Alum Spotlight: Suzanne Diaz

Making up the stars

Suzanne Diaz (Colo. '88) takes a pass on the office life for a creative gig doing celebrity makeup

Diaz applies makeup on actress
Holly Hunter for an episode of
"Saving Grace."

Suzanne Diaz (Colo. ’88) isn’t exactly the nine to five type. After graduating with an economics degree, she found herself in search of something that offered more freedom and creativity.

Now a professional makeup artist, she’s done work on stars for movies including "Batman and Robin," "Boogie Nights," "Blade," and the upcoming fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean," as well as shows including "Mad Men," "Saving Grace," "Bones," and "One Tree Hill." She’s been nominated for an Emmy eight times for outstanding makeup, mostly for her work on TV episodes of "Star Trek."

How did you go from economics to top Hollywood makeup artist?

I decided to pursue makeup after seeing the movie "F/X", about a makeup artist who disguises people. I worked at a beauty salon in college, and I always did clients’ makeup. So, I decided to go abroad and study it.

What exactly do you do now?

I design the characters’ looks and apply the makeup accordingly. I specialize in beauty and special effects makeup. A typical day starts early in the morning. Special effects makeup could take one to five hours to apply. Regular makeup takes 45 minutes to an hour. My typical day is 14-16 hours. A short day would be 12 hours.

What celebs have you worked on?

Harrison Ford, Holly Hunter, Jennifer Aniston, Scott Bakula, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, Eddie Vedder, Matthew McConaughey, Tim Allen, Jennifer Grey.

Who was your favorite to work on?

I have many. Harrison Ford was a special deal since he had a private makeup artist for 20 years. I was nervous because, let’s face it, he’s Indiana Jones and Han Solo! But he was super cool and extremely nice.

Scott Bakula was amazing because he is one of the nicest human beings. Holly Hunter is one of the toughest women I have ever met. She kept me striving for perfection in everything I did with her. I respect and love that at the same time.

Describe your favorite part of your career and the biggest challenge.

My favorite part is the traveling. There’s nothing like getting paid to be out of the country! The most challenging was a job in Russia just weeks after the coup in 1991. The country was a mess, and we had to fight for food and water. The conditions were pitiful, and every day was a challenge. I was there at an amazing time in history.

What was it like to get your first Emmy nomination in 1998 for "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine?"

It was extremely exciting. The anticipation before they announce your category is frightening. (With eight nominations, the most recent being in 2008 for "Mad Men,") I feel like the Susan Lucci of makeup artists! I would love to win before I retire.

How has the Evans Scholarship influenced your life and career?

Receiving the Evans Scholarship was a life-changing moment. It gave me hope that anything is possible. It gave me confidence, strength and the drive to pursue what I wanted. The Program gave me a solid base, and I am so grateful for it.


-First printed in the Winter 2010 Mac Report