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The make-up artist

Brainerd native Cindy Williams (left) posed with actress Julianne Hough. William

"Burlesque" - a contemporary musical film that is currently being shown in theaters across the country that features Cher and Christina Aguilera - is an example of how a small-town girl made it big in the big city.

Cindy Williams, a 1985 Brainerd High School graduate, was the department head make-up artist on the movie "Burlesque." Williams, the daughter of John and Donna Williams of Brainerd, lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Rob Mcguigan, and two boys - Grant, 8, and Garrett, 6.

"Burlesque" is among many movies Williams lists on her resume. She has done hair and make-up on actors for movies that date back to 1991, including "No Reservations," "Ocean's 12," "Me, Myself and Irene," "Forces of Nature" and "Jungle Book."

Williams took time out of her busy schedule to answer questions via e-mail for a Dispatch Q&A exclusive.

What interested you in a career as a make-up artist? "I always enjoyed doing hair and make up since I was a small child."

Education? "I went two years at Brainerd Community College and then one year of cosmetology school in Los Angeles."

How long have you done it? "I have been doing make up for 20 years."

Do you work for yourself? "I am self employed. I usually get a call from a producer of a particular movie to see if I'm interested in their project. Then I get hired by the studio to work on that project."

Do you mainly do make-up on actors for movies? If you do other things, what are they? "When I get hired for a movie I read the script then I start working closely with the director, actors and costume designer to decide how each character is going to look in the movie and what changes they may have in the movie. For example in "Burlesque," Christina Aguilera starts out as a small town girl from Iowa, then by the end of the movie she has turned into a glamorous singer and performer. Each dance number on "Burlesque" had a completely different look. Each required extensive research from old classic movies to European high fashion runway looks which required 100s of detailed tear sheets and story boards. Intense testing and retesting for all 13 dance numbers were accumulated to get the finished look."

What is the toughest part of your job? "The pressure of having to work quickly. No one wants anyone waiting on you. Every minute costs the studio thousands of dollars. One small mistake can show up on the big screen you would never want the studio to have to do a reshoot because of a mistake you made."

Easiest part of the job? "The best part of my job is the people I work with. We work hard together, like a small community. And most of the crew shares a good sense of camaraderie."

Name some of the big celebrities you've done make-up for? "I've done make up for Catherine Zeta Jones, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and I worked with Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt."

What were your work days like on the movie? "On 'Burlesque' I would usually get up at 4 a.m. starting my first make up at 5:30 a.m. It usually took 45 minutes for make up, 45 minutes for hair, 15 minutes for body make up and then 15 minutes to get dressed into costume. So a total of two hours per girl, some mornings we would have 28 dancers. Then we would have 150 extras who had to look good while sitting in the club. So on many days I would end up hiring 20 make-up artists. We had six make-up trailers and a large tent with 10 make-up stations and we would have to be camera ready by 8:30 a.m. sharp! We had a full day of maintaining the actors and would usually finish by 8:30 p.m. My average day is 15 hours."

What did your time at BHS or Brainerd teach you that helped you in your life/career? "I credit my success to my strong work ethic and loyalty that I have learned from my parents, family, friends and my Brainerd teachers."