Blood and Dior
PUBLISHED: 11:03 13 January 2015 | UPDATED: 11:03 13 January 2015
Sensitive readers, look away now . . . Lucy Etherington acquires 'shrapnel wounds' in the hands of military make-up artist Carla Mireille Jones
Make-up artist Carla Mireille Jones has an unusual portfolio – one I recommend you do not view online before digesting your breakfast.
Yes there are the glamorous weddings and celebrity photoshoots. She’s spruced up the likes of musical legend Ruthie Henshall, who often asks for her personally, and singer/actor Helena Blackman, who rose to fame as a contestant on How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?
But she also does special effects for the military and emergency services, reconstructing battle scenes in gory detail “basically to desensitise them, so they don’t freeze or faint when having to put a tourniquet on someone whose arm has just been blown off”.
It makes perfect sense of course when you think it through logically.
“You have three minutes if you’ve lost a limb before you bleed out and die,” Carla explains. “So if you have someone with you who throws up or passes out, you’ve lost valuable time. If they’ve seen it before, however, they can just get on and deal with it. We’re saving lives.”
I had no idea the army or emergency services training was this realistic.
“A lot of people don’t,” says Carla. “It’s also highly sensitive – I have to sign the Official Secrets Act so there are some things I can’t talk about . . . ”
It’s hard to believe this pretty 26-year-old, who loves musicals and when I meet her is wearing perfect Lana Del Ray make-up - “I’m a Dior addict” - is often shipped out to army bases with a team of amputees in order to create scenes of carnage.
“We work closely with the medics to make everything as realistic as possible,” she says. “It means I have to look at photos of actual wounds and gain as much medical knowledge I can.”
She shows me some really horrible pictures of all kinds of nastiness and an image I’ll never forget that shows what happens if a soldier forgets to wear his protective nappy when strolling over something explosive.
She apologises when she sees my face.
“I forget that people are shocked by this,” she says. “I’ve just become so used to it myself. I’m often sitting in what looks like the aftermath of a bomb explosion, blood everywhere, bodies in bits and heads blown off eating my lunch! It doesn’t bother me at all.”
To give me an idea of what she does, Carla has agreed to give my arm a “smallish gash” – nothing too horrific as I don’t fancy turning up for the school run with half my head blown off!
As she begins to apply the jelly-like warm silicone, she tells me how she got into this unusual line of work.
“I trained in musical theatre,” she says. “But decided it wasn’t really for me so I went to Brushstrokes at Shepperton Studio and learned all about film make-up – not just special effects like this, but how to change someone’s face. It’s amazing what you can do. I was instantly hooked.”
Her dad, an army major, heard about a company who did special effects for military training and suggested she approach them, which she did. The rest is history.
Now the silicone has dried on my arm, Carla starts dipping cotton wool into the jar of fake blood and stuffing the oozy clumps under my fake layer of skin. I am feeling a little unwell. It is very disturbing to see your own arm shot to pieces. Luckily I am not getting any psychosomatic false pain and manage not to faint and/or vomit.
“A lot of lads do throw up when they see it for the first time,” she says. “But they won’t when they’re in Afghanistan where it matters.”
On a typical job Carla and her team of up to six amputees will head off anywhere in the country, sometimes staying six nights on an army base, living on army rations and working 20 hour days.
“Not quite as glamorous as working on a film,” she laughs. “But the following week I might be working on a wedding or a musical, so away goes the fake blood, out come the Dior lipsticks.”
I realise as I try writing a list of recommended make-up products (Carla’s skin really is amazing. I know she’s only 26 but still . . . ) the huge gaping wound is on my right arm and it takes a while to work out that it can function normally. It’s not real.
The photographer’s face when he arrives is a picture. He turns away and then forces himself to look then turns away again. When Carla rearranges the skin he cries out, then apologises.
“It’s so realistic!” he says, grimacing as he points the lens.
We all start to wonder if the photo will make it into the magazine . . .