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'Face Off' exit Q&A: 'I need to believe in myself more'

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Face Off 09
Nicole Wilder/Syfy

The end is near on this season of Face Off. With only four contestants remaining and the finale just around the corner, the artists were clearly feeling the pressure this week.

After meeting host McKenzie Westmore at the Burbank Airport, the group was introduced to Animal Planet’s Dave Salmoni, who brought along a feathered friend. The artists learned that the Spotlight Challenge was to create a human-bird hybrid. Roy Wooley selected a blue-throated macaw as his inspiration, while Laura Tyler chose an umbrella cockatoo, Tate Steinsiek picked an Egyptian vulture, and Miranda Jory went with a silver-cheeked hornbill.

Wooley’s ambitious design almost got the best of him. Midway through the process, his mold fell to the floor and shattered, but he refused to let the setback slow him down. Meanwhile, Jory battled her time management issues, finding herself going down the same slippery slope because she spent too much time focusing on the minutiae of her design. When judgement day arrived, Steinsiek was declared winner for presenting one of his best paint jobs this season. Though the judges were disappointed in Wooley’s choices, it was ultimately Jory who was sent home for playing it too safe.

EW spoke with Jory about her winning streak, how she feels about fans labeling her as insecure, what she would have done differently if she had a do-over, and what she’s been working on since filming wrapped.

Entertainment Weekly: You had an incredible season, did you approach the show differently going into it as a veteran? 

Miranda Jory: The first time I went on Face Off, I definitely wouldn’t have tried out at that time, I didn’t feel experienced enough. But I actually got scouted at Monsterpalooza when I was doing a demo. I had just graduated from make-up school and I still hadn’t done a lot of the things that they do on Face Off. At the time the opportunity presented itself, I decided to give it a try to see what would happen. When I ended up on the show, I was like, ‘Oh, wow. I don’t know how to do a lot of this,’ and I was very nervous. I’ve always struggled with anxiety and being nervous and it was hard going up against all these people who had so much more experience. This time, going back, I really wanted to get to show what I was capable of because I knew I was capable of a lot more than I was ever able to show on season two. I came in wanting to do the best work I could possibly do and [focus on] what I knew I was good at…. I decided to go in there and do what I knew I was good at in hopes that the judges appreciated that.

Clearly it worked. Were you surprised about your Spotlight Challenge winning streak?

Honestly, when they called me again the second time, I was kind of hesitant again because I thought, ‘Maybe, Face Off just isn’t for me. Maybe this isn’t the arena to showcase my talents.’ I was worried going in there and putting myself out there again, but I decided to take the risk because I knew I’d always wonder. I just wanted to do better than I did the first time, but I never expected to win four challenges or do as well as I did. I never expected that to happen. I was surprised and honored and happy to win one challenge against my competitors. It meant a lot to me to be able to go out there and not only do things that I was proud of, but also get validation from some of the people who I respect most — the judges.

Did you have any inkling this might be the week you’d be eliminated? 

[Last week’s] challenge was a tough one for me. At that point in the game, all of us were starting to really crack a little bit under the pressure because week in and week out it really does wear on you. The comments wear on you and being away from your family wears on you. It starts to accumulate and it starts to get hard toward the end, especially when you’re not instantaneously inspired or driven in one direction. It was hard to pull something out that you’re proud of… then Laney going home, she was one of my closest friends on the show. A lot of things had accumulated and [I was not] able to find a design I was happy with. I was disappointed with myself on that dark elf challenge. It was something that I wanted to pretend hadn’t happened, but you can’t do that on Face Off. That late in the game, one bad week can send you home, so I felt fortunate to get that second chance. I really wanted to go into this week doing something I would be proud of, something that was my style. That’s why I decided to focus so heavily on doing a great headpiece, which is what I consider to be the most important part of the make-up. It was stressful going into this episode after the last time. I tried to brush it off, but… Going into the show–Laura, Roy, and Tate were the ones that intimidated me the most when I saw them. All of those guys were people who I had been inspired by on other seasons. I’ve always looked up to them, so when I initially realized I was going to have to compete against them, I was nervous. But at the end, when you look around and realize they’re the only ones left besides you and you’re in direct competition with them? It was a surreal feeling looking around, realizing, ‘Wow. I’m now competing with some of the best artists ever on Face Off.’ That was a lot of pressure. I just tried to do the best I could.

What was your initial reaction to this week’s Spotlight Challenge?

Initially, I actually loved the challenge. When we got to the airport, I was a little worried because I hate flying, so I was so scared it was going to be some sort of weird plane. When they brought out the birds, I was excited because I love animals and I like doing animal-inspired make-ups. In fact, the make-up that I got scouted to do Face Off [on] was actually a bird make-up. I thought that if there were any challenge that I could possibly get into the finale on, a bird challenge would be one of the best ones I could hope to get. But… one thing that they did cut out and didn’t show on the show was that… one of the requirements was that they had to be hoisted up on harnesses to fly, which they cut out completely. That added a whole other element which was the fact that we had to make wings. I’d never done anything like fabricating wings before. So that was a whole challenge within itself.

Is there anything you’d do different if you could the challenge over again?

Yes! One of the hard things about watching Face Off is you want to reach for the screen and say, ‘What are you doing? Move on! Nobody is going to see those fine details that you’re putting into the sculpture.’ There’s always moments like that. It’s hard sometimes seeing fan reactions because they’ll call you out on something that you feel angry at yourself for, but you can’t go back in time and change it. Something I did a lot was I would get so caught up in the details. I’m really detail oriented. A lot of times it was hard to look at the bigger picture, especially in that time frame. I just couldn’t stop sculpting sometimes. I just wanted it to be finished and good, especially when you’re excited about a sculpture, you don’t want to put down the tools and go mold it when it’s not finished… but you have to on Face Off. I’d sculpted these hand pieces that I thought were really cool, which they didn’t show too much, but I was really proud of them. I got that mold done literally one minute after they called time. In that [moment], I was still going to fight, but I felt my chances starting to slip away. I just wish I had managed my time better, but you pick and choose your battles. Sometimes you make choices that are wrong and in that time you don’t get the chance to think it over or plan or plot your next move. You just have to act.

It sounds like you agree with the feedback from the judges?

I do. I definitely agree with the fact that I should have managed my time a little bit better, obviously. I would have loved to finish the paint a little more fully, but I just didn’t have time. There are tons of things on every make-up that I do that I look back and I’m like… You want to finesse it and you would [have]. A lot of times, the feedback that the judges would give me… I agreed with all of it almost every time. A lot of times, it’s like, ‘I totally agree, I just didn’t have time to do that.’ That’s the problem with only having 15 hours to make something. The judges know what they’re talking about. Most of the time, they’re pretty spot on.

What are you working on now that filming has wrapped?

I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities since Face Off, which has been awesome, but the coolest of which is that Jordu Schell, who was the guest judge on [the show’s] subterranean challenge, actually hired me. I’ve been working in his shop alongside him for the past 3 months, which is an honor. Jordu Schell and Steve Wang have always been my two biggest idols in the effects world, so seeing him as a guest judge, I got so excited, and then getting the call to go over and work with him was a dream come true. I don’t know whether that would have been possible without Face Off.

What is your ultimate goal in the industry?

I’m still trying to figure that out. I’m just going with the opportunities that come my way and seeing where everything takes me. I did want to say one thing… I’ve gotten so much feedback [with people saying I’m] insecure with my work. [I’ve gotten flack for] being really critical of myself. I just want to say… once you’re on the show, you see all your weaknesses laid out for you and there’s a lot of things you wish you could change. I know that being confident in my own work and in my ability to execute things is something I need to work on. That being said, I also feel like part of the reason I am where I am today is because I am critical of my work and I’m always striving to do better and learn from my mistakes. I want to get better at being confident in my work and trusting myself, but I also hope that I never get to a point where I feel I have nowhere to go. I always want to be able to grow and do better than I did before. I had so many people saying things to me about being critical of myself and it’s like, ‘Nobody knows that more than me.’ But sometimes that’s what pushes me to do better and better.

So you paid attention to the fan feedback?

I saw a lot of the Face Off fans saying things like, ‘Miranda is so hard on herself and yet she always does well in the challenges.’ That seemed to frustrate them a lot. It’s frustrating for me too, but I have so many idols in the industry who are the best of the best and I’m always looking at their work. Of course, comparing my work to their work, it’s never going to measure up. At first, I do see all the shortcomings within it. I see all the things I didn’t have time to do and that frustrates me. Usually, later on, I can look at something and can say, ‘Wow, that did turn out well,’ but at first my instinct is to be critical and focus on the flaws. That’s just who I am. Face Off has made it clear that I need to believe in myself a little bit more.

Face Off airs Tuesday nights at 9/8c on the Syfy channel