Hitting the jackpot: a wig and makeup artist travels the world with Beauty and the Beast
Every day Brittany Steele ('15) gets to create the face of the most beloved beast in the world. Not a bad gig for a young woman fresh out of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts’ graduate program in wig and makeup design.
Steele, the head of wigs and makeup for NETworks Beauty and the Beast 20th Anniversary International Tour, gets to travel the world, too. Taiwan, Indonesia, China, Egypt, Lebanon and Italy are some of the countries she’s explored since graduating from UNCSA in May.
“The travel is a major bonus, but without good people this job would be extremely hard. It can be exhausting when you have 30-hour travel days. Both the actors and the crew on this tour are incredibly supportive and helpful,” Steele says. “No matter what, I always feel like people have my back and would go out of their way to help if I needed it. If I didn't have as much fun as I do, I wouldn't be doing it.”
Disney’s smash Broadway musical, based on the Academy Award-winning animated feature film, is filled with unforgettable characters and lavish costumes — not to mention a wonderland of wigs for Steele to keep in tip-top shape. Each day she arrives at work 90 minutes before curtain to clean and touch up the wigs worn by the principal actors in the show.
Then she turns her makeup brush to the Beast. “That takes me around 25 to 30 minutes. As soon as that’s done, I put on Belle's wig, then Chip, Gaston, LeFou, Maurice, Cogsworth and Lumiere. Each person I see for five minutes and it leads me right up to top of show,” she says. “Before the curtain goes up I have to make sure my locals are in place and know what they're doing because I have little to no time to rescue a change if something goes wrong.”
And dare she forget — Mrs. Potts, Babette and Wardrobe need their wigs fitted, too. “If a change doesn't go right or someone isn't on time, an actor could potentially go onstage without a wig, which is unacceptable.”
“Unacceptable,” she stresses.
Steele keeps her cool under stress by channeling Gimli from the film The Lord of the Rings: "Keep breathing,” she tells herself. “That's the key.”