NEW BLOG SERIES: What It Takes To Make It. First Up, A Conversation With Broadway Makeup Designer Joe Dulude, II

by Michael Mahany | 2/27/2018 9:15 PM


Joe Dulude, II. Photo Credit: Boston Globe.


Ever wonder what else you need to know— besides having a strong technique and a unforgiving drive and passion— to make it in the dance world? Well, Dance Network is rolling out a new blog series called What It Takes To Make It where we’ll talk about all those other things; the skills, the crafts, and the knowledge that pro-dancers should know, and you’ll hear it all from the people that do it best. We’ll chat with everyone from makeup designers, physical therapists, to wardrobe supervisors, stagehands, and those running dance auditions— all the folks that go into making, supporting, and sustaining a dancer and performer’s career.


In our first undertaking, we spoke with Broadway makeup designer Joe Dulude, II. Dulude’s vast resume includes works for film, television, and at least sixteen shows on the Great White Way, including four currently running: Spongebob Squarepants, Anastasia, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and the long running smash about Broadway’s favorite green-girl, Wicked.


In our discussion, we asked Dulude all about his career as a designer, his creative process, and just what it is he expects of professional dancers when they show up in his chair. Check out the full interview here:


Elphaba in Wicked. Photo Credit: Wicked.


Dance Network: Joe, thanks so much for taking some time out to to talk to us. We know you’re SUPER busy because on top of your four currently running broadway shows (Spongebob Squarepants, Anastasia, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and Wicked), you’re designing all the makeup for NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar LIVE that airs in just a few weeks! Congratulations! Now, before we get more into what it is dancers should know, can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to go into design and how you honed your craft and artistry?


Joe Dulude, II: I loved monster movies as a kid – Dracula, Frankenstein, etc. and I used to watch the Creature Double Feature on UHF Channel 56 from Boston every Saturday afternoon. I would always do some crazy makeup on myself for Halloween. When I moved to New York City in the 90s, I decided I was going to be a makeup artist. Back then, there were no celebrity

makeup artists like there are now— no one knew makeup artist’s names, so it wasn’t like today where everyone wants to be a makeup artist. I didn’t have a background in makeup, my background is in art, and because of that, I learned all about light and shadow, about how the face was structured, about color theory, and all that provided a great entry into makeup for me. I started working for MAC Cosmetics and I learned a lot by watching my coworkers, and I learned a lot through trial and error and practice… and I made a lot of mistakes— but, that is how you learn.


I had always had a theatre background in performance, too, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time, which is how I got Wicked. Wicked was the first Broadway show I designed. I had designed other projects like runway shows and photo shoots but nothing on such a grand scale. I have always been an artist and I think that design is just in my nature. I love any type of design. Whether it is graphic design (which is what I went to college for), interior design (which is a hobby of mine) or makeup design (which is my job).

The cast of Spongebob Squarepants. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus.


DN: You’ve designed such a variety of makeups for the stage; from more natural style designs in shows like Beautiful: The Carole King Musical to more eclectic designs, like, for your first big show, Wicked— including the green girl herself, Elphaba. Can you give us a little insight into your design approach when looking at a new piece?


JD: My design approach starts with research. I do soooo much research. If it’s period or a specific type of genre (like, the Steampunk Victorian design I did for Jekyll & Hyde, for example), I research and find as much inspiration that I can. I am constantly inspired by fashion, old Hollywood, other makeup artists, nature, art, and more. First, I will read the script if I don’t know it. I will talk with the costume designer to find out what it is they are looking for. Then I do my research— and I have become a master at finding things on Google! I have figured out how to re-word things or use different words or phrases to find even more pictures for what I am looking for.


Once my research is done, I start sketching out face charts. I usually do this on paper with actual makeup. I try out different looks and if I don’t like them, I start over until I get something I am happy with. Then the makeup tests on the performers comes into play and I adjust if something is not looking right. But, I really think most of the design comes from research and sketching ideas.


Joe Dulude, II; Becoming Art. Music: In the End, by Scott Matthew. Video by: Sloan Tomlinson.


DN: Is one style more challenging than the other?


JD: I don’t think any style is that challenging any more. I have done so many period pieces

(I love period shows) and that comes easy to me. For example, in Sunday in the Park with George, I got to take a more editorial approach and do makeup that I never get to do for the stage – fresh, dewy, sheer makeup. It was so much fun and so exciting to figure out how to adapt it for stage.


I think the hardest type of design is when you are creating a fantasy world like Wicked or Spongebob. There isn’t a whole lot of reference you can use for something like that. I did three designs of Spongebob before landing on the last one. It was difficult to pinpoint what [scenic and costume designer] David Zinn was looking for, and what I was happy with, because we were creating a world that existed in cartoon where everyone is an underwater creature or a mammal. So, to take that and figure out a way to interpret it into humans was tricky— but at the same time, so rewarding and exciting. I always find it exciting when you get to create a whole new world.


I still find it so strange that I’ve designed one of the most iconic characters in theatre – Elphaba.


DN: It’s SO cool to hear all of this perspective from you. So, for the professional and on-their-way-to professional dancers out there, what do you WANT them to know?


JD: You know, I think makeup for dancers is tricky, because, they’re usually sweating a lot during their performance. So, you want something that is going to last. It’s not so much about the makeup being heavy, but more about getting good quality makeup: specifically, foundation and powder. It can get expensive, but using foundations by companies such as Make Up For Ever, Kett, or Kevyn Aucoin can really make a difference. Also setting powder is so important. A

good translucent setting powder helps the makeup stay. And if you are really sweaty or

are afraid it won’t last, then use a setting spray— Skindinavia makes an incredible

finishing spray. Think about maybe also investing in something that is water resistant or waterproof: Make Up For Ever has their Aqua XL line of liner and pencil shadows. They are great at resisting any kind of water.


Also something that is so important that many people forget – make sure to clean your skin after wearing makeup properly with a cleanser. Kiehl’s or Mario Badescu are inexpensive and work well.


And be sure to moisturize!!!


DN: Okay, GREAT! Now, what do you expect of professional performers who show up in your chair?


JD: I expect them to be professional. This means that I expect them to understand that I am the makeup designer. I want them to be comfortable in their makeup, but I am also designing the show for a specific look. Now, maybe the look is not something that they would wear in normal life, but theatre and dance are not ‘normal’ life— this is your job. And just like every other aspect of a job one needs to take it seriously and put in 100%. You would never refuse to wear a costume or wig, or not do the choreography you’ve been taught, just because you don’t like it. Somehow with makeup, people think this it is ok to just change things because they’re bored or don’t really like what they are wearing. Being a professional means taking every aspect of one’s job seriously.


I know this makes me sound so militant, but I’m totally not. I give my actors freedom in their makeups. I want them to feel comfortable and I want them to add their own personal touch, but, sometimes this gets interpreted into just changing whatever they want. Also, I expect them to be nice. I love what I do and I love meeting new people, but it can be frustrating when you have someone sit in your chair who is not present. The makeup test is for the performer to learn and to ask questions. Makeup is a very personal thing. The makeup artist gets so close to the performer. So there should be a connection there on a personable level.


Sunday In The Park With George. Photo Credit: Matt Murphy


DN: Are there any tools, pieces, kits that you recommend a dancer carry with them?


JD: I would say, get a good foundation that matches your skin that has staying power. Get

a good translucent powder (you don’t want to be adding layers and more color after your foundation). Put a basic kit of eyeshadows together from white to black with beiges, browns, pinks in between. Get a few good blush colors - pink, peach, red. Get some neutral contour colors. Waterproof mascara. Liquid liner and a pencil liner. Eyelash glue for when you have to wear fake lashes (not every show will provide that). Finally get a neutral and a red lip liner. And then get a good natural lip color and a red (Russian Red from MAC is perfect). Also a decent set of brushes – this is important for application, and if you wash them regularly they will last you for years. Of course some of these recommendations will change depending on your skin color, but this is a basic list and you can adjust accordingly. Also, like I mentioned before, I am a big fan of setting spray!

Joe Delude II (right) on opening night of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, with costume designer Alejo Vietti (left), and hair and wig designer Charles G. LaPointe (center). Photo Credit:


DN: And lastly before we let you go, like you mentioned at the beginning of our interview, with the success of Broadway shows like Wicked and tv shows like FaceOff, there’s an obvious growing interest in careers in makeup design. For someone reading this who might be considering such a career— as an industry leader and successful designer, what words of wisdom would you pass on to the next generation of artists?


JD: Get all the experience that you can! Any kind of work you can get is great. Work at a makeup counter for a while. This will expose you to different types of skin, ages, and skin colors. It is important to be as well rounded as you can be if you want to be a designer. You need to know how things will react or look on different types of people. Experiment and do photo shoots,

even if they are for free. You will gain a wealth of knowledge from that— especially about lighting. Know your references; If you don’t know something, google it. The more references you can have in your head, the more viable a candidate you are for design. Finally, be kind. You are not the star. You are there to support and to create a part of the show. It is not about you, but about the show as a whole. Fight for what you believe in, but be willing to compromise and change things if needed. The people I want to work with and the people that I want to hire have to have a positive and good energy. I don’t want someone who always complains or has a huge ego. I need someone who is professional, kind and who can hold their own in any situation. I always tell me students, if you don’t know what to do, just fake it. If it’s wrong you can just fix it. Don’t make a big deal out of it. How else will you learn? (Laughing) I did it for years and look where I am!




Thanks so much to Joe Dulude, II for the incredible insight! For more on Joe, check out his website here, and be sure to keep your eyes out for more of Dance Network’s new blog series, What It Takes To Make It.