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On the fifth episode of Syfy’s FACE OFF, the contestants were paired into teams. The assignment: Create a wedding scene by switching genders on real-life engaged couples. Unfortunately, one makeup artist was sent back down the aisle and out the door.
Jo Holland had only been in Los Angeles a month before being cast on FACE OFF. A recent graduate from Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program, Holland jumped in with both feet, and found herself right in the middle of the show’s juiciest drama.
FANGORIA: On the show, they kept referring to you as “just out of school,” but you’ve actually worked, right?
JO HOLLAND: I have. I graduated in 2009, but I haven’t really worked anywhere permanently. I haven’t gotten into a shop or anything like that, so I’m pretty fresh in the industry.
FANG: You trained at the same school that Megan Areford and Jessica Kramer attended, under Tom Savini. What did you think of the program?
HOLLAND: I really took advantage of all the opportunities that came through that school. I was doing face painting for kids in the local town. I was at the Halloween parade and worked for that. There’s a haunted house called Fright Farm in Uniontown that’s amazing, and I was one of the head makeup artists there. It’s what you make of it. Yeah, you’re paying these people to teach you how to do effects, but you’re the one who has to go and say, like, “Severing a head isn’t exactly on the school agenda, can you show me how to do it?” You have to take initiative and be ambitious with everything.
FANG: Had you worked with any of the other artists on FACE OFF before the show?
HOLLAND: No, but I’ve worked with Tom [Devlin] since.
FANG: Tell us about living in the house.
HOLLAND: It was extremely stressful. I mean, not with anyone individually, but constantly thinking about what’s going on in the shop. And you’re in tight quarters with people you don’t know, so it was a little awkward at first. But everyone I actually lived with in the loft—Sergio [Guerra], Tate [Steinsiek], Tom, Sam [Cobb]—was amazing. Marcel [Banks] was there as well. I loved all of them. It was really like a family experience being there with them.
FANG: What’s the biggest takeaway from the show, as far as your craft?
HOLLAND: Well, I learned a lot working with Conor [McCullagh]. He taught me pretty much everything I know up to this point about doing silicon prosthetics. I learned a lot on a personal level when it came to my career, and taking initiative and speaking up a little more. With the whole Jessica thing, I could have said a lot that would have changed many things. And going on the show, having my hands on the different products, and a nice space to work in, and being able to show off the work made me want to do this even more.
FANG: Speaking of that first challenge with Jessica—what would you have done differently, both regarding the design and working together, and when you were talking with the judges during the panel?
HOLLAND: I would have changed a lot of things, mainly the communication between Jessica and me. I let her be the creator, I pretty much let her design it and I kind of went with the flow. I played shop for her, I molded everything. So the communication definitely should have been there. We should have sat down and done a draw-up of everything. I remember talking to Jessica in the very beginning, telling her about making a two-piece beak for the ostrich, and different ways we could go with it. And it was her choice not to do that. I definitely would have stuck with it a little more. I was scared of confrontation with her, whereas in the end, it ended up as, you know, us kind of bickering a bit back and forth in front of the judges, which was pretty unnecessary.
FANG: What was that like being in front of the judges, and it was a team challenge and you had to defend yourself? What was your strategy there? Do you criticize your teammate and maybe look like you’re throwing them under the bus? Or not say anything and be perceived as if you’re not defending yourself?
HOLLAND: When I went in front of the judges, I went up there with 100 percent honesty. I didn’t want to lie about anything—for one, there was no need for it. It was all on the show and it was going to be shown regardless. I wanted to get straight to the point. They were strictly judging us on what we were doing and what the end product was. You had to just get straight to the point. It was extremely nerve-wracking. You don’t know what to say around these people, who a lot of us have idolized for most of our lives in this industry. [When they asked], “Who was responsible for this?” you couldn’t be too fast to jump the gun just to save your ass—you had to think it through. You couldn’t throw somebody under the bus just because you wanted to look good. You had to take your faults and walk away from it with some sort of dignity.
FANG: It was interesting that you and Tom, had both been in the top at one point, and then in your last episode, you were both in the bottom. Was that a shock to be on the chopping block?
HOLLAND: I did think that was going to be the case. It definitely wasn’t a shock to me. There were points when we were on the stage in front of the judges, on the side, where I was like, “I don’t know, Tom. I’m really sorry, man, I couldn’t pull too much off with this makeup. I’m worried we’re going to be on the bottom.” And he was like, “No, no, no…” He was reassuring me the whole time. “It’s OK, Jo, we’ll be fine, we’ll be fine…” And I remember consulting with Anthony [Pepe]: “I’m worried [that I’ll] go home…” I knew I hadn’t put appliances on this guy. I could have done that, but I just thought it was a better idea not to. I thought maybe the judges would think I wasn’t putting all my effort in with doing that, and that’s exactly what happened. So I was definitely worried going in there.
FANG: Do you think the judging is too heavily skewed toward appliances vs. just makeup?
HOLLAND: You know what? No, because Anthony got really good words from them, and he did strictly flat makeup. Although his male already had feminine features, so he had an advantage there, but still, if I could have pulled something better off with just flat makeup with shadowing or what have you, I probably would have gotten good praise and I very well could have been in the top. But that wasn’t the case.
FANG: OK, let’s get down to the stuff everybody wants to hear about.
HOLLAND: Oh yeah, I’ve been waiting for it…
FANG: You’re on the sidelines, and the judges are talking to Conor and Megan. You and the rest of the contestants are reacting to what Conor is saying. And then Ve Neill calls you out and makes you tell her what you’re reacting to. Then Conor says something like, “This is supposed to be about the work, and I don’t understand why our time is being interrupted…” And it seemed to be directed at you, but it was Ve who called you out!
HOLLAND: Although I haven’t seen the show, I remember that day so specifically. Tom, Anthony, even Tate, I know it shows they have expressions as well. It wasn’t just myself. And so it did suck for Conor to pinpoint me, although yeah, me and Megan had a distinct conflict. It didn’t mean I was the only one who thought that. I just so happened I had the balls to f**king say something about it. And I wasn’t trying to interrupt them. I told the judges, “No, don’t worry, it’s nothing. Continue with your judgment.” And they pried, they kept asking. And I wasn’t going to tell them, “It’s none of your business,” obviously. But Conor was directly speaking to me, yes.
FANG: What is your perception of the division of work of Conor and Megan on that challenge?
HOLLAND: Well, “division” is definitely a word to describe it. They were on one side of the shop and we were on the other. They started cornering themselves into this whole personal whatever-it-was, and everybody else was just kind of like, “What’s going on? Why are they doing that?” They could have helped the situation by trying to interact with everybody, and work side by side with everyone. But they didn’t. They definitely pushed themselves from everybody else.
FANG: If they were far away, how could you and the others tell that maybe Megan wasn’t doing as much work as Conor?
HOLLAND: The division between the two of us…there was a good, I would say, 10 feet between us on a constant basis. They had all the tables on the other side of these shots. So it was just the two of them running over there. So you knew when someone was over here, someone was over there. There was a specific room where we were molding things, so we saw who was in there actually molding something. If somebody else was using the silicon we all used throughout the show, you knew who had it, you could see who was mixing it, you could see who was pouring what. Everybody worked in the same area, so you could see everything everyone was doing.
FANG: When you went backstage while the judges were deliberating, you said it was obvious who was going home, meaning yourself, but Tom thought Megan would call him out. When did you find out she called Tom out? And how do you feel about that?
HOLLAND: I found that out right when I got eliminated. After I talked to everybody and said my goodbyes, I walked out, but I was on the other side of them, so I could hear her say, “I didn’t put her name on the chopping block.” I have mixed feelings about it. I don’t know if it’s because she had a problem with Tom from their team challenge and that’s why she put his name up. But he’s a better artist than I am, like, altogether. So I don’t think it could be based off of his work either. To tell you the truth, I think she did it so that she didn’t have the blood on her hands. So that if they did eliminate me, it wasn’t her who put my name up. To give her a better look on the whole thing. “Well, I didn’t put her name up. She went for her own reasons…” I figured it was something she did to benefit herself.
FANG: Your line when you came back after being eliminated, and I’m paraphrasing, “I may be just out of school, but I know how to put a f**king mold together”… I’m assuming we all know who that was directed to.
HOLLAND: [Laughs] Correct.
FANG: And then we see you immediately go into the calling out of Megan, and she says, “I forgive you,” and then you flip her off and leave. Is that all that happened?
HOLLAND: I actually didn’t hear her say, “I forgive you.” When I was done talking to her, she said, [sarcastic] “Yeah, OK…” And then I walked away and flipped her off. I guess she said, “I forgive you” after I flipped her off and walked away. [Laughs]
The whole thing between me and Megan… I never wanted drama to go on during the show, ever. We were there for effects, not to bicker or have love interests or anything like that. Stuff like that happens with people. You put 12 people in a small living space where they’re not sleeping—all we were doing was thinking about work. We were always at the shop. We weren’t at the loft very often. Just because two people don’t get along—it is a TV show, they’re going to blow up whatever they can. I hope that people in America see that.
FANG: Do you think if you and Megan get onto the same job, you’ll be able to get along?
HOLLAND: Absolutely. When it comes down to being professional, actually working on a model in front of you, or working with a crew, you have to put your personal bullshit aside. You can’t bring that on set with you. We may never hang out with each other ever, or even be in the same room together on a social level. But if we were to be in the same shop, or working on the same project, I’m sure there wouldn’t be a problem.
Meg and I were reunited at the [83rd Annual Academy Awards] Makeup Symposium, and it was almost like nothing on the show happened. We laughed and chitchatted about the hype of our conflicts on the show all night. I feel that Meg isn’t that bad in the real world. Although her laugh still makes me cringe, all in all she is an alright girl. But with me saying this, I do not take back anything I said or felt on the show. I do feel the same way about her talent and the riding of coattails, but her as a person…I think I could make a friend in the end.
FANG: Overall, what are your thoughts on the experience?
HOLLAND: You know, altogether the experience was great. For a person at my status in the industry right now, this is something perfect. I have all these different supplies at my fingertips. I got competition—that builds skill, to challenge yourself over and over and over. If you keep doing the same stuff, yeah, you’ll get good at it, but you’re not widening your horizons. So altogether, it was a great experience. Tom, Tate, Anthony, Marcel, Gage, Conor, Sam—I learned so much from all of them. And even from Megan, too. Not in the sense of effects, but in the sense of the world and people. So I definitely wouldn’t take the experience back by any means, and I thank everyone who had a part in picking me to be on the show.
FANG: What do you think the show is going to do for your career? Help it? Not help? None of the above?
HOLLAND: You know, I can’t really give an answer for that right now. Nothing has happened so far. I’ve seen a lot of these, you know, the FACE OFF Facebook page and all that kind of stuff, and I see people sending in makeup after makeup for the fan contests, and I think that’s the biggest thing in the end. Inspiring other people to do makeup, being able to get better at what I’m doing. I don’t think this show is going to make my career any bigger, I’m going to make it bigger. I’m the one who has to go out there and get the job. I’m the one who strives to put my hand to the stone and sculpt the appliance. It’s really all up to me. The show’s not going to make my career any bigger than I can.
FANG: Influences, career-wise?
HOLLAND: Rob Bottin, 100 percent, all the way. Steve Johnson as well, but Bottin is definitely that name for me.
FANG: What’s your goal as a makeup artist? What kind of work would you want to do, and what kind of shop would you want to be in?
HOLLAND: I definitely want to own my own shop. People like Tate, Tom and Anthony inspire me. That’s the path that I want. I want to do my own effects. I want to be able to present my own scripts. I definitely want to be in control of everything that’s going on. I want to make something new and work with CGI and try to get something to work with these computer graphics and [practical] effects. There’s a lot of opportunities in movies nowadays to create something new that will still shock people. We’ve just gotta find it. We have to work together to find it out.
FANG: How about the role of women in the makeup industry? Obviously Ve Neill is huge, but what’s the landscape of chicks in the industry?
HOLLAND: I think it’s great. The more the merrier, bring ’em on. I don’t think anybody should be eliminated just because of their gender. I’ve been in LA since August. I got on the show immediately after I got here, and I haven’t been able to dabble in the shops yet. I haven’t really met too many people, but from what I’ve seen, there are a lot of women in the industry. I’ve met a lot of great, talented women so far. I would say it’s almost even, but not quite there.
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