McKenzie Westmore: Old School Cool

McKenzie Westmore hosting "Mother Earth Goddess," the fifth episode of the new season of Face Off. (Photo by: Nicole Wilder/Syfy.)

McKenzie Westmore hosting “Mother Earth Goddess,” the fifth episode of
the new season of Face Off.
(Photo by: Nicole Wilder/Syfy.)

As host of Syfy’s hit competition series Face Off, currently in its fifth season, McKenzie Westmore takes us into the world of old school Hollywood make-up. This isn’t CG stuff, it’s all natural, lots of latex and organic materials, and very fun to watch. McKenzie is part of the fourth generation of the Westmore family make-up dynasty, and her Emmy Award-winning father Michael is now serving his second season on the show as a mentor to the contestants.

McKenzie sat down with A.D.D. to discuss the show, her family history and her love for make-up. And while you’re at it, check out her blog.


While digital effects have been all the rage lately, Face Off focuses on organic makeup transformations that we get to witness every week. Do you think that’s the allure of the show?
I think that’s the biggest draw, but as far as going back to the basics, I’ll even have six and seven-year-olds come up to me and say, “Oh my God, I saw the Bioluminescence episode and loved it!” It’s people using their hands, being creative and having to think things through and use things that are outside of a computer and technology to a certain degree. I think that’s what draws a lot of people in. I think it gives a lot of people hope that this is something that they can do. I’m not talking about even on a Face Off level, but just in their own back yard or garage or creating their own Halloween costume. I think it inspires people in a lot of ways.

“I was in Raging Bull with Robert DeNiro when I was 3 1/2 as his daughter, so I was already bitten by the acting bug. My dream at that time was to do Broadway entity musicals, and my family was supportive and got me into singing lessons and dance school.”

Rick Baker spoke 12 years ago about wanting to do a werewolf project with digital effects, and he eventually did that with The Wolf Man, but it wasn’t the same as watching the transformation in An American Werewolf In London.
Yeah, there’s something about those original movies. You look back at even some of the Lon Chaney stuff and Creature From The Black Lagoon, some of that original stuff when this industry was being born into the world of special effects. I think people still love to see that hands-on approach. When you get into digital, it’s starting to look better and better and better, but it’s not the same. You know it’s computer-generated, and there’s something really cool about seeing that actor in that make up, moving and having to work through it. Actors don’t have to worry about emoting through kittle probes that are put on them for screen capture. This is a whole other beast. There’s something cool about that. I think it’s amazing especially to see actors do something like that.

McKenzie Westmore and Glenn Hetrick (at left) chat with Eric Zapata about his "Gettin' Goosed" creation.(Photo by: Nicole Wilder/Syfy.)

McKenzie Westmore and Glenn Hetrick (at left) chat with
Eric Zapata about his “Gettin’ Goosed” creation.
(Photo by: Nicole Wilder/Syfy.)


Your dad came from the old school approach to make-up. How does he feel about all of this stuff?
My dad is so open-minded. He’s the coolest dude. He’s so open to all of the stuff, and of course he loves the old-school way, but he sees the need and desire for the direction technology is going in. It’s not going to stop or going to go away, it’s where things are going, but how do we preserve what used to be? I feel that Face Off is doing that.

Your dad has been the mentor for contestants for seasons 4 and 5. What does he think about this current generation?
There were so many times, especially off-camera, that he would talk to them and explain how to label their molds or to pour things. He loves being able to give them the advice and to teach them. To him, it’s bringing on all these new kids to teach this next generation. He loves it. It’s so cute to watch him in his element because aside from all his accomplishments as a special effects makeup artist, he taught at UCLA. For him, this is like going back to master class.





Your father, grandfather and great-grandfather did make-up, and you went into acting. You were on the soap opera Passions for a decade. What was their reaction?
They loved it. In fact, I read an article when I was 12 or 13 that called my dad the last of the living dinosaurs. Everything is compartmentalized today — you have the person that sketches and creates it, the person that runs the rubber and has the lab, then the makeup artist that applies it, like our judges. It’s very much about different departments. My dad was the last to do it all. He sketched it, ran the rubber, and ran the lab, which was attached to our home, then be on set and apply the makeup. He was a one-man show. So when this article came out calling him the last of living dinosaurs, it broke my heart. I thought, “I can’t let this legacy die. My family is synonymous with special effects makeup, so I can’t let this go.” I went to school to study makeup and took classes, but after awhile it wasn’t where my heart lies. I had been singing opera since I was seven and dancing since I was five. I was in Raging Bull with Robert DeNiro when I was 3 1/2 as his daughter, so I was already bitten by the acting bug. My dream at that time was to do Broadway entity musicals, and my family was supportive and got me into singing lessons and dance school. They were so cool and so open about it.

A cool ghoul look from Alana Schiro, Laura Tyler and  Alaina "Laney" Parkhurst in the second episode.(Photo by: Nicole Wilder/Syfy.)

A cool ghoul look from Alana Schiro,
Laura Tyler and Alaina “Laney” Parkhurst
in the second episode.
(Photo by: Nicole Wilder/Syfy.)

In a way, you’re continuing the family legacy by hosting this show.
It’s funny because I said this earlier to somebody, but I feel like I’m following through on that childhood dream because I wanted to continue the name on, and I thought it would be through acting. I’m living the dream that I had as a little kid, which was to continue my family’s name on, so to me this is amazing.

You have a son too. Do you think he’ll have any interest in makeup?
He’s definitely talked about it. He’s surrounded by so many people in his life that do this, but at the same time he is my little scientist. He’s almost 7, and he’ll ask me about wormholes and fractures in time. I’m like, “What are you talking about?” I have to Google half of the things he asks me. He is all science, but he loves art and says he wants to do what Deda [his grandfather, pronounced Dee-dah] does. We could start now if he wants. I’m going to be just like my parents — whatever he wants to do, I’ll support. As long as it’s legal and he stays out of jail, it’s fine.

What does your brother do?
He used to be an editor. He edited for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for a long time, and now he has his contractor’s license and is very much in that engineering mindset. He’s 10 years older. [My son] Maddox totally takes after him. I have a sister too. She’s nine years older than me. Her name is Michelle, and she’s a business manager for people like Jerry Bruckheimer and people in the entertainment industry.

“I think people still love to see that hands-on approach. When you get into digital, it’s starting to look better and better and better, but it’s not the same.”

As the show goes on, do you think we are going to see digital integration come into play?
I don’t know. I’ve been told that they’re going to shake things up, something different is coming. At the same time, that’s not what our show is. I don’t think they will jump into the digital. It’s a different skill set. Maybe we’ll do an episode here or there, I don’t know. But the show is based on a hands-on approach and [going] back to the basics of special effects.

So I want to hear about this Weird Science thing you were talking about back at the Syfy Upfront?
I was chatting with Kevin Murphy [the show runner for Defiance]. The craziest thing is that he wrote an episode of Weird Science that I was in when I was 18 years old. It was in the late ’90s. I had long dark hair and was a pirate maiden, and I had to sing opera and speak Shakespeare throughout the whole thing. That was my training and background, so when I went and auditioned for it, it was a perfect fit. We just realized that he wrote the episode, and his best friend was the lead pirate.

McKenzie hosting the "Subterranean Terror" episode of Face Off.(Photo by: Nicole Wilder/Syfy.)

McKenzie hosting the “Subterranean Terror” episode of Face Off.
(Photo by: Nicole Wilder/Syfy.)


Is there anything you’d like to see on this season of Face Off?
I really wish they could nail down the superhero thing a little better. For whatever reason, I don’t know why the contestants are not getting it. It’s not an easy challenge because there are so many iconic characters, and most of them are not make-up based but costume [oriented]. I get why it’s difficult, but you have the Hulk and other iconic characters that require makeup. I would love to see them nail that down a little bit better. I would love to see that come back. I used to love the nude body challenge, and I’m bummed they took it away. I understand why they took it away, but the first time they did it was pretty amazing. It’s just a cool, edgy challenge. I’d like to see it come back, but I don’t know if it will. I would love to see an episode based around musicals and having the performers sing through their makeup. You have musicals like Shrek and Mask, even Phantom, where people have to wear this heavy duty makeup through these things. I think would be really cool to have people do something like that on stage. I think it would be a killer finale.



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