La Sonya Gunter’s passion for art is how the Detroit native began her successful career in the beauty industry. Now based out of New York, the renowned makeup-artist has worked with countless film & television personalities including the likes of Wayne Brady, Darlene Love, Todrick Hall, Tracie Thoms and Billy Porter. Gunter is currently the makeup supervisor in Broadway’s “Kinky Boots” and works on principal performers, J Harrison Ghee (Lola) and Brendon Urie (Charlie Price) in the smash Tony Award-winning musical.
Before joining “Kinky Boots” you were a freelance makeup artist. How did you get your start in the beauty industry?
Initially, I went to college for fashion design. During college, I started doing makeup for up-and-coming photographers in the photography program to earn extra money to help pay for school. After college, I went into the fashion industry and realized I liked doing makeup better, so I quit my job and started my journey as a makeup artist!
And you’re also a singer/songwriter. Have you always been artistic?
Yes, in high school I was an art major. Drawing was always my favorite thing to do, which is how I ended up getting into fashion design. I also sang in my church choir and a gospel singing group called “The Spirits of Truth.” In college, I performed in some local and regional theater productions. That’s also where I started to really learn makeup as a craft. When I ventured out to do music on my own, I would run into other singers, who needed their makeup done and I would do it for them as well.
Do you feel like your previous experience in theatre has prepped you for the backstage bustle of Broadway?
For sure. I have learned that you should always put your best foot forward, but you also have to be prepared for a sudden change in the show. It has also taught me that you have to be flexible when things change or happen and to just go with the flow.
I know the Angels do their own makeup in “Kinky Boots.” Which performers do you work with in the show?
I am the makeup supervisor for the show. I do makeup for the characters Lola and I do tattoo application and cover up for Charlie Price and Don (Charlie’s rival). I also teach the performers (the Angels and factory women) how to create and apply their signature looks.
Who has been some of your favorite “Lola’s” and “Charlie’s” you’ve worked with?
To be honest I’ve had a great time with ALL the Lola’s. Brendon Urie is an amazing Charlie and it’s been an honor to get to know and work with him. He is REALLY funny and has a great spirit!
Which celebrity faces would you love to paint someday?
I have soooooo MANY! NYX Glitter Cream – helps the glitter stick and stay put. NYX Matte Powder Foundation, Cozzette Eyeshadows, Dynessa Myricks Cream to Powder Eyeshadow, Juvia’s Place Sahara Eyeshadow Palette, MAC Full Coverage Foundation – it can be worn sheer too. MAC Liquid Lipsticks, The London Brush Company, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics and Cozzette Brushes – they are vegan. YSL Primer and Ellis Faas Mascara.
What advice can you give to aspiring makeup artists who want to work on Broadway?
There isn’t a lot of makeup work for makeup artists on Broadway. Generally, the actors/actresses are taught to do their own makeup unless it’s a specialty show, like “Kinky Boots.” I also learned to do hair as well, that way I could do both if required. Learn how to do all aspects of makeup -special fx, theatrical, fashion, print, EVERYTHING! Be flexible and open to opportunities, because you never know where they will come from. You will have to hustle and be on your grind, but you can do it!
The story is important because its message speaks of acceptance. Something that is surprisingly hard to find in this world especially in these times. Just because someone is different (in looks, gender or race) does not mean that you should persecute them or love them any less…