By Michael Aushenker
It’s a long way from Santiago, Chile to Santa Monica, but that is the trajectory Ingrid Hartowicz-Fuentes has journeyed in her young but storied career as a professional makeup artist.
Presently, Hartowicz-Fuentes is working on two hit shows: CBS’s “The Mentalist,” which began airing new episodes on Sept. 29, and “Scandal,” which begins with a new season on ABC Thursday, Oct. 3.
For the Chilean, who has also worked on the TV sets of “Hung,” “Big Love,” “Swing Time,” and “Justified,” she feels blessed to be working in Hollywood and on photo shoots for publications.
“Ingrid makes you look beautiful even on your worst day at 7 a.m.,” said Valentina Castellani-Quinn, who received makeup applications from Hartowicz-Fuentes for Hola magazine and The Argonaut’s recent “Arts” issue (Aug. 29).
Hartowicz-Fuentes grew up as Ingrid Fuentes in Santiago, where her parents ran a small pants manufacturing plant. The second child among five sisters, Hartowicz-Fuentes studied cosmetology at Levinia Manfredini School, with a minor in acupressure and Shiatsu.
After former dictator Augusto Pinochet stepped down in 1989, many Chileans returned back to their mother country from exile in Europe, including Margarita Marchi, who had built up her career in France. The founder of the first professional makeup school in Chile in 1990, called the Escuela de Maquillaje y FX for Film/TV, Marchi opened an exclusive makeup academy, where Hartowicz-Fuentes became Marchi’s assistant.
“She was my mentor and the one who gave me the foundation and tools to be a professional,” she said.
Hartowicz-Fuentes met Irek Hartowicz, her future husband, in Chile in 2000, when the Polish cinematographer had been invited by Chilean director Sergio Castilla to film his movie “Te Amo in Chile.” Fuentes was working in the make-up department on this production when she met her future husband.
For a brief while, she lived in the mid-Wilshire district near the county Museum of Art. While studying English, her first work in America was for a Spanish-language, music-based TV show on Telemundo, where she worked through 2004. HBO’s “John From Cincinnati” became her first American union work as a makeup professional after veteran makeup artist Ron Snyder became her friend and mentor in Hollywood. More shows such as HBO’s “Hung” and “Big Love,” ensued. Hartowicz-Fuentes describes Snyder as “wise and loyal.”
The makeup team is usually comprised of three parts: the head, the key and the makeup supporting. Depending on the show or movie, Hartowicz-Fuentes will assume a different role.
When Snyder led her team, she learned a lot with the veteran makeup man (whose father, Allen “Whitey” Snyder, had done make-up for Marilyn Monroe).
“He took me under his wing,” she said of Snyder, with whom Hartowicz-Fuentes worked for six years until he retired in 2010.
Hartowicz-Fuentes says she enjoys her work, which has grown more complicated with digital because “you can see everything” in HDTV.” Ironically, Hartowicz-Fuentes does not follow much scripted television. Her favorite programming consists of newsier fare, such as BBC documentaries and “60 Minutes.”
She learned the ropes of her profession on several films which she was proud to work on, including Castilla’s “The Girl in the Watermelon” (1994); 2008’s “Innocent Boys;” and Marius Balhanus’s “No Love in the City” (2009).
“I like to be in projects that say something,” she said. “For me, movies are art.”
Hartowicz-Fuentes praises some of the celebrities she’s worked on, including “Big Love”’s Chloe Sevigny, whom she praises for “her authenticity.” The makeup artist also enjoyed working with “Big Love’s” Bill Paxton and “Scandal’s” Tony Goldwyn. Two years before actor Tony Curtis died, Hartowicz-Fuentes said she had a fun time working on the friendly star of “Spartacus” for a GQ magazine shoot.
“Fortunately, I never have problems with the actors,” Hartowicz-Fuentes said. “They’re very professional, very on time, very polite.
“When you have real security in what you’re doing, you don’t stress,” she said.
Castellani-Quinn said, “I love talking to her while she’s working. We always come up with the most inspiring stories.”
Hartowicz-Fuentes is currently lobbying to work on an upcoming movie based on the 2010 plight of “Los 33,” the men who were trapped in a Chilean mine for 69 days before being rescued.
In her free time, Hartowicz-Fuentes meditates and practices acupressure, yoga and Reiki. She loves her Santa Monica community, finding it therapeutic to live biking distance to the ocean.
“The moment you enter Santa Monica, you feel the breeze,” Hartowicz-Fuentes said. “I love the sunsets, the food, the farmers market. You’re always on vacation.”
While her TV work is visible to millions of viewers each week, it’s what she does behind the scenes that gives Hartowicz-Fuentes great satisfaction. In her free time, she belongs to “Lipstick Angels,” a group of makeup artists founded by Renata Helfman who do makeup for women going through chemotherapy at Samuel Oschin Cancer Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. On Saturday, Oct. 5, she will take part in “Cancer Care Spa Day” at the cancer ward.
Hartowicz-Fuentes also contributes to Sea Shepherd, an organization dedicated to protecting sea animals and cetaceans. In January, she will be doing face painting for orphans in Tijuana, Mexico for another charity event.
“I feel very blessed all my life,” she said. “Every human being, if we do something to change the life of even one human being in their lifetime, can make a difference in the world beyond money and (thinking of one’s own needs). Open your eyes, open your heart.”