Albuquerque’s Ashlynne Padilla majored in business marketing at the University of New Mexico, with an eye towards being a lawyer. But the universe had other plans—plans that led to Padilla becoming one of the most sought-after makeup artists in the New Mexico film and television industry.
“I was in a sorority at UNM,” she explained. “One year I volunteered to do everyone’s makeup for our formal. It all changed there.”
Her Kappa Kappa Gamma sisters were so impressed by Padilla’s skills that when cosmetics giant M.A.C. opened an Albuquerque store, they all suggested Padilla apply. Padilla got the job, which included extensive makeup skills training and led her to meet the producers of the film Gamers, shooting in New Mexico at the time.
“They came into the store, asking if one of us would be interested in being a makeup assistant on a movie. I was, like, ‘Sure! I’ll do it.’ Before I knew it, I was spray-tanning Gerard Butler. We bonded over the fact that we both had pugs. His pug was going to marry my pug. The rest is history.”
Padilla gave up law school plans and moved to Los Angeles to study film and TV makeup formally, at the now-defunct Westmore Academy of Cosmetic Arts.
Since then, Padilla has worked consistently, for the past 10 years, on films and television shows shot in New Mexico, and has also been hired for projects shot elsewhere, including Avengers. But her steady gigs have been as a staff makeup artist on the television shows “The Night Shift” and “Better Call Saul.”
We caught up with Padilla to ask her a few questions about her career, the local film and television business and, of course, celebrities.
Weekly Alibi: What are some of the biggest misperceptions people have about makeup artists?
Padilla: There’s a perception in the general public that makeup artists in the movie industry are glamorous people, that we’re hoity toity, that we go around looking like what Instagram makeup artists look like. The truth is so far from that! We rarely wear makeup ourselves. We’re tired, we’re in the middle of nowhere. We’re the first ones on set, and the last ones to leave; we’re out in the elements, freezing in the snow or roasting in the hot sun. If the movie shoot is 12 hours long, we are the ones who are there for 16 hours. We have to get the actors ready beforehand, and then we are there to make sure their makeup stays the same, constantly fixing things. And then we are there to clean them up after all is said and done. Remove the fake blood, all that, give them spa treatments so we don’t damage their skin.
What’s it like working with famous actors all the time?
This is something else people don’t realize about makeup artists. It’s not only about being good at your craft. It’s also about customer service, and actors are our customers. We spend hours and hours with these people, and while most actors are wonderful, they’re actors for a reason, psychologically. They require attention, so you have to give them that attention. I have a great appreciation for what they do. They have a really difficult job. I could never do it. So understanding why they may be stressed, if they’re in a crazy scene and that emotion carries over, being able to be mindful of the actor is very important to me. Paying attention. If an actor really likes to talk, I follow the lead. Others like to put on headphones and not talk, and it’s not that they’re not assholes, they’re just preparing. And I respect that. I don’t take it personally. Just realizing that they’re all human helps; they have bad breath too, they go through breakups, they’re normal. We’re so used to seeing them on the screen, and we have this idea that they’re these immortal gods. They’re not. They are people.
Where do you think the local film industry is headed?
I’ve always loved Michelle [Lujan Grisham] and I’m sure with her in office it’s just going to keep growing. It’s so beautiful here, you hear these Hollywood people say that over and over. They fall in love with the Land of Enchantment. One actress I worked with wants to move back here and just wait tables at the Flying Star. She loves it that much. We have all four seasons, and climates that can pass for just about anywhere. The only thing we don’t have is the ocean, and you can always CGI that in now.
What’s next for you?
I’m teaming up with another makeup artist in town, Noel Dalton, to create our own film and TV makeup school, the kind you’d find in New York or LA. With the increase of projects coming to New Mexico, it just makes sense to start doing that kind of training here, for our own people. Hoping to open that soon.