4 min

Make-up to the stars

Christopher Pinhey makes famous people beautiful

Credit: David Ellingsen

Michael Venus: So, you have been involved in the film industry for quite some time. Could you tell me what exactly you do and what you are working on at the moment?

Christopher Pinhey: I’m a make-up [and] effects make-up artist for film, television, and for the occasional drag queen. I’m currently working on the film Catwoman.

MV: How long have you been doing make-up and how did you get started in the craft?

CP: I’ve been doing make-up ever since I was an actor in my high school plays. I usually got the character roles that were older, bald, or covered in moles with a funny nose. And I loved playing these roles. But I was also freaked out by make-up volunteers coming near my eyes with sharpened eyeliner pencils. So I quickly learned how to do my own make-up!

MV: What are some of the more memorable productions you have worked on and why?

CP: My first professional job was exciting and memorable. I apprenticed, then worked, for four years at CJOH-TV (the CTV affiliate) in Ottawa. I met many celebrities, politicians, and interesting people on the various news and variety shows they produced there.

Another highlight was assisting make-up artist Jan Newman on three seasons of the TV series Stargate SG-1. This is where I met some of the top artists in make-up effects and where I first learned to do effects make-up. We were nominated for Gemini Awards a couple of times for this work.

I’ve also enjoyed working on some of the big movies shot in Vancouver: X-Men 2, The Santa Clause 2, Elf, Dreamcatcher, etc. What’s great about these films is working with all the other make-up artists, hairdressers, and crew needed for such large projects. Not only is it fun to work with and learn from them, but after so many years, most of us are friends and it’s like a family reunion.

MV: Who are some of the more famous faces you’ve made beautiful?

CP: One of my first jobs was Jean Chrétien for his Christmas message!

Alanis was very nice. The already beautiful Teryl Rothery (Dr Fraiser on Stargate), and most of the cast and guest stars of Stargate at one time or another.

Oh, and I mustn’t forget local legends that I’ve had the pleasure of making beautiful: Robert Kaiser and Christopher Logan, aka Joan-E and Mocha Crème, soon to be seen in “Connie and Carla.”

MV: Let us in on that big upcoming drag movie. What is all the hype?

CP: Several of us working on this movie commented, practically before the cameras even rolled, that we couldn’t wait to see this movie and get the DVD!

Nia Vardalos (from My Big Fat Greek Wedding) wrote a fabulous script, loosely based on Some Like it Hot. It’s a caper comedy full of mayhem, hilarious drag numbers and Debbie Reynolds!

Nia and Michael Lembeck (the director) fell in love with Joan-E during the audition process in Vancouver and ended up writing a part especially for her (and her alter ego, Robert) to play.

Many other local actors also have some great roles in the film. Don Ackerman is hysterical as a flaming audience member, and Willie Taylor and Shawn MacDonald provide the DQ bitch quotient as nasty-ass drag versions of Aretha Franklin and Céline Dion. The cinematography is pure eye candy and the soundtrack will be campy and fun.

If you haven’t guessed, Connie and Carla is also a highlight in my career and I can’t wait to see the finished product!

MV: How did you end up in Vancouver? Where are you from?

CP: I’m from the deep, dark suburbs of Ottawa. Then went to York University in Toronto and moved to Vancouver 12 years ago after falling in love with the city on a summer vacation.

MV: You also use to be known for your infamous drag persona Wanda Wacko. What was she all about and where is she now?

CP: Wanda has been locked up in the bowels of my building for a couple of years now. Many are sorry she was ever let out in the first place!

Seriously though, when I first moved here, it took a couple of years to get established in the film industry, so to make ends meet and to entertain myself (and others I hope) I brought together my performance and make-up skills to create Wanda Wacko. She’s all about making an idiot of herself for the sadistic pleasures of an audience. She pioneered reality TV.

MV: It seems that recently there has been a proliferation of gay TV shows and movies. What’s that all about and where do you think it is going?

CP: I love it! The more there is, the more chance there will be something good or of interest for everyone! I remember the days of going to see anything and everything even remotely gay, no matter how crappy it was! Now we have a choice, gay and straight, to see the many facets of who we are and who we can be, representing an ever widening audience.

MV: You, like me, are also a huge Star Wars fanatic. Tell us about that and any other hobbies you are into.

CP: Since 1977, we’ve both been huge Star Wars fans and collectors with tattoos to prove it!

In the past few years I’ve [also] started collecting Barbie, Billy, and other funky fashion dolls. And, other than collecting these toys, I’ll often get two or three extra of the same doll or action figure so I can alter, re-paint, and re-dress them to be other characters, robots or divas!

MV: What do you think you will be doing, say, in 3-5 years?

CP: I’d love to say ‘retired in the Caribbean winter home with David,’ but that’s his delusion.

I’ve been doing the same thing since I was a teenager: going to movies and plays, hanging out with friends, collecting toys, and doing make-up. I don’t see much changing.

MV: Any other smart-ass comments?

CP: Your ass is quite smart in those pants.

MV: Thanks babe.

CP: Ciao.