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Jenna's childhood dream becomes a reality

TAFE Queensland and Huxley School of Makeup graduate Jenna Dunbar is living the dream, turning her interest in makeup special effects into a career in film and TV.

By TAFE Queensland

Jenna's passion for the beauty industry began when she was a teenager.

"Lord of the Rings started it for me when I was in high school and since then I have been fascinated with makeup special effects in movies," she said.

Jenna started working in the beauty industry fresh out of high school. She juggled her career with raising three children and in her early 30s decided to formalise her beauty skills.

"Life got really busy, but my passion for the beauty industry never changed. One day I just decided to take the plunge and enrol in training so I could develop the skills I needed to work in film."

While participating in a special effects makeup short course, Jenna had a chance encounter with a TAFE Queensland beauty teacher who encouraged her to enrol in the Certificate III in Beauty Services (SHB30115).

"Throughout my training all of the teachers at TAFE Queensland were really supportive, and as I neared the end of my course they all encouraged me to continue my studies," she said.

Jenna went on to enrol in the Diploma of Screen and Media (CUA51015), a course TAFE Queensland delivers in partnership with Huxley School of Makeup.

But at the beginning of Jenna's training, COVID-19 cases in Australia began to rise, leaving her concerned about how the pandemic would impact her career and industry.

"The only good thing to come out of COVID was the film and TV industry moving several projects from cities to remote and COVID-free areas in Far North Queensland."

"As part of the diploma, I had to complete a number of industry hours and I received the opportunity to work on a movie called This Little Love of Mine."

Jenna said she will never forget her first film set experience.

"When you're studying the diploma, there is a section on how you're supposed to act on set and the chain of command. I went on set with three other students and we were all terrified of doing the wrong thing," Jenna continued.

"But it was a really good experience because the crew was so welcoming and kind and everyone was really patient with us. It was amazing."

Since then, Jenna said she has been exposed to a range of amazing work and industry placement opportunities. She has supported campaigns for Breeze Balm and Eye of Horus Cosmetics which were curated by Huxley School of Makeup. Jenna coordinated makeup for the Walking in Two Worlds runway show by First Nations Fashion and Design. And she has also landed work on the Kidnapped movie set and season one of TV show Dive Club.

Looking back on her study journey, Jenna said upskilling with the diploma was the right decision.

"I adore the Huxley School of Makeup, everyone there has been so supportive. They're like one big massive family and they're internationally recognised, so graduates have taken their skills and worked all over the world."

Jenna said her study journey to hone her creative skills had also been incredibly healing.

"In 2012 my mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and it turned into a six-year battle as mum would go into remission twice, only for cancer to come back in her brain and spread to the rest of her body."

Following her mum's passing in 2017, Jenna said she suffered depression and had some dark days before coming out on the other side.

"During my training, I threw all that emotion and heartbreak into an avant-garde makeup assessment which depicted the emotional destruction I went through. For years I felt helpless like I was suffocating and drowning in waves of emotion. Creating the look was an emotional experience, but it was the right time to share that part of myself."

With back-to-back qualifications under her belt, Jenna said she was excited about her future in screen and media.

"It's definitely a growing industry and it can be a really intense and exhausting job. People say to me 'oh, it's so glamorous' but I'm always dirty, I'm sweating, I'm out in the sun, I'm dying of heat exhaustion and I've worked in some really odd locations," Jenna admitted.

"The hours can be all over the place too. I've had mornings where I needed to get up at 3am and I've worked 12-hour shifts, but I really do love it. You've got to have that passion to work in this industry."

"If you have a drive for it, my advice is just do it. Don't even wait, just get started now."

If you want to check out Jenna's work follow her on social media.