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Pointers from the Professionals: Diana Solomon, Makeup Artist for Saturday Night Live

There’s nothing funny about makeup for Diana Solomon. Well, maybe a few things. The licensed makeup artist has been making the cast of Saturday Night Live look their best for eleven seasons, and helping everyone from sitcom stars to backyard brides bring out their best features.

In addition to working with photographers and the faces we see on soap operas and the Today Show, Solomon teaches others her artistic skill. She instructs makeup at Media Makeup Academy in New York. She sat down with Color Me Rouge to offer a little insight on the makeup business and provided us with some tips you might be able to use today.

Q. How is doing makeup for SNL different than for another type of show or event?

A. Well, I’m in my 11th season and I do the makeup of the background actors and the guest bands and the House band’s percussionist, Valerie Nananjo. SNL is such a unique live show. I think it’s like the Indy 500 if you had to paint the tire while you changed it!

Q. How long does it generally take you to prepare a actor for a role? What steps are involved?

A. On SNL, background actors take 5 to 20 minutes and cast members take 20-45 minutes in the makeup chair. Usually I start with concealer, HD Foundation (Smashbox) with a sponge, and powder (Erno Laszlo) with a puff. Then additional shadows, liners, blushes and lip glosses are added depending on the part. For example, a reporter would have more neutral colors, while a showgirl would have bright metallic colors. For men, I would also apply beards and mustaches for characters like Abe Lincoln and the President of Iran.

When I’ve done “quick changes,” I’ve had as much time to go from one makeup to the next as it took the station to run the commercials. That could be as little as 6 minutes. During that time the hairstylist is changing the wigs and the wardrobe stylist is doing the costume change.

My favorite quick-change was when Kristen Wigg changed from “Carol Channing as Hello Dolly” to the woman in the “A-Holes,” complete with fake nails. The stage manager stood inches away with a stopwatch giving us time checks and then saying “stop.” At that point Kristen Wigg had about 1 minute to get to the stage.

Q. What is your favorite part of the job?

A. The makeup. And seeing Paul Simon in 2001 [when he was musical guest on the show along with Alicia Keys].

Q. What are some of your go-to methods for making a client look their best?

A. Highlighter in the inner corners of the eyes and above the lipline.

Q. What other projects do you work on, aside from teaching and SNL? What is your favorite?

A. I just worked on several teaching videos for McGraw Hill Publishing. For me the best thing is the variety. Of course SNL is my favorite. Perhaps it’s because the chemistry is there. It could be because the cast has a famous comedy tradition or because there is great feng shui in the studio.

Q. What are some common makeup mistakes that you see, and how can women fix or prevent them?

A. Use concealer, not foundation to cover or hide imperfections.

Q. If a woman could only have three cosmetics in her makeup bag, what do you recommend they be? Why?

A. Concealer, mascara and lip color. If someone was going to take your picture and you had three minutes for makeup, you’d hide the imperfections then define your eyes and lips. If you have five seconds extra, pinch your cheeks!

Q. What are some of the most common aspects of makeup design that your students struggle with? Why? How do you help them get around these?

A. The most difficult is choosing foundation colors. The first thing is to forget about stereotypes like blonde hair and blue eyes equals pale skin, or brown hair and brown eyes equals darker skin. Technically, liquid eyeliner can be problematic. I teach them to control the brush and “drive” without using the brake.

Q. If you could give one piece of makeup advice to the average woman, what would it be?

A. Put on some natural looking makeup. [Wear] the three things [mentioned above] and cream blush, powder and a neutral eyeshadow for everyday.

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Lauren Stewart
By: Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart is a freelancer writer from Michigan. She enjoys writing about beauty, health and fitness! She is passionate about learning new ways to take control of her health and wellness and is a makeup and skincare junkie! You can contact her by emailing