Photo by Lauren Jeziorski
s a kid, there wasn't much that grossed out Ashley Valentina. Her mother was a nurse, so she would always peek into the pages of mom's nursing books.
"Growing up, I was into making fake vomit and blood so I wouldn't have to go to school," Valentina says. "My mom and dad pretty much figured out then that I was pretty artsy. They didn't know where I was getting all that weirdness from."
Valentina has been a professional makeup artist for six years, getting her start working with clients on beauty and wedding makeup. Mostly self-taught, Valentina left the Multimedia Makeup Academy of Michigan in Troy in order to find her own way and teach herself the craft.
Though she still does a lot of beauty makeup, she was inspired to kick her special effects makeup work up a notch about three years ago after watching an episode of Talking Dead (the aftershow for AMC's series The Walking Dead), where the show's lead makeup artists were dishing details about how they created the zombies on the show.
"I like the more gory, bloody side of special effects makeup," Valentina says. She has perfected making bruises – referencing her mother's nursing books about how the skin changes as bruises age.
"To make bruises, I mix all kinds of colors going off of how the skin reacts," Valentina says. "I just try to make it look as realistic as possible."
She also creates open wounds, scars, punctures, burns, bullet wounds and even latex prosthetics that she makes ahead of time before placing them on her subject.
"One time I used dry rice to make it look like maggots were coming out of the skin," Valentina says. "My goal is to make everything look as realistic as I can, especially if my subject is on film or on camera. I want people to cringe when they look at it."
Valentina says one of the trickiest parts about doing special effects makeup is adapting to different environments and subjects.
"I did some work on (the) set of a local short film. It was challenging because I had to do this kind of work outside, and it was really cold," Valentina says. "It was hard to work with my latex and to get the blood on her because it was freezing. The blood was cold, my utensils were cold, the wind was blowing – so it's very challenging when you have to do (makeup) outside."
Starting out small in Michigan, Valentina's makeup career is just getting started. Her goal is to head out to Los Angeles to work with some big special effects studios and films.
"Who knows? Maybe I'll win an Oscar someday."