. I like looking at myself and thinking, ‘That’s weird,’” Reifler said. “You look like a different human entirely when you watch them talk or move, and by they, I mean myself, but it just doesn’t feel like it when I’m in drag.”

Allie Merrell, a freshman television writing and production major, uses makeup to show a character’s personality for her web series, The Roedell Project.

“For a lot of people, the first thing they see about you is your face, so makeup can alter how people see you. I think makeup definitely assists in conveying the first impression that we want people to get out of a character and who they are going to be in a series,” Merrell said.

She also uses makeup to enhance the transformation of characters throughout the series.

“As the web series progresses, the makeup can give the audience a hint of what the kind of changes a character is going through and that they are more comfortable becoming who they are,” Merrell said. “It’s subtle for sure, especially over a long period of time, but it’s something the mind processes without being necessarily conscious of the change.”

To many artists, makeup as an art form is also used as self-expression. Mia Garcia, junior health sciences major, does freelance events and Halloween makeup.

“Makeup can be an extension of yourself. As far as artwork, it all depends on what you like and what you feel like you want to express yourself as,” Garcia said. “And that’s what art does. It’s a way of expressing yourself and that’s all makeup is.”

Garcia began experimenting with makeup when she had to dress up for dance shows growing up. From there, she’s done makeup for events and Halloween makeup, transforming herself into characters such as a wolf, an old lady and a clown.

“It’s an art form because it’s definitely a created thing,” she said. “It’s something you create that’s original. You can make it as original as you want, or you can imitate someone else. It really is just painting on a human.”

Senior theatre performance major Sam Schlernitzauer said she has done stage makeup since she started theater in fifth grade.

“For me, when I think about art, it usually has to do with some form of technical skills. When you think about theater, dance or music, that all takes a lot of hard work and practice and makeup is nothing different,” Schlernitzauer said. “Just because it’s on a live canvas doesn’t make it any less art than if it was on a wall. Whether art is alive or stagnant, it’s still all art.”

Schlernitzauer said she sees makeup as something that helps performers become their characters.

“One thing that I really love about theater makeup is when you are in theater, you can be someone else. You can be the character, you embody the character. The makeup is a piece of that. Without the makeup, you can be the character, but you’re still you. I think that along with costuming, hair and makeup, it’s all an element that brings the character to life,” Schlernitzauer said.

Other Chapman artists like Jessie Juarez, a sophomore communication studies major,  started to use makeup because she simply liked how it made her feel.

“People think that makeup is covering up their true selves, just trying to make them look better, trying to impress others, but I think most of the time, people who wear makeup are not trying to impress anyone but themselves,” Juarez said.

Joel Reed is a freelance special effects makeup artist and has more than five years of experience working on Chapman student’s thesis films but doesn’t attend Chapman. Working in the lab to create stunt body parts, props, live molds or life casts has given him a unique outlook on the makeup process.

“You start from nothing and in the end, you put all that science on someone’s face. Going through so many different mediums and in the end you have a replication of another person’s head is really cool,” Reed said. “A lot of artists are sometimes intimidated by math and science. But there’s so much math involved and so many ratios. It goes from something most people would find is the opposite of artistic to something that is very artistic. I think that’s one really unique thing about makeup.”

He said his favorite experience was working on a Chapman intermediate project for the film school that required the actor to rip out his own heart on camera. Reed was impressed with the ambitious project and liked the challenge.

“As an art, really I think it’s one of the most expressive. It’s art that you can wear. You don’t look at a person as a person, you look at them as a canvas,” Reed said. “You can express so many different things using the natural shapes of their faces. You can do face and body painting, (special effect) makeup or anything. It’s on a different level because you can actually see your artwork literally coming to life because it’s on a living breathing human.”

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