One of the buzziest titles at the upcoming 2022 Oscars is director Michael Showalter’s dramatic adaptation of the 2000 documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye, which has garnered two nominations. One, for Jessica Chastain’s portrayal of the titular Christian televangelist; the second, for the film’s hair and makeup team: makeup department head Linda Dowds, special makeup effects artist Justin Raleigh and hair department head Stephanie Ingram.
Likewise, dressing Chastain’s Tammy Faye Bakker was a dream job for costume designer Mitchell Travers, whose recent projects include last year’s big-budget musical In the Heights and Hustlers. His next project is the upcoming miniseries for Spectrum and Paramount–George and Tammy–about the tumultuous relationship between country music legends Tammy Wynette and George Jones.
One of his personal favorites on the Tammy Faye set, Travers shares, was the pink and green dress she wears to a pool party, where the intrepid housewife/entrepreneur crashes a meeting hosted by Reverend Jerry Falwell. His inspiration for that outfit? A classic pink-and-green mascara tube!
Chastain’s longtime personal makeup artist, this is Dowds’ 16th collaboration with the actress. Their past projects include Crimson Peak, Ms. Sloane and The Huntsman: Winter’s War. An Emmy winner for his work on American Horror Story, Raleigh’s company Fractured FX is also behind the astonishing makeup for last fall’s Impeachment: American Crime Story, transforming Sarah Paulson into Linda Tripp, Annaleigh Ashford into Paula Jones and Clive Owens into Bill Clinton.
All three artists’ masterful approach in bringing Tammy Faye to life was directed towards honoring and respecting the real person behind the bold televangelist, who was often mocked for her intense makeup–complete with tattooed lip and eyeliner–and high-pitched Minnesotan accent. The drama chronicles the Bakkers from the 1950s through the 1990s, culminating in the late 1980s when the PTL (Praise the Lord) empire crumbled into a vortex of financial fraud and a sex-and-hush-money scandal.
With awards season in its final stretch, we recently spoke to the trio about bringing this controversial figure to life. Here’s the conversation:
LINDA DOWDS, JUSTIN RALEIGH & MITCHELL TRAVERS
The Bakkers’ saga unravels over several decades. How many sets of prosthetics were made for Jessica in order to reflect the aging process?
Raleigh: The three stages to the prosthetics were: Stage One–silicone for the cheeks, a chin appliance and a little nose–there’s a little hidden piece of tape at the tip of her nose that raises the tip so you see more visible nostrils, which Tammy has. The major changes from the ’60s through the early ’80s is a combination of Linda’s makeup and Stephanie’s wig choices. The prosthetics anatomy remained consistent until ’83 or ’84. In Stage Two, Tammy has now gained weight, which requires full neck and cheeks, chin appliance, nose tape and an upper lip appliance to reduce Jessica’s lip line and reflect the start of aging. The final stage in the ’90s include extreme prosthetics: a full neck and cheeks, larger chin, upper and lower lip and to age her nose, we removed the nose tape. She has a stretching stipple around her eyes and forehead–we stretch the skin stipple on a layer of plastic or latex that dries, then you powder and release it and that creates a natural looking stipple on the skin.
At the height of her fame, Tammy Faye famously favored drugstore brands for her makeup. What contemporary brands did you use to stay true to her look?
Dowds: We went for full authenticity on this one. There are actually many good drugstore brands and I shopped for supplies where Tammy would shop. She loved Target, so that’s where I got a lot of her makeup. I’m also very familiar with what brands they had during those specific years and did a lot of research, including watching a lot of PTL footage and her interviews on Larry King Live and Nightline. I even tracked down some of her album covers on eBay.
If the scene reflects something that took place in 1987, you actually had to track down specific shades that Revlon made in 1987?
Dowds: Exactly. For her lipsticks, I still have the “Revlon Bible”–a reference guide that tells you from the day of each product line’s inception, every single nail and lip color that they have produced. I have maintained that collection up until this decade, which tells me what each of the corresponding lip colors, nail polish and eye shadows were. I also keep track of how some of these brands have renamed their products through the decades, even though the products have remained essentially the same. For example, the Maybelline blue eyeshadow quad that was sold in the ’80s is pretty much the same as what you can find now. There are ways to preserve the integrity and authenticity of the colors you use. One of the lip colors we used a lot on set was Revlon’s “Cherries in the Snow,” which is a fuchsia red that we used on Jessica through the ’80s. It was definitely a match to some of the costumes that we’ve seen in Tammy’s interviews.
How did Tammy’s color palette change as she aged?
Dowds: We went from using a lot of blues and mauves in the ’70s to plums and burgundies in the ’80s. For her tattooed lips and eyebrows as she got older, I used waterproof pencils, then added another eyeliner on top of that.
The other element was the matchy-matchy aspect of Tammy’s look.
Dowds: Yes, that’s where we worked closely with the costumes that Mitchell’s team put together. We focused on lilacs and blues, but Tammy loved pink, so we used a lot of that.
Mitchell, speaking of Tammy’s matchy-matchy pastels and sequins, what type of research did you have to do for wardrobe?
Travers: It was very helpful that Tammy was very heavily photographed in her time, so there were plenty of stills and magazine covers, not to mention all the television interviews we could refer to. We could identify which year it was and which trends she was following. I studied her so intensely that I could tell this is the year she purchased this pair of earrings and she wore them for about eight years. Or, when in the ’90s, she brought back a lot of the jewelry that she used to wear in the ’70s. I was able to curate a closet for her based on how she got herself dressed every day. She was a fantastic costumer and I wanted to honor and respect that side of her persona in our work. She really understood the power of her image.
How many costumes did you end up curating just for Tammy?
Travers: I think we lost track somewhere around 115.
Wow! Were most of her wardrobe made from scratch or vintage?
Travers: It was a combination. For the red skirt suit that she wears on the courthouse steps, I looked everywhere from high end designer retail in Los Angeles to vintage stores. We were shooting in Charlotte and I happened to walk into a designer shop to find this perfect match. So that was a divine moment. For that coral pink dress that she wears in one of her songs, it was so specific and I knew we wouldn’t be able to find it, so we created that specifically for the film. We also had a coat that we found on Etsy, some leggings from Goodwill. It was a random mix, as Tammy would have done herself.
What was your favorite decade to dress her?
Travers: There is an outrageous gaudiness to the ’80s that I think you just have to enjoy. It’s hard to say “no” to a stirrup leggings. [Laughs]
For more on what it took to transform actor Andrew Garfield into Tammy Faye’s husband and host of the PTL Club television program Jim Bakker, check back tomorrow for Part Two of our conversation.
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