We had the opportunity to chat with Crystal Alexis, model, actress, and makeup artist. Crystal has worked in the entertainment industry quite literally her entire life. Her first moment on a stage was before her second birthday.
Dedicating her life to working in the industry, she has a vast knowledge of working as talent and behind the scenes.
Her latest role in the YNW Melly featuring Juice Wrld – Suicidal Video caught our attention and we had to find out more.
On Getting The Role
Crystal regularly attends acting courses and workshops where she gains access to hiring platforms, networks, and agencies. She stumbled across a listing on Actors Access — a platform she seldom uses.
The job listing read:
- Mid-Aged (25-30) Slim, Fit, Woman With Vitiligo
- If you do not have vitiligo, you must have birthmarks, skin disorders, unique skin markings.
- YNW Melly Music Video
She took and moment and figured, “I have vitiligo and I’m not slim fit, but slim thick what’s the worst that can happen, they say no!” Crystal laughs as she tells the story as she (and anyone else in this biz) knows you might hear 100 No’s before you get a yes.
She fills out the application and is sure to write in the optional notes section. Her message mentions that although this listing is for a slim female, curvy and plus-size is in. Crystal references major fashion houses like Chanel, Fendi, Louis Vuitton are all featuring plus-size models. Plus-size is also all over ready-to-wear campaigns like Addidas, Savage X Fenty, and Nike.
After submitting through Actors Access, she took it one step further, she e-mailed different people on the production team her resume and let them know how she felt she could bring energy to the video and that the plus-sized look is where it’s at. She wanted this.
Crystal didn’t stop there she went to Instagram and messaged the director of the video. Once again, she figured, “why not?” To her surprise, he answered and offered her the job.
After many years in the industry, her first thought was that this can’t be real, people do not get hired on Instagram. This was, in fact, a real message and she was contacted by the casting director the following day.
So You’re Hired, What Happens Next?
After getting the initial call, a few other production people contacted Crystal including the production assistant, wardrobe, hair and makeup, and the snake handler ( yes you read that right!).
She made arrangements to be on set in Atlanta. She beat the odds, she was the leading lady in a major video production.
Although this was all exciting news, Crystal had to keep this contract under wraps until after the video release.
Getting on Set
Once you are hired, whether you are talent or production team, you typically meet somewhere off set. This is where you will sign your non-disclosure agreement, they will take your phone, and sometimes check your bags and belongings. This process can take a few minutes or you could be waiting for hours in the “holding room”.
For this particular shoot, she signed and was checked in in about 15 minutes. Crystal was quickly driven to the set where she saw some of the biggest, most elaborate equipment she had seen in her years of working on music videos.
Hair, Make-up, Wardrobe
After looking through Crystal’s portfolio, I noticed there were mostly beauty portraits that are vastly different from her look in this video. In the “Suicidal” video Crystal has blacked out eyes and smeared make-up. I asked how she felt about this look.
“The director asked me to come completely bare-faced so my vitiligo would be more apparent. Being a makeup artist, I knew that I couldn’t come completely bare.
I applied my canvas (foundation, contour, highlight), brows, natural mascara, and braided my own hair thinking there would be something more added to my look.
To my surprise, the director said, told me I was perfect and not to add anything else to the look. I asked to put on some lashes which they agreed, but the rest of the effects (blacked out eyes and smeared eye makeup) were added in post.“
Wardrobe went pretty quick for Crystal, it consisted of a panty, pasties, faux fur coat, and snakes.
Handling the Snakes
Before filming, the last step was for Crystal to be dressed in 2 real snakes. One snake was 8 feet while the other was 6 feet in length. She mentions the weight was so heavy the only way to film with both them was to lay down on the floor.
Crystal laughs that on set in front of everyone she had a conversation with the snakes. Letting them know they needed to “be cool” and everyone needed to get along and make this look pretty.
What About the Vibe? This Video is Dark & Depressing
There were a few circumstances surrounding this video that made it unlike any shoot Crystal has worked on.
- First being that both rappers were not there. YNW Melly is currently incarcerated and Juice Wrld passed away December 8, 2019.
- The song is about feeling suicidal after a breakup.
- The scenes include heavy drug and alcohol use.
- Both rappers have a history of depressing, ominous, tones in their music portfolio.
When asked how she handled this environment, she says she mentally prepared, prayed, and had to stay focused on what the director was telling her at the moment and not on either rapper or the song’s lyrics.
Crystal even offered a prayer to another actor on set that was starting to feel the eerie vibes that circulated the set.
It was finally time to film her portion of the video. Crystal’s solo scenes took around 4 hours to film. Crystal says that there were so many people involved during these 4 hours of active filming. It’s also crazy but common to film for this amount of time and for her screen time be reduced to a few seconds of the final cut. In her case, those 4 hours can be seen in about 30 seconds of the video.
Waiting for a project to finalize can feel like forever, but not in this case. After filming, the video was edited and released within 6 days of the final scene filming.
Lucky for Crystal, the wait was over and she could finally share her dream project.
The Best Parts
I asked Crystal out of everything leading up to and on the day of shooting, what was your main takeaway, what was the most memorable part of the entire experience?
The actual filming of her scenes was both exhilarating and overwhelming at the same moment. She shot solo, basically naked, covered in snakes, surrounded by multiple crane cameras, with dozens of people watching.
“Even though I have been a part of many sets this one was the most intense. There were so many people watching and having to do all of this basically naked was intimidating, but I never let it phase me.
When shooting solo, the director is constantly talking to you trying to pull out emotions and facial expressions that you have to master and understand in an instant. Out of everything, being to handle all of this and to be acknowledged for my work ethic was the best part.”
Tips For Aspiring Artists
I figured with Crystal’s experience she would have some tips to offer those looking to break into the industry. Here are her main tips.
Make Use of Additional Skills
If you are in the entertainment industry have multiple resources in your back pocket is key. For Crystal, she acts, models is an esteemed makeup artist, and has worked in production. She pays attention to what is going on on set and passively lets others know where she can help out. This has led to her getting hired consistently in all of the before mentioned fields.
Always Pack Accordingly
You can’t always expect the set to have everything you need. Crystal packs a bag with her make-up, hair products, wardrobe options, jewelry, shoes, snacks, books, and refreshments. This ensures you have what you need no matter the circumstances on the set.
Roll With the Changes
Changes happen all day on set. You might show up exactly how they want you to and they could completely change the look or vibe you prepared for. This is something to expect and you should never take director changes to the heart. Just do the best you can do and always think of the big picture not just your part.
Payment and Experience
This particular job Crystal and the other talent were paid well but she wants those looking to break into this industry to understand that not all jobs pay well or even at all. If there is a project you want to work on, payment should be the last consideration when taking a job.
While you don’t want to be obnoxious about it, you should make it a point to meet as many people on set as possible. A quick hello, your name, and what you are doing in the production will work to your advantage. Ask staff members how they came to be a part of the production, you might be surprised how many people didn’t apply for the job, production people and talent usually knows somebody, who knows somebody who brought them into the production. It’s a big industry but a small world when it comes to the entertainment industry.
A follow up message to the production team goes a long way. A quick thank you message can often make a difference in repeat hirings. Crystal brings up a particular acting job through Nova University which she has been hired for many consecutive years. This follow up might even give you the chance to receive notes from directors and people in production.
More on Crystal Alexis
You can follow Crystal on the following channels.