The Black Makeup Artist You Need to Know

In PushBlack’s spirit of highlighting those behind the scenes, today we celebrate Bernadine Anderson – Hollywood’s first African American female makeup artist.


In a time when Hollywood production studios rarely cast Black actors, let alone Black stagehands, Anderson was fortunate enough to start her career with Warner Bros. According to her interview with the Smithsonian, Anderson filed a class action lawsuit in order to gain access to Hollywood’s exclusive environments that discriminated against her because of the color of her skin. Eventually, she was awarded and completed a three-year apprenticeship with Warner Bros., which ultimately launched her career.


Anderson worked with various members of the Black Stuntmen’s Association in order to make their faces, forms, and figures mimic that of the primary artist. Often, she shaped the looks of doubles, triples, and even quadruples who performed the stunts of actors including Eddie Murphy in Boomerang (1992), Laurence Fishburne in Bad Company (1995), and various cast members in both Harlem Nights (1989) and What’s Love Got to Do with It (1993).


But Anderson worked with more than Black actors. At the actress’ request, Anderson also worked as the makeup artist for Jane Fonda – a position she held for eight years throughout the early 1970s.


In her own words, one of the highlights of her career was the ability to travel on “the studio’s dime.” Anderson made history by breaking into the industry not only as a woman, but as a Black woman during a time when the cards were stacked against her.


Hear Bernadine Anderson tell a bit of her story during a Smithsonian interview here.