As Black History Month comes to an end, it’s undeniable there’s not enough time in one month to recognize the accomplishments in African American history. Another figure that paved the way for Blacks in the beauty industry is Bernadine Anderson, Hollywood’s first African American female makeup artist.
During a time when African Americans in entertainment was absurd, Anderson proved that anything is possible by breaking the barrier and landing a spot with Warner Bros. She made many attempts to start her career in entertainment but was often denied because of the color of her skin.
Determined, Anderson then filed a class action lawsuit for being discriminated against because of her race. This was important to Anderson as she desired to not only get her foot in the entertainment door, but she also wanted to level the playing field for all Americans.
Shortly after in 1972, she earned a 3-year apprenticeship with Warner Brothers. The apprenticeship is what launched her career. It was a big deal not just for Anderson, but also Warner Brothers as it was the last apprenticeship they would ever offer again.
Anderson was trained to work with actors and actresses, stuntmen, doubles, triples, and even quadruples. Her role was to ensure the stuntmen looked identical – figure, hair, and face – to the primary actors.
Her skills spoke for itself. She was the head of makeup for the movie Coming to America (1988), she led the Makeup Department as the Supervisor for Vampire on Brooklyn (1995). Anderson also worked with Eddie Murphy personally for eight years and Lawrence Fishburne. She worked with other actors casted for What’s Love Got To Do with It (1993,) Boomerang (1992), Bad Company (1995,) and Harlem Nights (1989).
Anderson’s work spanned across more than just black entertainment. According to ingrodbohannon.com, she worked with Jane Fonda for over eight years after Fonda made a personal request to work with Anderson. This was major during a time when Black people weren’t allowed to work on films, let alone with white actors, and Fonda being the “It girl” during that time.
Through a combination of her irreplaceable skills and her determination, Bernadine Anderson kicked the door open for blacks in Hollywood entertainment. Her name should never go unmentioned when discussing the makeup industry during her time.
Here Anderson shares the obstacles and highlights of her career in Hollywood during a Smithsonian interview here.