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Power Beauty: An Interview With “Bunheads” star Emma Dumont 

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You may recognize Emma Dumont from the hit new TV show Bunheads. Or, maybe you’ve seen her modeling in magazines and advertisements. Perhaps you’ve spotted her competing for titles with all-star junior league team the Rollerderby Dolls. Or maybe you know her as a math and science enthusiast and robot-building brainiac. Wherever you recognize Emma from, you have to admit, at 17 years old she’s a force to be reckoned with. Recently Emma took time out from her busy schedule to chat with Beautylish about life as a model, actress, dancer, and everything in between.

B: Emma, your busy schedule is making us dizzy. How do you balance your career and hobbies with high school?

It’s totally hard balancing work with school and everything else. I think nowadays everyone my age does so many things like chess team, or theater club, or drama—and everyone is so involved and active that sometimes it doesn’t really feel crazy in comparison. I take high school classes online so I have time for work, but it can still get overwhelming. Right now we’re shooting the first season of Bunheads which means I have to do most of my school work on the weekends because I get home at around 11 p.m., if not four in the morning. It gets difficult, but I think school is so important.

B: We caught you studying for the SAT’s during your downtime on our set.

Yeah, studying is pretty common for me when I’m on set—any set, because I don’t know when I’m gonna get my next free moment!

B: Are people in the street beginning to recognize you from “Bunheads”?

Definitely. I recently went to a ballet intensive with the Joffrey ballet school, and some of the girls were like ‘You’re Melanie from Bunheads!’ It’s so funny to think that a lot people only know me from that aspect of my work and have this idea about me based on the character I play. I forget that so many people are watching me on television and it’s just a strange thought. I guess it just hasn’t really set in yet.

B: Did modeling come before acting?

It did. I started catalogue modeling when I was five years old. When I turned 11 I was really tall for my age so I got involved with some agencies and started doing a variety of jobs. I’ve been doing musical theater and dancing since I was eight so I kind of grew up in it which was great.

B: What’s it like juggling both careers?

Acting and modeling are so similar and yet, they’re very different. With modeling you’re kind of acting, just through imagery, while acting on film is more creating a character through movement and dialogue. It’s a weird contrast. I go to work as a model and shoot, and I’m wearing Alexander McQueen, or thousands of dollars worth of Swarovski crystals. And then I go to work at my Disney ABC Family show, and they dress us in casual clothing and barely put any makeup on us. I go from acting super mature to trying to sell myself as very young.

B: How does it feel for a young girl working in the modeling industry?

Anyone pursuing modeling should be prepared to work really long hours, and there’s a lot of standing involved. A lot. I mean, I’ve had 21 hour shoots where I’m just standing the whole day in high heels, you know? A lot of girls think it looks so glamorous, but it’s not like we’re roaming around drinking champagne and eating caviar all day. It’s just like going to work. I could be working at Starbucks, or working at a restaurant, or on a tv show. It’s just a job for me but at the same time, it’s great to be part of such a crazy awesome world where everyone’s an artist. It’s so cool and fun and I’ve met some amazing characters.
A lot of people assume that the modeling world is filled with jerks, or that a lot of the models have eating disorders, but all the girls I’ve met so far are super healthy and totally fit. They’re working out, and going running. It’s a job for them and I think that’s really great. There are a lot of healthy girls in the modeling world that I really look up to.

B: Do you find that models are often characterized/stereotyped as unintelligent?

Luckily that stigma doesn’t exist within the industry. A successful model needs to be highly intelligent in order to understand how to promote themselves and the brands they represent, as well as deal with clients, production staff, and other models. I think the days of just being a pretty face are gone. While traveling for jobs, I’ve often met models that are pursuing a degree in college on the side. I think modeling is an excellent career choice as you can go off and travel for six months and then go back home and hit the books. Since most models aren’t paid to speak publicly, the world just assumes they aren’t very smart.

B: Did you have fun working with Billy B. for Beautylish?

Working with Billy B. was wicked awesome. He’s a laugh and a half! The way he does makeup is so different to anyone I’ve ever worked with before. Its literally like he’s working on a painting. I mean, there’s just so much detail that goes into it. He’s almost able to transform someone into a different person with makeup which is so awesome. I loved the look he did on me for Beautylish so much. I would wear it everyday if I could. I think people get very attached to these specific things that we find beautiful–like red lips or big lashes, but for me I prefer looks that might be unusual or that grab my attention. That’s what is beautiful to me.

B: Have you had any other memorable experiences in the makeup chair?

I’ve had both good and bad experiences. When I worked in Hong Kong I found out it’s common for makeup artists to reuse false eyelashes, which is kind of unsanitary. Another time in the makeup chair, an artist tried to trim my real eyelashes and I had to beg to her ‘Please don’t trim my eyelashes!’ Of course, one of my best experiences was when I shot for V Magazine, they bleached my eyebrows out and I loved it! I wanted to walk off set but I knew my agent would kill me if I left without having them turn my eyebrows back to brown!

B: What can a makeup artist do to make a model feel more comfortable?

Honestly, it might sound stupid but on the flip side of the chair, I think it’s our job as models to make the makeup artists feel comfortable. They’re making artwork on our face and I know it’s so hard because we’re moving, breathing, and blinking. I don’t think it’s their job to make us feel comfortable, it’s their job to create art. If they just wear a smile and have a good attitude then it’s all good.

B: Do you wear makeup everyday?

I used to not wear makeup at all. I couldn’t do makeup to save my life but I’m learning and I’m trying because I love makeup. I think it makes a girl feel good when she looks good. Right now I’m so bogged down with work and school, but I’ve painted my nails sparkly gold and I’ve been wearing gold eyeshadow and gold shoes, and for some reason looking at my nails or catching my reflection in a store window and seeing that just makes me feel awesome! I know that I look good and that makes me feel good. It makes me feel almost invincible. It sounds ridiculous but you know, why the hell not! I enjoy the process of putting on my makeup, and I enjoy going out and feeling good about myself. So yes, I do try to wear makeup everyday. I just enjoy it.

B: We loved your monologue for Beautylish on makeup as “lady balls.”

I feel like there’s a lot of discrimination against women for wanting to look beautiful in the workplace and in social situations, and I think that’s so screwed up. I think beauty is something that women need. It’s something that they want. I believe makeup was invented by women. I think high heels were invented by men [laughs], but makeup was definitely invented for women, by women. It’s interesting, it’s important, and it’s such a confidence booster.

B: Speaking of “lady balls,” we hear you like to build robots?

Yes, when I’m not acting or modeling I build robots on a competitive team sponsored by NASA/JPL and Disney Imagineering. Our current mentor helped build the “Curiosity Rover” which will land on Mars in just a few days!

I’m on a co-ed team now but I started out on an all-girl team. We would do public robotic demonstrations and try to stir the interest of other girls but it was difficult. What was interesting was that all the girls on our team had something in common in that they were exposed to building toys or science games very young—toys that are usually thought of as being only for boys. It was amazing to see how girls that would normally be shy or quiet in a co-ed setting really blossomed and became leaders within the team.

There’s no doubt in my mind that math and science programs are tipped on the male side, but I think it’s gradually changing. I was invited to the ‘Women in Science' day up at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory last year and seeing all those women up on the stage was really encouraging.Through robotics, I know about 35 girls my age that will become engineers from Chile to Canada.

B: Do you plan on pursuing a career in engineering?

After highschool I'm going to either major in Mechanical Engineering or Biomechanical Engineering in college. I'm really drawn to the medical field, but I also love building and machines. Engineering is super fun and there are so many aspects to it and so many opportunities.

B: Would you consider yourself a feminist?

I wouldn’t say I am one particularly. I do advocate for girls—especially young girls, in certain fields. I really want to inspire more girls to get into math and science, but on the flip side you could say there aren’t enough men in the fashion industry. These things go both ways, but because of the side I’m on, I’m definitely pulling for the girls!