And perhaps more to the point, what is a Freakmo?
I caught up with the lovely Kiana Jones recently. And gained some insight into the life and times of an online makeup artist.
Well, Kiana’s much more than that. But she certainly has a vast online presence. And that’s something I am very intrigued about, as it’s also something I know very little about!!
It’s interesting to learn about someone through their online persona. But for me it’s far more beneficial getting to know people a little better. To learn who they truly are and what makes them tick.
So let’s gain some insight into the creative, sensitive mind of Kiana Jones (aka Freakmo!).
Hi Kiana! Thanks so much for indulging me in this little chat!
Let’s start at the very beginning. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. It’s a remote mining town.
I really loved art, and the arts program at the local high school wasn’t very good. I moved to Perth when I was 16 to do my last year of high school. This was a school that specialised in Art.
Where are you based now?
I live in Sydney, on the east coast of Australia. I’ve been living here for almost 4 years, which has flown by.
When did you first discover you had an interest in makeup?
So many people have these amazing stories of their childhood. Knowing that makeup was what they wanted to do. And making masks from the age of seven.
But I stumbled into it by chance when I was 23.
I was working on my PhD in Visual Art at Curtin University (in photography and video art). I had spent several years painting, sculpting, and drawing in high school and in my undergraduate.
So I think that all helped me to fall into it pretty easily. A lot of those skills transferred pretty smoothly, for sure.
I started with latex and toilet paper on my face for a zombie crawl in 2012. And while researching how to do it, I found a Stuart Bray video on YouTube. Stuart’s video showed latex build ups for a zombie mouth.
Mind you, I had absolutely nothing to colour-match the latex to my skin. So I just covered everything in a thick, dark gel blood.
Ha! If in doubt, add gel-blood. I’ve heard that before!
I had a good response to the makeup at the crawl (from other zombie crawl attendees, people asking for photos with me). And I wanted to keep exploring it after that night.
I was always a sucker for a good costume party, and this was somewhat similar.
Okay, I have to ask.
What prompted you to create Freakmo FX?
Around the same time as that first zombie crawl, I was spending a lot of time on Reddit.
I posted photos of my zombie makeup on /r/pics (that’s Reddit pics for non-users!) and got a lot of positive feedback there. Readers were encouraging me to keep exploring FX makeup, or asking how I’d done the makeup.
So, come October and Halloween that year, I did a second makeup.
I got the sculpting department at my university to do a life cast of my face. This way I could copy a build-up technique I saw Stuart Bray do (with cotton and latex on a life cast), and make the second makeup more detailed.
This time I filmed the application process so I could show others how to do it. Anticipating that there may be the same kind of interest and questions as the first time. And I could easily show them how it’s done in video form.
I uploaded a 9 minute long, sound-less, sped up makeup application to YouTube.
I posted the makeup to Reddit. It was a zombie Audrey Hepburn.
In the comment section, I linked to my application video. And it brought something like 10,000 views overnight from Reddit.
After that I just kept filming and uploading almost everything that I made, and the channel grew from there.
What does it mean, Freakmo?
Freakmo was my Reddit username.
I just felt more comfortable having something that’s not my actual name as my username on a website like that. So it became my YouTube channel name by default, being linked to my Reddit posts.
The name Freakmo originally came from my husband.
We were laying in the grass at my university one day during a lunch break, and he said, “Do you smell what The Rock is cooking?”
I didn’t know that quote so my reply was, and replied, “What? Are you going to fart?”
He laughed at me and said, “No, Freakmo!”
And the name just stuck with me as something funny. Like calling someone ‘Dudemo’, or saying someone is a ‘Creepmo’, but it was ‘Freakmo’ for me.
Ha! Okay, well, now we all know the meaning behind it!
Is this around the time that it all started taking off for you?
Initially, it really was just a creative side hobby that I’d film and upload for attention from the internet. Then from there I started making friends both locally, and internationally with makeup artists online.
I remember back early in the Reddit days Sara from ADI befriended me, and I still chat to her often.
Kate Anderson from Perth also became a close friend. She started to get me onto productions to help with extras. And taught me so much about on set etiquette, how to use silicone gels and alcohol palettes.
I owe so much to her, she elevated my knowledge from latex and blood, to silicons and alcohol palettes.
I love Kate! She’s a brilliant human being!
Yes, she is.
She also helped me to get over my anxiety about going on set.
Being at home playing with makeup and taking photographs is an entirely different thing to working on a film set. And Kate was a great person to guide to me through that transition.
I made a bunch of wonderful friends online in the film industry. They all helped improve my skills (still learning at home) into making moulds and running silicone appliances.
There’s a lot of people who helped me out over the years.
In particular Stuart Bray, Thom Floutz, Sangeet Prabhaker, Daniel Browne, Rob Freitas, and Vincent Van Dyke have given me wonderful feedback, advice and help. Each of them has taken time out of their busy days to talk to me. And I will forever be grateful for that.
Perth doesn’t have a huge film industry that is terribly demanding of prosthetics or FX makeup. But Daniel Browne has a workshop in Perth where he services a multitude of other industries, and he started getting me in to help paint and sculpt stuff for the museums and the zoo, and I even got to paint a fish for David Attenborough (as a gift from the museum) through him.
That’s amazing!!! I’m very envious!
During all of this, my PhD started incorporating simulated gore as part of the project. I was kind of fascinated by real world photographs of “beautiful suffering”.
I was also intrigued how people can know that something is fake or simulated, yet still have such an intense reaction to it and not want to look at it. Especially when it comes to fake gore and gore makeup effects.
About four years into the PhD, and three years after starting this makeup stuff as a hobby and posting it all online, I got a DM from Bill Corso on Instragram, which still doesn’t feel real by the way.
He asked me if I wanted to work on a production on the Gold Coast.
So in early 2016 I got my butt over to the Gold Coast for a few months.
I did maybe a week on set doing extras for Kong: Skull Island, and the rest of the time was working at JMB FX workshop, running thousands of silicone prosthetic appliances with Jason Baird and his crew.
Fantastic! What an experience! I love the makeups in King Kong, and have been very vocal to say so in the past. Bravo!
Ha! Thanks! I think that experience was really good for me. Prior to that, I was too afraid to try to get work on big professional sets or workshops before that.
I didn’t think that I had enough knowledge or skill compared to others who worked in the industry professionally.
But, it turns out, all of my intense research into everything I could find online about makeup effects had paid off. And I knew the same amount of knowledge (about silicone prosthetics at least) as the people who worked in the shop, and they dubbed me a “prosthetics nerd”.
That was definitely validating that I am good enough to work in shops. I didn’t have to hide away in my house forever.
That would’ve been invaluable for your confidence.
It’s interesting that sometimes we need to be thrown in the deep end to truly learn to swim – to surpass our own (inner critic’s) expectations.
Okay, so aiming high then, what’s your dream job consist of?
Honestly, I think I much prefer anything based in reality – having a reference image is so much more comfortable for me than any fantasy stuff.
I love painting silicone skins and I love gore. So any combination of those two things would be fantastic.
Maybe a severed silicone body prop. Or a full body, silicone skin, old aged person, à la Thom Floutz, would be very cool to do.
Ah, Thom Floutz! The man, the magician.
It’s funny, I used to think I had an answer for what my dream job may be, but lately it kinda feels like when I’m at home, by myself working on my own projects, I want to be in a workshop, and when I’m in a workshop I want to be at home creating my own stuff.
The grass is always greener!
Ha! Yep. I know that I do prefer workshops over being an on set artist.
I like that it’s a little bit more relaxed and you’re with familiar people, and you don’t have to start at 3am. Also, less long days on set.
And I love sculpting and painting.
Application is fun, but it is stressful under the time limits on set. And then maintaining a makeup all day is something I’m not the best at (knowing how to fix everything that can arise).
Plus the stress of fixing a makeup before a close up at the end of the day when everyone on set is waiting for you – it’s a lot. Though it is amazing to see the sets and costumes and how it all comes together.
I’m curious – did you do makeup before you began your tutorials?
What came first – the chicken or the egg?
Haha – the tutorials definitely started it.
Not only was I not especially interested in makeup as a kid (in the way that so many people in our industry were into it), I also hated horror movies and would avoid them. I could not look at any real life gore references.
After dipping my toe into gory makeup for the zombie crawl, I started looking at gory reference images, and now I am mostly de-sensitised by it.
I’ve also been going through classic horror movies as an adult, and it’s fascinating to work out how some makeup effects gags worked and admire the makeups.
I know I’d be horrified to do what you do – did you enjoy being in front of the camera at first?
I don’t completely remember now, but I think I’ve always liked the fact that I can edit it and decide whether to post it or not.
If I hate how it looks or how I look, I’ll just never post it.
I know that I learnt early on, just how fast I speak. And how much I mumble and combine words.
I’ll be watching it back and have NO idea what I’m saying.
There’s also that small, vain part of me that hopes people will think I’m funny, or skilled, or well researched.
And then that’s balanced out by the fear that there will be people who are going to say mean things about my work (or even have totally valid constructive criticism which still feels crushing, until a few days later I realize they’re right).
So it’s somewhat about having creative control, and creative freedom?
I think that you’re always going to be exposed to critics when you do something in the public eye.
I’ve been recently diagnosed with adult ADHD. And one of the traits which I heavily identified with is rejection sensitivity, so maybe it’s not the greatest of ideas to be putting my stuff online, giving opportunity for people to anonymously leave such harsh comments.
Another trait of ADHD is absolutely loving to research something (obsessively), and then talking anyone’s ear off who will listen to you, so YouTube has been a great outlet for that desire within me, to ‘info dump’.
I think it’s funny as well, that you, Kerrin, are horrified by the thought of doing what I do, when for me, being on set is much more of a nightmare.
At home I can totally control my environment, I can choose what angles and lighting the makeup is seen from I don’t have to deal with any of the on-set stress of having a short amount of time to apply something (I can spend hours just enjoying the detailing).
I don’t have to make sure it stays on through different (sometimes extreme) conditions. Or not be able to control how it’s seen or from what angle, or the movement or lighting (that can reveal a cap plastic edge wrinkling weirdly).
Plus the long hours. The early starts.
That’s something a lot of people wouldn’t be able to do long term.
That’s courageous, to me.
Ha! I don’t know if I’d call it courageous, but thanks!
How does your process compare now to when you began all those years ago? Has it changed when producing a Freakmo FX tutorial?
Yeah, it has changed a lot. When I started out, I had a DSLR to use for my art projects at university. I would set that up on a tripod and film myself from one angle applying makeup.
I think upgrading the lighting came next – buying soft boxes from eBay and last year I upgraded to LED’s that are a lot more compact. They’re brighter and don’t get hot.
In my early YouTube days, I didn’t know what to do for audio so I’d use my internal laptop microphone to do voice overs which was terrible!
Then I upgraded to a Rode USB mic. Now I use a proper wireless lav mic and record the audio while I am doing the makeup in real time, rather than doing voice overs.
I also used to only do makeup on myself, which made it easier in terms of my own availability (and I was happy to model for myself!) Another thing, I had a face cast of myself already. So I could keep reusing so I could make things that fit me. The same thing for contact lenses.
I had my eyes measured, and learnt how to put them in safely, so I could keep using the same contacts in my eyes and my makeup looks.
In turn, that made it much harder to take photos of myself – I ended up relying on my husband David’s help for that!
Also making sure I was in the frame for filming (lots of time I wasn’t, or it stopped filming, or it was out of focus, and I would only discovered it later while editing).
In the last few years I’ve been doing makeup mostly on other people, so it’s much easier.
Being able to get my model to close their eyes so I can work around them or spatter. Like trying to close my eyes while self-applying and hope makeup ended up in the right spot which is stressful!
Being able to see the sides of faces, is so much better!
Plus, now I take my own photos, check the camera is still recording normally. So many things!
Ah, the challenges! They’re always there, no matter the techniques!
I’ve also stopped filming everything I make now, too.
It is very disruptive to the creative flow to have to stop every ten minutes to check that the cameras are still filming.
To have to change your body position or hand positioning (away from something that feels natural). And to make sure that you’re not obscuring the camera’s view, to hinder you being able to see it properly.
So, now I’ve stopped filming whenever I sculpt or paint things.
That allows me to focus on the processes of sculpting and painting. In turn, that has made it a lot more enjoyable.
I guess that’s important not to have to contend with the technicalities of documenting these very creative processes.
I can only imagine it would be distracting to your sculpting in particular.
I do get a sense that your true passions are in the shop work; the creating and fabricating of things.
Workshops are fun because I love being around others who are into the same thing as me. I love listening to shop talk, asking questions, I learn a lot.
Plus watching others and having that hands-on experience means I learn so much faster than me doing stuff at home by myself.
Whereas working at home, I am alone. So it’s a bit harder some days to motivate myself to get started. And to then do a whole days work out in the little granny flat workshop by myself.
I pay for all of my materials. And I don’t necessarily always get a guaranteed hourly rate.
If I take on a production job then that’s a different case. But working on my own line of prosthetics, or online classes where nothing is guaranteed then any mistakes are on me and on my bank account.
It takes me a lot longer to improve without others’ input, as to what I could do differently or better. And tips and tricks that come with the experience every single different person has.
But I do get to work on whatever I want to. Take a day off when I need it.
Now that sounds like the dream job to me!
Ha! Well, coming back to your question, I guess, then, my dream project would probably be in a workshop with a good crew. Working only 9 to 5 and no weekends.
Doing interesting and new stuff where I could mix up sculpting, casting, and painting.
I think my favourite thing is painting silicone skins.
But even doing solely my favourite thing can get repetitive.
Last year I worked for two months straight. Just painting silicone skins. I got a bit over painting the same thing by the end of it. It became like groundhog day.
That could also be an ADHD thing. Constantly needing new stimulus while working or else I get a bit over it!
Thanks, Kiana, or shall I say Freakmo!
Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of my interview with Kiana, in Who is Freakmo?
And feel free to drop me a comment in the comments section below, let us know who you’d like to read about next!
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All Images Courtesy of Freakmo (aka Kiana Jones)