Michael Jackson & Makeupartistry…Breaking the Music Video Mold!

Written by NZINGHA for TheGlamSquadFiles 

Wait! Is that Michael Jackson?? 

So, today I’m just like in a Michael Jackson memories mood. He really did set a precedent for how music and music video Artistry would evolve.

MTV had never seen anything like what he did with his Thriller video! Back then they had a 2 hour special premiere of the video and the making of the video. We were all rushing home then glued to the tv to watch it.
Back then MTV didn’t even play black musical Artists music videos. Until Michael Jackson paid them to play his music and video work! It was undeniable that he broke the musical and racial barrier at MTV& then VH1 back then.

Yes, Michael clearly loved SPFX Makeup! Transformation seemed to be fascinating to him as it is for most of us. But how many people actually get to transform like he did AND perform at the same time.

I’d say he was pretty amazing to actually not seem to mind the process. Most people become claustrophobic or give up in the first hour but, for him to willingly sit for several hours in SPFX Makeup Appliances…takes a special person. And that he was.

I recall the big buzz back in the late 70’s was that the play The Wiz was being turned into a film adaptation starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell and Ted Ross (the original lion and only original cast member from the Broadway play).

I believe it was during the filming of The Wiz that Michael was introduced to SPFX Makeup. Michael’s Makeup Artist on that film was the legendary SPFX Makeup Artist Michael Thomas. 

Michael Thomas was masterful and always busy doing great films and TV work! I’d had the opportunity to work with him on a couple of projects. He was an artistically generous man and simply a sweetheart of an Artist. Michael Thomas is truly missed in our industry. 

The Makeup for the Scarecrow wasn’t excessively frightful like the makeup that we all saw in The Planet of the Apes at that time. Nor was it like the scary makeup that MJJ would eventually do for Thriller but, it was fun and quirky a different a spin on the original Wizard of Oz’s Scarecrow Makeup.

Michael was already a superstar with his brothers The Jacksons. But this film project seemed to be the catalyst to Michael’s breakout solo career. A solo career that would turn him into a mega celebrity.

The Musical Director for the film was none other than the legendary Quincy Jones (who I later had as a client and affectionately called Uncle Q, to this day I still call him Uncle Q. I also worked for his magazine VIBE as their first Beauty Editor). It was this musical collaboration on this production that turned into a lifetime friendship and Grammy wins for the both of them!

I remember being in High School when I first bought the Thriller album. I was soooo excited a new MJJ album and I was the first in the neighborhood to get an advanced copy (family connections in the music industry). All my besties came to my house for I guess you could say a listening party.

The moment I put the record on we commenced to high pitch fan style girly screaming! This was quite annoying to my Mum who I guess you could say was a bit over me and my shenanigans! Posters of Prince and Michael Jackson all over my walls, pins and buttons donning my denim jackets. 

Never could I have dreamed of ever meeting either of them much less working with them in any capacity which I ultimately would do years later in my career as a Pro MUA.

It was this music video that really changed my course. Little did I know I had real skill as a MUA to that degree in HS. I was 16. You see I went to a performing arts high school and we put on talent shows and actually toured as a troupe of singers, dancers and musicians.

During one of our shows we would go on to perform Michael’s video for Thriller onstage. And guess what?…I was the Makeup Artist for that segment of the show! Not only singing and dancing but, I also did full out Zombie makeup on at least 15 of us. 

We danced for our lives! I remember buying the video version of the album; it was The Making of Thriller. I sat and watched it over and over again watching every little detail. I was smitten by the whole filming process and moreover the Makeup!!

It was as if it was another class I’d gone to as one of my talent electives in school. Yes, I could draw, sketch and paint (mind you with no official formal training). But this was different magical I’d never seen anything like it! I saw what Rick Baker the Makeup Artist was doing to Michael’s face and it was wonderfully horrific!!

Here’s the specific part of the film that I remember having on rewind. I watched it so much that I literally popped the vhs tape and had to buy a new one! I just loved the process of the Makeup application so much.