Emily Serpico, a new graduate of Palm Beach State College’s cosmetology program, will compete in Season 8 of Face Off, the Syfy cable network’s hit reality competition series that pits special effects makeup artists against each other in creative battle. The Wellington resident is the youngest contestant in the history of the show. Season 8 premiered Tuesday, Jan. 13 on Syfy.
On the plane ride to Los Angeles for her Face Off audition last June, Serpico couldn’t believe her good fortune, yet at age 18, her career path was already years in the making. Her mother, a cosmetologist whom Serpico credits with her success, taught her how to create and style wigs as a little girl. “My love for hair started there,” she said.
Then at 14, Serpico chose the G-Star School of the Arts in West Palm Beach for her high school and discovered the art of special effects makeup by volunteering for the school’s annual X-Scream Halloween, one of South Florida’s largest haunted house events. The immediate need was for someone to do scary makeup. “I really wanted to help out, and I said, ‘Yeah, sure I’ll try it,’” Serpico recalled.
She developed and ran the makeup department for X-Scream Halloween for four years until her graduation in 2013.
After high school, Serpico knew that she wanted to get her cosmetology license and chose Palm Beach State College. “I heard really great reviews about it,” she said. “I took the cosmetology course, and I loved it. It was the core education that I needed.”
During the cosmetology program, Serpico turned 18, the youngest age eligible to audition for Face Off. A dedicated fan of the show, Serpico said, “I would always find my inspiration on Face Off because I would watch every season and be really involved.”
She didn’t make the cut on her first audition, but six months later, she tried again and was chosen. Serpico took a leave of absence from Palm Beach State College, and everyone supported her, especially Terry Delp, cosmetology director for the Lake Worth campus. “He helped me through everything,” she said.
After the show wrapped, she returned and graduated in December.
Waiting for the show to air, Serpico feels in limbo, but has many plans for the future. She is exploring further education options so she can teach art and will continue her theatrical wig work. Serpico is a card-carrying member of IATSE Local 500, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts. As part of the union’s wigs and makeup department, she is called to work on theatrical productions, including Broadway shows at local performing arts centers.
Ultimately, Serpico wants to start her own business making wigs for patients and children who have lost their hair. She also wants to create custom artwork for prosthetic limbs. “My goal is to make that limb personal to them, so it’s not just a limb that they got… it shows their personality,” she said. “If you have a skill or ability to do something, why not help others. I feel like it’s very humbling and keeps me grounded.”
But first Face Off. “I am so excited for everything to start,” Serpico said.
While she is sworn to secrecy about the results, she will say the experience was amazing. Plus, she said that having her work judged changed her. “I feel like I’ve grown so much because I’m not afraid of anything anymore,” Serpico said. “The worst anyone can say is that they don’t like it.”
ABOVE: On the set of Syfy’s Face Off, contestant Emily Serpico, a Palm Beach State Cosmetology grad, applies special effects makeup.