Nicole Chilelli : The New Face of Special FX

nicole2Nicole was just crowned the winner of Face Off Season 3 on the Syfy Channel! She is the first female contestant to win the competition. Face Off is an elimination competition series that tests the skills of selected artists from around the world. Challenges incorporate effects makeup with a wide range of skill sets including prosthetics, 3-D design, sculpting, casting, and molding.

Nicole was named RAW Artist of the Year at the 2012 RAWards Sacramento. We were able to catch up with Nicole and see what she has to say about her experience on Face Off, and what got her to this point in her career.

A great moment on Face Off was when you came back from being eliminated. When you returned to the how and started winning competitions you stated that you began to make creations you wanted to see as opposed to what you thought they wanted to see. That must have been validating. What was your favorite moment? What was a really terrible moment?

There were so many great moments on the show, but if I had to pick one, I’d say it was the challenge I won to make it back on the show. I went into the challenge with a new necklace that says the word HOPE and it’s exactly what I had with me–hope to be good enough to make it. I knew how important this day was. I was so upset when I left because I knew my work hadn’t shown what I could really do as an artist and now, I had a chance to prove why I made it on this show in the first place.

Obviously, the day I got voted off was my worst moment. I was so incredibly sad I couldn’t even get though my interview without balling though the whole thing. I couldn’t stop the tears. I had failed in my mind to the one chance I may have ever had to make my dreams come true and show the world my talent. Makeup is my life and all I wanted was to make something I was proud of. So when I came back I was fueled by that thought. THIS WAS THE TIME. It was my chance to prove myself but also have fun and make things I want to see–to make things that represent me as an artist and to make things that show my style.

How did you survive in those time constraints?

What we do on the show is the impossible really. The amount of time we get this done is insane and, I always said that every makeup that walked out on the stage was a compete miracle. We only have 30 minutes to design it. In the real world, the design phase takes a long time. You have to have a clear vision of what you want to create to avoid any mistakes in the process. I think what got me though it is the passion and drive in myself, and I believe it’s the same for the other artists. We all knew that this was an opportunity of a lifetime and it was a very good push going on in the back of our minds. I believe that if someone wants something bad enough, you can make anything possible.

What was your favorite creation?

My first favorite was the Cyborg Princess. She resembled my style of design completely and I think she was so incredibly stunning. She was even more amazing in person. She had a powerful presence around her once she was in character. She was already a tall girl, but once I put the six-inch stiletto boots on her she was towering over –crew and cast. I love doing things that are stunningly beautiful yet dangerous at the same time. Like, you’re attracted to it but are afraid to touch it.

What brands of makeup do you use the most or, like the best?

I love so many different kinds for different uses, but I would have to say Endura airbrush makeup is one of my favorites to use because it lasts so long in the airbrush and has a really nice smell to it. Even if I’m using another brand, I always add a few drops of that just for the smell. Most airbrush makeup has a bad smell of rubbing alcohol because they are alcohol-based makeups, but Endura has a lavender type smell to it and it’s very calming for the model being done up. It helps relax them and I always try to make it the most comfortable experience possible. These people may be sitting for hours on end and it’s those little things that make them feel better, and keeps them happy and relaxed so they can go on to do a good performance.

When did you know you really wanted to do special effects and makeup?

I have always been in to art since I was a kid. I dabbled in everything artistic you could think of. I took every class in school that had anything to do with art. For a long time I struggled trying to figure out what I was going to do for a career and how I could do something with art every day. I went on to be a tattoo artist and was an apprentice for 6 months at a local shop in my hometown of Long Beach. It was fun, but not exactly what I wanted. I felt like I still hadn’t found my dream job yet. I had always been in to Halloween and loved to dress up and scare people. Scaring people was so much fun and every year I wanted to set up mazes and get into characters to freak everyone out. One Halloween I bought a fake limb of a dead foot to hang from the trunk of my car. I was outside painting it for hours trying to make it look as scary and as real as possible. My dad came outside and laughed at me and told me I was sick in the head hahaha. Then he said, “You really love this stuff that much, why don’t you get into movie makeup?” Then it clicked; it had never occurred to me, but it made so much sense. It was putting the two things I loved most into a job–art and Halloween. So, I took a Halloween makeup class and loved it. From the first day I knew this was what I wanted to do the rest of my life. I wanted to know everything I could about makeup, so I took two more classes for professional makeup and fantasy makeup. From there I bought every book and DVD I could find and practiced on myself all the time.

What inspires you?
Everything in nature inspires me. I love finding those tiny details in something and putting them into my work. I love the ocean and I find it so captivating. There are so many great creatures in the ocean that make great references for creature makeups. Like, on my final makeups on the show, I was sure I wanted water. I took all my inspiration the sea. For my demon I took from the angler fish with its huge teeth and giant jawline. But I also wanted to mix in influences from other creatures like the ram. I feel like a demon would be a mix of creatures. And for my water witch I took inspirations from shells, waves, and coral. I think nature is the best reference because it’s familiar to our eyes and we tend to relate, and are attracted to, things familiar.

Who do you look up to?

Hands down I look up to my Momma! 🙂 She is such a strong woman and she has given me the strength to do the things I love most. She is so smart and can do anything really. She knows so much about so many things. She is book smart, but at the same time can fix anything better than most guys. I think I get a lot of that from her–never backing down from a challenge. No matter what, she has shown me there is always a way to make it work. She is the most amazing person I know, and I am so lucky to have such an amazing mom.

The pressure was so great, and rewards too sweet; did you ever get sick or pass out?

I never got sick or anything like that. I think the show is way too fast; you don’t really have time to get sick. You’re in full-on work mode. I did have a few times I got anxiety and it was hard to breathe. Like before they announced who made it back on the show. My heart was pounding so hard. I wanted it so bad. Out of all the judges, was there one that stood out and gave great advice? I thought they all were so awesome, but I really looked up to Glenn. You could tell that he really has a passion for this craft and really cares. He always gave great feedback, good or bad. He would only tell you things that, I think, were helpful to be a better artist. And I can say that I have a picture that I got him to smile at my Suess character, so that was awesome!! Yes he does smile haha. You have worked hard and made it big.

What advice would you tell someone wanting to be where you are?
Whatever you want to do in life, once you find it, go for it 100%. Don’t wait for things to come to you. Go out and get the knowledge anyway you can. Do research and practice. Don’t give up. Believe in yourself, even if you’re not 100% happy with you work, because that is normal. Believe in the passion that you have for
because when you feel that strong for something, anything is possible. Just remember that YOU are the only one that can make it happen, so make it happen for yourself.

What is your favorite food?

Totally pasta!!! I’m Italian and can never get sick of Italian food. My most favorite thing is Fettuccine Alfredo with chicken and broccoli 🙂 hum hum hum

What is your dream job?

Hahahaha my dream job is my job! 🙂 Full time Special FX and Beauty Makeup Artist.

Congrats on getting voted RAW Sacramento
Artist of the Year!

Thank you so much!! I couldn’t be happier to represent Sacramento, and I can’t wait to go to the next round.
For more information on Nicole Chilelli,
Beauty & Special FX Makeup Artist
visit her website at

Born on All Hallow’s Eve with an affinity for things that go bump in
the night; his favorite horror movies include Psycho, Seven, The
Shining, and Silence of The Lambs. His music of choice is edgy,
has brains, a big heart and a giant middle finger.

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