Emily Shinn-Spence

Actors really have their work cut out for them. From the relentless pursuit of signing a dream agent, to the depth of raw emotions we unapologetically expose just to get a mere call back. It is a rollercoaster ride, and just when you think you have nailed that audition for your dream role you are faced with the hard reality of long nights and stressful set life deadlines.

The truth is, our job as actors extends beyond the character driven narrative and booking a role. It also includes looking after our appearance in ways we perhaps never realised were possible during those long days at drama school, or on camera audition classes. It’s no secret that being your best creative self is also about feeling and looking your best. Thankfully, in our travels as actors we meet some pretty stellar non-actor creative types who not only fuel our imaginations with their resourcefulness, they also help bring our inner creative beings to life.

Recently, while working on the film Silent Life with Sherilyn Fenn and Isabella Rossellini I met the passionate and driven makeup artist Emily Spence. One of the things I love to do when having my makeup and hair done on set is to pick the brain of the makeup artist who is prepping my character for some tips and tricks that will go beyond the set life and trinkle into the reality of actor life.

Emily Shinn-Spence is a Los Angeles based licensed cosmetologist with experience working in the salon, in the studio, on set, and behind the curtain. Originally from Baltimore MD, she studied at The Maryland Makeup Academy, Robert Paul Academy for Hair and Makeup in MD, and The Redken Exchange in NY. Emily’s skill set includes both traditional and airbrush application for special effects and beauty makeup. Along with salon services, Emily specializes in hair artistry, including period styles and formal looks.

Silent Life is a film set during the silent film era. Based on the life of Hollywood’s first movie star heartthrob Rudolph Valentino, Emily not only re-created the life of this time period she also worked under immense deadlines, long hours and tight budgets. A film set is no place for relaxation; no matter the budget size the pressure can become tiresome and I take my hat off to people like Emily who manage to get us camera ready while also transporting our look to another time period.

Fuelled with imagination I spoke with Emily about her top 5 low maintenance makeup and hair tips that can help keep us actors feeling and looking our best long after the camera has stopped rolling.

Emily Spence Top 5 Makeup and Hair Tips for Actors

Alixandra: Best way to remove false lashes naturally?
Emily: Use grape seed, apricot, or coconut oil to remove false lashes. The oil breaks down the glue and conditions the lashes all at the same time!

Alixandra: It’s been a long night on set and I have to look fresh for an early morning meeting. How is this possible?

Emily: As Elizabeth Taylor quoted; “Put on some lipstick and pull yourself together.” The best thing you can do is put on a bright color lipstick to draw attention away from those tired eyes. It will also make you feel great too!

Alixandra: How can I avoid my hair from getting damaged after some serious onset hair styling?

Emily: Good question! Always have a thermal protectant spray/cream in your beauty care collection. Hot tools can be drying and damaging to the hair. You want to be prepared for those roles that require continued styling on set.

Alixandra: Do I need to spend a fortune on a mascara so that I find one that won’t dry up or get clumpy?

Emily: No. You don’t need to invest in expensive mascara for everyday wear. The key is to wash the applicator wand after every couple of uses. This prevents the build-up that causes clumping. Remember that Mascara should always be discarded after 3 months.

Alixandra: What is the one makeup product I should invest in?

Emily: You do want to invest your time and money in choosing the proper foundation for yourself. Seek the assistance of a professional in choosing the correct shade and type you will need. You want your skin to look naturally flawless and youthful so your makeup should be undetectable. This will set the tone for your entire look. I guess that’s why they call it foundation!

Makeup can not only create an entirely different look that helps bring our characters to life and transport us to the inner world we are developing, it is also instrumental in helping the actor bring our best narrative to life in the pursuit of our dreams.

Pop that lipstick on and bring your dreams to life.


Alixandra is a graduate of the Actors College of Theatre and Television Sydney and the Terry Schreiber Studio and Theatre in NYC. She has also studied at the Eric Morris Workshop in LA and the Bova Actors Workshop in New York under scholarship and The Actors Studio NYC. Alixandra interned at The Performing Garage NYC run by William Dafoe where she was involved with their interpretation of Richard Burton’s original stage production of “Hamlet.”

In March 2015 she launched her own company, Suspicious Woman Productions with the opening of John Patrick Shanleys “The Big Funk” in Sydney. Alixandra is also an accomplished Jazz and Cabaret Singer having performed in Sydney, Melbourne and NYC. Currently, she is applying her theatre producing skills in the packaging and financing of feature films, in addition to continuing her work as an actor, singer and with Casting Networks. Alixandra is also the founder of LA Connect, a boutique personal marketing service for talent and small businesses.