Ashley Graham is one of the most recognizable models in the fashion industry. Her face has been used for countless beauty campaigns, billboards, and magazine covers. Yet slap red hair, bangs, cat-eye glasses, and prosthetics on her, and even the most industry-adept modeling agents won’t know who she is.
This week, the 30-year-old announced that she will be the latest star to appear on this season of CBS’s “Celebrity Undercover Boss,” a reality series where athletes, singers, models, and the like go undercover as entry-level talent. For the episode, which airs Friday, June 22, Graham posed as Morgan, an aspiring model who interviews for a modeling agency. But to do that, she had to undergo a serious transformation, which included her wearing a bright-red wig with bangs, glasses, cheek piercings, and prosthetics that completely changed the shape of her face.
However, making one of the world’s most well-known models unrecognizable wasn’t easy. In an interview with the New York Post, Shelby Michael Patton, the show’s head makeup artist, explained that the vision behind Graham’s makeover was an everyday woman, rather than someone caricature-like or over-the-top.
“Ashley is very beautiful, and the easy road to go down would be to make her less pretty, but you don’t always need to make someone ugly, frumpy or old to disguise them,” Patton said. “We really want to make everyone look like realistic human beings you’d see walking down the street—nothing too over-the-top or over-caricatured.”
Patton revealed that it took two and a half hours alone to finish Graham’s prosthetics, which included gluing a new nose, forehead, cheeks, and other additions to her face with medical-grade glue. To make everything look realistic, the team used make afterward for a more natural look.“It goes together like a sandwich,” Patton said. “We use very strong glue, so the prosthetic nose is never going to just fall off like a vaudeville routine.”
Of course, the makeover wasn’t without complications. Given that the episode was filmed in Miami, the humidity proved to be a challenge for the makeup and prosthetics. Also, while she was “undercover,” Graham wasn’t able to see her makeup artists for a touchup, meaning that if a prosthetic went awry, it could be game over. Fortunately, Patton and his team came up with a secret solution to prevent this from happening.
“Ashley filmed her episode in Miami during the rainy season and it was incredibly humid. Maintaining the makeup was incredibly challenging under those conditions,” Patton said. “[The stars] often have to be away from us for several hours interacting with somebody and we hope the makeup is OK. If there’s an emergency—if the wig starts to look funny or the edges start to look weird — we’ll come up with some excuse to remove that person, take them to a private area and touch up their face.”
Catch Graham’s episode of “Celebrity Undercover Boss” on June 22 at 8/7con CBS.