We had the good fortune of connecting with Kato DeStefan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kato, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?
I’m inspired by many of the make-up artists that came before me- Dick Smith, John Chambers, Michael Westmore, Rick Baker and Stan Winston. All I need to do is go into my library and start looking through my books and I will be inspired by the art work of H.R. Giger, Wayne Barlowe, Zdzislaw Beksinski, etc.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I was a total Monster Kid when I was growing up on Long Island. While the other kids were outside playing baseball or other sports, I was glued to my TV and issues of Famous Monsters Magazine. I’d watch old monster movies on TV, along with a steady diet of Planet Of The Apes, Star Trek, The Addams Family and The Munsters. This is what lead me to want to become a make-up artist. As everyone else was gearing up to more regular careers, I was scouring the library, bookstores and magazine stands for more information about becoming a make-up artist and monster maker. Learning the sculpting and mold making involved was not easy for me and I struggled with it a lot. These days, I will sculpt for my personal projects but not for anyone else, I’m just not a fast enough sculptor. I sent a copy of my portfolio to Steve Johnson in Los Angeles and he liked it but told me that I needed to be living there for him to hire me. The next three months were spent scrimping and saving so I could leave New York and head to Los Angeles. Two weeks after I arrived, I was working at Steve Johnson’s XFX. The shop had some incredible artists and I learned so much from them. When you are surrounded by that much talent, at first you feel intimidated but if you are open to honest critiques and accepting of the advice you are being given, the quality of your work can grow tremendously. After 25 years in the business, I finally got the days required to join Local 706 Make-up Artists and Hairstylists Guild and was allowed to apply make-ups for big films and TV shows (like Star Trek). I kept pushing myself to be better at my craft and always feel that there is more to learn.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If I had my best friend, from out of town, visit for a week we would go to some of the usual tourists spots like Disneyland and Universal Studios and possibly a weekend trip to Palm Springs and The Salton Sea. Our food spots would include The Smoke House, Village Pizzeria on Larchmont, Musso and Frank’s, Casa Vega and Ernie’s Taco House. For drinks- The Tonga Hut, The Rainbow, The Frolic Room and Tiki No The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like my Shoutout to go to those that have given me that extra push and inspiration: Michael Westmore, Steve Johnson, Howard Berger, Chris Gallaher, James Mackinnon, Kenny Myers, Eryn Krueger Mekash and Richard Redlefsen. All are incredible make-up artists and have helped me a lot!!!