Dedra Whitt is a well-known professional make-up artist in the Los Angeles area. If you are a fan of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills“, you have seen her in several episodes that also feature her best friend, Camille Grammer. Recently, IW was given the opportunity to interview Dedra and find out more about how she went from being an actress to a professional make-up artist, her 20 year friendship with Camille, and the inside scoop on reality TV.
Don’t forget to watch the season finale of Bravo’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Thursday, 1/20!
I spent some time checking out your website and I saw that you have been doing hair and make-up for 15 years? How did you get involved in this profession?
I was living in New York City and I was an actress and had friends who were actresses and models. In fact, that is how I met Camille. Camille and I were shoe models together. I always loved make-up. So to make money on the side, I began doing make-up for my friend’s headshots, portfolios, etc. And I would get a lot of compliments. “You should do this for a living.” My acting career was going ok. I was on a minor soap opera. I realized I loved doing make-up! I decided to put together a book and I started getting (make-up) work immediately. It was amazing. It was so unlike my acting career! (Laughs).
Then Camille and I decided to move out to California together. We lived together in a friend’s spare bedroom for a few months. I got in with a really good agency. I started working right away. I had the great pleasure of working with the legendary Herb Ritts. I worked on some of the best campaigns – Estee Lauder, Chanel. I met so many amazing people. I did lots of print media – Guess, Rampage, etc. And I loved it. I took little breaks when my children were born and had to ride out the bad economy, but since Camille got the show, we have been working like crazy. I always say, however, that when I moved to California in 1995 was when make-up really became my career. That’s when I became a professional.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your friendship with Camille?
A lot of people think that I am a paid friend. That is so far from the truth. She has been in my life for a really long time. She has been a huge support system during my acting career and she has been a huge support for my make-up career. When people say I’m her paid friend, here is the thing — Camille and I have been friends for twenty years. When she and Kelsey got together, she started needing make-up. There are pictures of Camille when I’m in the background from twelve years ago. Wouldn’t you just naturally want your best friend to do your make-up if you were going to be on a reality show – particularly if you weren’t sure what you were getting yourself into? Wouldn’t you want the people around that that you love and trust the most?
You’re a free-lance make-up artist, is that a good job for a mom?
It’s good and bad. It’s really hard when you don’t have a set schedule. It’s hard to plan a preschool schedule when you aren’t sure if you are going to Monday-Wednesday or Thursday and Friday. Now my kids are older, they are in elementary school, and my husband is self-employed, so that part of it has leveled off. It does afford me a lot of opportunity to be with my kids. This past year, however, has been very kind of crazy because I have been traveling with Camille a lot. We recently did “Ellen” and “Access Hollywood.” Shaun Robinson did a nice long interview just with Camille. Really lovely. Shaun Robinson is a sweetheart. It was really comfortable for Camille. “Ellen” was good too; it was a lot of fun. Next, we are heading to New York.
Tell us a little bit about the filming process of RHOBH.
The producers would call Camille and ask “what do you have going on this week?” It was interesting. They wanted us to create situations. Not necessarily false situations, but they don’t want to just tape you sitting around watching television. (Laughs). So, they don’t tell you what they want you to have going on, but you (as a cast member) feel a lot of responsibility to make something exciting for people to watch. So there were times when Camille already had things to do and then there were times when Camille decided it would be fun to host a certain event, such as the tennis party. Camille loves tennis and a couple of our friends really like tennis, so she thought “I’ll invite Kyle (Richards) and Mauricio” because they (Camille and Kyle) were patching things up and Adrienne (Maloof) and Paul because Paul is into tennis too. They generally shoot about four days a week, typically Thursday-Monday. The shooting lasted about four months. And then we did a lot of press getting ready for the show to air.
Sounds like a big commitment?
They (film crew, producers) come and they just literally follow you for hours. Like the dinner party episode. They shot that for hours. We started the dinner party at maybe 4:30 p.m.? It was still light out. They didn’t leave until around 10:30 p.m. It was a long evening. Everyone was getting along really well until the end. Then they have to edit it down to 43 minutes or something. They shoot a lot of film and then they edit like crazy. That’s typical of most mediums – commercials, movies, etc. Particularly, in TV because they are shooting video (which is cheap) so you can burn a lot more. So, in filming reality TV, if you screw-up, you don’t worry, it is probably going to be edited anyway. There is no stopping.
That was very hard as a make-up artist for me to figure that out. I am used to photo shoots where if I need to jump in to touch-up, they just won’t take the picture. Or commercials, where there are takes and I can quickly jump in and do touch-ups. So I was a little apprehensive in the beginning to go touch Camille up because I didn’t want to get in their way, but after a while I just figured out if I need to do something I need to go do it and they will just have to leave that part out. There definitely was a learning curve for all of us. There was a learning curve for Camille. Because it is your life on display, she felt very sensitive to what was going on. Anything that went down during filming, such as her thing with Kyle, she took very personally.
So Camille and Kyle’s disagreements weren’t orchestrated by the producers?
They had a misunderstanding and I think it’s talked about in the reunion show. I can’t say too much about that. It was a miscommunication, but it was real. And to be quite honest with you, there wasn’t a lot of drama, these women kind of all got along from the very beginning. There wasn’t any fighting going on and they (the producers) wanted it. A little miscommunication turned into this whole stupid thing. There are two more episodes? I haven’t seen them, but I know there is some drama between Kyle and her sister and then obviously the divorce situation is unfolding. But, overall there is not a lot of drama if you look at the whole season besides that one stupid fight we kept rehashing specifically because there was no drama! They kept making it into something bigger. Like when Camille brought that book (note: it was an etiquette book) to Kyle’s party the other night, some people got on her. But, she was doing it to be funny! It was a joke. Camille’s downfall is that she was trying to give them (the producers) what they wanted. Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that isn’t who she is and they were totally editing, and all those excuses, she said the things she said. She has a biting tongue on her and she doesn’t take B.S. from people. But, when you are being filmed and you know this is what they want, I think the tendency for anybody would be to give them more. Make it a performance. You have huge pressure on you to create a show that people are going to want to watch. So you might say something a little more nastily than you normally would.
Can I just ask, do you know Allison DuBois?
I really don’t know Allison. That was the only time I ever met her. I don’t think she is that wild and crazy. And I think she is really feeling bad about it. You know, personally I knew I was going to be filmed with Camille and I have children, and I’m a make-up artist and that is what I do for a living, and I don’t want to be a reality TV star. I filmed with my friend because her husband was not around and I’m her best friend. Who else would fill those shoes? Nick did as well – he’s another of our friends. By the way, there is nothing going on between Camille and Nick. Nick is one of Kelsey’s best friend’s and Kelsey went to Nick and Trisha (Nick’s wife) and asked them to please shoot with Camille. They agreed, but the producer’s cut Trisha out of most of the show so you never see her.
Did you and Camille ever have disagreements during filming?
I’m not going to start fighting with my friend during filming. It is not my place to tell her then and there “knock it off.” I might say something later. So people have said, “oh, you are just a ‘yes man’” and all that. She really didn’t do anything inappropriate when I was around, to be honest. She made some mistakes during some of the interviews afterwards and I wasn’t around for some of them.
Can you describe a little bit more about Camille and Kelsey’s relationship prior to the impending divorce? From what I have read, they were not just husband and wife, but close collaborators on business and professional projects?
They were together 24/7. Before they got married, Camille was a producer, before that she was a dancer on Club MTV, so she’s been around the block in terms of the production side of things. She’s got great ideas. Several of the shows that Kelsey has done kind of started as her idea, which is why they had their production company, Grammnet, together. She is definitely not stupid, and she is very savvy. That is probably why she had the dinner party and why she invited Allison. That producer side of her comes out and she probably isn’t even aware that it is there.
How is Camille doing?
She is actually doing better. Up until last week, it was horrible. The week before last there was so much drama going on. The Life & Style article came out, which was horrible. There was a lot of stuff being said in a lot of different places. Then Kelsey got the bifurcation which Camille knew as coming, and that brought everything to a head. And all happened in one week. And because people don’t like her on the show, it was more fuel on the fire. “Kelsey, go for it. Don’t give her anything. She doesn’t deserve it.” Stuff like that. Which is hurtful when people don’t really know you and don’t really know what is going on. What happened is Kelsey left Camille for a younger woman and she got pregnant. Meanwhile, Camille is receiving messages saying she “deserves this.” So Camille says: “I don’t deserve this. I was in love with this man. We were married for 13 years. I had no idea this was coming.” The whole thing has been very traumatic and she still misses Kelsey.
Are you able to discuss whether Camille will return for a second season of RHOBH? There have been reports that she is trying to negotiate out of her contract or she is off the show.
Well, I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell you if I knew, but the fact is she hasn’t made a decision. I know that for a fact. She has a couple of weeks to think about it. The thing is when we were shooting, it was a great time; we had a blast. It was so much fun. But, then they started showing those shows and it was so edited or whatever you want to say. She was shown in such a negative light. And then all the negative comments. She had to go off Twitter. People are so rude. They would send her the nastiest stuff. People were just horrible. I even had to go off Twitter for a while and I just went back on a few weeks ago.
I saw a response you had to one of the nasty people on Twitter and I liked it. You said “and why are you telling me this?”
Yep. I get nasty stuff every day and I am just like wow, come and tell me to my face, coward.
And I know you aren’t into the whole Kate Gosselin thing, but I think what Camille has gone through is somewhat similar to what Kate Gosselin has gone through in that they have both been painted with this brush as this one-dimensional monster.
Yeah. We all make mistakes. And I don’t want to sit here and say Camille didn’t say those things. If pushed against a wall, Camille will fight back. She has just always been like that. So that is where we are. Camille will probably announce in the next week or two what she is going to do. She just needs to figure out in her heart if she can trust the production company to do what they say they are going to do and allow people to see more sides to her.
I can see the conflict the producers have, however. The drama between Camille and Kyle has made for an entertaining season. And it has brought in the ratings.
Oh yeah, it does. And I think that is the other thing that has put her in a better mood lately. She is like, “look, I am trending #1!” (Laughs). She loves that. She is like “maybe I should embrace this character, this part of myself and just accept that people enjoy it on some level.” For me, I don’t take it as personally. And I don’t get nearly what she gets in terms of negativity. Remember also, she is going through a divorce. She is going to be a lot more sensitive to everything. Divorce is one of the most stressful things a person can go through and she is going through it publically with a man that won’t have anything to do with her — won’t talk to her, won’t see her. So you go from 14 years together, almost 24/7 to won’t even talk to her on the telephone about the kids. He wants everything done through his lawyer.