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'Face Off' Winner Rayce Bird Flies High

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'Face Off' Winner Rayce Bird Flies High
'Face Off' Winner Rayce Bird Flies High

Rayce Bird (second from right), surrounded by the character creations that helped him to win top honors for his dazzling makeup and effects in the competitive second season of Syfy's "Face Off."

Courtesy of Syfy and NBCUniversal

With exciting challenges and talented, watchable contestants, Syfy's "Face Off" recently finished a second season even stronger than its first, as the addictive and fascinating competition reality series ended with some of its best work to date. Exploring the world of special-effects makeup artists, "Face Off" challenges the unlimited imaginations that enable makeup artists to create works of living art.

Each season on "Face Off," contestants are tasked with elaborate feature challenges, including such tasks as executing full body paint makeup on models or creating their own horror villain. The show's challenges routinely incorporate the full gamut of effects makeup approaches and techniques, prompting skill sets that range from prosthetics, to 3D design, sculpting, eye enhancers, casting and molding, and more. Each episode culminated in incredible reveals of the competitors' finished work, and the drama of one contestant being sent home by the panel of expert and celebrity judges.

In the end, "Face Off" aired its finale with the spotlight on one winner, Rayce Bird, who received a grand prize package that included $25,000 in makeup supplies, the 2012 Toyota Camry hybrid, and $100,000.

Judging the talented competitors in Season 2 was a distinguished panel that included three-time Academy Award winner Ve Neill (Pirates of the Caribbean, Edward Scissorhands), who despite her formidable resume exuded warmth and comforting maternal approachability with the contestants. The "Face Off" judging panel also included Hollywood veteran Glenn Hetrick ("Heroes," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "The X-Files") and Patrick Tatopoulos (Underworld, Independence Day, Resident Evil: Extinction). Adding an elegant bit of industry cachet and historical significance, actress McKenzie Westmore hosted the series once again, bringing poise and a rich history to her role as part of the famed Westmore family -- a name that is historically synonymous with the makeup effects field.

In Season 2, "Face Off" broke its own series records, establishing new marks in total viewers of nearly 2.5 million during the season finale on Wednesday, March 14, as Bird, the 29 year-old family man from Shelley, Idaho, was crowned the winner.

I recently caught up with Rayce, a tattoo artist who also showed superb expertise in sculpting, painting, character design, and more in his time competing on the show. Before joining "Face Off", Rayce had worked two jobs to support his wife and four children, after studying virtual technology and design at the University of Idaho, and developing a design style that integrated a variety of art media and approaches, from tattooing and graphic design, to sculpting, 3D special effects and music.

Angela Mitchell: Rayce, congratulations on your win of season 2 of "Face Off!" As a career artist with a wife and kids, what does your win mean for you?

Rayce Bird: This win is huge for me! Many of us artists get caught up in the careers we don't love, to fund the careers we wish we had. For me, shipping boxes, delivering doors and mowing lawns were ways for me to "get by" when all I've ever wanted to do is create art all day! Among other things, this win has really enabled me to get my name and my style out there for the world to see. Which otherwise would have taken years to achieve.

Angela Mitchell: Was there a particular movie or TV character that was instrumental in making you want to create makeup and effects as a career? For instance, Rayce, how did a mask you found back in Salt Lake City change your life and inspire you to become a makeup artist?

Rayce Bird: I've always been greatly inspired by Predator and Aliens.

Angela Mitchell: Great choices! Not just great movies, but the creatures are fantastic.

Rayce Bird: Yeah, I remember as a young child idolizing these characters, and being a little jealous that I wasn't an alien! But it wasn't till I found a werewolf mask at a Halloween shop in Salt Lake City, that I actually thought I could do this stuff. This werewolf mask was awesome and nothing like the cheap Wal-Mart masks that I was used to seeing. From that point on I began my venture into the world of latex mask-making. It wasn't just about making similar masks, I wanted to make cooler masks, and I used the werewolf mask as a constant competitor and as a reminder to continue.

Angela Mitchell: Who was the most surprising boot, to you, while on the show? For me as a viewer, it was Brea. I thought the argument could have been made for Jerry or Athena going that round.

Rayce Bird: There were a few surprising boots for me. I thought Miranda left too soon, she is very talented and would have loved to see her show her talents more. A lot of the reason why I picked Miranda [in the finals] is that I knew she going to nail the characters I had in mind. I also thought Jerry left to soon -- this guy was a lot better than we saw on the show. He ran into some time management issues early on, but I knew he was a threat early on. I also was a little surprised Matt didn't make it into the finale.

Angela Mitchell: What was your favorite challenge? As a viewer, I absolutely loved the Tim Burton Challenge, and thought the creations were fantastic for that one. And I especially loved your cellist -- there was something very haunting about her, and the character was note-perfect, from the crooked cello to the soulful makeup design on the face and body of your model.

Rayce Bird: Not to sound cheesy, but I really enjoyed every challenge! This was a big vacation for me. But if I had to choose my favorite, I would probably go with the finale, mainly because those characters have been bouncing around my head for quite some time and I was pleased to finally let them go! Plus the concept was really personal. Fourth-dimension, alternate realities are great spawning grounds for new ideas and characters. But I did really enjoy the Burton challenge as well as the horror villain challenge!

Angela Mitchell: What was the most difficult challenge for you? I thought the Dinoplasty challenge was pretty tough (although the looks were all so fantastic in the end anyway).

Rayce Bird: For me, the old age challenge was the most difficult. I went into the competition having no experience in makeup. Old age I knew the least about, luckily I had a great team to teach me the techniques. Even though the judges didn't really care for my 50 year-old makeup, I wouldn't have changed it too much if I did it over. We quizzed the triplets about their family history and squished their faces around for 90 minutes to come to the conclusion that they wouldn't age as much as some of the other models would have. I'm no expert on old age makeup, but I have a very good understanding of evolution. But, overall that was the most difficult.

Angela Mitchell: This is something I'm asking each one of the finalists, but I'm curious to find out, for the animal challenge, if you could go back in time, would you pick a different animal as your inspiration?

Rayce Bird: I wouldn't have picked another animal or plant, but I would have gotten more creative with the concept. I often look back at that episode and regret not taking it further. I played it a little safe on that one. Seems like I missed an opportunity to do something really cool!

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