“And we are back! I took a few steps back from The Modern Bee recently to think about the bigger picture, where I want this site and community to go in 2020 and what I want it to continue to be. That being said, I’m thrilled to return and to have connected with some more incredible women as 2020 gets underway. Today, we’re “re-launching” with a dear friend of mine and a woman I’ve admired greatly for many years. The phenomenal Debi Young is an Emmy-nominated make-up artist, who was recently nominated in 2019 for her extraordinary work on the series, True Detective. I hope some of her magic seeps through the screen and rubs off on you here..” – Michaela
First things first, how did you get started in the make-up industry and specifically within film and television? Was this a lifelong dream or a swerve that surprised you?
As long as I can remember, I was always attracted to makeup and skincare. My dad was a barber and my siblings and I spent a great deal of time at his barbershop. I was always rubbing lotions, tonics and creams on my siblings, cousins or myself! On the weekends that my mother worked, he would babysit us at the barbershop. If the barbershop was super busy, he would have the ushers at the Harlem Theatre, located around the corner from his business, keep eyes on us, while we enjoyed the movies!
By the time I reached junior high and high school, I started experimenting on my friends and they started coming to me whenever there was a party or an occasion where they needed makeup. I continued doing makeup as a hobby, but soon realized that people felt better after having their makeup done. Somehow, their self esteem seemed elevated once they got up from my chair. So not only did I have a passion for the art, but I also wanted people to feel good about themselves and kind of made it my mission to speak positively to them while making them up! I never intended to be a makeup artist, it was just something that I liked doing. So much so, no matter where I was employed, I found myself doing makeup in the ladies room for my coworkers! Even working for the Baltimore City Police Department, as an Emergency call (911) clerk, I was still doing makeup in the ladies room on my breaks!
I remember, playing with my older cousins’ Maybelline eyeliner pencils, Cutex Nail Polish and Jergens lotion. As well as my mom’s Revlon Lipsticks and Coty Powder. I had such a passion for color and art, I would practice on myself, whenever I could. When I was about 9 or 10. my dad said to me, “your name is going to be in film credits” and I asked, “what are credits?” and he explained to me as the credits rolled, about all the people who worked on a film, and makeup was one of the departments. I really never thought about that often, but much later, my dad’s words would come back to me!
I left the Police Dept, after five years got my aesthetician’s license and started freelancing as a makeup artists for different cosmetic lines and eventually worked at Saks 5th Avenue in the cosmetics department. It was there that one of my customers, a newspaper journalist, asked me to do her makeup for a local talk show she was guest hosting. She said that the show could not pay me, but they would give me a screen credit. I agreed. When the host returned he decided to keep me and started paying me to do other commercial and film projects. Later he recommended me to Tim and Daphne Reid, who were taping a talk show in Baltimore. I started doing other projects with Tim and Daphne and eventually got into the IATSE Makeup and Hairstylists Union and started working on feature films and television series…that’s how my film makeup career started.
So this was not a lifelong dream or a swerve. I’d like to say my evolution into film and TV was Divine Order! I never aspired to be a film makeup artist, but I believe it was my Divine Design! I was born with my style, my passion for art, design, color, makeup and my love for people. No matter what job I was doing at the time or what people said, it was that little thing deep inside of me, that kept gently nudging me in that direction and I could effortlessly comply, because it came so naturally to me!
My parents always told us we could do and be whatever we wanted in life. My mother would say, if you make one step towards what you want, God will make two steps for you! With my parents’ affirmations and that little seed that my dad planted deep inside of me so long ago, I kept growing and evolving into a Film and Television Makeup Artist….and yes, I am blessed, my name has appeared in many credits, just as my dad said!
Stay tuned for part two of our interview with Debi where she delves into her role in bringing a script alive on screen and how she maintains a sense of home in the nomadic culture of the film and television industry.