The Other Makeup Mogul

Divorced and cash strapped, Bobbie Weiner uncovered an unusual talent. Now she runs a multimillion-dollar empire creating makeup for sports fans, moviemakers and the military.

By Michele Meyer
Photograph: Photo by Misty Keasler.

Two weeks later, she began a three-month course at Joe Blasco Makeup School. “It was very humbling to start over at 46,” she says. “At first I turned all my models into Tammy Faye Bakker look-alikes. But I knew I had to make a living, so I stuck it out.” Part of the curriculum entailed learning how to create fake corpses and wounds, so she visited funeral homes and hospital ERs to observe the real thing. “For my graduation exam, I had to give the model a beard, burns and bullet holes, and I had to ‘break’ his nose,” she says. When she was finished, the model was so disturbed by what he saw in the mirror that he threw up. “My teacher said I’d created the most amazing burns and bullet holes he’d ever seen,” says Weiner.

Three days after graduating, she got her first film gig assisting makeup artists on the horror flick Pumpkinhead II, soon to become a cult classic. The crew quickly discovered her talent for rendering realistic, gory details and affectionately nicknamed her Bloody Mary. The pay was $100 for the entire three weeks of filming, but she didn’t care; the crew’s respect was priceless. “With that, I no longer craved my old life as the doctor’s wife,” she says.

Weiner built her connections and found steady work doing makeup for commercials, music videos and TV shows. Then came the Titanic gig in Mexico. Midway through it, one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s stunt doubles approached Weiner and asked whether she had any blue and gold makeup for him to wear to a San Diego Chargers football game. “I had only a few colors on me that day, just what I needed to do dead people. I had blue for their lips. I have no idea why I had the gold,” she says. She handed him two paintpots. The next day, the stuntman went up to her and said, “We were on TV, and everyone wanted to know where we got the face paint.” Listening to his raves, she realized that catering to rabid sports fans could be lucrative. I could be the anti–Estée Lauder, she thought.

Back in San Diego after her Titanic gig ended, Weiner set about launching Bobbie Weiner Enterprises. She pitched UCLA’s campus-store buyer, showing off a photo of a young man whose face she’d painted blue and gold. The school immediately placed an order for 144 kits, priced at $1.75 apiece (for a profit of $1.15 each). Three weeks later, after touting her wares at a college trade show, she had 6,624 orders.

Although Titanic wasn’t premiering for another year, word about the film spread, and producers at a San Diego morning-news show invited her to show off her skills by making the anchors look like frozen corpses. That led to a call from the PX manager at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot: Could she make camouflage makeup? The stuff sold on the base stained clothing and caused acne. “Give me a couple of weeks,” Weiner said.

She got to work, experimenting with substitutes for castor oil, which she suspected was the root of the Marines’ problems. One morning Weiner headed to the La Jolla beach at 4 am and persuaded some surfers to test her paints. “They were in the water for hours. The damn stuff never came off,” she says.

Weiner headed back to the depot with her new secret-formula pots of khaki, olive and black camouflage paint. “The manager gave the paint to some soldiers to wear while training,” she says. “A half hour later, he returned and said that it smelled like perfume. He told me, ‘Get the stink out, and I’ll make you a rich lady.’ ” She instructed her lab to drop the fragrance from her recipe. When she returned with stink-free samples, the manager placed an order for 2,000 kits. Her next step was a booth at the Defense Logistics Agency trade show, which showcases companies that provide U.S. military forces with supplies. Under a sign advertising bobbie weiner’s camouflage face paint, she decorated visitors’ faces with jungle colors, and when buyers asked to speak to “Bob,” thinking she was the owner’s assistant, she set them straight. Soon, orders started coming in.

First Published January 3, 2011

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