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Tabb helped build the world of the lauded Sterlin Harjo/Taika Waititi show, Reservation Dogs, which featured a cast of fresh-faced young Indigenous characters and their adult guardians. The final season of the show, which bowed last year, took audiences in some new directions, into flashbacks like in “Deer Lady” and “House Made of Bongs,” but also on the usual madcap adventures of these beloved characters.

Tabb was there every step of the way, helping create these characters’ looks in cooperation with Harjo and the actors. We hopped on Zoom to speak with Tabb while she had a break on another set. Enjoy!

Reservation Dogs | Season 3 Official Teaser |

Editor’s note: The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

No Film School: All right, go for it. Your experience!

Sharon Tabb: I had no formal training. And I didn’t have the money to go to a makeup school. It was before the internet. Now you can search on YouTube and find anything, how to do something. But this was the early ’90s. I was going to art school, and I was going to community college in Riverside, California, and my whole family was pressuring me. “You got to get an education, a formal education, and you do art. So the next thing you’re going to do is you’re going to be an art teacher or you’re going to do graphic design.” I mean, zero interest. I was like, “Well, I’ll go to school for art, but I don’t really want to do either one of those things.”

When I was in high school, I wasn’t the best student. I skipped a lot, and I just was into art. … And there was this big joke that, “Oh, if you flunk out of school, you can just go to beauty school.” … And all my friends said, “Sharon, you should totally do hair and makeup. You’re so good at it.” And it just was like, “Oh, no, that’s not a real job.”

So when I was 19, I was working at a department store and I was working at Harris. I was working in designer dresses, and I was number one in sales, but the ladies in the department, they did not like me because they said I talked too much. … And they put me as a floater, which means you just go wherever you’re needed. My first floating job was at the Chanel counter. And I got to that counter, and I’m just like, “Oh my God, really? I get to do makeup? I get paid for this?” And what’s funny is that was the only place they kept me. I didn’t float anywhere else. … People would come in, my friends, anybody, looking for makeup, and they sat in my chair, and I did makeup. And I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew this was so much fun, and I was like, “I want to do this.”

So I was like, “Ooh, I want to do movie makeup. That’s what I’m going to do now.” And so I started researching it in LA. I started calling all the schools. There was Westmore and Joe Blasco, but they were all 20 grand a pop, minimum. I didn’t have that, and I didn’t qualify for any loans. I got a little bummed out because I’m like, “Well, now what do I do? How am I going to learn? I can’t go to makeup school.” So it just became this long journey. It was really hard.

Reservation Dogs Season 3Hulu/FX

So the next thing I decided was, okay, well, I’ll go to esthetician school. That’s the next best deal. You can learn makeup there. But I knew just that still wasn’t really the way I was going to go. In esthetician school, you learn all the sanitation, and you learn how to do facials, and you learn the basic stuff. “Don’t double dip in the mascara,” things like that. But then I had this opportunity. There was a non-smoking film student video. I just did my own research, “How can I make this guy look like he’s a smoker?” I was hooked.

It was things like this that I just had to keep trying to reach for, and I still could never get it. I went back to department store makeup again, and I got in with Mac [Cosmetics]. … I didn’t get my first production job until I was 29 or even 30. I had to end up going into bridal … I got really lucky because one of my brides worked for VH1, and she would call me to work on various things for VH1. And every time she’d call, if I did not get back to her within the hour, they already had it filled. There’s this other stress like, “Oh my God, I can’t miss this call again.” … She called me, and I answered. It was hilarious because they’re like, “Okay. You’re available for makeup in the morning for Hulk Hogan and his family. And by the way, do you have a dog that you could bring with you?” … The shoot was in the summer, and the Hogans, I believe they lived in Florida at the time, so they couldn’t fly their dogs back. And the story was called “Stars and Their Pets,” but they wanted to borrow my dog. I ended up borrowing my brother’s dog.

And then, once you get your foot in, that’s when it starts evolving. So I self-trained … I’ve been doing makeup now for 33 years. In March, I went to LA, and I’m now paying huge special effects artists and big artists that I want to learn under … You’re always elevating yourself no matter what part of your career that you’re in. I don’t want people to give up, and don’t let people’s families try to persuade them away from doing what they want to do. I think that’s really important.

NFS: Reservation Dogs. The final season goes in so many interesting directions. You have all these period stories, and you have all these characters that come in for the first time.

Tabb: What’s cool about Dogs—clearly it’s a dramedy. Sometimes it’s really funny. And then sometimes they really talk about deep things … talking about the boarding schools, and why the Deer Lady became who she became, that’s another level. … I talk to the actors every time there’s a certain episode happening. First I have a meeting with the director. We find out what their vision is and what the looks are and what they’re going for.

It also just comes down to the cast. The cast were very involved in their characters. It was really cool to watch the process to see these actors being able to be who they wanted to be with this character as well. I mean, it was just a very, very collaborative situation. … We definitely were showing why the Dear Lady became who she was.

D’Pharaoh [Woon-A-Tai], he’s an old soul, who played Bear. Every time he’s in Oklahoma, he goes and he explores, and he’s into history, and it’s just really awesome. Well, we were in here one day, and I had all my photos printed out from different boarding schools. I talked to different people that have been in boarding schools or whose family members had been in boarding schools. So I do have a grasp of the things that did happen, but there was definitely this thing that D’Pharaoh taught all of us. He told me first, and then I went to Sterlin [Harjo].

There’s a thing called the Purple Hand, and we incorporated it in the story, actually. But what happened is, I guess the nuns or the people at the boarding schools, if an [Indigenous] kid wrote left-handed, they would bind their wrist. They would bind their wrists for so long and so tight, but their hands would go purple and they would lose their hands.

So I asked Sterlin, “Can we incorporate this?” And he let us.

I don’t know if anyone ever even knows that we did it. There were a lot of deep things that would go into a lot of these stories. … I feel like Season 3, we did take things to another level.

Reservation Dogs Season 3Reservation Dogs Season 3FX/Hulu

NFS: Is there a moment or a look that you’re most proud of from the last season?

Tabb: In the flashback episode to the ’70s—Quannah Chasinghorse, a famous model, she has [Yidįįłtoo] tattoos on her face. She’s had them since she was 13, and she’s now mid-20s. Anytime she’s modeling, she will not let anybody cover them up. That’s who she is. So whether she’s modeling for Chanel or whoever she’s modeling for, she does not want to cover them.

But because she was clearly playing Irene, she wasn’t playing herself. We got to cover them, and I was the first one to ever get to do that. I got to see her really embrace her acting and become that character. It was a little bit of an emotional thing too, because when she saw herself complete, with nothing, it was like, “Oh my God, I haven’t seen my face like this since I was 13.” … I’m proud that I got to experience that with her and be able to do that. She’s awesome.

NFS: Do you have any other practical advice for someone who would want to get started in the makeup department?

Tabb: It’s really going to all boil down to money, I think, as it does. I think if you have the opportunity when you’re really young, if you get a chance, I do think the first step be to go to cosmetology or esthetician school. I do feel like it gives you fundamentals about bacteria and all the things that you need to know about the skin and the hair so you don’t give somebody an infection. There’s just a lot of good information. It’s also something you can always fall back on. It’s always really good to know how to do facials.

My actors, let me tell you, love me when I do a moisturizer on them, or at the end of the day when I’m doing a cleanup, knowing the proper way. Esthetician school, or cosmetology, you learn very similar things. I think those are good fundamentals to have.

I would say if you’re in high school and you can do the whole votech program and go while you’re in high school, go then. I would do it as early as you can. Then the next step would be, I would recommend if you can go to a makeup school, but make sure it is an accredited makeup school. There’s a lot of people that are traveling around saying that they do makeup and they teach classes. But the thing is, they can give a bunch of hype, but you want to see their credentials. Like go to IMDb, look and see, have they actually worked on Guardians of the Galaxy or have they just done a low-budget film, and that’s it?Just make sure you do your homework. I would try to go to an accredited school if you can.

If you can’t, and you have to go the route I went, if I could go back, the only different thing I probably would’ve done was try to find a makeup artist that I could apprentice under. I knew nobody in the industry, period. Back then, I feel like in the early ’90s, it was so much less accessible. I think it’s a little more accessible now. Now there’s so many online boards and groups you can join and things like that. That’s probably the first thing I would do.

Since there is the internet, you have no excuse not to know a lot of basic things. Watch various YouTubes. Look up the movies that you like and look up those makeup artists. I get a lot of emails from people asking me the same question, but you can try to reach out to ’em and just say, “Hey, where’d you get your start?” Or things like that. I don’t know. You just have to really become a detective and start trying to get the answers and not give up. That’s the biggest thing.

There’s going to be a lot of downtime, but it just takes time. It’s not going to happen overnight. And if you get on one project, you might not get on anything for a long time, don’t just think you’re done. It’s just part of life.
I think it’s really important when you are a makeup artist—and this is a given—we start the day. I think it’s really important to have a no-drama zone. When actors come in, you have to read the room. You have got to really pay attention. If they’re coming in, and they’re quiet, it’s not that they don’t like you, they’ve got a lot going on in their head. They’re rehearsing their lines.

I try to really read the room and set the tone as very positive. And if they want to talk, you talk to them. If they’re doing their script stuff, don’t be having your music blaring. … Just having people skills.

Originally Appeared Here

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