Face to face
Whoever said looks aren’t important surely never met Julia Richardson. A professional makeup artist for more than 15 years, Richardson has mastered the art of making others look their best, be it for real life or make-believe. Armed with a trusty brush and an arsenal of technical wizardry, Richardson has filled the stage, screen and even Sacramento with her decorative touch. And if that weren’t enough, she’s also available for weddings and special events.
How did you get your start in makeup art?
Well, I graduated with a degree from the film school at [the University of California, Los Angeles]. I always knew that I wanted to work in the film industry, but I didn’t know exactly what end. I had always been an artist—I worked as a goldsmith for a while and so on. Anyway, I graduated from film school and started doing makeup here in Sacramento. I worked in cosmetic retail for a while with Christian Dior and a couple of other lines. Then I started branching off and got involved in working with cancer patients and burn victims, doing post-surgical makeup. And from there, I started doing television-production makeup, print, fashion and composite model work. All in all, I’ve been doing makeup for almost 20 years now and television-production work for over 20.
Wow. Tell me about a few of the recent projects you’ve been involved with.
I just finished working on a film that’s going to be released at the Crest, hopefully, in March, called The Gimp. It’s a documentary about World War I. I also just finished working on a horror film, but right now I’m focusing more on my wedding business. I have a wedding business with a partner, called Beauty on Location (see www.californiamakeup.com). It’s an on-site wedding, makeup and hair business, where we go to the bride and do her hair and makeup the day of her wedding on location, wherever that might be. Oh, I also teach classes.
What sort of classes do you teach?
I teach all kinds of classes. Mothers whose teenagers need to know how to wear makeup for interviews—they call me. And sometimes it’s like a teen makeup and hair session, and I’ll bring a hair stylist with me. Other times, people just want to learn how to apply their makeup in general. And even the transgender community calls upon me to help them with their needs periodically.
Is there a particular kind of makeup art that you prefer?
I especially like doing character work, like animals and things like that. One time, somebody hired me to do French mime-clown makeup for a special-events dinner. The client had a computer business and spent a lot of money on the dinner. They hired French chefs from Los Angeles and flew them here, and I did French mime makeup on all of them. That, to me, was a lot of fun.
What’s the most famous face you’ve ever done?
Well, last summer, I worked on Bobby Jackson from the Kings, but I’d say that the most famous I ever did was Robin Williams. I worked on him for Bravo’s 20th television anniversary for a show called Inside the Actors Studio. It was filmed in San Francisco because Robin Williams lives in the Sea Cliff area, and they hired me to come down and do Robin and James Lipton, the host.
What was it like working with them?
James Lipton is a very dignified, private person, and he’ll tell you exactly what he wants. Robin Williams is Robin Williams. He’s just the same in person as he is on camera. He doesn’t overly joke around. He’s just Robin, and he’s very nice. And when you’re working with people like that, you want to be as polite and formal and quiet as possible. You give them their space and their time when they’re rehearsing. Your job is just to make sure they look good.
Have you ever been faced with a very strange request?
Yes. One time, I worked on a movie in the foothills in the rain and with no power. We had to work in the dark with flashlights. They had lost all the power. We were in Pollock Pines filming a TV movie, and they just kept filtering extras in for their hair and makeup. We had to dry them with battery-powered dryers and curling irons. And it was just nonstop 12- to 14-hour days.
What will you work on next?
I’m starting Madama Butterfly for the Sacramento Opera. Right now, I’m doing three operas a year along with the wedding business, classes and any commercials that come up. You’re never as busy as you want to be, but you always have to be ready. You never know when a producer is going to call or come to town.