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On the big stage, he was ready for his close-up

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Herb Inscoe often tells his students at the Charleston School of Beauty Culture that they need to be noticed personally if they're going to be noticed professionally.

"I tell them you've to be a little peculiar to stand out," said Inscoe, who sports half-dark, half-bleached hair spiked up in the front, along with a beard and mustache he often waxes into a handlebar.

That look helped him get noticed at a July conference and earned him an invitation to the Emmy Awards this past weekend, where he joined a team of about 75 stylists who did hair and makeup for performers, various VIPs and even actors and actresses who attended the awards ceremonies for television.

Inscoe was invited by former actress and Emmy-award winning Hollywood makeup artist Dina Ousley, whose company, Dinair, makes airbrush cosmetics.

Inscoe met her at the Cosmetology Educators Association of America's annual conference in Orlando, where he was a finalist for Educator of the Year.

The conference was packed, with about 700 educators along with industry representatives.

"I met Dina, and she asked me if I'd like to come to the Emmys with her," Inscoe said, adding he took about a second to respond.

Meantime, 17 representatives of beauty products also asked him if he would hold their products for publicity photos on the red carpet. He gave another yes to that.

Inscoe flew to California a week ago Friday and had a busy day of preparation Saturday. Sunday morning starting about 11 a.m., he and other stylists took their posts in a well-prepared backstage area and got to work.

They didn't stop for 13 hours.

Inscoe recognized some famous actor faces - though he's not allowed by contract to drop those names. Suffice it to say at least one Academy Award-winning actor had his makeup done there.

Inscoe is allowed to say he did hair and makeup for some of the Emmys performers, including members of The Red Hots and two of the three Polish violin-playing triplets who call themselves Alizma, all of whom performed during the post-Emmys gala.

He also heard buzz about entertainment bloggers and a group of editors from People magazine.

"Whoever sat down in our chair, we did," he said.

Stylists came from as far away as New Zealand.

"We were a multicultural team," he added.   

Ousley impressed him at every turn, Inscoe added.

"She is a fabulous woman. She takes you in like you're part of her family."

The theme of the 2012 Emmys was "A Romantic Rhapsody in Red" and Inscoe and the other stylists were instructed to create classic makeup with lots of red lips. Hair was dramatic - upswept with bright color added or swirled hairpieces attached almost like hats.

Performers didn't have a say in their hairstyles, and some balked when they saw hairpieces shaped like roses.

"I met a little resistance from some," he said. Fortunately, there was a person assigned to deal with this.

"She said, 'You don't have a choice.' " Inscoe said.  She also explained there was a vision for the show and they should trust the stylists.

Stylists had to work fast, taking about 20 minutes at most on the makeup and not more than 30 minutes on hair, even when weaving in a hairpiece.

Veteran Inscoe wasn't swayed by the fast pace. Now in his 50s, he's got 35 years of experience in the business as a stylist, instructor and former tailor who has put on fashion shows. A native of Huntington, he's a father of five and is now retired except for teaching, which he does on a volunteer basis at the school.

He said stylists worked before the show, during the Emmys and through the Governors Ball dinner and show after-party, where Inscoe said he could at least peek through the backstage curtain and spy some of the action and fashion.

Stylists were on hand for touchups and hairdo changes during the show and got to enjoy the same meal as the honored guests, although after everyone was finished.

Inscoe said he held his arms up doing hair for so many hours, they hurt the next day.

"My feet still hurt," he added, laughing.

He's not complaining.

"Words cannot describe the opportunity of seeing it all," Inscoe said. Stylists got their own swag bags, too - goodie bags assembled for guests.

His favorite thing in the gift bag is a piece of fabric used to make the 380 red tablecloths that covered the tables at the ball.

The trip also opened up opportunities for Inscoe personally and for the beauty school, where he says director Judy Hall is always receptive to new ideas and classes.

He has made connections that are likely to result in more high-profile style gigs - perhaps another trip to Hollywood? - and he already is planning to bring Ousley's products and techniques to the students.

"I'm ready to step up to the plate," he said. "I believe when God opens up a door for you, you have to walk through it."  

Contact writer Monica Orosz at or 304-348-4830.



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