Julie Hassett ’08 is a body-paint, hair, makeup and cosmetic prosthetics artist who has done some strikingly creative work. Most of her clients are in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.
Where are you from?
I grew up with my parents and two sisters in Wilbraham, a kind of rural town in western Massachusetts. Now, we all live out here in L.A.! I feel really lucky that we’re able to be together.
What kind of art training did you have?
There were only a couple of art classes offered in school, so it was mostly outside of school that I was creating. I’d be up drawing all night, under my covers with a flashlight. That’s where all this started.
How did you choose Wagner College?
I was really into musical theater, so I auditioned for the theater program at Wagner. I didn’t make it, but I did get a music scholarship, so I was in choir. I also got to take painting and drawing classes at Wagner, which was really the first formal training I had taken for art.
What was your first job?
I’d majored in psychology, and my first job was at a methadone clinic in Queens, making like $16,000 a year while I’m living in New York City. I don’t even understand how I survived. But I actually loved the counseling aspect of the job, and the patients, and being with people, trying to help them and just listening to them. So much of what I do today mirrors that. I could never have anticipated that an education in psychology would have prepared me to be a really great makeup artist.
After three years in Queens, you moved back to Wilbraham.
That’s right, and while I was there, I found this little part-time job that became the jumping-off point for what I’m doing now. I was hired as a face painter, which I’d never done before, and I’d teach art to kids. I also had a full-time job selling ad space for a newspaper; that was really just to be able to save money, honestly, to move.
And then you moved to California.
I had this feeling that California would be really cool, though I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My older sister already lived here, and she was like, “Just move! You’re gonna love it.” I thought, “You know, they’re ‘open’ all the time here; it doesn’t really shut down during the winter. I could theoretically start my own face-painting company, and I would be able to do parties all year ’round — and, that way, I would always be working.”
Once I started, someone suggested I try body paint — in fact, they’d already told someone I would! I used my sister as a “canvas,” googled “body paint,” picked an image I liked and spent four hours replicating it on my sister.
Hassett started getting work in the film industry, steadily increasing her range of skills with each job, often teaching herself after looking things up online. She added cosmetic prosthetics, beauty makeup and hair styling to her skill set.
Union membership would mean good, steady work. How did you get in?
After a couple of years, I was asked to department-head a show called “Zac & Mia” — it’s streaming now on Netflix. It was such a big undertaking; it included special effects, and beauty, and people looking sick [the characters have cancer]. I feel so lucky that I was able to get in, because now I’m not living paycheck to paycheck, and I get to work on these really great shows and films.
What are some special projects you’ve worked on?
One was Sara Blakely’s “Belly Art Project” book, which supports Every Mother Counts, a nonprofit. We painted the very pregnant bellies of dozens of women; I did about half of the ones shown in the book. It was such a niche thing, to be painting a pregnant belly — I mean, who does that?! It really forced me to be creative.
I got to do a couple of different prosthetic and body-painting looks on Ariana Grande for Halloween. It went over really great — and it is really cool to see your work show up in Cosmopolitan!
Some of my favorite body paints are where I’ve done like a camouflage: a person will stand in front of a backdrop, and I’ll paint them to blend into it. When it comes out good, it’s really satisfying.