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Fawn Monique Dellavalle, an aesthetician based in Pennsylvania and California, has worked as a makeup artist for stars on the red carpet – but now her expertise has landed itself to those receiving their final makeover. The job generally involves preparing dead bodies for burial by doing things such as applying makeup, doing manicures, fixing hair and reconstructing disfigured faces.
Ms Dellavalle owns two makeup and skin therapy studios and is well experienced, having worked in many different areas of the makeup industry including retail, the red carpet and the runway.
Although she’s not a trained mortician, she was personally called into a funeral home because of her expertise in makeup.
Speaking about what mortuary makeup artists deal with, Ms Dellavalle said: “I usually take care of the skin balance, makeup and nails. A hair stylist will come in for the hair. I do these services randomly throughout my career and there’s really no way to time it.
“I typically get called in on difficult/challenging applications, or if a family has specifically requested me.”
Dead bodies require specific products, which the makeup artist oversees at the end of their life.
Ms Dellavalle added: “I have a kit that is just for the final beauty/appearance ritual. It consists of skin care to prep the skin to accept the makeup, nail polish, and a full makeup kit, with specific brushes just for these applications.
“I have many levels of concealer coverage and correction colours. It all depends on the cause of the death on how the skin will appear so you must be prepared for anything.
“If the person wore makeup, I ask to see their makeup bag to find their most used colours and replicate their makeup from there. To make them look as close to their normal appearance, I try my best to make sure they look like they’re just resting peacefully.”
Even with years of experience, Ms Dellavalle’s first encounter with a dead body is as vivid a memory as ever.
She said: “My first application ever was extremely hard, there was a lot of skin/head trauma/bruising to balance, the viewing was to be a closed casket.
“I was preparing the deceased for the family to personally view them one last time. I try to keep the family in my mind on the hard ones. It’s really for them to have that closure of seeing their loved one before the burial ceremony.”
Despite the job not being for everyone, for Ms Dellavalle “it’s such an honour.”
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The makeup artist added: “In my daily career I get hired for all the most important times in people’s lives to make them feel and look beautiful, why should the final viewing be any different other than it won’t be for them as much but more for the ones that are celebrating their life?
“I don’t think it’s creepy, I feel it is a closing ritual of the being’s time here on earth and it is something that should be honoured in every way.”
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