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Intrigue 'transforms' into career path

Leah Hvezda of Alexandria recently graduated from the Make-up Design for Film and Television program at the Vancouver Film School in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She created this mask of an alien from the movie Mars Attacks. It was one of only four masks selected to be displayed at the International Make-up Artist Trade Show in Los Angeles this past June. Contributed1 / 2
One of the movies that inspired Hvezda at an early age to pursue a career in film make-up was Beetlejuice, starring Michael Keaton.2 / 2

Leah Hvezda has always been intrigued with blood and gore.

That intrigue eventually turned into a passion, and now the 2010 Alexandria Jefferson High School graduate is hoping to make a career out of creating it.

Hvezda has always been a movie buff, but it's not the acting or the plot that draws her in - it's the make-up.

"I guess I've always been into that," she said. "When someone would get their neck sliced open [in a movie] or an actor would be made up to look old and unrecognizable, I was just fascinated!"

One of her earliest remembrances of being entranced by movie make-up was when she saw the 1988 film Beetlejuice, which starred Michael Keaton as an obnoxious ghost.

Hvezda was in good company in her appreciation of the Beetlejuice make-up artists - the film won an academy award in the category of Best Make-up.

While Hvezda admits she's particularly drawn to horrific and ghastly looks, she's still a true woman at heart, and loves to work with beauty make-up as well.

"I just love make-up!" she said with a smile. "Ever since I was a little girl, I loved putting it on myself or other people. I could spend hours doing it. I just like the transformation."

Parents Kyle and Deb Hvezda of Alexandria knew that their daughter's interest - combined with her artistic talents - were calling her down a possible career path.

"We knew it was something she's always wanted to do, and she had the talent," Deb said. "So we starting looking at schools that offered this kind of program."

After checking into different schools, they agreed that the Vancouver Film School in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, was where she belonged.

She applied and was accepted into the intense, one-year Make-up Design for Film and Television program.

Students in the program learn everything from creating cutting-edge prosthetics to beauty and glamour make-up, out-of-kit effects, hair laying, airbrushing, full head masks and digital make-up design.

"It was really intense," Hvezda said. "We learned how to do everything. It was a great program."

A highlight of the year for Hvezda was when a mask she created was the first of four chosen to be on display in the Vancouver Film School booth at the International Make-up Artist Trade Show (IMATS) in Los Angeles in June. The event is attended by the top make-up artists in the industry.

"It was just so amazing that my mask was chosen," Hvezda said, as if a long-time dream had been realized.

The mask was a replica of an alien from the 1996 film, Mars Attacks, about Martians attacking Earth.

Hvezda created the mask from start to finish, using modeling clay, tinfoil and rubber latex, among other materials. It took her hundreds of hours to complete.

Hvezda moved back to Alexandria after graduating from the program in August and is currently job hunting.

"I'd like to work here for awhile, maybe making prosthetics, orthopedics, dental molds or doing make-up," she said.

Eventually, her goal is to be a self-employed make-up artist working in the film industry.

"I would love to move to California and work in film," she said.

According to the young artist, that would be the "ultimate" transformation.

Tara Bitzan

Tara Bitzan is editor of the Echo Press. She joined the company in 1991 as a news reporter. A lifelong resident of Douglas County, Tara graduated from Brandon High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies from Moorhead State University. She and her husband, Dennis, and their children live near Alexandria.

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