Type 1 Makeup Artist Takes Hollywood

7/19/16
WRITTEN BY: Devin Dollface Alexis
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My name is Devin Dollface Alexis (Devin Whitman). I am 0riginally from New York City. For the past three years I have lived between Las Vegas and Los Angeles to pursue a career in Special Effects Makeup, Body Art and Visual Arts. Since moving to Los Angeles, I have worked on the likes of Kate Hudson, Goldie Hawn, Cee Lo Green, Jared Leto, Paramount Pictures and James Franco’s Production Company Rabbit Bandini.
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I have been Type 1 diabetic for 24 years. Diagnosed at 15 months old, I started out on Pork based insulin (R and L). There were many dietary restrictions and a very tight schedule I had to follow. I was then put on Humolog and Lantus insulins. At the age of 10, I switched from LIJ Hospital to Columbia Noami Berri Center. Unfortunately, between many types of diets I was tested out on and being told that I was celiac, Lantus was not affecting me well. Apparently, I was taking such large dosages that my body was becoming immune. It came to a point where I was taking anywhere from 8-12 injections plus 60 units of Lantus and my A1C was a startling 15. No matter how many units of insulin I took, my blood sugar would not drop below 300mg/dL (16/7 mmol/L).
At Columbia Hospital, I went through an array of various and invasive testing, then was told that I may have a rare strand of diabetes in which I would be able to cut back on injections and go on hormone therapy. This proved to be false. A short time thereafter, I finally had the gastro test, which proved I was not celiac. I was then retested for gluten sensitivity, which the results also came back negative for. Because of this, I switched from hospital to hospital to find a healthcare provider that best suited me and was not far from my home. Availing with minimal luck, we considered returning back to LIJ where I was born and raised.
Despite these complications, I was still tenacious in my determination to have a career in Special Effects Makeup. After flying to LA to work on my first film for Universal Pictures in 2011, I suffered a heart attack due to DKA. I lost over 20 pounds in a month’s time and had started to lose my hair. I was flown back to New York so that I could be close to family once again. Regardless of distance from our current home at this point, I returned to LIJ Hospital to be treated.
I felt extremely defeated and weak. Physically weak, mentally taken. I fell into a deep depression and all I wanted to do was sleep. The only option I had left, in which I had cautiously avoided for 20 years was to go on the insulin pump. With much resistance, I finally gave in.
Being on the Medtronic Minimed Pump drastically changed my life. I felt as though I was reborn and had a renewed sense of freedom. The changes were gradual, and sometimes there are still issues with my pump sites (getting caught on doors and getting infections) but in comparison to before this, I started living a brand new life.
A mere three months after going on the pump, Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of the United States. Living in Rockaway Beach, (think The Ramones), our home was destroyed. Our first floor apartment was submerged in seven feet of water and all of our belongings were mold, sewage and sea water encrusted. There was no way on or off the island for days and people were rioting. After a brief stint living in the car with my mother and three dogs, we moved back to our hometown of Brooklyn. Our new home previously housed a hoarder, so on top of everything else, it took almost two weeks and 6 men to clean out the house and repaint.
Because the prior year I was losing my hair, (chunks would fall out in the shower, leaving me with patches of scalp showing through) I had begun to wear wigs on an almost daily basis. I had started many different treatments: Nioxin, vitamins, Biotin, Tea Tree Oil. Nothing was working fast enough. I purchased my first wig online, then from a beauty supply store. Frequently unsatisfied with the shape and texture, I would customize them myself.
When I began to slowly start working again, women would constantly compliment me on the style or lushness of my new locks. Most people could not tell my hair was not my own. It was during this time my mother and I came up with the idea for Dollface Wigs. The name Dollface came from a nick name in high school I was dubbed because of my “doll-like features.” Since launch, we have been featured in various photoshoots, fashion shows and have a repeat celebrity clientele. Everyone from drag queens to cancer survivors and in between wear Dollface Wigs. I wanted to make others feel as confident as I did wearing them, from natural blonde to rainbow curls.
Eighteen months after Hurricane Sandy and moving back to Brooklyn the Red Cross finally contacted us. They proposed relocating us to the rest of our family out west. Ironically, it had been something my mother and I were considering but did not have the funding for. That was on Thursday. By the following Monday, what was left of our belongings were on a truck heading towards our new home, Las Vegas.
I lived in Las Vegas full-time for six months, happily thriving on the pump. It was then that I received two phone calls that would change my life. The first was from a company called PRIV, an app that provides beauty services much in the vein of Uber. The second was from a producer friend working at Paramount Studios. He invited me to come take a tour of the lot and get acclimated.
From there, everything happened at lightning speed. I became a top Professional with PRIV, leading many of their West Coast events doing body painting, freehand tattoos, Halloween and beauty makeup, representing as Brand Ambassador and teaching classes. Since then I have worked events for Goldie Hawn, Kate Hudson, Jared Leto, Alessandra Ambrosio, The Grammy’s and more.
Simultaneously, I had sent my resume to Paramount and had gotten immediate responses from various production companies. In an (almost funny) twist of events, I met a producer from the Dr. Phil Show at Starbucks (go figure) that got me onto the Dr. Phil Show. Paramount has since become my second home away from home.
In the same time frame, I woke up one day and decided I wanted to work for James Franco and his production company. I was attracted to the variety of work from indies on the festival circuit to their philanthropy partnerships. I had a dream about being on set with him, and him asking about my insulin pump. I had this strange determination to become a part of his production company. I decided to crash acting auditions happening at his acting school Studio 4. I put together a full printed press kit with my resume, pictures and business card. I then decided to attend free classes on the weekend in hopes I could hand out my business cards. It worked.
For the past year I have worked with Studio 4 on various in-house student films, and most recently Roxana which was bought by Franco’s production company Rabbit Bandini.
When it comes to diabetes health and working in the film, television and fashion industry, it has taken some time to figure out what works best in regards to food and insulin intake. Craft services aren’t always the best on set; it is often a rare (luxury) when there are healthy options.
I now carry my own emergency bag of LARA Bars, peanut butter crackers, wheat thins, apple juice, gatorade and electrolyte based water (Core). These usually carry me over if I’m in a bind or need to take a bite in between takes. I carry a fanny pack on set for my glucose monitor and pump storage for easy access. It blends in perfectly with my makeup brush belt!
Through all of this, I am here to tell you to relentlessly follow your inner being. Checking blood sugars and exploring nutrition are your keys to everything. Most importantly is support. Diabetes is not a one person disease and finding the right medical team will be the difference. It’s okay to switch until you find your tribe.
There were days I thought I would be endlessly stuck in a hospital bed forever. Days I felt empty. But I never gave up on my pursuit to not only surpass my dreams, but set higher goals and live my life authentically. Although bittersweet, I am thankful for Type 1 diabetes and the person that it has helped mold me into: a strong, confident adult with unequivocal tenacity.


Devin Dollface Alexis

Devin Dollface Alexis is originally from Brooklyn, New York, but currently resides in the city of Angels. She enjoys Working in Film, doing Makeup and Special Effects, making Dollface Wigs and any kind of art, being a part of St Martin's Animal Foundation and going hiking in the hills of Los Angeles! Devin has been Type 1 diabetic for nearly 25 years.