Makeup and Gore, All In A Day’s Work

Gonzalez's prosthetic creation for the Cinema Makeup School // via Kevin Gonzalez

By: Elena Key / Staff Writer

Every year terror takes over Universal Studios with its annual event, Halloween Horror Nights (HHN). Makeup artist Kevin Gonzalez is a part of the team that makes the actors come to life. 

Gonzalez is a 22-year-old Dominican makeup artist who moved to LA to follow his dream career of being a special effects makeup artist.

“It was freshman year of high school, I think I was watching goosebumps and it was a weird episode where they were pulling off a mask and I was like holy s—, you can wear things to change your persona?” said Gonzalez.

Shows such as “FaceOff” gave him validation to continue his passion and helped him recognize that his interest could become a job.

Before being a part of the HHN cast, the first makeup look Gonzalez did was Halloween his freshman year of High School.

“Back then I didn’t know much about special effects except that you use liquid latex and tissues… I bought these already premade latex prosthetics… that were like zombies (a jaw with boney teeth). I pasted it on myself, my brother and my cousin,” said Gonzalez.

Years later, Gonzalez got his Associates Degree in Fine Arts at Broward College and since April 2021 attends the Cinema Makeup School, a Hollywood-based special effects institution located in Koreatown.

His work for the final in his Character course shaped the beginning of his Hollywood Horror Nights journey. 

The essence of his final project was discovered the day of the final. “When you walk into class, you have to pick a random raffle out of a bag, and the description that it says down there is the makeup that you do right off the bag,” said Gonzalez. 

This format is meant to make students do things on cue instead of planning their work. Gonzalez explains that this is because half the time you’re on set, you don’t get time to plan.

Gonzalez had to create a full-body victim who was theoretically in a Jet Skiing accident. 

“I made a leg gash, a fully sunburnt body, the rope burns, and my instructor was… completely amazed by how much I had done… she was kinda speechless and that’s not common for instructors,” said Gonzalez.

Kevin Gonzalez working on his final project for his character course / via Kevin Gonzalez.

A week later, this same instructor offered him a job for Hollywood Horror Nights. Gonzalez went to administration where they told him that based on his schedule, he would not be able to do both school and a job. 

“The whole purpose of going to this school is kind of [to] network, make connections, get jobs… the fact that one came on my door knocking, I could not blow this away,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez took a leave of absence and began working at HHN on Sept. 9. 

The night is not only filled with horror but also stress when it comes to working on set. 

Gonzalez’s responsibilities expand from his own, it also includes working with the other makeup artists and ensuring that COVID-19 guidelines are followed with the scare actors.

“Managing … [COVID-19 protocols] and making sure that you know we’re all staying safe and keeping at least our makeup team safe … and … making sure that they’re not tossing … [masks] around or … stretching them out,” said Gonzalez. 

Gonzalez works in “The Purges” scare zone, where many of the actors use masks that they can put on. Every actor has a designated number on their personal mask. 

Although making masks is out of Gonzalez’s work, he explains that “our FX lab handmakes everything. So … [they] … sculpt, … [they]  mold, … [they] cast them with our latex or silicone painted. And if it has hair, … [they] have… [to] hair punch every single hair. So those masks have like the blood, sweat and tears of the artists,” said Gonzalez.

HHN workers also must follow Los Angeles COVID-19 protocols in the park. 

As a makeup artist, “you either have to wear a face shield and one mask … [that]  covers …your nose and mouth. Or if you don’t wear a face shield you have to wear goggles with two masks basically,” said Gonzalez. 

When applying makeup, artists are legally not allowed to apply makeup near the actor’s mouth.

In these cases, “I would get… wax paper [and] distribute the makeup… and then have sponges for them to apply on themselves in the bathroom because by law apparently, I cannot do it,” said Gonzalez.

His typical workday at HHN starts at 4 p.m. and ends at 2 a.m.

From 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Gonzalez is at the scare zone working with quick looks. “Initially, it can be anything from… a darkened eye, a black eye, blood on the hands, dirt, anywhere from their face, neck, arms or hands,” said Gonzalez. 

The quick looks must be done from five to ten minutes per character, and each look depends on what the scare actor’s character needs.

At 5:30 p.m., Gonzalez and the other makeup artist pack their equipment and head to the shuttle that takes them to their Purge zone where he stays until his section ends.

“I have to be prepared with all the makeup bags because I’m kind of in charge of transporting all of the makeup,” said Gonzalez.

There are approximately 60 to 80 makeup artists and 150 scare actors. 

From 1 a.m. to 2:30 a.m., Gonzalez works with his crew removing the makeup of those in the Scare Zone. Along with taking care of the people working around him, they are also the ones that thrill the night.

“The most exciting part is really working with all of the actors that are there. They’re all very cool, genuine people… and then getting to explore all of Universal behind the scenes, you can really roam, you’re allowed to kind of just go and cross behind backlots,” said Gonzalez.

Scare actors walking on slits on their break are one of the instances that amaze Gonzalez’s workday. 

“It’s almost like a circus that you’re walking through with all these like, whimsical things that it’s just, it’s so cool … being able to witness it behind the scenes, not just performed as a character,” said Gonzalez.

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