Dress for Drag and 8K With the ‘Abbott Elementary’ HMU Department


This post is by [NR] admin from No Film School

On ABC’s popular sitcom Abbott Elementary, true hair and makeup artistry is accomplished. This is a huge feat for a show with a large cast (including dozens of child actors every episode) and characters who need literally a hundred wigs. Sometimes characters, like Principal Ava Coleman (Janelle James), change looks several times in a single episode.

We can thank department heads Moira Frazier and Constance Foe for how amazing the hair and makeup look across the entire cast.

Frazier started in Ohio, owned a salon, and did hair shows, while Foe’s background is marketing in Atlanta. Both of them bring years of experience to their roles and provide a platform for looks that often celebrate the diversity and beauty of Black culture.

We hopped on Zoom to speak with Frazier and Foe. Creatives, especially those wanting to get into hair and makeup, settle in—they’ve got some important advice for you, including how to behave on set and how to cooperate with other departments!


Sneak Peek: Okay, Maybe Phones Aren’t So Bad – Abbott Elementary

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Editor’s note: The following conversation is edited for length and clarity.

No Film School: I would love to know how you got started and what brought you to TV and film.

Constance Foe: I have a marketing degree, and I started out in marketing. I was in Atlanta, and I was a part of an entertainment group. And I ran the street team. So any new song that would come out, we would promote it, go to the clubs and everything. And we had about 7 to 10 girls, and I enjoyed doing their makeup more than being in the office.

And I was like, “I like this more, so let me step out on faith.”

Basically, I came to LA and went to MKC Beauty Academy, that was in Glendale at the time. And the teachers, they were artists in the industry already, so I had firsthand [knowledge] of what to do, what not to do, set etiquette. They pounded in complexion. You had to know complexion for anything. And I graduated, and I explored the whole industry, as in weddings and music videos, makeup and film, and television. I just landed in film and television, and that’s where I reside now.

Moira Frazier: Well, my story dates back all the way when I was just a child, only because my mother was, and still is, a hairstylist. So I grew up in the business as far as on the hairstyling salon on the side. I’m originally from Toledo, Ohio. And when I was in Toledo, that’s when I had my salon. Even though my mother had her salon, Motivation Salon, I ended up having my own called Fingaz Beauty Salon.

I always felt like something was missing because I always wanted to work in TV and film. So I went to cosmetology school because originally I had my license as a natural hairstylist. At that time, you only needed 450 hours. I was already doing braids, so I was like, “Let me hold on and make this little quick money in college.” But my passion was to always be a celeb hairstylist.

I went back to school for cosmetology. And then when I went back to school, not long after that, I was on a show called Hair Battle Spectacular, literally exactly six months after I graduated that school, that’s when that show came out. I went on that show with a fresh cosmetology license. And then after that, I opened my salon, Fingaz Beauty Salon. And then after that, moved to California because my passion has always been to work in TV and film.

And that’s how I got here today. More so with consistency, persistence, and literally never giving up.

NFS: The characters’ looks have changed a little bit, not only with the change in the show’s camera, but also with the change in circumstances and the lives that they’re leading. How do you explore characters through hair and makeup?

Foe: We get the scripts, and we break it down and our ideas, and we have a production meeting, and then you start speaking to all the other department heads. And Quinta [Brunson] is always there, and she’s giving her feedback and what she really wants it to look like. And we run our own ideas past her, and she’s like, “Yeah, let’s go with that,” or “No, that’s not quite it.” And you just try and find a happy medium.

And we’re always bouncing off of each other. I know I call Moira a lot and like, “What are you doing? What do you think about this hair? Because I want to make sure the makeup goes with the hair.” And vice versa, she does the same thing with me. It’s just a collaborative thing.

Frazier: For me, I approach every character based off the script that I am reading. So I want to know what their mood is because as a woman or a guy, there’s going to be different moods for everything. And I like to tell the story through hair. I say this all the time, that when it comes to hairstyles, it’s not just throwing a curl into the hair and then that’s it. Like, it really has to tell a story. You’re not going to go to bed with a full head of curls and glamorous and then wake up glamorous. I mean, I know that’s the ideal thing to do, but it has to translate on the screen so that other people can also relate to that.

So with these characters, when I look at Barbara, when I look at Janine, when I look at Melissa or even [Ava] … I’m looking at it from, what stage are they in their life? With Janine, she had just gotten through a breakup. She’s trying to figure it out, she’s trying to find herself, which is why she’s not going to look frumpy anymore. She’s trying to look more tapped into her femininity.

And I show that through the hair. And we also show that through the makeup as well. It all boils down to the script and what is written because the words are most important.


Sheryl Lee Ralph in Abbott Elementary
Disney/Gilles Mingasson

NFS: I did mention the camera. You all scaled up to 8K. What was that like for you, and what considerations did you have to take into account?

Frazier: You can see everything.

Foe: Yes.

Frazier: Once we got up to 8K, you can see everything down to the lace. So, therefore, I had to make sure that the lace was flawless. Like, the hair quality and the lace, all of that is a hundred percent. The highest quality is human, but I only get high-quality hair, the period, dot-com.

And when it comes to the lace, I import my lace from London. So I make sure that I have the highest quality. It is the most delicate, but for a show like this, it has to be because it’s supposed to be realistic, and you’re not supposed to be like, “Oh, look at them wigs.”

The only way y’all know it’s really wigs is because y’all see them outside of Abbott … How can Sheryl Lee Ralph go from a short hairstyle and now she’s got hair all the way down to the floor? That’s how you know that it’s a wig. But on screen, I try to give that realism in that authenticity as much as I can.

Foe: Likewise with makeup, we literally have a rigorous skin regimen that we go through with all of them. We’re making sure that their skin themselves is looking amazing because I can put makeup on top of skin that is not the best. And with the 8K, it picks up everything. So we’re literally washing faces, giving facials and making sure their skin is as flawless as it can be before we even put the makeup on.

NFS: Is there any type of skincare that you would recommend?

Foe: It honestly depends on the person. … And sometimes it could be something that they’re eating that they just need to stop eating, or it could be something in a product that’s messing with them. So it really just depends.

NFS: For someone who’s working with hair or wigs, do you have any advice for making it look as flawless as possible?

Frazier: Well, I will have to say when it comes to perfection and making it look as flawless as possible, throughout my career, I have picked up little bitty tips and tricks literally throughout my whole entire career. And a lot of these tips and tricks go all the way back to back in the late ’90s, early 2000s when I first started really doing it.

So my advice to anyone who is building wigs and who’s also making hair pieces or even the sculpture of it, my advice is … I mean, aside from the persistence and the perfection, you got to practice. Practice, practice, practice, practice. I’m telling you, for me, my husband used to say this all the time, and I used to be like, “Ah,” he’d be like, “You got to practice. I don’t see you practicing.”

But it’s really true because the more that you’re trying to find innovative ways and you look and find inspiration in anything, I find inspiration in anything. And if you really want to know how I really got started into this whole world, aside from owning a salon, I used to do hair shows. I used to put together hair shows. I used to be a platform artist where I’m on stage competing on stage for hair shows because that’ll elevate your caliber, and it’ll help you also think on the fly and think of what to do on the fly, because on our show, a lot of things gotta be done on the fly, hence the term, “Perfection on the fly.”

But I personally, if I’m telling someone who is just starting out, you’ve got to practice and you have to take as much education as possible, take as many classes as possible. I know I offer classes, there’s other educators out there that offer classes, and other influencers offer classes, but you want to take as many classes as possible and hone in on your craft. That’s the only way you’re going to get better and better and better if you hone in and you keep practicing.

You can’t just do it one time or two times and be like, “Oh, I don’t want to do this.” It used to take me,but it used to literally take me like 40 days to make a wig. Now I can make a full-laced wig in five to seven days depending on how motivated I am to do it, but that takes practice and consistency.

Janelle James in Abbott Elementary
Janelle James in Abbott ElementaryDisney/Gilles Mingasson

NFS: Constance, you mentioned something that I wanted to touch on which I think could be really useful—set etiquette. Do you have any advice for people working in makeup on film and TV in that area?

Foe: Set etiquette honestly is everything. You want to be seen and not heard. You want to get in and get out. Always pay attention to your talent.

You need to be their brain, literally like Quinta, for instance, I know exactly when she wants a mitt. I know when she wants her water. When she comes into the trailer, her coffee is ready, her sides are right there, she’s getting ready for the day.

And Moira and myself, we get her ready. We’re her first hit, and we set the tone for what’s going to happen in that day. So you always have to have your personal self together because anything that you have going on personal, you need to leave it outside because now you’re at work. It has nothing to do what’s going on at work. You’re now at work making sure that everything runs smoothly.

And your set etiquette is huge in that, and you just have to always be on top of it. That’s all I can say is be on top of it, be aware of everything, have that sixth sense. Look at your peripherals, watch everything.

NFS: You both work with a very large cast, especially of child actors. So could you go into that experience and any advice you have there?

Frazier: The kids are amazing. I mean, they are absolutely amazing just for the simple fact that we… I’m a mom, so naturally I’m going to take care of these kids like I’m their mama. So I’m telling my hairstylists, “Make sure y’all comb her hair or brush his hair, or … ”

These children, they’re not props just because they’re background. We treat every child as if they’re the star of the show, and that’s what makes our show so unique because of that. And we do take pride in them.

I know a lot of shows, they don’t necessarily, “touch the background,” but for us, we take pride in making sure every background, whether it’s a child or an adult, we make sure that they are looking amazing and great, and also camera ready because sometimes they don’t always come camera ready and we have to have an hour or two just to detangle their hair. So for us as professionals, we just take pride in that. And yeah, they’re absolutely… They’re the cutest little humans.

Foe: Yeah, I love the kids. Just watching them grow up and they just become a part of the family and you just watch over and make sure they look presentable. Just like Moira said, we go in. We don’t just say, “Oh, you look fine.” I’ve seen myself or her, and we’re both department heads, and we’re going in making sure the kids and the background look the way they’re supposed to.

Tyler James Williams and Quinta Brunson in Abbott Elementary
Tyler James Williams and Quinta Brunson in Abbott ElementaryDisney/Gilles Mingasson

NFS: Is there a moment on the show that you’re most proud of?

Frazier: First of all, I’m proud of all of the characters, the quality of their hair this season as a whole, when it comes to hairstyling. The makeup is just, chef’s kiss. When it comes to the hair, I am most proud of Janine’s hair looks … You can see the transition from previous seasons to now based off the storyline that has been told.

You can also see perfection in Barbara’s looks. Mrs. Howard. You can see that because her character remains steadfast and just always there. She’s the pillar of the entire cast. Because Ava’s character is more of a wild card, we get to play around with different hair textures. This season we did like Yaki Straight, permed textured hair, which is in 30 inches, which looks amazing on scene every time she moves her head because she is an active character. Every time she moves her head, I’m making sure that the hair is moving with her and moves flawlessly.

When it comes to Melissa Schemmenti, her hair is always on point with her Sicilian background. And also Jacob, we keep him looking fresh, as well as Tyler who does go to his barber. I will credit that, but we do keep him fresh while he’s on set. And Mr. Johnson, we like to do that little extra touch with him. Even though he’s bald, we still take care of them little stubbles that come in every now and then.

However, the one thing that I will say that I’m the most excited about, aside from building their wigs, from scratching all of that, me and my team got an opportunity to really showcase our skillset with our drag episode that’s coming up in a couple of weeks.

So I’m so excited. … I love the characters that we built with this because we were able to have so much fun with building these looks, and the queens just carried every single look … The whole sha-boing boing was hot. From the head to the makeup, to the wardrobe, it was one of those things where we finally get to step out of our norm into a world that’s filled with so much fun and creativity.

And as a hairstylist, it’s like, “Yes, finally.” That’s what I’m most excited about.

Foe: For me, I’d have to agree Moira’s episode that she’s submitting was so much fun. And the queens, they pulled that off. It was a sight to be seen. And just like she said, we get so stuck in doing everyday makeup, when we finally get to be creatives, because we are creative, it’s like our juices start flowing. We got ideas going here and there, and we’re like, “Oh, yes, yes, yes.” And when it just comes together, you’re just like, “Oh my God, we did that.”

Honestly, the whole season was my most proud moment because everyone changed. They grew. We saw for Tyler, for instance, we’re now seeing him show his biceps and stuff. And a lot of people don’t know that he’s tatted up. So I make combinations of different colors just to cover his skin, and I’m talking with lighting and making sure that the lighting in the trailer is the exact same lighting so it looks authentic in both the trailer and on set and making sure it still looks like his skin.

And everyone was like, “Oh my God,” when they saw him flex and it was just an amazing moment.

Even with Janine and her growth, we’re doing jeweled eyeliners on her just to match her outfits. And it’s so dark, you really don’t see it until the light hits it, and you’re like, “Oh my God, that’s amethyst. Oh, that’s jade.” So it’s little quirks (Read more…)