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Meet Jericha Anthonette Hughey, wig and makeup designer
Jericha Anthonette Hughey works on a wig at the Santa Fe Opera where she is an apprentice.

At a glance

Makeup artist, theatrical and performance

Overview: Apply makeup to performers to reflect period, setting and situation of their role.
Education requirements: Some states may require a license, but otherwise on-the-job training with a background in smaller productions is necessary. Successful makeup artists should have an understanding of fashion, art and technical design. Interpersonal skills, image and attitude play an important role in career success.
Outlook: Competition is tough, with a little more than 1,000 theatrical and performance makeup artists now working in the New York and Los Angeles areas. Opportunities will be best for those with previous experience.
Median annual earnings: $18,270-$53,930

Bureau of Labor Statistics

In high school, Jericha Anthonette Hughey got bit by the theater bug, yearning to be on stage with her friends.

But not long after she joined the theater program at Gainesville High School, her teacher, Pam Ware, noticed her interest in makeup and special effects, and pushed her to pursue her curiosity.

"I started spending more and more time in the craft room and I found a lot of the techniques I was using there correlated back to more advanced makeup techniques," she said in a recent phone interview from New Mexico. "I've always been one to try and learn more in more areas."

Now a recent graduate of the University of Evansville in Evansville, Ind., she's working as a wig and makeup apprentice with The Santa Fe Opera in Santa Fe, N.M. Her college work allowed her to experiment with all types of makeup applications, including effects with air brushes, and now she's learning the finer points of wig creation and care.

Question: What is your position at the opera, and what do you hope to do with that experience there?

Answer: I am a wig and makeup apprentice. During the day we ventilate wigs - that's something I didn't know until I got here. Unless you're at a (college) program that has a really specialized wig program, most students won't learn that. (My job involves) making a lace cap that will fit over the actor or actress' head, and with a small hook, you're grabbing maybe three or four hairs in the back of the head and working to the front.

My boss, David Zimmerman, he also brings in wigs that we modify, revamp it so it fits the production at hand. And then of course you cut and style the wigs.

And then in the evenings for the production we'll come in and we'll do aging (makeup) techniques on the men.

Q: How did you get involved in this career choice?

A: When I really started in the theater at Gainesville High, everyone wants to be on stage. Just being in a few productions and helping out with makeup backstage, Ms. Ware noticed I was really developing a passion for makeup backstage, so she let me do more with the shows there. And then I would go home and look up stuff online ... and of course that transferred in when I was in undergrad, and I'm pretty sure I got on my professor's nerves ... (always asking) "How can I apply that to what we're trying to do? Can I make it any better?"

Q: What do you like about your job?

A: Everything. ... It's fantastic. It's one of those things where I feel so glad to be there because I was the least experienced person coming in here, but obviously David saw something and hired me and I get to do this with people who have done this for years and years. And they're sitting right next to me and telling me, "I learned this the hard way and I'm telling you what I learned."

Q: What kind of training do you need to get into this line of work?

A: Honestly, just being open to opportunities that are going to arise. Every time I tried to plan something out for my career or schooling, it's always when I met someone who wants to give me a chance. Or in the last minute I'll decide to go to a theater conference, and the Santa Fe Opera is there, and thinking there's no way I'll get the job, saying, "I'll just put my name out there." Just stepping out and saying, "Maybe something will happen."

Q: What recommendations do you have for students thinking of getting into behind-the-scenes work like this?

A: Most schools with have an introductory course combining makeup and costumes or another subject. But one of the fantastic things is my education has always been really important to my family, especially my mother, and she said, "Find a school that offers what you need and we'll find a way to make sure that happens.