A “WICKED”…journey

20130927-180804.jpgA “WICKED”…journey

Have you every just felt so incredibly blessed? Like you are impervious to all things that could possibly deter your next prepared place. The place you belong in even if it’s only a moment or even a lifetime!

There are several times in my life where I’ve felt like that…things I’ve said, thought or consciously or unconsciously prayed for, ALL of these are really prayers.

Have you ever wanted something but weren’t quite sure it was attainable but went for it anyway? You went for it and you really weren’t attached to the outcome good or bad, you just wanted to see if you could do it?

There’s an old saying that says: “Be careful of what you wish, because you just may get it.”

Well, here’s one of my “getting what you wish for” stories. It was the beginning of Spring 2005, you know when it’s still a bit chilly and mostly rainy. It was a dark day out and I was at my then home office and I was on the computer. Then all of a sudden I had a flood of old Broadway tunes come into my mind.

I had a recollection of me as a little girl attending some of those marvelous plays that were out when I was a child and had the privalge to attend. The Wiz, Dreamgirls, Cats,and A Chorus Line. I loved them all but I have to say seeing The Wiz (3x by the way; opened 1975 and Starring Stephanie Mills, who went on to be a popular R&B singer with several hit records)was the closest to my heart. The music from the play was so brilliant and rhythmic much like Black life, complex and melodic. I should have known one of my favourite songs from the play ” EVERYBODY REJOICE” was written by Luther Vandross in 1972 and originally recorded by his then group called “Change”


As a little girl and even as an adult I have always loved the story of The Wizard of Oz. In fact it’s still in my Top 10 fave movies!! Yes, right up there next to Lady Sings the Blues, Mahogany, The Ten Commandments, The Matrix and more.

The story of Oz captured me as a child because my mind could see all the colors and characters. I thought about Dorothy and Toto (who was a really brave cookie through all that craziness). My Mum would buy me everything that pertained to the film and that included coloring books, Colorforms©™, comic books, Let’s Pretend Albums©™, dress ups and yes even the dolls!

I’ve always been one with a vivid imagination and saw the world my world in technicolor and I still do. I bought that same technicolor to my Makeup Artistry. But up to this point in my career all that Color and imagination was only reserved to Artists in the music industry, where I’d done amazingly well in a brief amount of time.

So now, back to my thoughts in my office. I was thinking about Dreamgirls as a movie (little did I know that there were plans indeed to turn the successful play into a film starring Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce’, Jamie Fox, Eddie Murphy, Anika Noni Rose and a host of others). Guess my Prophetic Vision is greater than I give it credit for. I made several phone calls to try and get on that picture as Makeup Artist especially because so many of the Actors were musicians (ie Beyonce’ one of my former clients with Destiny’s Child and Jennifer Hudson).

I thought about The Wizard of Oz…”Mmmm maybe they’ll do another updated version of the classic or even “The Wiz” (I can’t tell you how many times I saw on film Starting Diana Ross (who later on wound up being a client of mine), Michael Jackson, Ted Ross (the original Lion from the Broadway play), Lena Horne, Nipsy Russell)

When I got no call backs for Dreamgirls my heart sank no it tanked!!! Then I remembered a song I’d heard on a commercial “LOOK AT HER SHE’S WICKED!”. Wait am I tripping out or what!! Yes there was another version of The Wizard of Oz….a play, a play called WICKED!!! Only it wasn’t like any of the other movies or plays I’d seen about Oz. But I still had a burning feeling in my chest that there was going to be another Wizard of Oz movie…could that be possible? Yeah, my instinct is never wrong…shoot sometimes I feel like a Pop Nostradamus!! I’m always right.

I looked everywhere in every trade and industry magazine and heard nothing of an Oz movie. However they sure were buzzing about Dreamgirls!!! I cried like a baby because I wanted to work on that movie so bad. For me that was a dashed dream! Oh well,…keep it movin’ sista!!

Yet, there was no buzz about an Oz film so what was this feeling I still had about this Oz project?!?? Well, I went to the Broadway website to find out about this play WICKED and which Theater it was playing in. I found the phone number to the stage!!! When this happened and happened with ease I took it as a sign.

I remembered in my Makeup Artists Union Member book a section for Broadway Makeup & Hair Artists. I found the Makeup Department heads phone number and I called him (guts right)!!! He answered (I’m shocked)! I give him my credentials,…he said come in for and interview and that they have a list of “Swing MUA’s” and if I was good enough he’d put me on that list.

What was happening?!? Shoot!!! And it was all happening so fast! He asked me to come in the next day for the interview and bring nothing but my makeup brushes. I came in the next day we talked and then he asked me if I worked with prosthetics before, I said yes but minimally. He asked if I knew how to paint I said yes. He asked me then to work on the masks he had all lined up and labeled on the shelf.

He said “Here are the colors and a sponge I need these repainted. Go!!!” I said in my head first “What?!!! Go!…I paused, Im not ready for this!” then i said out loud “So wait you want me to paint these, now?” He said “Yes now please.” So I went for it! He timed me on top of it and he was quietly impressed.

He said “Ok! That’s great!! Now, I’m going to have you come with me to the dressing room to meet our lead actress. There you can see the Makeup I put on her step by step. I suggest you take notes because it all happens quickly.”

Now, the negators voice came into my head saying “What in the blazes have you gone and done! Are you sure you can do this? You’ve never done this before. You’re not good enough to pull this off! What made you think you could do this?”

Then the positive voice like wiped away all those negative thoughts and said ” NZINGHA , you are one of the best and you have been prepared for this, that’s why it’s happening this way. You will do well you are truly the Artist I made you to be, now go.”

I followed him up the narrow staircase to the dressing room. He introduced me to Dee (who was charming, gorgeous skin and lovely smile, polite and my goodness had a serious collection of stuff in her room) and then began the process….

Actress Dee Roscoili

During the process I asked like 100 questions…because after all Broadway was different from the music biz. Well, the actress Dee seemed to like me enough and, we laughed and she asked me a heap of questions about all the musicians and music videos I’d done. She even rattled off a couple of cd covers I’d done. I was shocked!!! We got along fine.

So, the MU Department head asked me if I got everything and would I be able to come tomorrow and the next 3 days to learn the show (all paid days). I said yes!!! I came in the next day early as requested to recreate what he’d done on Dee last night. And I did it!!! To perfection and quickly. He said “Gosh your fast and good! Wow! Ok so it time to do Dee and the rest of the cast, let’s go!”

Things were moving so fast players everywhere getting into their costumes the band I could hear warming up though the house was not open yet. I was nervous…the negator came back to tell me “Quit while you’re ahead honey, you’re out of your league this ain’t the music biz!”

Humph…I shook that mess of and plowed right on ahead! Dee was happy to see me, “You made it! You’re here!! Awwww this is gonna be fun. Don’t worry I’ll help you.” I began to do her makeup step for step as I’d remembered him doing it (I’m a quick visual learner) Dee was floored and so was he. They looked at each other and it was a beat of silence…., then came busting in the room wardrobe and hair!!!
Backstage at WICKED

There was so much going on backstage and props moving and dancers twirling and singing and we rush past them all to run upstairs to do makeup for the Shiz, Fiyero, Tinman and Lion (last two all prosthetics) the makeup was laid out in each room. Everyone had expected me and greeted me with love and respect still asking me about all the Artists I’ve worked with. Two of the well known actors in the show during my time there were Ben Vereen as The Wizard of OZ and Rue McClanahann as Madame Morrible. They were both loving and helpful toward me…made it easier and calmed my butterflies.

The Cast of Characters

I had indeed started to doubt myself again thinking had I bitten off more than I knew how to chew? Again NO SHAKE IT OFF GIRL!!! During all of this I’d been taking notes…it wound up being 11pages of notes!!! (If you’d like to see my notes I’d gladly email them to you)

Remembering songs, remembering when I had to be in position for the quick change of the other players (the Monkey Masks and Dr. Dillamond, run upstairs to do all the prostetic makeup wearing actors Timan, Lion and Wizard, and ultimately Elphaba’s Makeup change.

Elphaba’s Makeup change was a bit more dramatic than the initial Makeup in the first act but, honestly it was to me “alright” Makeup… HONEY…the fashionista in me wanted to take it to a whole other level but alas I was firmly “Not Allowed To Change The Makeup In Anyway OTHER THAN ITS ORIGINAL DESIGN!” The Makeup was designed by a M.A.C Makeup Artist Joe Delude. I still say it needs the “ZING!” on it however I am one to follow the rules and simply give another Artist their respect.
Then after the 3day crash course in WICKED Makeup and staging the show was all mine!!! Only one person…solo, no assistants prepping for the change just you a huge theater several players and trust me a pair of sneakers!!!

I worked matinees and evening performances (2 weeks) it was I think the hardest work I’d ever done in my entire career (26yrs). But from this area of Makeup Artistry, I was stretched…I’d grown and challenged my own Artistry and my own dreams!! I dared to dream I dared to go into the unfamiliar and I did it!!! I wasn’t just the music and fashion Makeup Girl, I’d grown up in those 2 weeks. I grew as an Artist!

Alas WICKED and I parted but it’s forever imprinted in my repertoire of Makeup Artists adventures. Who knows I may join the Broadway ranks again!

Moral of the story is…follow your instincts and dreams, sometimes they do come true!

Oh and P.S… I was right (remember I was feeling like it was going to happen in 2005)!!! There was a film in the works!!! An adaptation shot in 2011 called,…OZ The Great & Powerful!!! Stellar Makeup work on that one!!!


Makeup for the performance…(from the official website)

Actress Alexia Khadime

Actress Idina Menzel


5 thoughts on “A “WICKED”…journey

  1. Nzingha I loved reading this. It was great!!! I find it funny that we haven’t crossed paths since Janet at Radio City. We are always never far behind each other! You know I’ve seen Wicked 3X’s

    Great Girl!!!!

    • Wow! Howard…Radio City?! Did you read the article I did music and beauty part 1&2? I have a funny little story about Ms. J.

      Seems you and I are always so near Gus’s cause we like the same things!!! Working on WICKED was great but you know I’ve never seen the show from the house!!!! Maybe one of these days I will get to see the full show!!!


  2. First, Nzhinga has always been someone I truly admire; her talent
    (let me rephrase this: talents!) speak volumes on how her gifts translate
    perfectly on whatever medium she chooses to express it in!

    Yes she inspire me …always has, so this beautifully written piece, provides a peak into her life, her spirit and the importance of listening to your instincts.

    Just Loved it! Keep writing Nzingha
    and I will with pleasure continue reading
    Your writes!

    God Bless You!


    • Ooooo Lady Verna! What a wonderful review! My goodness I didn’t expect all the love but I’ll take it :-)! Thank you for being a light and a generous artist yourself!!! Your work is stellar and it’s truly a blessing to see you share your gifts as well!!

      Fraternally Yours…

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