Activision-Blizzard recently laid off over 800 employees, around eight percent of its total workforce. Many of the cuts affected the company’s esports operations, laying off public relations staff, community developers, and customer support. It’s easy to forget the personal effects had by cuts like these, including on people who’ve come to devote their professional lives to competitive gaming.
Esports Makeup founder Rosa Menendez was one of the individuals affected by the cutbacks. When she was suddenly told her services would not be needed for Overwatch League Season 2, she was heartbroken.
After Menendez announced the news on Twitter, the Overwatch League community immediately showered her with support. This included encouragement from former coworkers and from pro players. People that were once unaware the OWL had a makeup artist now felt the loss of one of Activision-Blizzard’s many esports casualties.
A blemish at the start of the season
For Menendez, doing makeup and hair for the Overwatch League was more than a job.
“Overwatch League was family. It was like that from day one,” she said. “We formed bonds with so many of the players and the teams. It was the first show within esports where we had grown a bigger bond with the players, and the community as well.”
The first time that Menendez felt a deeper connection with the esports community was on Pride Day. Menendez and her partner Lorena Acevedo had been so excited about the possibility to put rainbows on everything and everyone.
One host even came out on stage with rainbow-colored eyeshadow. After that show, Menendez was given a piece of fan art that depicted all the talent holding a giant rainbow banner in which Esports Makeup was included. Being a part of a fan’s art was an amazing feeling for Menendez.
Menendez said she was shocked by the sudden increase in recognition. She once bolted out of a mall bathroom after someone recognized her as the “makeup artist from the Overwatch League.”
“It’s just a surreal feeling,” she said. “To say we have fans, it just blows my frickin’ mind.”
Setting the toner
A lot of work goes into putting together an event like the Overwatch League, and a lot happens behind the stage that fans may not be aware of. One of those things that people may not immediately consider in an industry like esports is the necessity of makeup. But Menendez saw the need right away.
“I had watched Halo 3 esports tournaments on G4 back in the day,” she recalled, “and I would look at the guys up there and think, ‘They look so shiny. Why do they look so sweaty?’ It just doesn’t look good. It looked messy and unprofessional.”
When it comes to esports, makeup isn’t there to change or transform a person. The purpose of onscreen makeup is to make the players and hosts look natural and comfortable up on stage. And maybe hide a few blemishes that may show up on an HD stream.
This is a specialized form of makeup application that Menendez is very familiar with, since she has been making pro players look great on camera since 2013.
A strong foundation
Menendez and Acevedo had done makeup for just about every industry, including film, music videos, and even porn. But nothing could prepare Menendez for the email she was about to receive while she was busy playing World of Warcraft back in 2013. Blizzard Entertainment asked her to do the makeup at BlizzCon, a dream come true.
That first year, Menendez worked alone, doing the hair and makeup for over 75 people in StarCraft, World of Warcraft, and Hearthstone. She recalls running back and forth “like a maniac.”
Soon after, she returned to her normal life of working on film and television sets. But she just didn’t feel as fulfilled as she did while at BlizzCon. While she was always known as the “nerdy one” on film sets, when she worked at BlizzCon it felt like she had found her tribe. It was where she felt she truly belonged. Suddenly, working on the sets of blockbusters lost its luster.
“That’s the effect BlizzCon has on a person,” she laughed. “When you hear everyone yelling ‘For the hoarde’ together, I just finally had found my home.”
Menendez and her new partner Acevedo were soon working with ESL, taking care of the makeup for all of their esports tournaments. From 2014 through 2016, Esports Makeup worked such games as League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Mortal Kombat. If there was an esports production that needed her services, Esports Makeup was there.
Menendez made a lot of friends along the way. She recalls commentator and former pro player Jason “moses” O’Toole messing with her at the CS:GO Pro League show. While she was playing Overwatch, moses came up to her and joked, “Girl support? Real original, Rosa.”
“I got so tilted,” Menendez said. “I was playing Mercy, too! And I kept getting picked off. I ended up losing that match. I went to do his touch-up and I just smacked him with the makeup brush. I love the man, but he’ll do anything in his power to trigger me, and I do the same to him.”
Excitement you cannot conceal
By 2017, Blizzard was hiring Esports Makeup directly for events like the Overwatch World Cup and BlizzCon. Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles, someone she had known for years, came up to her at an event and said, “Can’t wait to have you on the Overwatch League.”
This made Menendez’ jaw drop. Since the Overwatch League was announced in 2016, she had promised Acevedo that it would be their show. In her eyes, landing OWL solidified their success in the esports world and proved that they could achieve anything.
“We were very emotional when we got it,” said Menendez.
The Overwatch League crew became their new family almost immediately. They felt closer to the OWL players than they ever had at prior events. There are endless memories with the pros, but some stand out most to Menendez.
“Rawkus is so dedicated to his hair,” she said about Houston Outlaw’s Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty. “Ain’t nobody else touching his hair but Mama Rosa. That’s policy.”
At BlizzCon 2018, Menendez was working the StarCraft stage while Acevedo took charge of the World Cup. But when Rawkus caught wind of Menendez’s whereabouts, he ran over to the StarCraft station to get his hair and makeup done, before running back to the World Cup area.
“He told me, ‘It’s not an event if I’m not getting my makeup and hair done by you.’”
A future as bright as her lipstick
Despite their success in esports, Menendez still didn’t expect the amount of support sent their way when they took to Twitter to announce the sad news the pair’s departure from Overwatch League prior to Season 2.
“It was always awesome hanging out with you guys before every match,” Brandon “Seagull” Larned said. “I hope you guys get to come back soon. The new players won’t know what they’re missing!”
As more and more pros retweeted and commented, the community began to take notice. Even fans who weren’t aware of the importance of esports makeup began to understand the impact the duo had on the OWL stage, and their special connection to the teams and players. Seeing all of the community support online after the decision left Menendez in tears.
While Esports Makeup may not currently be working on OWL’s second season, they still work many of the events held in the Blizzard Arena. For Menendez, it’s difficult to walk past the arena on her way to work. It’s hard for her to see the players and the crew she grew so close to.
Fortunately, Esports Makeup is still working on other Blizzard projects such as as finishing up the WCS Winter season. The pair are also focusing on their stream and looking for more esports tournaments to improve with just the right foundation and hair products.