The power of makeup

As International Makeup Day approaches this weekend (Sept. 10), The Daily is spotlighting an introductory makeup course offered through the College of Arts and Sciences.

When walking into Angelina Herin’s classroom in the Department of Theater, you can’t be sure what you might find. The students who greet you might appear to have vanished eyebrows, aged skin, or even realistic dragon scales—all illusionary feats meant to deceive and awe viewers.

Herin, associate professor of theater and resident costume designer at Case Western Reserve University, teaches courses in costume design, hair and—as you might have guessed—makeup, an art form she describes as the original version of clothing. Each fall, students flock to join her in Theater 226: Stage Makeup, an introductory class covering everything from the history of makeup to application techniques and special effects.

Jordan Gross (CWR ’21)

“Makeup is the original way to express yourself, in a larger sense, or how you’re feeling in that moment,” Herin said of the class’s appeal. “It helps you understand yourself more because you are the palette.”

While makeup may appear intimidating on popular shows such as Netflix’s Glow Up or RuPaul’s Drag Race, at Case Western Reserve, classes on the subject are designed to make the art form approachable.

“Here, you’re not competing with each other; you’re on your own individual journey,” Herin explained. “You learn the nuances of yourself while learning about the history of the art and its use by different cultures around the world.”

A journey to theater

For Herin, a love of theater and its art forms took root when she first learned to sew at age 5, leading her on a career that has spanned the country. She earned undergraduate degrees in her home state of Washington at Eastern Washington University and a Master of Fine Arts in costume design from the University of South Carolina, ultimately unearthing a love for helping undergraduate students in her field find inspiration.

Associate Professor Angelina Herin

She’s applied her expertise in jobs across the U.S., working for groups such as the Seattle Opera, the Texas Shakespeare Festival, the Theatre at Monmouth in Maine, Cleveland Playhouse, and even ESPN’s College GameDay, where she did the makeup for commentator Lee Corso. But as exciting as these gigs have been, her passion grew to new levels at Case Western Reserve.

“I wanted a challenge, and it was really intriguing to join an art program at a university known for STEM,” said Herin, who became Case Western Reserve’s first tenure-track faculty member in costume design just over a decade ago.

She’s since leaned in as a mentor here, and not just for students in the College of Arts and Sciences. While many students in her courses major in theater or related fields, others come from across the university—and then apply the lessons learned in theater to their interests.

A student’s perspective

Jordan Gross (CWR ‘21), who is now completing the Master of Accountancy program at Weatherhead School of Management, took Theater 226 as an undergraduate student last fall on the recommendation of a friend—and the experience proved rewarding.

“I’ve always loved doing makeup, but I had never attempted stage makeup techniques,” the Reno, Nevada, native said. “I was able to experiment with wax, latex and fake blood to create new noses and crazy scars. It was so fun to spend a few hours each week just seeing how different I could make myself look.”

Jordan Gross (CWR ’21)

Gross and her peers met weekly for 2 1/2 hours in the makeup rooms of the newly renovated Maltz Performing Arts Center, where they’d watch demonstrations before putting makeup on with Herin’s guidance. Students across semesters also have benefited from guest appearances, including one from J Davenport (GRS ’17, musicology), a drag queen known as “Dr. Lady J” who lectures on the history of drag and provides demonstrations.

Whatever the week’s topic is, the underlying lesson remains the same: Makeup offers an invaluable opportunity to learn about yourself and others.

“Makeup is a chance to experiment and create,” Gross explained. “It’s such a great method of self-expression. Whenever my makeup is done, I feel like I can take on the world.”


Interested in enrolling in Theater 226 next year? There are no prerequisites, but spots fill up quickly. Learn more on the General Bulletin