A Cut Below
Hairstylists, who earn smaller checks than their counterparts in the makeup department, cry foul over pay disparity
Hairstylists say they aren’t making as much as their makeup counterparts
in production, no two departments seem more connected than hair and makeup. Makeup artists and hairstylists belong to the same IATSE union local — 706. They share the same work trailer, stay on set for the same hours and often even work on the same actor at the same time.
Yet, in an industry where contract negotiations last for months and every cent must be justified, hairstylist department heads make almost $650 less per week than their counterparts in the makeup department, according to the Showbiz Labor Guide’s IATSE Basic West Coast Agreement contract. And even though the application of “favored nations” practices often mitigates the disparity, the contractual reality persists.
Local 706 outgoing president Sue CabralEbert says the difference in pay is rooted in gender, going back to the days when men were makeup artists and women did hair. “It’s discrimination,” she says, and “it’s ingrained in the culture.”
Hairstylist X, who prefers to remain anonymous for fear of career retribution, points out that each department “works the same hours, and both have special artistic skills.” Hairstylist Y, also anonymous, further high- lights the pay inequity, noting that stylists must go to school “for 1,600 hours and be licensed by the state of California, yet makeup artists don’t have to have any credentials, and still they get paid more.” Also, hairstylists must pay to renew their licenses regularly in order to work on union projects, while makeup artists aren’t required to have any formal training or regulated credentials.
“We’ve been trying for 25 years to get pay equity, [but] we’re not the ones who hold the purse strings,” Cabral-ebert says. “The producers are. We’re trying to make it so they can’t say no, whether it’s through legislation or a court decision.”
A makeup artist, who also prefers to remain anonymous, agrees: “It should be fair across the board. It would be different if they were hiring lower- quality hair people, but that’s not the case. Sometimes on a show the hairstylist has [decades of experience]; the fact that their [contracted] numbers are lower is just insane.”
Studios’ use of the favored nations practice often minimizes the difference in pay, budgeting the same amount for both