“Nothing is more magical.. As long as they roam the Earth, evil cannot harm the pure of heart.”
(From the motion picture Legend)
I do believe my obsession with horses and unicorns began at birth. Both of my parents were “horse people” and I was no different. We lived in a neighbourhood that didn’t allow ownership of horses, so I had to seek them out wherever and whenever I could. And believe me, I did. I visited friends who owned horses, I owned a pony named Margo that lived at my grandpa’s house, and I read about them constantly. I really thought I would be a large animal vet for a spell. Then I learned I would have to deal with other large animals besides horses, and all about the diseases, and I was out.
What does this have to do with unicorns, let alone makeup and wigs? A lot, actually! As an adult and a professional makeup/wig artist with awesome connections in the fashion, jewellery, and photography world I thought:
“I want my unicorn. And I want a black unicorn.” And the shoot was born.
I have always been around horses and horse people- they are my escape, my therapy. When my life gets nuts, which happens often, I can go see the horses and be calmed instantly. I love them. So it was no surprise that I became good friends with Alethea, a fabulous kindred soul here in Las Vegas who is part owner of Big Horse Productions and has a horse ranch in North Las Vegas.
On this ranch, they have gentle giants in the form of Belgians and Percherons. The Percherons are black. Lucky me! I pitched the idea to create an amazing shoot with a magical black unicorn and she was in! (Seriously, who doesn’t want a unicorn!?)
Next, I spoke to my talented and amazing friend Shane O’Neal of SON Studios here in Vegas. He loves unicorns and taking brilliant photos -he was in.
I needed to figure out how to get a horn for a GIANT horse head that was stunning and different. Enter Karen Carmichael, jewellery maker. She got on board as well and we came up with a plan. I borrowed a halter for Onyx, the horse, so Karen could create and fit a proportioned bejewelled horn to it that then would be worn for the shoot.
Over the next several weeks, Kelsey and I bought costume pieces, bejeweled those ourselves, got hair pieces in order, lined up the hair and makeup schedule, the plan for trailering and traveling the horses up to Mount Charleston so it looked magical and woodsy, and sorted out how to attach gorgeous purple hair to the horse’s tail and mane. We planned out what we wanted the makeup and hair to look like on our warrior queens Lisa and Alethea who would be in the shoot. We had an intern help us as well on game day.
Everything seemed to be going well. The prep part was done, the costumes and horn looked beautiful, and we had a meet time up on the mountain. Then we actually got to the mountain and realized a couple of things…
First, there was zero service on top of the mountain. So when Shane and his wife Deed needed to let us know they were on their way but would be a bit later than planned, we couldn’t connect. After a few stressful moments, they showed up of course and everything was fine.
Second, there was no lighting and no power on the mountain in the meadow. So we were at the mercy of the natural light which sets a bit quicker when you are high on a mountain – talk about efficiency of capturing a perfect photo! We were able to get some seriously amazing shots in a short time. And got to play with a real unicorn too.
The lack of lighting became very interesting when one of the two horses decided to be completely uncooperative when being trailered and took off into the meadow as it was getting darker! Thank goodness Eric, the other owner of Big Horse Productions is a real bad ass, he took off bareback on the unicorn to catch the runaway! It was so exciting and completely stressful! A giant black horse loose in a meadow that is about to become black as pitch! It was all ok though and both horses were trailered and taken back home just in the nick of time. Whew!
The third thing we didn’t really think about was that the weather would be much cooler on the mountain, especially as the sun went down. We needed more than our windbreakers for the teardown and load out. That note has been heeded ever since, and there is always a jacket and/or blanket in my car for shoots no matter where or when we are shooting!
I have to say, this was one of the best days of shooting ever. It was a childhood dream come true for more than one of us and everyone was so amazing.
The final edits were to die for. All of the people involved are still so important in my personal and professional life. This crazy life as a pro makeup/wig artist is about more than just the final photo. It is all about the journey taken to get that photo. This one was epic! Enjoy!
Models: Lisa Martonvich and Alethea Shelton of Big Horse Productions
HMU/Costumes: Meghann Mason and Kelsey Contois
Photographer: Shane O’Neal
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