Strictly Come Dancing hair & make-up secrets
BY STYLE EDITOR, ON 11 DEC 2009 10:57 BEAUTY & FRAGRANCECOMMENTS
It’s not every day you get to hang out behind the scenes on Strictly Come Dancing, but I recently did just that. Here’s what I discovered while hanging out back stage.
I chatted to Lisa Armstrong who is head of make-up on the show about the work her team does. Each contestant gets 1 hour in make-up she explained and amazingly, at only 1 pm, it seems most of the celebs have already had their make-up done – although they’ll be in for a couple more touch-ups before the live show. One minute the room is full and bustling, the next there’s no one here. But the scheduling has to run like clockwork to ensure everyone is ready for the dress rehearsal so there’s time to fix anything that isn’t working.
The make-up artist’s kit and routine
Looking around the room, there are bags of product on every surface, from the well-stocked eyeshadow palettes, to every kind of eyeliner and Chanel foundations. A Chanel base is liked by Lisa because it gives a strong coverage – but with anything like this, each dancer is different. Katya, who danced with Phil Tufnell, prefers to use bareMinerals products (a best selling brand at debenhams.com ). However, the magpie in me was instantly drawn to the bag full of glitters in every colour under the sun.
The routine for the dancers is to start with eye make-up. Eyeshadow first, then liner and false lashes. After this the under-eye area looks a little panda-like, but water toner is then used to cleanse the face under the eyes . At this point the make-up artist will put the base on. Any glitter used has to be mixed with something to ensure it sticks and won’t fall all over the face after dancing energetically.
Choosing a make-up look
When it comes to choosing a make-up look, lots of things are considered. The dance that the star is doing and of course the costume and hair style. Each dancer has a folder with their dress designs in, cuttings for hair and make-up ideas and their own eyeliner, mascara and lashes for the evening. We spotted quite a few pairs of Eylure Girls Aloud lashes (I’ve tried them, they’re great).
I asked what the men on the show need to have done make-up wise. Of course there’s the anti-shine and powder which everyone needs on TV, but anyone exposing their chest is also likely to need some bronzer. As I was shown around the building, I spotted a rather dashing Ricky Whittle hanging out in the corridor in a slit-to-the-waist top. The guys also get a little extra help looking fresh-faced with some under-eye concealer, after all they work really hard all week so by Saturday everyone’s a little bit exhausted.
High pressure work
The pressures on the make-up team are high. The show is shot in HD and that means there’s less margin for error. ‘Everything has to be immaculate’ Lisa says. The team are constantly covering up bruises from the celebs and dancers being thrown about and sometimes it’s not until the costume’s on that you can see what needs to be covered. When it comes to the face, Lisa uses the mirror to work as her camera, showing her where there might not be perfect symmetry.
Moisturisers and body glitters are used less than you’d think. The costumes the dancers wear are really expensive so any product with colour in it is a no-go. A slight body shimmer mist is all they can get away with, and hair spray can be a problem too as it dulls the crystals on the gowns. Nail varnish has to be fast-drying in case someone is called on stage and nails can’t be too long either – anything that makes it harder to fulfil a lift or hold just isn’t going to happen.
The worst thing about the job has to be the constant brush cleaning. With so many people coming and going, clean brushes are vital. And the best thing about Lisa’s job, “I can be really creative” she says.
90% of the dancers have their hair set in rollers. Even if not wearing their hair curly this is the ideal starting point for most of their hair styles. Stars generally have 2 half hour slots to do their hair; they have the heated rollers put in and then get a (not so glamorous) hair net to wear while they go practice their dancing. Then it’s back to the hair department to have the curls released. Sometimes a girl can go through this process up to 3 times if sweat and a vigourous dance routine causes the curls to fall out.
The team say it’s always better to over-curl than under-curl. You can always brush a curl out, but you can’t put one in. Even so, some of the dancers still get a bit shocked to find they look like Shirley Temple straight after the curls come out. Most importantly though, doing hair for Strictly means hair has to work in 3D – this has got to look good from every angle and someone from both the hair and make-up teams are present at the dress rehearsal to make sure everything looks fabulous.
Often celebs and dancers will wear a hair accessory of some sort. I look around and see boxes of these glittering beauties from slides, clips and hairbands to smaller twist-in jewels. Occasionally something a little different is required, and that’s when the creativity of the hair stylists really shows. Mark recently made Natalie a hair bow which I got to see close up – it really did just look perfect with her hair style.
Although the stylists take inspiration from photographs and magazines, this is really about designing a hair style. Generally they try to make sure that there are a variety of styles in any one show, and also to vary the styles on any one person throughout the series.
The team find out about the dress usually on a Thursday which gives them only a couple of days to brainstorm and come up with an idea. Photos really help them get across their ideas as it’s often quite hard to explain a style that someone hasn’t seen before. It’s a collaboration with the individual about what they’d like but at times the stylist takes control and has to do some convincing. For a dance like the Paso Doble or Tango, the hair is part of a character that the dancer has to play, it’s a really important aspect of the story.