Interview With Macabre Make-Up Artist, Somica Spratley

A visual makeup artist with dark, alluring fantastical appeal, Somica Spratley is on the path of being one of the makeup arts most standout legends. As Birmingham, Alabama's Birmingfamous, Somica's resume cuts through film and print from The Hospital (2013) to Prysm Magazine's "For The Love of Horror". The optics of seeing a Black woman create her own rendition of Elvira or Trick 'r Treat's Sam is astounding. I imagine there isn't a groundswell of women of color pounding the pavement in the division of makeup artistry where Somica resides. It's one of the reasons why I was eager to pick her brain about her work and of course, horror in general.

Why the horror genre? What is it about the imagery it conjures that has made it your primary aesthetic staple for your art?

Why horror? Why not?! But in all seriousness, I have always been drawn to the genre. I was moved by being terrified. I wanted to explore people’s fears. Horror was arousing to me. It was mysterious and alluring and made my skin crawl.

I can recall seeing The Thing around 3 or 4 years old and excitedly asking my mother, “WOW, WILL ANYONE ELSE LOSE THEIR HEAD?” during the scene of the oozing animatronic head that sprouted legs. She explained that it was all effects made to look real, that it was all pretend. I was hooked. I was curious to know how to make these “fake” things, so I was allowed to view certain types of horrors & thrillers. Films and shows with lots of creature types or older black & whites. I spent my youth drawing, painting, writing, designing, fabricating, whatever came to mind. There was no going back.

But I draw inspiration from all kinds of art. I studied film & media production for a year solely to enhance my makeup artistry and learn more about the behind-the-scenes action. Growing up, I was fortunate to be exposed to so many styles of the genre, from classics like Nosferatu to Night of the Living Dead, and Stephen King’s The Stand. I do have to say that there are a few that influenced my career from the beginning: Nightmare On Elm Street, Tales from The Crypt, TFTC Presents Demon Knight, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV Series). 

I wanted to make those characters. I wanted to learn of the parallel dimensions & the mysteries of the universe. I wanted to be that badass female killing demons. But it wasn’t only the aesthetics. All of these got into your psyche, taught you valuable lessons (in sick ways sometimes!), and stirred up passions & desires you never even knew you had. Fast forward to present day and I am even more in love with horror now! I am a bit behind on TV series but American Horror Story is definitely one of my favorites. Brilliant acting, makeup, and writing.  As far as movies, I did go see The Green Inferno in theater. How can you not love a director that is equally good looking, humorous, and demented?

Plus, I’ve followed the work of KNB EFX Group since The X-Files (Another huge influence, so glad it’s back!). I also saw The Invitation screening at our past Sidewalk Film Festival. The ending was a bit expected but it was a well-written thriller with a black female in a predominant supporting role. She was elegant, intelligent, and a hero. It also gave attention to interracial relationships and other lifestyles. I appreciate work that is adrenalizing, especially combined with a healthy dose of violence. 

What are some of your favorite makeups you've created?

My favorites vary quite frequently because I am always learning something new as I go along. I need to clean up my execution however. I was really pleased with the finished H.R. Giger inspired look I did this past October for a friend. My airbrushing had improved but I was rushed for time and poured the silicone that morning. The edges were sloppy but with a “trick of the trade,” I was able to conceal them with a decent paint job. I think my proudest and greatest are yet to come.

How have you pushed through some of the challenges you've faced in your field?

To be quite honest, I am still pushing through the most dominant challenges: being African-American AND being a female. For the most part, I have had favorable professional experiences in the community where I live. Mainly because, I choose to work with those that are receptive to hearing my ideas, collaborating with me, and guiding me. 

There have been some that were stereotypical and full of judgments. Because I am black, my diversity and knowledge is questioned. Because I am woman, I am physically, mentally & emotionally weak. It is disheartening that in 2016, we are still facing these issues. I believe awareness is essential. This mindset comes from a place of hate and fear. People hurt others because they themselves have been hurt and then internalize those ideas as they get older. Speaking up and bringing forth that awareness is how you start to break those chains.

Is there anything in the makeup arts that's lacking that you want bring to the field?

I would not say that I would bring anything to the industry that is necessarily lacking but I do think artists like myself, would enrich it. As I mention, I need to fine tune my end results but I have TONS of imagination. Creativity is like a wildfire, burning through all of your core when it hits. When it’s full blown, it destroys so much. Pulls so much from you. After some damage control, gathering up the remains, and a little re-seeding, before you even realize, you’ve created new life. I want to bring my “flames” to the makeup and film world.

You've mentioned wanting to get more into cosplay. What are some of your dream cosplays? 

Yes, so many characters! Now I’ll be the first to admit, I am not familiar with comics (shame on me, I know). I prefer to keep it to the creepy icons but I’d love to do a throwback Eartha Kitt inspired Catwoman and do my own special effects spin on Poison Ivy. I will possibly do a Storm too per request of several good friends. I would also like to re-visit my Candyman cosplay and work on more original concepts.

Can you tell us anything about Without Obsession? Are there any other projects you're heading or ideas that we can look forward to promoting for you in the future?

Well let me fill you in on Without Obsession…. It never happened! And I am glad it didn’t. I am crossing into film and I am not established there yet. It was all premature because I had no real experience with taking on so much responsibility. People started dropping out, deadlines kept getting moved back, my depression deepened, the drinking increased, my crowdfunding campaign was a joke, and I was still living the pain of that [destructive wildfire] script. It was not time for it. 

Though I am still living the experience, I have much more clarity from the entire process. I am ecstatic to share with you that the script has been revised, renamed, and set for production this month! I have given some spoilers on my Instagram account, so definitely check there for updates. I will tell you that the film is based around the struggle with depression after being involved in a non-traditional relationship. I feel that the lapse of sorrowful periods in my life really allowed for me to put pieces together in terms of how I see myself and my relationships with others. We are always at war yet we are reflections of each other. This piece is deeply personal. It is dark, provocative, and stimulating. I hope too that even a bit of humor can be seen in it.

At the moment, this is only project that I am leading so to speak. I am, however, working on the script for my next short film while simultaneously in pre-production for a colleague’s short film titled Faded to Repeat.  Production on his is set for mid-March. Aside from makeup, filmmaking, and my other creative hobbies, I would like to do more charity & non-profit driven work this year. I volunteer for our local film festival already and will continue as long as I live here but I’d also like to find a way to use my artistic & holistic abilities to serve others. 

@SomicaSpratley on Twitter

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