Esports Makeup artists keep gaming pros looking good

Ever wonder how the professional gamers you see on Twitch or YouTube look so good?

Chances are that’s got something to do with Esports Makeup.

Founded by professional makeup artists Rosa Menendez (aka Mama Rosa) and Lorena Acevedo (aka Tia Lorena), the business works behind the scenes to prep players, hosts, and other talent at professional gaming events.

With backgrounds in the film industry, Rosa and Lorena met while working on set. Rosa trained at Downey Makeup Academy. Lorena studied film at California State University, Northridge, before shifting her interest to special effects/character makeup at the Cinema Makeup School in Hollywood.

After a film industry contact recommended Rosa to game maker Blizzard Entertainment, she single-handedly covered makeup for the Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, and Starcraft II stages at BlizzCon 2013. In 2014, Rosa asked Lorena to join her.

As lifelong gamers, the two spoke the language of professional gaming, discovering their niche and the community they now call family.  Soon, Esports Makeup was born.

Rosa and Lorena have since worked with some of the biggest names in professional gaming at events for ESL, Blizzard, Red Bull, Twitch, and Faceit. They were makeup artists for the Overwatch League, prepped talent at E3, BlizzCon, and the Overwatch World Cup, and covered events for World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Halo, Streetfighter, and Borderlands. 

It’s not an easy job. The pair are expected to work at a quick pace in less than ideal conditions — the events are live and the lighting is bad — and to provide hair styling services as well as makeup, something unheard of in any other industry.

When you talk to Rosa and Lorena, though, their love for what they do is undeniable. I had the pleasure of chatting with them about what they do, what they’d like to see change in the world of professional gaming and, of course, their favorite video games. 

Lorena Acevedo works behind the scenes at a gaming event.

You are esports makeup artists who launched your own successful business, Esports Makeup, which works behind the scenes to prep players, hosts, and other talent at professional gaming events. Is it correct to say there aren’t any other businesses quite like yours in the esports world?

Rosa: Ha, I guess it safe to say that, although there are certainly more and more artists in the scene now. Kassandra Karr over at LCS is probably the only other consistent “esports makeup artist.”

Lorena: I feel that ourselves and Kassandra are the most consistent and knowledgeable on the scene. We don’t know any other artist on a personal level but from what we hear from our talent, this seems to be the case.

The two of you met while working on a film set and discovered you made a good team. How would you describe your partnership dynamic?

Rosa: My sister, my best friend, work wife, work mom, partner in crime, Jesse to my James, Ken to my Ryu, Tails to my Sonic! Can’t complete the game without her!

Lorena: The two of us did meet on a film set. I personally feel that Rosa and I have become more than business partners. She is my sister and my best friend. I am a part of her family and she is a part of mine.

Rosa Menendez

Rosa, you transitioned from doing makeup for film to esports after someone you met on set recommended you to game maker Blizzard Entertainment. At BlizzCon 2013, you single-handedly covered makeup for the Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, and Starcraft II stages. What was that experience like?

Amazing! Even though it was an insane amount of work and running around, I have zero bad memories from it and, in the moment, I was absolutely thrilled and looking back, I feel the same. I’m still a fangirl at heart and getting to work BlizzCon was a dream come true!

You’re a lifelong gamer and had always wanted to go to BlizzCon. Tell me more about your gaming background. 

Rosa: Oof, well, growing up where I did, my life could’ve gone in a different and very dangerous direction. I’ve been playing since a super young age so I guess the best way to answer this is talk about the games that really shaped my life.

Pokémon Red was the first game I had that was completely mine and I love and continue to love that franchise!

Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha was the first game I ever kicked somebody else’s ass in! I was playing Blair. Maybe that’s why I like having blue hair?

Resident Evil 1-3, I played with my brother and sister. Scared the hell out of us but we had so much fun … I still keep them updated with the games and what’s happening in the universe.

Halo 3 was the first game I got SUPER competitive in! Played in tiny tournaments … won a few gift cards. $50 once. Lol.

World of Warcraft was my first addict game, followed by Team Fortress 2! Rogue and Pyro for life!

How did your knowledge of gaming help you in your esports work?

Rosa: Well, I was easy to talk to. Apparently so many artists before me had no clue about esports or gaming and were hard to connect with in that regard. All we do in esports is talk about the game we’re working on, our favorite games, games we’re currently playing, and games we’re looking forward to. So when I entered the scene and understood what everyone was talking about, it was easy I guess.

Lorena Acevedo

Lorena, you also have a film background with a bachelor’s degree from Cal State Northridge. You eventually decided to go to Cinema Makeup School. What sparked your interest in the makeup side of the business?

I got my degree because I originally wanted to be an editor and cinematographer but while working on my peers’ student films, I was assigned the position of makeup artist and that’s when I realized this is what I want to do.

And with my prior exposure to the movie Monster Squad, that introduced me to the world of classic monsters. It all came together … I wanted to make monsters.

Lorena, what’s your gaming background?

Watching my brothers play Atari and Nintendo, I joined in on the fun when I could. My family was poor and couldn’t afford much so I took advantage of whatever we had and whatever games my brothers somehow brought home. I fell in love with Crash Bandicoot and fighting games, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Sub-Zero is my dude and Chung-Li my girl!

1v1 me, I’ll button mash my way to victory!

How did you begin working with Rosa doing esports events? What was your first impression of that world? Did you realize immediately it was a good fit for you?

Rosa brought me in for BlizzCon 2014. I covered Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, and Heroes of the Storm. I did not know this world existed. It was the community that made me fall in love with esports. The community is amazing: encouraging and supportive. Who would want to leave that?

How did your work in film prepare you for the esports makeup biz? What are the major differences between the two?

Rosa: Moving fast … film, it’s all about getting your talent to set as quickly as possible. You don’t want to be the reason why production is running behind. Esports is live. You don’t have the luxury of saying, I need 5 more minutes or I’ll fix it during touch ups. Once you’re live, you’re live! We don’t get to delay the start because of anything.

Lorena: The film makeup world taught me how to have respect for anybody that sat in my makeup chair and taught me set etiquette. Understand the different cogs and gears that make a production crew work together to put on the show.

What I’ve noticed is when I first started in esports, there was no proper call sheet. We use call sheets to break down our day. Time we arrive, time we start shooting … lunch. Not having that at first was culture shock. So glad we have those now!

At what point did you guys decide to launch Esports Makeup?

Rosa:  Hmm … it was sometime in 2015/16, I think.

We were doing a lot of work with ESL North America and we had worked on so many different IPs (intellectual properties) and with so many personalities, we said, “Hey, maybe we should make this a thing.”

Lorena: She asked me, “What do you think of this world? Wanna go back (to film)?” I said, “No.” She then asked, “So we’re esports?” I replied with, “Fuck, yeah! We’re Esports Makeup.”

Rosa, working behind the scenes.

For those of us who aren’t familiar with the inner workings of the esports world, what specific kinds of makeup services do you provide at gaming events?

Rosa: We provide hair, makeup, and light wardrobe styling for all on-camera talent, which includes: casters, desk analysts, hosts, interviewers, translators, players, and anybody else that may appear on camera.

You’re also expected to provide hair styling. That seems like a lot!

Rosa: What we do is technically supposed to be two different jobs. Esports is still the Wild West and hasn’t conformed to some of the traditional entertainment industry standards. Although I enjoy doing both, I would love to see a specific person on hair and one on makeup.

Lorena: Yeah, like Rosa said. In the makeup artist union, because I am not a licensed cosmetologist, I’m technically not supposed to even touch hair. Although I do know how to style hair and understand the care of it.

It’s difficult and stressful at times when we have limited time. The times when we tag team and work on one person at the same time, it seems to go much faster. Having a designated hair stylist would be amazing.

You’ve worked with many big industry names, including commentators, hosts, players, and entire teams, as in the case of the Overwatch League. From what I gather, you cater to each person according to their needs and preferences. Who are some of the people you’ve worked with and how did you go about developing a specific look for them?

Lorena: Well, we’ve just about worked with everyone. Rosa created a look book for every single person we have worked with and when we work with a new person, thorough research/internet stalking is done on their overall look. Screen grabs of other events or their stream are taken and added to the file.

After we work with them, she adds notes about their skin/hair type, preferences, and a picture of the look we did. Some people, like Anna Prosser or Soe Gschwind, who we’ve worked with for years and constantly change their look, have more extensive files. Beards, clean shaven, stubble. She has it all.

Rosa: This makes me sound creepy. But yes … I have a file on everyone.

Esports Makeup has worked events for ESL, Blizzard, Red Bull, Twitch, and Faceit. You were makeup artists for the Overwatch League. You’ve worked E3, BlizzCon, and the Overwatch World Cup, and covered events for World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Halo, Streetfighter, and Borderlands. What’s the atmosphere like behind the scenes at some of these big gaming events?

Rosa: Well, for Borderlands we did a photo shoot party with some amazing women in the scene. It was a blast! Every event has their own feel and energy but, overall, still family. It’s like hanging out with your loud cousin (Street Fighter) vs. your bros (Call of Duty, Halo), or your big bro and sisters (Starcraft II).

At the end, I love them all!

Lorena: It can be stressful. We’re all eager to put on a great show. At the same time, we’re hanging out and playing catch-up if we haven’t seen each other in a while. Then, of course, we lose track of time and have to rush. Lol.

What challenges do you face when doing makeup in this kind of environment?

Rosa: TIME! It’s live and once they’re on, they’re on!

Lorena: IT’S LIVE. Can’t do touch ups until there is a break and, with some cons, light … we hate convention center light! Which is why we have our own light kit now.

Are there a lot of women working behind the scenes in esports? What’s your experience been like as women in this field?

Rosa: The love and support! The women in esports all lift and support each other. It’s like the Ya Ya Sisterhood of the Traveling Controller … more like keyboard, but you get what I mean.

Lorena: Yes, the love and support we all have to each other. How welcoming everyone is! Is sounds silly but esports really is a family.

As women in the industry is there anything you’d like to see change?

Rosa: ONE OF US! One of us!! More women, more POC, more LGBTQ+! Join us! Let’s hop on discord, squad up, and take over the world!

Less people that don’t care about esports! People are noticing the cash cow esports can be and are hopping over for a paycheck, not the love of the industry. Not seeing the respect and love for an industry I love so much is heartbreaking.

Lorena: Less sexism please! More diversity: on camera, behind the scenes, on teams!

Also to add to what Rosa said: MORE PLUS SIZE WOMEN!

We want everyone to have a person they can identify with and, of course, it’s hard to hit every demographic, but we want to see more effort. We believe Twitch does a great job at this for TwitchCon and their E3 coverage.

Rosa, third from left, on the Careers in Geek Fashion panel at San Diego Comic-Con.

Rosa, this summer you were on the Careers in Geek Fashion panel at San Diego Comic-Con, discussing what you do. What was that like?

I had imposter syndrome the whole time. I cannot believe that people are interested in what I have to say about the industry. Being called an esports veteran or household name is fucking weird!

But I take advantage of every opportunity for that chance that another girl from the hood, with nothing but her controller or keyboard and mouse to keep her safe from all the dangers right outside her door, so that she can see this and say, “I can be a woman in gaming … I can be more than what everyone says I’m supposed to be.”

I grew up in South Central, surrounded by gang violence and poverty. I have multiple #metoo stories, I was pregnant at 17, had my son a month after I turned 18. But I stuck to games. They saved my life more times than I can count. And if I can reach that little girl in the hood and say, “Keep pushing,” and inspire her to join the industry in any capacity, I’m happy.

Let’s talk about your favorite fandoms …

Rosa: Batman, Pokémon … fire trainer here. Halo, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, video games obviously. … This is gonna be a long list, so I’ll stop there.

Lorena: I’m a Slytherin. Star Wars. Star Trek, Disney, Universal Monsters.

Rosa: Really, we’re just overall nerds.

Rosa, you’re a Slytherin and a Sith Lord. What are some of your other favorites? 

Oof. Batman! I love the Batman universe. Pokémon Charizard is my spirit animal! I am for the Horde!

What’s next for Esports Makeup? What’s your ultimate hope or dream for the business?

Rosa and Lorena: Total world domination!

Lorena, what video games are you into right now?

Nothing changes. Crash Bandicoot, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and Rosa really got me into BioShock.

Rosa, what are you currently playing?

Stardew Valley. Still trying to seduce and marry Sebastian!

Gears 5 is controlling my life. I love Horde mode and I replay a lot of old games that I love. BioShock, Resident Evil.

 

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