Makeup Artist Courtney Lether
When we gaze upon the screen big or small, whether to watch the latest multi-million dollar blockbuster or our favorite drama or sitcom, we probably think more about the acting talent rather than the unsung heroes that include the CGI techs, the gaffers, stunt people, and countless other professionals whose job makes the “stars” look good (or bad, depending on the intended final product).
One of my favoritest (yes, fellow grammar nazis, I said “favoritest”) people in the whole world is my friend and New Orleans native, Courtney Lether. Courtney is a makeup artist in the wonderful world of movies and television. She is one of the sweetest and realest (yes, I said that, too) souls ever. I admire her a lot for her joie de vivre.
Courtney has worked on the sets of movies such as Green Lantern (2011), Battle Los Angeles (2011), Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013), 99 Homes (2014), and 2015’s American Ultra, The D Train, and I Saw the Light, among many others, some of which you are probably not aware of because they have not yet hit the big or small screens.
I remember when I once looked at her page on the IMDb website. It blew me away. I remember how it made her smile when I commented on how prolific she was at her work. Working on movie sets like Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Django Unchained, Battleship, Wild About Harry, the spoof The Starving Games, and TV series such as, Army Wives, NCIS: New Orleans, Ravenswood and the new Sundance TV series, Hap and Leonard.
But enough with the background info and on with the interview...
Daily Vibez: Hello, my lovely ginja friend. How is the weather down in New
Courtney Lether: The weather in New Orleans is weird. One day it's cold, the next warm and lovely. Today felt like a Los Angeles spring day. I love that New Orleans is unpredictable. Keeps us guessing and wanting more.
DV: Please describe for our readers what you do in the world of movies and television…
CL: I am a makeup artist. Beauty and FX. I paint faces and spend my days maintaining actors looks.
DV: How did you get started in the business?
CL: I started in the business at 25. I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. I met truly wonderful people who took me under their wings and shared their knowledge with me. My ex boyfriend worked on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, he took me to set and introduced me to the FX guys Rob Hall and Jason Collins. Rob hired me to do makeup for a Josh Todd (lead singer for the band Buckcherry) music video, and Jason helped me with FX makeup on low budget films I worked on. Jason taught me a lot. He's been very supportive and good friend. The both took a chance on me. Meeting them introduced me to new people and new jobs and lead me to (3-time Academy Award-winning makeup artist for the films Beetlejuice, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Ed Wood) Ve Neil. She really trained me and shaped me as a makeup artist. She led me to other great makeup artists like Joel Harlow (Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling in 2009 for his work on Star Trek), I could go on and on about this..... Nice, caring, talented people took a chance on me. I'm so grateful, and I hope I can pay it forward.
DV: How long have you been working in the industry?
CL: I have been in the business for 15 wonderful years.
DV: Do you remember what your first job as a makeup artist was?
CL: My first real makeup job was Josh Todd’s music video "Shine".
DV: What do you like best about what you do?
CL: I love collaborating with people. It's such an interesting process developing the look of a character. Everyone has different ideas and different thoughts, it's a delicate dance we do. We come together and magic happens. There are many days at work where I
just freak out that I get paid to do this, to paint faces and collaborate. It's crazy. Fantastic!
DV: What would you say is the average amount of time an actor has to sit in your chair? The longest?
CL: For a basic beauty makeup an actress will sit in the chair for 30 minutes, 15 for men. Prosthetics requires more time. Longest time in the chair: 4.5 hours. When that happens an average day for me is 18 to 21 hours.
DV: Please define “creature technician”...
CL: Everything from shop work all the way to onset handling of creatures. On Battle Los Angeles I worked in shop helping with a giant alien and on set I helped drag it around and cover it in goo.
DV: Which do you prefer, working on a television series, or a movie set?
CL: Film. Hands down. Don't get me wrong I love television. But I feel in films there is more room to be creative, and I need that sometimes.
DV: Who were some of your favorite actors to work with?
CL: Betty White. She is love! Recently I worked with Al Pacino and Anthony Hopkins (for the 2016 movie Misconduct, for which she was makeup Department Head). That was amazing. Michael Ealy is my favorite actor to work with. He makes me laugh all day and he's kind.
DV: What totally makes your day?
CL: Laughter makes my day. Right now I work on NCIS New Orleans and we laugh all day. We work hard and laugh. Most days I leave work and my cheeks hurt from smiling all day. I love what I do. It doesn't feel like work. That's pretty fantastic in my ginger opinion.
DV: What are some of your more fond memories from your career?
CL: The fondest memory I have of my career is working as a Hair Production Assistant on Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3. It was the coolest job ever. That's where I met Ve. I was standing on set, watching the cast fight with swords in the rain. They were fighting on one of the pirate ships and we were in Palmdale (California) in an airport hanger. I was looking around taking it all in and silently freaking out. That moment felt like Christmas morning. I knew this is what I wanted to do, this is where I belonged. Finally. I figured it out.
DV: I bow to you in envy, my dear. Thank you.
Let us never forget that Courtney Lether is one of countless professionals behind the scenes who help make the acting talent look good. Let’s raise a glass to them, those unsung heroes of the motion picture industry!