Even though Emily Serpico is on the SyFy channel's reality show "Face Off" -- where cinematic special effects makeup artists try to outdo each other -- she really doesn't spend a lot of time at the movies.
"I don't have the time," Serpico explains. "It's mostly because I'd rather be making something in the two hours it would take to see a movie. But I can appreciate film. When I do go it just reminds me that I love movies."
The 19-year-old Wellington resident is on season 8 of the competition/elimination series, which premieres Tuesday, Jan. 13, at 9 p.m. on SyFy.
She may not spend a lot of time in movie theaters, but she knows her makeup. Serpico's mother JoAnne, a cosmetologist, taught her how to create and style wigs as a little girl. "She makes custom wigs for theatrical companies and ballets," she says. "She taught me how to make wigs. But I was never interested in makeup when I was growing up."
But she did get the bug at 14 when she chose the G-Star School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. That's where she discovered special effects makeup as a volunteer for the school's annual X-Scream Halloween haunted house. There she developed and ran the makeup department for X-Scream Halloween for four years until her graduation in 2013.
Next she enrolled at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth.
"I wanted to take the cosmetology program and wanted to go to a community college and not some other school that would charge me like a million dollars," says Serpico. "I want to have salons as a backup career. I started to take my tests this month."
Serpico says the school's cosmetology director Terry Delp supported her "100 percent when I wanted to audition and when I got a call-back…he let me leave and come back and finish my work," graduating last month in December. This was her second attempt to get on "Face Off." She thinks it was her lack of movie-savvy that set her apart from the other audition hopefuls and landed her a spot as the youngest contestant in the history of the television show.
"I think it was because my work is not inspired by movies and film makeup because I don't watch many movies. My audition pieces were different. I don't have a preconceived idea of what, say, a werewolf looks like."
On the show, Serpico says she thinks two things will stand out about her: "I cry a lot. I'm emotional. But also going out there at 18 was a huge accomplishment for me. I wasn't really afraid. I put everything in it. I'm more like fearless with my work."
The winner will receive $100,000, a 2015 Fiat and a V.I.P. package from Kryolan Professional Makeup (the official makeup sponsor of the TV show).
Between the taping of "Face Off" in Burbank, Calif., this summer and the program's broadcast, Serpico has been doing stage work as a card-carrying member of IATSE Local 500 (the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts).
As a part of the union's wigs and makeup department, she's called to work on theatrical productions, including Broadway road tours at West Palm Beach's Kravis Center for the Performing Arts such as "Camelot," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Guys and Dolls." She's currently working on "Flashdance The Musical," which will be at Kravis Jan. 27-Feb. 1.
But her ultimate goal is to own her company making prosthetic wigs and limbs.
"If there is a trade you know that could help people, you might as well give back," she explains. "I want to make some [wigs] for kids and patients who have lost their hair. I was looking at prosthetic limbs and they're just not that personal…and I want to make custom skin for them and just customize them for the person who lost their arm or leg."