Exclusive Interview with Face Off’s McKenzie Westmore
Michael Westmore has created a legacy that could daunt even the most hearty person but McKenzie Westmore seems to be doing just fine filling her father’s shoes. With an air of grace and dignity, she has carved out her own path and made a name for herself in the entertainment industry.
You can currently see McKenzie as the host of Syfy’s Face Off on Wednesday nights at 9 pm.
Your dad has been in the film industry for a long time, and your first role was when you were three. One could say that film is in your blood. What was it like growing up with a dad who had such an influential role in the film industry?
It’s funny because as a kid it didn’t really strike me as unusual. I don’t think it really does for any kid, growing up in any walk of life, if their parent is doing some sort of job that is considered extraordinary or different. To me, my dad just did makeup. I remember growing up thinking I would go to the department store counters with my dad and they would think he was buying makeup for his tween daughter, but he wasn’t. (laughs). He was getting it for his work. So it was always an odd thing to go with my dad but for me, it was just normal. Makeup was all around. We had monsters in our garage and gallons of fake blood in the backyard and severed heads and it was like nothing. (laughs).
When my dad had just finished doing Clan of the Cavebear, there was a scene that was edited out because it was too graphic. It’s where one of the main characters gets into a fight with the bears. The bear rips his head off, takes the head back to the cave, and eats the brains out of the head. As a kid growing up that really didn’t really mean that much to me. Except I had to do a commercial for school. We had to come up with a concept and I was young. So I was like why don’t we do a Doritos commercial and fill the head with chips, salsa and dip. Everybody is looking at me like ,”You are crazy!” but that is my family. This is what we do.
On the flip side, it’s the funniest, weirdest thing. My dad, he is the most humble, sweetest, kindest man. I call him Santa Clause to everybody. He’s almost like this mythical man. Men like him don’t exist anymore. He’s just a sweetheart and he’s there for you. If I’m having the worst day I can call both my mom and my dad at the drop of a hat and they’re there in a second. Growing up my dad wasn’t there a lot because of Star Trek. That was when I was about eight years old. And I didn’t understand why he was gone so much.
Now doing Face Off, on a personal level I understand. Instead of going, “You weren’t there when I was growing up that much.” I was able to turn around and go, “Oh my god dad! I get what you were doing! Not only were you living your dream but you were providing for our family. You were doing an unbelievably incredible job for the sake and love of his family.” It’s great being able to understand him on that level now. I could go on and on about my dad. (laughs).
Something I really love about Face Off is that you have makeup artists at different skill levels on the show. From artists just out of school to artists who have been working in the industry for years. Was this a conscious decision for the show?
I think the show, overall when they do their audition process, they’re looking for talent. Whether it be learned, raw, someone who’s been around the block a couple of times, or someone that’s a newbie. They’re just looking for talent. They’re looking for that untapped talent. Maybe it is somebody that just didn’t quite catch their break or maybe they are brand new to the industry. It is nice to see diversity but really at the end of the day they’re just looking for that great talent, great personality and people who really want this.
We want people on the show that want this. Not because they’re looking for stardom and being on a TV show. They genuinely live and breathe their art and they want to be the number one, top dog of Face Off and that’s what I love. Every season we bring in people that genuinely just want to be there.
Last season, I remember walking through the lab with my dad. We saw Nora and all those people eating up every single word that my dad had to say. Everybody. Every single contestant. I saw them all just chomping at the bit to just learn.
As host of Face Off in addition to following your dad when he mentors the contestants and offers advice on their makeups, do you end up becoming close with the contestants as the show progresses?
Oh my god yes! It’s so hard not to. I see all these contestants. It doesn’t matter what age they are. It doesn’t matter what walk of life they’re from. I see them living their art and passion and to me, that is the greatest asset that anybody can possess in their life.
So when I see that in the lab and I see the ones that are truly passionate about what they’re doing I get so close. I mean it happens every single season. When you see me send somebody off the elimination stage that’s not fabricated. There are times they have to tell me, “please take the emotion down a little bit” because it’s hard. It’s difficult to say goodbye to these people, but I’ve started to look at it as we’re not saying goodbye to them. We’re just saying goodbye for the moment because so many of them go off to do great things. They go off to have great careers afterwards.
So I really do get connected to the contestants. I’ve had many of them face me on the elimination stage as they’re getting crushed by the judges. They always look to me and I always make sure to have eye contact with them. That they have that one little ball of light in the corner going, “It’s ok. Everything’s gonna be all right. I’m here for you.”
I have a feeling I already know the answer to this one. Is it hard to tell the contestants that they have to go home?
(laughs) Yes, it is. It’s never easy. Like I was saying I do get connected to them. I get attached and it’s never easy to be the one to say please pack up your kit. So I try to say it as kindly as possible. And there are a bunch of them that want to hug afterwards and I’m always there. I’m always ready with a hug to give.
Do you have a favorite makeup from a past episode of Face Off?
There has been so many! There have been so many good ones. I know season 2 RJ’s bellhop was always a favorite of mine. Season 1 I gotta say Gage’s Hansel and Gretel, I flipped out over that. I understand why we had the winner we did, but I thought that was top-notch.
There were some really incredible makeups coming up in this season that’s airing right now. We’ve got a lot in store for fans. Especially as the season goes on, as it gets closer and closer to the finale, and you see the true talents that start to emerge. It’s unbelievable what we have coming up.
What has been the best and worst moments of Face Off for you?
I’d say the best moment for me was when I got to become a minister. When I got to marry the couples. That so inspiring and it really put a different spin on my personal life. I’ve always been a very spiritual person. I’m a Christian, but I’ve really gotten to another level. I’ve made prayer a part of my life and it really became such a special moment for me that I got to do that, become a minister, and then share that moment with all those couples. That was incredible for me.
Before that, the best part of Face Off for me is that I met my husband. Speaking of marriages. (laughs). Meeting Patrick was incredible obviously. We got married this last October. So that’s the number one best thing to happen.
The worst thing to ever happen… I’m really lucky that there’s never really been anything horrible that happened. The only thing that comes to mind was before we started the season, that’s airing right now, I blew out three disks in my spine. It was too many tumbles through the years and just too much wear and tear.
That’s actually why I’m sitting through the judges deliberation. You’re the first person I’m telling this to. People have wondered, “why is McKenzie sitting at the judges deliberation?” That’s why.
Through this season, I couldn’t stand for very long. Certainly not in heels. (laughs). I had to get many shots and acupuncture and a lot of therapy to get me over that. Thank god I didn’t need surgery. I didn’t need anything crazy and I’m now all healed up. It was scary for a moment and it was tough and frustrating because I want to wear my heels! I want to stand there and I want to be the best that I can be and there were days where I just couldn’t stand. All I could do was sit. So it’s frustrating because I’m a very active person and to be told I could not move for a while was extremely frustrating.
What part of the film and TV industry do you enjoy the most?
I love getting to see the artistry all the time. My outfits. I mean I get so many tweets about my outfits and they’re true! I love that I have a job where I get to wear these unbelievable clothes every day. That’s just from my own personal standpoint.
From the film and television aspect, as a viewer, I just love movies and television shows that can help us escape for a moment. If we’re having a stressful day it’s always great for me to be able to turn on a great movie, especially a comedy, and just be able to run away for a few hours.
This is Season 10 of Face Off. Do you see yourself continuing to host the show in the coming seasons?
I’ve told the executives this so many times! I hope it gets to the point where I’m coming out in a walker. Of course, I love the show and I am committed to it. I want to be doing this until the end of time. (laughs).
It really is such a dream job. I work with the most amazing people. I mean everything. From everybody at Syfy to Dwight, Derek and Michael our three Executive Producers to the judges to the contestants to my glam squad. I’m so blessed and so fortunate to be with such an incredible group of people who I call family now. I think that’s also an attribute to the success of the show. When you have people with that kind of chemistry and they get along that well you’re not going to work then. You’re having fun.
It really is such a dream for me and I love everything I get to do with Face Off. It’s opened up other avenues for me with my own cosmetic line. I just launched Westmore Beauty with QVC. It’s a culmination of my family’s history and Face Off. I’m very, very fortunate.
What inspired that business venture?
It’s been many years in the making. First, it was my family’s history. The fact that there was so much history. They were the first makeup artists ever on a movie set. My great-grandfather was a wig maker for the royal court and he was Winston Churchill’s personal barber. He came over at the turn of the century. He had a wig and makeup shop in Hollywood. This was during the silent film era when actors did their own make-up. There was no such thing as a make-up artist. So Adolphe Menjou ran into my family and said, “what do I do about this?” and they sewed together a little piece of hair laced wig and glued it on and that was the birth of the makeup artist.
That’s when they said actors are done messing with things because they mess everything up. We’re going to create the make-up artist and that was it. That really was the birth of a make-up artist on a Hollywood set.
With all that history, we’re talking 100 years of makeup artistry in Hollywood. Movies that my grandfather did, my great-grandfather did, Gone With the Wind, The 10 Commandments. Marilyn Monroe was a spokesmodel for our family, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Betty Davis. They invented how you should shape your eyebrow. They invented false eyelashes. They invented what is called the Betty Davis eye actually.
With all these innovations and inventions throughout the decades with my family, I thought it was time! Westmore Beauty is really a passion project, a family love project and it ties in beautifully with Face Off. I never thought I would be hosting a reality show or even getting into the makeup world, but everything is starting to come full circle now. It just all made sense to take my family history, Face Off, and bring Hollywood glamour and Hollywood special effects easily and comfortably into every woman’s home. Now they can feel like they just stepped off a red carpet.
We at TNWU all have something nerdy/geeky about us. What is something nerdy/geeky about you?
Oh god, what isn’t? (laughs). I’m a gamer. That’s one thing for sure. I love my video games. I will connect with my son on Mine Craft and he’ll give me my swords that I need. Cross Your Roads has become another one. I mean I LOVE my video games.
I don’t consider that nerdy, though. To me, that’s every day. That’s life. That’s a fun life.
I was the nerd in school growing up. I was the one that was bullied. I was picked on. I was beaten up in the locker room because I was the nerd. I was the fat kid that nobody wanted to play with. So those were my nerdy years but I don’t see it as a negative. I see it as a personal building block. So there’s really nothing nowadays that I consider especially nerdy. Maybe because I am such a nerd I don’t see it as that. (laughs).
To learn more and purchase products from Westmore Beauty click HERE.
Face Off airs Wednesday’s on the Syfy Channel at 9 pm.