Making the Dancing Stars Look the Part

"Extreme makeup and hair have been used by professional ballroom dancers for years as a way to stand out during group competitions," said Melanie Mills, the lead makeup artist for the show. "We have taken this extreme and Hollywood-ized it meaning we have softened it a little but still kept it big."

A great example of this philosophy was Leeza Gibbons, who last week worked the sexy look while dancing the tango with lips so red they could have been used to stop traffic.

"Leeza has been around makeup her whole career so she has her own ideas, and with lipstick people get particularly locked into their favorite color, but we usually come to some agreement," Mills told ABC News.

Mills has worked on "Dancing With the Stars" since the second season. Having learned the art of makeup from her mother and grandmother, Mills began a career as an Italian interpreter before agreeing to help out on a film set for a friend. She hasn't looked back.

"The producers have total trust in us and really let us go for it," said Mills, who smiles both warmly and often.

On the day of airing, around 45 minutes is spent on each individual's body makeup alone. The contestants are given a spray tan before a stain is hand-buffed over the top. Mills and her team then choose from a variety of bronze, gold and pearl lotions. Finally, they are given a sprinkling of glitter to make sure they shimmer and glimmer their way across the stage.

Battling Against Sweat

On show night, between seven and 10 makeup artists work in the main trailer. One of the crucial tasks is powdering up the dancers to minimize the appearance of shine and sweat that results from a vibrant workout under hot lights. Sometimes though, not even makeup can save the day.

"Last year things got so tense between the contestants we had to put certain people at opposite ends of the trailer," said Mills. "Luckily this year the group is much more family-oriented."

The final decision on hair and makeup comes down to the contestants' dance, their color scheme, what they want and what Mills wants. It's not always a harmonious relationship.

"The pros always want to be super tan so we have to draw the line with them," said Mills. "Also, one of the biggest issues is hair, be it wigs or coloring, and it once took four of us to convince Cheryl (Burke) that hair extensions were a good idea."

While "Dancing With the Stars" is about a whole lot more than just looking big and flashy, the hair and makeup remains an intriguing part of the show.

According to Mills tattoos are going to creep onto the agenda this year with a skull and crossbones planned for Burke. Whether Ziering will be wearing a black eye patch and a parrot on his shoulder remains to be seen.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: The Cherokee County Fire Department in Georgia rescued a yellow Labrador puppy from a 75-foot well on July 5, 2015.
Cherokee County Fire & Emergency Services
Craig Terry/Cape May County Tourism
PHOTO: Anyone with information about this baby found abandoned in Maryland is asked to call the Anne Arundel County Police Department at 410-222-6145.
Anne Arundel County Police Department
PHOTO: Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, is involved in an on-track incident following the checkered flag during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2015.
Patrick Smith/Getty Images