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NIDA make-up students create the world of drag 

NIDA make-up students are creating drag looks with artist and wig stylist Helen Thatcher and artist John Boyiazis, who performs as April Fools.

Photo: NIDA students Tasia Linardos (top) and Abigail Smith (bottom) prepare models for the drag make-up assessment.

NIDA tutor Helen Thatcher is busy in the make-up rooms at NIDA, with the scent of hairspray heavy in the air, and vibrant colours on make-up brushes being intently applied to faces. Helen is working with NIDA CUA51015 Diploma of Screen and Media (Specialist Make-up Services) students assisting them to create their final drag looks for assessment.

As a professional make-up artist and theatrical wig stylist, Helen is highly experienced in screen work and live theatre, and has worked with leading Australian companies, including Opera Australia, Australian Ballet as well as Belvoir St Theatre, Ensemble Theatre and across major musical productions.

‘When creating a drag look, as you can imagine, the wigs have to be big with huge volume,’ explained Helen.  ‘The students have to learn how to set the wigs and apply make-up to make a very bold statement with lots of colour. In this project they’re also adding to their skills on working with male models. Plus, it has to work in live theatre, when someone at the back of the theatre has to be able to see exactly what’s going on.’

The students worked with well-known drag queen entertainer and make-up artist, John Boyiazis who performs as April Fools. John has performed at leading Sydney venues such as Stonewall Hotel, The Imperial Erskineville and also teaches for Kryolan professional make-up supplies.

‘My experience with drag make-up first started in the hairdressing and fashion industry,’ explained John. ‘I was blown away by catwalk and high-end avant-garde looks, which inspired me to study make-up. I fell into drag as a way to help raise money for HIV awareness and research and have since created a successful career from it.’

Photo: NIDA tutor Helen Thatcher (right) at work with Julianne De Matos and model in the NIDA make-up studio.

Isabelle Coote, Specialist Make-up Services student, was excited about the drag unit at NIDA. ‘This whole experience has allowed me to explore and express myself in a new light,’ she said. I was basically drawing an entirely new face. I had to mould and manipulate my current skills so I could create something unique that would fit in with the drag community.’

‘My favourite part about drag is not only the visual experience it can provide, but the way it can make a person feel when they look in the mirror and become transformed into another persona’, said John.

‘Teaching drag makeup has become my forte and the highlight of my career. I love having the opportunity to pass down all my make-up techniques, which I have developed not only from studying make-up, but from working with all the talented drag queens who have been in the industry for many decades.’

The NIDA Specialist Make-up Services course is suitable for all adults, including school leavers who want to undertake a full-time course and come out with industry-ready skills. ‘If you are a visual person and you love playing with hair then you are off to a great start. We will develop your skills from there,’ said Helen.

Feeling inspired? Applications for the CUA 51015 Vocational Diploma in Screen and Media (Specialist Make-up Services) at NIDA are open until the end of October. All application and course information is here.

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