Kelsey Contois-Husch and Meghann Mason earn a living by making people feel beautiful. The power duo have worked for Cirque du Soleil’s KÀ for six years as makeup and wig technicians, and without them, part of the spirited troupe’s aesthetic would collapse.
Together, the women share 20 years of experience in the entertainment industry. Three years ago, they decided to pass their knowledge on to others. Thus, the Academy of Makeup & Wig Design was born.
“What we’re doing is we’re taking the college education that we got, we’re combining it with the trade school education that I got and then the real life experience that we both have,” Mason says.
She and Contois-Husch are pledging a $25,000 goal on Kickstarter to fund necessary classroom materials. The academy will offer a plethora of three-week to eight-month classes with everything from special effects to airbrushing and body painting to wig building. There’s also a master program to cover them all.
Contois-Husch’s job already orbits around educating others. At KÀ, she teaches performers, some of whom do not understand English well, how to apply their own makeup.
“It’s interesting to see them come in, be so terrified of it, and then by the end of the day they come back and say, ‘Kelsey, how does my makeup look today?’ They feel proud of their makeup,” she says of the men of the show. “That made me want to be more of a teacher.”
The women stress that the academy is a trade school, not a cosmetology school. It won’t teach students how to cut or color real hair. Classes will run Monday through Friday, six to eight hours a day with 12 students per course to ensure everyone receives one-on-one time. The first half of the mornings will cover demonstrations and lectures while the afternoon will be hands-on.
“There’s no reason that a person should go out into this industry and not be prepared for anything that somebody throws at them,” Mason says. Her hope is for students to cultivate a skill set of three or four things as opposed to just one.
The academy will also house specialty workshops, or what Mason calls “snippets.” Workshops only last a night or two, tailored to those with tight schedules. They focus on specifics such as blending the perfect smoky eye, creating a solid head cast or something as simple as applying everyday makeup. In February, some workshops will be at Shane O’ Neal’s photography studio on Polaris Avenue.
Both women agree that teamwork and collaboration are at the forefront of each lesson.
“If they leave and are well-rounded, and have any kind of respect and integrity, I’ll be a happy camper,” Mason says.