Hair and makeup artists affected by strikes in Hollywood

They’re not alone, of course, as writers and actors are picketing in their contract disputes with studios and streaming services. Crews and support staff in all areas of entertainment — production, promotion, assistants — are also out of work across the country.

“During the three, four or five months leading up to the writers’ strike, studios weren’t ready to start projects, so a lot of us have been out of work for a lot longer,” says Linda Dowds, a makeup artist in her 60s from Los Angeles who has worked in film and television since 1987.

The screenwriters went on strike on May 2. The cast followed on July 14. It is not yet known how long the strikes will last.

In more than a dozen interviews, costume, hair, makeup and nail specialists testified that they feared losing their housing and health insurance as they struggled to find alternatives.

Even if studios and broadcasters quickly come to an agreement with the Writers Guild of America and the SAG AFTRA, with unions representing screenwriters and actors respectively, it will take weeks for productions to resume.

Ms. Dowds, who shared an Oscar for her work on The Incredible Story of Miss Tammy Faye, claims to be in a “state of heightened anxiety” because of the strikes. However, she considers herself one of the lucky ones.

She spent years chaining projects, which allowed her to keep her health insurance with the guild of makeup artists and hairdressers.

No plan B

Hairstylist Kim Kimble, 52, who has worked with Beyoncé and Taraji P. Henson, as well as on Dreamgirls, belongs to the same union as Ms. Dowds. She has no idea what else she could do.

“Hairstyles are what I like,” argues Ms. Kimble in Los Angeles. “There’s really nothing else. And I love this job, so I find it difficult to understand where I could go.

Makeup artist Matin Maulawizada is based in New York, but often travels around the world. He works with actors and other celebrities on television sets, red carpets and talk shows.

“My work has been largely erased. Honestly, I don’t have a plan B,” he said.

The strikes come after years of pay cuts for their work.

“I’m not exaggerating by saying that we earn a tenth for the same work as in 2005”, explains Mr. Maulawizada.

“If you worked with a high-profile client, you could easily make $3,500 to $5,000 for a red carpet. Today you are lucky if you get $500.”

Currency concerns

Julie Kandalec, a manicurist in New York, has worked for almost 13 years with celebrities (Emily Blunt, Storm Reid and Selena Gomez, among others). She also teaches entrepreneurial skills to beauty professionals online, a lucrative side hustle that helps her support herself.

In addition, she works with brands and has maintained a network of contacts outside the Hollywood bubble.

Yet she worries about not being able to pay her rent. “With the Emmys, just that, it’s difficult,” says Ms. Kandalec.

For Matin Maulawizada, 59, a long actors’ strike would mean success or failure. If it extends until December, he and his spouse, a teacher, will have to sell their house.

“If I don’t have a job in the next month, I will worry about not being able to pay my bills.”

-Matin Maulawizada, New York-based makeup artist

Mr. Maulawizada is particularly concerned about colleagues who focus solely on film.

“They don’t have an online presence, as they work 16 hours a day behind the scenes, staring at their screens to make sure the actors and actresses look good. And they are the experts of the experts.”

He is trying to turn things around during the strikes, by offering brands to give money to professional makeup artists in exchange for videos on social media showing how to use the products. A few brands have already signed up.

The makeup industry finds itself in the same predicament as people who work dozens of other jobs in the entertainment industry.

Whitney Anne Adams is a costume designer who primarily works on feature films. “Other than a small two-month project, I haven’t worked since November 2022, because the downturn had already started last year,” she says.

Ms. Adams, based in Richmond, Virginia, has dedicated herself to union work. She belongs to two union sections, both affiliated to the same organization as that which brings together hairdressers and make-up artists.

“We will negotiate our contracts next year. We hope that the solidarity they feel today from us will come back to us then,” says Ms. Adams of the unionized workers currently on strike.

“We all have very similar needs and we all work side by side. If they don’t get a fair contract, it will be really bad for all of us in this business.”

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