Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicole Rotunno.
Nicole, before we jump into specific questions about your work, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up in Syracuse, New York. Not much of a fancy place, mostly known for its freezing and snowy winters, but its home and it is where my story began. I have always had a passion for make-up as well as the entertainment industry, but I didn’t know how to make those passions possible.
Since I can remember I’ve been playing with beauty make-up, it was long before I was even allowed to wear it outside of the house. I also loved dressing up in old Halloween costumes, creating characters, and making homemade horror movies. I obsessed over the Michael Jacksons: “The Making Of Thriller” VHS that for some reason we owned? My childhood was surrounded by my creativity of make-up, character creating, and film making, but I didn’t think twice of it being an actual career until I was well into my adulthood.
In 2015 I graduated college with a Bachelors degree from State University of New York at Oswego in Communication and Social Interaction. When it was time to graduate I didn’t feel ready. I felt the social pressure of not getting a “real job” out of college like all of my friends. I felt like there was more to learn because I had no idea what I was going to do when I graduated.
So there I was, fresh out of college and NO IDEA what I am going to do with my life. I was terrified. I went through a lot of emotional roller coasters, between depression, anxiety and self-doubt. It was until May of 2016 when a friend of mine contacted me to work on a feature film in Upstate New York. This was a dream come true! Started my first day as a PA (Productions Assistant) and by day 2 the producers had trusted me to take on talent and upgraded my position to Talent Assistant. I loved it!
I remember day 3 on set like it was yesterday, soaking in the present moment and getting teary-eyed because I felt exactly where I belonged – like my journey had truly begun. Knowing that a month prior I felt so lost and was questioning my dreams, and not knowing where to turn next. Being on set felt like a true happy place. The cast and crew of this production was everything I could of asked for for my first experience on set. If it wasn’t for them I don’t think I would have felt that this was the direction I wanted to I remember day 3 on set like it was yesterday, soaking in the present moment and getting teary-eyed because I felt exactly where I belonged – like my journey had truly begun. Knowing that a month prior I felt so lost and was questioning my dreams, and not knowing where to turn next. Being on set felt like a true happy place. The cast and crew of this production was everything I could of asked for for my first experience on set. If it wasn’t for them I don’t think I would have felt that this was the direction I wanted to go in.
From there on, I starting getting more work on feature films and commercials in Upstate New York. By 2017 A production company from LA called American High moved in on Syracuse and started busting out EPIC feature films one right after the other – which I had the honor to be apart of. Being apart of the American High family was a real turning point for me. I was still working with Talent, which I loved, but it led me to often be in the Make-Up room. So naturally, I got close with the team. I learned a ton from them, especially, Tina (Make-Up Department Head). It all dawned on me there that I really wanted to do this too. Tina truly inspired me, she STILL inspires me. Not only is she a phenomenal artist, but her work ethic, sense of humor, and spunk is everything I aspire to be.
After wrapping my last film with American High I had decided that I wanted to move to LA and go to Make-Up School. It was 2018 and I was ready to finally bust out of my comfort zone and move to LA and attend MUD (Make-Up Designory School).
MUD was one of the best six months of my life. I brushed up on all my beauty make-up skills, learned about SFX (Special Effects Make-up). From injury units, applying prosthetics, painting prosthetics, applying facial hair, and in our FX Lab class, I sculpted my own design and created my own hand-made foam AND silicone prosthetic. I know you don’t have to go to school to be considered a make-up artist, but going to school for me was a way for me to really understand all the aspects of make-up and how it can be applied in the real world of the beauty industry as well as the entertainment industry. I love being able to bring all my passions together – beauty, art, and entertainment.
After graduating MUD in August of 2018 I jumped right into the world of entertainment. I was starting working on Web Series, Short Films, and I even got a job working as the Assistant Make-Up Artist for a feature film in the fall of 2018. The film allowed for me to apply not only my beauty skills but my SFX skills. The Head Make-Up Artist, Kate, who is still a dear friend of mine taught me more about SFX. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have felt confident in doing my own “blood rig fx” on future jobs that were to come in 2019.
I’ve been out of school for about a year and I’ve seen so much growth in my make-up application and skill. As a make-up artist, you are constantly learning. Whether its from taking classes, reading books, or learning from other talented make-up artists. I am constantly learning and focusing on being a well-rounded and up-to-date artist. Since graduating, I’ve worked on feature films, commercials, short films, and done multiple photoshoots. All these job opportunities have allowed for me to bring out my uniqueness as an artist in both beauty and SFX make-up – but this is still the beginning. I love beauty makeup, and I love getting my hands dirty with SFX. As an artist, I’ve learned that its best to have a niche. Something you are known for. That’s where I am at in my career now – finding my niche and looking for more opportunities that will challenge me, inspire me, and guide me towards my path in make-up. Make-up is my happy place.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It definitely has not been a smooth road. It takes a lot of networking and relationship building to get to where you want to be. I’ve taken more unpaid and low budgeted jobs than I can count. It is all about the opportunity. The more you learn at a smaller scale, the more experience you will have for something larger. The more jobs you take the more people you will meet. It all becomes worth it, but of course, you need money to survive. So six months into post-grad from Make-Up School I finally bit the bullet and decided to get a weekly based income job, because well…I needed it. It didn’t mean I was going to quit my dreams in make-up but that I would have to become more strategic with my time.
I did end up getting an awesome job as an Airbrush Technician, meaning, I do custom airbrush tans – and honestly, I love it! It might not be make-up full time, but it’s associated with the beauty industry. As much as it can take up 4-5 days of my week, I still have 2-3 days I save for make-up. If a job comes up I try to rearrange my schedule. Unfortunately, I do have to pass on those last minute jobs that don’t pay well because I still need to work to survive, but this is just the beginning and sometimes you have to just bit the bullet and do what you. need to do to survive and have your happiness, too. LA is definitely a tricky city when it comes to following your dreams vs. following the paycheck. Being a make-up artist definitely takes time, passion, and persistence. As much as you don’t want to take the job that doesn’t pay, you should. It will definitely be worth it. If you have to get a part-time job while chasing your dreams, do it. This is my happiness and my career.
Please tell us more about your work.
I am a well rounded freelance make-up artist. I am skilled in SFX and beauty. I have worked on film sets, commercials, and photoshoots. I love natural beauty – I love bringing out an amplifying a person’s true features. As well as I love character creating and designing. As much as I love beauty, I love getting my hands dirty with SFX make-up. I am still in the early stages of my career in make-up, and I am currently trying to find my niche and what I want to be known for. Is it beauty or is it SFX? I just love being challenged and thrown into an opportunity to create. I think what sets me apart from others is that I can do a clean beauty look, or I can do a full face prosthetic character without a skip of a beat.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If I had to start over I would have went to Cosmetology school right out of the High School, following going to Make-up school, all instead of going and getting my bachelor’s degree. I wish I had started my career in make-up a lot sooner. I was 25 when I went to Make-Up school.
- Website: www.nicolerotunno.com
- Phone: 3153171039
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: artistry_bynicole
Beauty Make-Up/SFX Make-up (on Model(s) by Nicole Rotunno
Photography by Sudeen Shrestha
Photography by Deverill Weeks
Make-Up on Nicole (for headshot) by Colleen Konowitz