Saturday, July 26, 2014

Looking Good

First she had to deal with a bunch of revolutionaries in tattered rags. Next it was a troupe of dancing Arabians in flowing robes. Then it was mobsters in fedoras and pinstriped suits. And that was just Sunday. Monday it was sportscasters describing hockey, while Tuesday meant a couple of business execs explaining earnings. But if you're Belinda, it's just your typical week, especially when you're the makeup artist that everybody wants.

True, not every week has her as the Department Head for the Tony Awards, the key makeup artist for the Stanley Cup Finals or working with the CEO of a major corporation. But if it's not one thing, it's another. It might be a music shoot in Nashville or a network singing competition at Radio City, a photography session for a print ad or even a wedding. No matter: whether it's Billy Graham or Billy Joel, George Clinton or Hillary Clinton (yes, she's done them all, plus McCartney, Sting and more), they trust her to make sure they look good.

Belinda began her working life as a model in her native Florida, and even managed two bars on the beach in St. Petersburg. "I made a lot of money!" she told me, but she didn't like the lifestyle. And so she made a promise that by the time she was 30 she would go on no more auditions and pour no more drinks (unless they were for herself). She enrolled in a vocational school for TV production, graduated when she was 31 and got work with ESPN at golf tournaments.

The connections she made there led her to jobs including the World Cup in 1993 in LA, after which she landed a stint as production manager on the skiing tour for 8 years. She also started doing football, which is where she noticed "The makeup artists were flakey, and sometimes didn't show up." One time in a pinch she ran to the drugstore, got some stuff and did it herself. Later, when another one showed up high at a game at the Orange Bowl, the producer turned to her again. This time she was ready, with a tackle box from Target filled with the necessary supplies. The producer let her double dip as a tech and a makeup artist (freelance slang for billing twice), but even better, she realized that was what she wanted to do.

She moved to LA to learn special effects makeup, and landed a job on "Unsolved Mysteries" with Robert Stack. Meantime she was picking up the art of blood and gore ("I can slash with the best of them!"), eventually working with director Steve Miner on the "Friday the 13th" movies. That led to stints on films such as "Forrest Gump," and an ever broadening set of contacts. She got a gig doing news in Austin, Texas, but found it boring. So when Sony records offered her a spot in New York as the house makeup artist for "Sessions at West 54th," she jumped at the chance. In that roll she worked with musicians from Elvis Costello to Sheryl Crow to Lou Reed and more. And those contacts led to much more on the New York scene and beyond.

But contacts only get you so far. It's about skills to be sure, not to mention attitude. "I treat everyone the same way," she told me. "I study their face for 20 seconds and I know what to do. I'm fast, I don't do things heavy and I don't play around. If they want to talk, I'll talk. I approach it as you are only as good as your last show; screw up once, that's what they will remember. And above all, I'm grateful for the work."

I asked her what her favorite gig was. Without hesitation, she said "The Tonys! Live show, live actors, no attitudes. They have no entourage, they are kind and appreciative of what I do." Her favorite person? "James Taylor. A real gentleman. He just says ‘Hello Belinda' and I melt!" And with all the people she's met and jobs she's been on, I asked if there was anything she would like to do. For the first time, it took her a minute to respond. "I'd like to fly a plane." She laughed. "But professionally? I'm about to work with Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett. After that, what's left?" For Belinda, what's left indeed.


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves finding out about people. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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