Emmy award-winning makeup artist Melanie Mills is known for her work as the Department Head Makeup artist on “Dancing with the Stars” and many other popular TV shows, as well as the makeup designer for Style Fashion Week in LA. She also works with the stars of “iCarly” and “Victorious.” With years of experience behind-the-scenes in television and at fashion shows, Melanie knows what it takes to look good on camera and off. With that expertise, she developed her cosmetic line Gleam by Melanie Mills and has a book coming out soon where she shares her celebrity makeup secrets. Melanie takes a break from her work on set to talk about “Dancing with the Stars,” tips for taking care of your skin, and the new projects she’s working on this year.
You were the Department Head Makeup artist on “Dancing with the Stars” for five years. Now you work with the cast for “iCarly” and “Victorious.” What are the challenges when working in TV?
Melanie: While I worked on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” it was a daily dealing of everyone’s nerves, and trying to bring all of those contestants out of their comfort zones and giving them the confidence to let loose on stage.
You’d be surprised how shy and reserved some actors and personalities really are. The fear of the eyelashes was one I loved to conquer, especially with people who had set ideas about their makeup looks. Once they were given the Viva Glamour Viva Glitter treatment in my makeup trailer, they were converts to the whole glamification process.
The fact that it was a live show and you had these backstage 2-5 minute quick changes … that just added to the adrenalin rush of it all. I loved every minute of it.
On the popular Nickelodeon shows “iCarly” and “Victorious,” the energy levels are so high as the casts are all these amazing young actors with so many other talents.
We work hard to keep the energy levels and positivity up — lots of humor and fun fashionable makeups to make the long hours seem like they go by quicker. I love creating new looks for the cast and keeping our kids in great moods and just having fun with it all!
Can you share a behind-the-scenes story from “Dancing with the Stars?”
Melanie: There are so many! I loved being in the mix during the quick changes and having about 5-6 people working one person: body makeup, makeup, hair and wardrobe — just to get contestants changed quickly between numbers.
During season 11, I had about 20 minutes to do Jennifer Grey on the finale because she had been in the hospital that day due to exhaustion and also some back problems. She had serious neck injuries and despite these handicaps, she won the season and she really pulled it together. She loved the process of the DWTS transformation and enjoyed everyone in the cast and crew — a class act.
Cloris Leachman was memorable, as she really came to life in the makeup trailer and adored when her makeup and lashes were applied, and she always had great stories to share. Nicole Sherzinger, too; she loved creamy pink cheeks and lashy eyes. Susan Lucci at first was a little hesitant about the dramatic makeup, but grew to really love it and couldn’t wait to get her lashes on. She was also a delight to work with.
Bristol Palin was a down-to-earth girl next door, unpretentious and always up for learning new ways to do makeup, and even footballer Warren Sapp was so much fun. He used to joke with me that while he was on DWTS, he never got in trouble when he went home with glitter all over him. Warren was always generous and took care of us in the makeup trailer with a lovely bottle of red wine each week.
Erin Andrews was a blast and always ready to go from no makeup to glamazon; she really looked amazing with her lashes and costume on.
And when I was doing a super glittery look all over Pamela Anderson, she said ‘blow it all over me’ and I did. Then she blew it back on me and said ‘now we can tell everyone we blew each other!!!’ She was always pro PETA and shared many cruelty-free fashion finds with all of us in the trailer. Lovely woman.
You are also the makeup designer for Style Fashion Week in LA and Concept LA. Tell us about a typical day for you during fashion week.
Melanie: You want to juggle flaming cats? Organize and oversee a multi-designer fashion show on a deadline. Oh my gosh — total workplace stress but fun, and full of creative energy!
I spend weeks prepping and talking with designers about their vision for the runway and the vibe of their collections, and then sketching out my vision from their notes. Some designers are very clear and specific and some are not and truly rely on my vision of their collections for the catwalk.
Similar to what I did weekly for ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars”; I created look boards with swatches and outlines of the silhouettes and instruction for my team of assembled makeup artists so that they understand the concept for each designer, before we begin the test makeups that are submitted for approval.
Then there is the team building. I need the best artists I can rely on, people whose past work is exemplary, and whose work ethic can match mine and who give 110 percent. So I build this amazing team and then we gather the cutting-edge color and supplies we need for the season. I will have up to 20 makeup artists per day to manage and we do anywhere from one to three shows a day. For some fashion shows like Concept fashion LA and NYC, we do three runways and five installations.
So it’s rewarding work but not for everyone — you really are tested as a makeup artist. Success is all about good direction and being prepared.
What tips do you have for men and women on taking care of their skin?
Melanie: Skin is your biggest organ and the most abused. Take it from a makeup artist; people need to think about their skin everywhere more! Getting facials and learning how to preserve your skin at home is top of the list. Men and women!
I think facials every 4-6 weeks are important.
I have a couple different face washes, depending on how my skin is doing. I love Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Serum with vitamin C and I believe in good eye serums, eye balms and good lotions.
There are many wonderful organic and natural lines out there to try – all at different price points. The thing to do is clean your skin properly; do not over moisturize, but find a great serum that helps deep exfoliate and a great day and night moisturizer. Always protect skin from the sun and make sure you are eating right, because your skin, hair and nails are a reflection of your internal health.
Just like a dentist, a makeup artist can spot a smoker or druggie well before they sit in the chair. Always wear a hat in the sun and sunblock. I am a big believer in foundation as a physical block over sunscreen too; the women I have worked on who do this always seem to have better preserved skin.
Also, do not sleep on your face!
For those ready to start tanning to get that summer glow, what do you recommend they do? What is the safest and best way to go about tanning?
Melanie: I love this question, because it was the reason I invented Gleam Body Radiance on the set of “Dancing with the Stars,” where it is still in use.
Self-tanning done well is a confidence boost. Like any colorizing treatment, you must prep skin with a great body scrub and hydration treatment. I believe a little sun is healthy for you psychologically and for cancer fighting properties. Vitamin D is important.
Just make sure the areas like face, neck and chest are covered with a good sunscreen. Wear sunblock that is waterproof and sweat-proof and keep reapplying and don’t get burned — just do it gradually.
Gleam Body Radiance is my botanical-based body makeup invented to even spray tans and can be worn regardless if you’re tan or not. It is transfer-resistant and comes in four shades for all women of any color.
At what age do you think girls should start wearing makeup? What products do you recommend they start with?
Melanie: That’s up to mom and dad. My daughter is 8 years old and loves makeup and I let her be creative, especially when she comes to a fashion show or a fun dinner — but never at school.
I think lip glosses can work their way in round ages 11-13 — and mascara, then a light tinted moisturizer. I believe in teaching girls young to care for their skin, something I picked up from my own grandmothers and my trips to Europe. Skincare is a serious mother-daughter exchange there; women are taught more about this than here in the USA.
You are always taking care of other women, making them beautiful. What do you like to do for yourself when it comes to beauty and fashion?
Melanie: Glamour is a family instilled value at my house. I must say I am quite the diva and the love of all things beauty oriented runs deep in my family. We refer to one of my grandmothers as ‘Glamma’ and she’s turning 81.
My Glamma is never without her makeup, hair and jewelry in place, and even in casual garb she is a knockout; her new man is 72!
I definitely make time to take care of myself — who else will do this for you? I get my nails done every two weeks and I have a fabulous facialist I have seen for years to get facials every four weeks.
Living in Los Angeles, I am spoiled with the amazing full Korean body scrubs at their spas and go as much as I can, because I live in my Gleam and always like to be ready for a bare leg dress, or arms exposed and looking even and velvety.
For daily maintenance, I have a skin care regimen for morning and night. I get my hair done every five weeks and I do Pilates and ballroom dancing. I eat well too … or at least I try!
Tell us about your cosmetic line Gleam.
Melanie: Gleam Body radiance was the launch product of my line of cosmetics, Gleam By Melanie Mills. I was so frustrated on “Dancing with the Stars”; the spray tans faded fast, and looked uneven and even ashy on camera. The shiny body lotions we bought to even and finish were a disaster.
Everything we bought came off on wardrobe and looked too greasy on camera. The color ranges were limited. I experimented with different products and went to a lab here in Los Angeles and came up with initially what we called “Mel’s Mix” – my secret potion that was less a lotion, and more a body makeup. My body makeup artist Nadege Shoenfeld was so impressed with it she started sharing it with other makeup artists who needed a savior product for on-camera skin. Nadege has done body makeup for over 30 years and told me she had never used anything like this and that was the spark. I came up with the name Gleam, and created four shades, as African-American actresses never had anything that evened their skin out like my product did. Today we are used by A-List Hollywood and so many pro Local 706 artists who tend to casts on series and films all over this town and beyond.
On my Facebook page, I get as many comments from fellow makeup artists thanking me for this product as I do from regular people who want to wear their legs, arms of décolleté bare for special occasions. It’s a fantastic product and there really is nothing like it.
I just introduced my Lip radiance lipglosses in seven hot fashion colors, and we sold out of them the first month they launched; now we have caught up with demand. I just got a note from comedian Monique Marvez, who was on Showtime’s “Snoop Dogg presents the Bad Girls of Comedy,” and she posted a picture of herself wearing Unstoppable on my Facebook page, thanking me. I love this new world of social media access and instant communication. It fuels me to create more amazing cosmetic items.
Are you working on any new projects?
Melanie: Yes! My first celebrity makeup book “Viva Glitter Viva Glamour” is due out this year. Plus, I am pitching a reality show based on the behind-the-scenes for this book. On my official YouTube channel you can see some of the great moments with Erin Andrews, Ariana Grande, Liz Gillies and more.
I started directing and producing high fashion photo shoots for celebs like Ariana Grande for her “Put Your Hearts Up” iTunes cover.
Plus, I am always working on Gleam; now I am working on cream eyeshadows and new glitter-velvet finish powders and a makeup sealer. My Team Gleam is always at makeup trade shows and we are always looking for hot salons and retailers to carry Gleam by Melanie Mills; so far we cover Canada to Mexico and Brazil and Australia are knocking!