Black makeup artist Dennis Tunnel has more than 84 credits to his name. Her films include “Mean Girls 2”, “Stump the Yard,” “The Notebook,” “Furious 7,” and most recently Netflix’s “Sweet Magnolias.” Despite that work, Tunnel is still being asked in job interviews, “White actor, what did you do?” She would rather be asked, “Can you do a white actress?”
Conversations about diversity and representation did not stop for the tunnel. They keep going, just louder. He has been asked to discuss such issues in zoom calls. And she says yes because she’s aware of the rise behind young makeup artists. He wants to make things better for the next generation of artists.
Talk to Tunnel Diversity About her experiences and challenges as a black makeup artist, and a show like “Sweet Magnolias” is a reflection of society through the representation of people of color and color.
What does it mean when you go to a set like “Sweet Magnolias” and have a richness of your variety in front and behind the camera?
Great for doing shows where I’m not working with all Krishna actors. I like makeup so I will work with someone. It’s nice to work on something like “Sweet Magnolias” where I see people who seem to represent my neighbors. I live in a very diverse neighborhood. I have black people, white people and Asian people. It’s nice to be present at a show where you can touch everyone a bit.
As a black makeup artist, a lot of times we get pigeon-headed because people think you can only work on blacks. So, when you meet someone like creator Sheryl J. Anderson, she won’t see my color. They see me as a makeup artist. They look at my resume and they know I can do my job.
Being a black makeup artist, working with white actors, and the superstitions I faced early in my career, I have had many conversations with different people throughout the beauty industry about diversity.
It takes us to the blindspots, what are some of the blind spots in Hollywood when it comes to hair and makeup?
A lot of times people look at you and think that when you can actually do that kind of hair you can’t. People like to think that this white actress doesn’t want any black makeup artist to touch her. In some situations it can happen and don’t know.
I sometimes feel like it’s more producers who think you can’t do the job. I think it’s a lack of knowing what you can and can’t do.
Sometimes I get annoyed when I send out my resume and I get called for an interview and I’m asked, ‘What did you do, White Actress?’ I think of myself as number one, I’m a makeup artist. You have my two-day resume so you could keep an eye on the work body to see who I worked on. It’s blowing my mind. Sometimes, it comes from producers who assume you can’t do it. I would rather someone ask me, ‘Can you be a white actress?’ And I can only answer the question.
There is always a camera test here and I can prove it on camera test and if it doesn’t work for you at the time, replace me. But don’t insult me by asking me, ‘What did I do as a White Actress?’
In some sectors of this industry, a producer may hire a friend over you and that person may not have much experience. Did you lose your job because you lost your job to a white man who probably didn’t deserve it?
Yes, it always happens. You’ll have big shows with big black actors and you think, ‘I want to work on this kind of show’ ’So, you submit your resume and you don’t even get a callback, but you know you deserve it.
When the shooting of the show starts and there is a white makeup artist who is working, you know that because the person was called by a producer he knows and the producer friend is you know that because the show is always the same producers for whatever it is. Called and you never get that chance.
That happens all the time.
You have a great resume under your belt, have you been able to use your voice and confidently tell the producers, ‘I can do this.’ When did you find your voice?
These issues have always been and I’ve rolled over with it. I think whatever opportunity there is for me, it will come to me.
I think you recently found my voice with the Black Lives Matter and I said something just like that so that it was not focused on. But I think I recently got my voice with Black Lives Matter and people have reached out to me to join the zoom calls.
I fell I have to find my voice because people are coming after me who don’t have to go through what happened early in my career
We need to improve those who come after us and be able to use what I know and learn to help someone else.
After that, do you think there will be a change?
Hollywood needs to change. I feel more people will want change. We now have actors who will be willing to speak up and fight for us.
Denzel Washington has a black man in every section needed in every show. We need more people like that. I don’t want anyone to put me on the show because I’m black. Consider my skills and great if I am able to do it. I want black artists to have more opportunities if they are skilled