During my college years in California I moonlighted as a makeup artist in addition to having a traditional job. Trained by Abel Zeballos, who is a well-known teacher among those in the industry famous for his warm heart, thick Bolivian accent, and passion for “powder, powder, powder!” I worked not only for small theaters, actors, and one movie, I also lucked out in scoring a gig at Knott’s Berry Farm’s Halloween Haunt. Haunt is an annual event featuring live shows, scary mazes, freak shows, and street talent. I worked first as a monster— sliding along the pavement and scaring grown men twice my size. Nobody expected a tiny girl monster! After my stint as scare-talent, I transitioned to work as a makeup artist.
I worked year after year, and as anybody else that has worked there could tell you, it’s an addicting and wonderful place. Over the years my Haunt coworkers became my Haunt family, and we all loved and hated each other through our annual tradition together. I worked a few summers alongside Mel Smith, a former student of Abel’s, making masks. During the fall our job was even more fun and a little bit crazier—each makeup artist would have three to five monsters to get ready for the night. Have you ever watched one of those “making of” movie featurettes where the makeup artist spends hours and hours crafting the perfect look for their actor? We had thirty to forty-five minutes, tops. But even though our turnaround time was quick, the job was a blast. I got paid to make monsters. How fun is that?
The 2002 Haunt season was my last before I decided to move to Minnesota, and it was a great year to end on. Some of my best friends were getting ready to “retire,” and I was in a new and still-grand relationship that seemed to be going places, though I wasn’t quite sure where yet. At the end of each season a crew of employees would organize an awards banquet. It started with just monster recognition but then evolved to include the makeup artists as well. Votes were contributed by the other makeup artists in a display of peer affirmation. I remember sitting quite cozy, enjoying the festivities and listening to the winners receive their awards. I wondered who would be voted “Makeup Artist of the Year”—since to be fair, all of the artists in the crew were pretty great. I had voted for my friend Aaron, a professional with industry experience, who had also given me some of my first training on airbrushing tools and techniques.
When my name was called from the podium for Makeup Artist of the Year I remember being completely stunned. My monster friends cheered for me along with the rest of the makeup crew and I walked (in fuzzy slippers) up to receive my award, blushing, smiling, and happy. Good coworkers can make a bad job better. Terrible coworkers can make a decent job unbearable. A great job combined with wonderful colleagues is without rival. And in a professional setting, I found that few things feel as rewarding as affirmation from my respected colleagues.
This post is adapted from It’s Never Going To Work: A Tale of Art and Nonprofits in the Minneapolis Community with illustrations by Athena Currier. Post graphics by Jamie Schumacher. ©2018 Jamie Schumacher.
It’s Never Going To Work is a light-hearted, illustrated book that offers real-life insights on founding a community space and nonprofit. It provides tools, tips, resources, and camaraderie to community organizers and anybody attempting something new.