Unique Beauty: Ice dancers’ hair and makeup is more than meets the eye

by Morgan Matthews Pennington

Hair and makeup are the finishing touches to an ice dance performance. Hair and makeup help transform an ice dancer into the character that they wish to portray in their program. Whether they choose a smoky eye color, bold lip color, an ethereal shimmer or a stark matte look, makeup highlights the facial expressions that ice dancers work hard to hone in their programs. An elegant updo can extend the line of a deep open back dress, while flowing locks may swoop and sway as a skater twirls and dips, adding a visual component to a program that is nearly as impactful as one’s leg extensions or arm movements. But the hair and makeup choices that ice dancers make speak to more than just their vision for a program, they are an expression of an ice dancer’s personal style and the persona that they wish to embody on the ice. 

Unlike choreography, music choice, skating style, and to some extent costume design, all of which are heavily influenced by outside sources such as coaches, choreographers, music editors, and costume designers, hair and makeup choices are usually dictated by the skater. Most ice dancers are given the freedom by their training teams to choose how they would like to complement the above components of their programs with makeup colors, hair styles, and nail colors. Many ice dancers enjoy owning this slice of artistic freedom. Some ice dancers enjoy the process so much that they have become hair stylists and makeup artists themselves, while others have chosen to boldly sport a bare face or natural hair to let their own identity shine rather than be dictated by beauty trends. 

Many ice dancers initially consult professionals on how to achieve the hair and makeup looks that they envision, yet it’s up to the ice dancers themselves to complete their final looks in competition. Ice dance competitions occur all over the country and world, so ice dancers can’t afford to bring hair stylists or makeup artists along with them to every competition. Instead, ice dancers spend anywhere from minutes to hours (usually closer to the latter) on their hair and makeup before both performances and official practice sessions at competitions. 

Since judges usually attend official practice sessions at national and international events, skaters treat these practice sessions as another performance. Ice dancers take the additional opportunity to flaunt their skills in front of judges especially seriously. The custom of applying full makeup and hair before official practice sessions is mostly unique to ice dance. Most singles skaters and pairs skaters dress in athletic wear and wear minimal or no makeup at official practice sessions while ice dancers arrive at official practice sessions in full costume and makeup. Sometimes competitions and official practice sessions occur very early in the morning or late at night, which means that these skaters have to look their best around the clock. I recall waking up while it was still dark outside to do my hair and makeup at some competitions. I had to bring a lighted mirror with me to international competitions since hotel rooms in places like Slovakia and The Czech Republic weren’t always equipped with enormous, brightly lit mirrors like the ones you find at a Hilton or Weston stateside. Despite these kinds of challenges, when I showed up at a competition venue I’d always find myself among a group of ice dancers who looked ready to grace the red carpet. While I enjoyed the creative process of doing my hair and makeup, I cannot claim to have always been the most adept with a makeup brush. But I, just like ice dancers today, had plenty of opportunities to hone my skills. Makeup and hair styling are still heavily emphasized for ice dancers at competitions, whether or not they enjoy the process and even if their audience only includes a few judges and parents. 

The ability to consistently create unique and glamorous hair and makeup looks that fit the style of one’s program has become a necessary component of an ice dancer’s arsenal of skills. And when it comes to this capability, Brooke Tufts, 2023 Senior Solo Ice Dance Champion, is one of the best in the business. Take one look at Brooke’s Instagram page and you’ll see a range of Hollywood-worthy hair and makeup looks that fit perfectly with her costume and music choices. Brooke has mastered the art of finding inspiration from other sources and adjusting them to create looks that are uniquely her own. Her love of this process is the spark that ignites her creativity.

“The hair and makeup styling is one of my favorite parts of bringing a program together. Sometimes an idea comes into my head and I try to bring it to life, other times I will look up something towards what I’m looking for and an idea will spark. To me the hair and makeup are a part of the costume and bring the full effect together.”

In this video Brooke shows her Instagram followers how she prepared her Rhythm Dance look at a recent competition. Brooke went straight to the source when brainstorming hair and makeup ideas for her 1980s style Rhythm Dance set to Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted Snake.”

“When people first think of the 80s they think of big hair, crimping, bright colors, and overall big and dramatic looks. My first thought was to look at Paula Abdul’s concerts and music videos to get an idea of her look. Paula had a more subtle look compared to say Madonna but I still wanted to have that big typical 80s look. I decided to go with a mix of subtle with a slick back pony and classic face makeup and big with the crimped end of the ponytail and the holographic eyeshadow to create the Cold hearted snake look.”

Looking at the hair and makeup styles that Brooke creates, it’s hard to believe that she doesn’t have a team of professionals working for her. But with a little practice Brooke insists that the looks she creates are not challenging for her to accomplish:

“I actually do it all myself! I’ve never consulted with a professional and occasionally I will watch videos to get some inspiration. The hair is quite simple just by using a hair crimper and lots of hair spray. Overtime I have improved my makeup skills in general, but it’s truly much easier than it looks. I keep the same face routine for everything I do and the same basic eyeshadow look as well, just with different colors and glitters.”

The bold, glamorous hair and makeup styles that Brooke creates match her vivid skating style. Voluminous hairstyles, bold lip colors, and smoky eyeshadows punctuate her striking presence on the ice. 

Kaitlin Hawayek’s keen ability to achieve pristine glamour with her makeup skills has become so well known that she has begun offering makeup consultation services. As an ice dance competitor with her partner Jean-Luc Baker, Kaitlin’s makeup mastery provided the finishing touch that helped her achieve ice dance success, including four bronze medals at the US. Championships and a trip to the Olympics in 2022. Now, top competitors such as Emily Bratti, 2024 US Championships ice dance bronze medalist with her partner Ian Somerville, hire Kaitlin as a consultant in order to achieve the level of glamour that Kaitlin did as a competitor. Regarding her recent makeup consultation with Kaitlin, Emily said:

“Kaitlin is incredible at makeup. I’ve never been very into hair and makeup so I pretty much got by doing the same looks for the last 3 years. She helped me find some new ideas for my specific programs this year, and it’s been a lot of fun.”

Through her makeup consultation services, Kaitlin is helping the next generation of ice dancers find the creative spark that helped her design the makeup looks that she is best known for. She is passing on an element of the sport of ice dance that she loves and helping ice dancers feel beautiful and confident in their skin as a result. 

While some ice dancers prefer bold glamour to express their style on the ice, understated elegance and refinement are the hallmarks of ice dancer Carolane Soucisse, two time Irish national ice dance champion with her partner and husband Shane Firus. Carolane’s sophisticated yet natural looking hair and makeup choices reflect her refined yet practical nature. Carolane describes how she finds inspiration for her looks and how she remains pragmatic when choosing which styles will work best for her.

“Sometimes my inspiration comes from movies or characters especially if the music is from a specific film. Other times it comes from a specific person if there’s an artist or era that represents the program. Then, I adapt whatever ideas I have to what is actually possible with my hair and facial features. I take a lot of inspiration from Pinterest, whether it’s a color, shape or material that would help communicate the theme and or emotions of each program.”

“I do 99% of all my looks by myself. I did occasionally, in the past, consult with a makeup professional for best products and techniques to execute specific looks but most of the time each look comes with a lot of research and practice to make sure that I can not only make it come to reality but be able to execute it in stressful situations like competitions.”

Carolane works with her inherent traits to create looks that suit her no matter what style of music she skates to. Whether she is skating to Tom Jones or La Boheme, her refined elegance holds center stage. 

Some choices of music call for a different approach to hair and makeup. While many ice dance program themes depict a love story or more straightforward dynamics such as a guy and a girl dancing with each other at a party, others depict tragedy, loss, or a fight and therefore require hair and makeup that befits hardship or struggle rather than glamour or victory. Israeli ice dancer Elizabeth Tkachenko, who won the silver medal in ice dance with her partner Alexei Kiliakov at the 2024 World Junior Championships, reflected the complex theme of her and her partner’s 23-24 season Free Dance in her makeup. As Elizabeth explains: 

“Our free dance was called Ghost Dances and it was created as a tribute to the political oppression faced by people of South America under Pinochet’s regime (1980s). Alexei symbolized a ghost (death caused by the government) while I symbolized the rebellion against him. It was meant to look like he was trying to defeat me while I was withstanding his oppression. Because of this, I drew dark circles under my eyes and tried to make my makeup look messier; I tried to represent the tiredness and pain of what I had to face at Alexei’s wrath.”

Elizabeth’s dedication to her art was made visible in her choice to prioritize the theme of her program when doing her makeup over the desire to look the most glamorous and pulled together in photos. Her choice reflects the intensity and authenticity of her on-ice personality that has captured audiences around the world. 

Authenticity and glamorous hair and makeup don’t equate for some ice dancers. Not all ice dancers relish in the process of spending hours on their hair and makeup before each performance. And ultra-feminine looks don’t fit the personality of every ice dancer. For Evgeniia Lopareva, two time French national champion and three time Grand Prix bronze medalist with her ice dance partner Geoffrey Brissaud, her sporty hair and lack of makeup are both an expression of her personality and a statement: 

“I like to be different, and short red hair helps me stand out both on the ice and in life. I find it a little bit of rebellion against certain inherent standards of female beauty in figure skating and I love the feeling of it! It definitely makes me feel more confident during my performances.”

Even before Evgeniia steps onto the ice at competitions, her short, fiery red pixie cut signals the confidence and genuineness that she will deliver with each performance. Beauty trends and cultural pressures inherent in ice dance don’t stop her from showing up as her true self on the ice. Through her defiance against female beauty standards in ice dance she empowers other girls and women to boldly be their true selves both on the ice and off. 

Whether through red-carpet worthy glamour, understated elegance, character depicting makeup, or stigma defying starkness, the hair and makeup looks that ice dancers choose speak volumes to their personalities both on the ice and off. In many instances, hair and makeup are the only element of a performance that ice dancers have full control of and creative freedom over. Next time you watch an ice dance performance, consider the hair and makeup style of the ice dancer that you are watching. You may learn more about their personality and thoughts than you ever would by listening to an after-performance interview.