“I’m a makeup artist on Broadway, and I’m working towards designing, so I just wanted to build my book,” explains makeup artist and art director Rachel Estabrook. “So I thought, ‘Let’s get some cool people together who are in the theatre realm, so that all of us artists can debut different skills.’”
Below is what was born from Estabrook’s initial thought. Shot by photographer Susan Stripling (check out her work here), Estabrook takes the iconic characters from The Wiz and designs them from the female perspective—to make them “fashion-esque, so that it’s not a straight, old-school theatre kind of idea” and “empower beautiful black women in these roles.”
Along with hair stylist Marty Thomas and stylist Lisa Jane Wright, Estabrook and Stripling recreated looks for Laurissa Romain (Dorothy), Crystal Dickinson (The Wiz), Danelle Morgan (Scarecrow), Ariana DeBose (Cowardly Lion) and Kamille Upshaw (Tin Man).
“Nowadays, when you get a job,” she adds, “you’re being more or less told what to do and what to create, rather than getting to invent it yourself and having no rules and just having fun and letting your art be more freeing.”
Since each character is a woman, I wanted to hype on that fact—the fact that you are playing this character who is known to be a male role…but [still be] powerful. I thought, “Who are these cool, rad women who are still sexy, but powerful?” Janelle Monáe and Erykah Badu were inspirations in my head to embody that. [I was] trying to keep it a little bit more masculine, with the suit and some structure to her, but she’s still so femme and beautiful with the fierce liner. And, I did want to keep it in a green realm because, again, color schemes. Thinking of The Wiz, I immediately think of green.
I immediately went fierce with it—a woman in this lioness role, I always immediately assume this big, lion-mane kind of hair. But, again, we wanted to keep it ethnic [to her] race. She’s a beautiful black woman, so we wanted to keep it authentic to what her hair texture would be with the nice, tight cool cornrows in the front. This is all Marty Thomas who styled them. He’s insane as far as hair goes. I met him at Lion King, and we just clicked. I told him, “Listen, I want it big. I want it fun. I want it kind of crazy with different colors.” [We kept] it towards the lioness color scheme as well with the tans and the gold, but as far as makeup goes, [it was about], “How can I incorporate it to look a little bit tribal, but still get across this is not theatrical makeup? ” I need the audience to know that that’s a lion without painting on a full whisker. I kept a few features like that, like the nose and the mouth…but I didn’t need to full-on contour her out and make these crazy features. We just kept with the gold and more towards the fashion realm in that sense.
The Tin Man
We were not going to put her in a head-to-toe tin suit with a metal chest. We were like, “Let’s keep it more in that color scheme.” We had to have them look their parts, but with her, we took her hair in a cool way. Her head is completely covered in metal bobby pins that create texture and very, very fashion-esque shapes, which I love. … I looked at some old-school pictures of the Tin Man—because people do a lot of head-to-toe body stuff and metallics—[but] if you look really close at old-school photos of the Tin Man, he actually has hues of blue and purple around his eyes and a little bit in his actual tone…so I just kind of enhanced that. I went off that idea and decided to up it and blend it all out—play with the purple and the blue. And, since it’s a woman, I can incorporate it into an eye-shadow shape and do stuff like that with the liner. [Adding] the accessories with the fun, funky earrings, you can see the mechanics of it. That was a cool attribute that Lisa threw in for styling. She did a wonderful job with that to get that across. [The Tin Man is] probably the closest we shot. We wanted to get those pieces. You don’t see a lot of her wardrobe, unfortunately, but hers is very simple as well.
I think she was the most conceptualized for me because I had seen really cool fashion-esque ideas of broken-down Scarecrows. It’s not like she’s fully stuffed and has all these straw elements, but I love the burlap. Lisa [came up] with the choker idea and put it around her arms and to have a cute little vest. She’s still sexy. You still see Danelle’s body. You can see that she’s built and beautiful. Then, with the Bantu knots in her hairstyling—that, to me, kind of reminded me of rope, what she was tied up with. That’s a cool symbolistic thing that I can spin-off of … [Doing] all their different hairstyles authentically to them was something we wanted to keep accurate. That’s one of my favorite looks, I think, because it was just so well thought out. I kept it more skull-inspired actually, as far as the makeup goes, because all of the Scarecrow images that I had looked up, I couldn’t really create off of them. I wasn’t connected to them. None of them felt any way towards “fashion-esque,” so I reared towards looking at more [pictures of] skeleton doctors. … It’s similar to what a Scarecrow looks like. The eyes and the nose and the mouth are blocked out, similar to what a skull is. We ran with it. I played with color and texture to match wardrobe.
For me, either way you spin her—in The Wiz or The Wizard of Oz—she’s obviously the most human of everybody. So I wanted to have fun with the wardrobe [and] make her more modernized. Seeing her as a younger black woman and play with her—that was just her natural hair. We just did her up really young and beautiful and simple, but her lips we kept reminiscent of the ruby slippers and did a really nice, pretty red glitter. Then I wanted to enhance her cheeks [to] make her really shiny [and] young. [Going with styles] that are modern and in-trend now, it’s the modern version of her. But she’s in simple beauty makeup, essentially. Nothing too out of the ordinary for her at least!