Stage makeup class leads to Hollywood

Special effects makeup artist Rachael Wagner ’12, a contestant in the Syfy channel’s “Face Off” reality television series, discovered the art of face and body paint as a WCU student. Wagner, an art education major who planned to teach, needed one elective class during her senior year. She enrolled in a stage makeup course taught by faculty member Glenda Hensley and soon found herself working on the makeup crew for “Fiddler on the Roof,” which was a musical theater production that year.

“I was behind the scenes, going from one cast member to another putting on makeup, checking makeup, putting on wigs, moustaches and beards. I just loved it. After that experience, I knew what I wanted to do,” Wagner said.


Make-up artist Rachael Wagner ’12 specializes in supernatural and fantasy creatures. More of Wagner’s work can be seen at

Wagner moved to New York City when she graduated for special training at the Make-up Designory. She completed a full-time, six-month course that introduced her to professional opportunities in film and television. She specializes in creating faces for supernatural and fantasy creatures and constructs full-body characters. She has worked with short horror films, including “Danger Word” and “Changelings: Cambions,” and a comedy, “Bridge and Tunnel.”

Wagner auditioned and was selected to compete in the seventh season of “Face Off,” which premiered in July 2014. Fifteen makeup artists from all over the United States were brought to California for the show, living together for three months in a huge mansion in Los Angeles. In the show’s episodes, they were challenged to create animals, gangsters, villains, monsters, fairies and assorted fanciful beings fitting the theme “Life and Death.” Wagner made it to the 10th of 14 episodes before she was eliminated.

Now a permanent resident of Los Angeles, Wagner is project supervisor for Global Effects Inc., of North Hollywood, California. Joseph Deese ’11, who majored in interior design at WCU, also works at the company, which provides props, costumes and makeup effects for the television and movie industries.