Reality check: Beechview makeup artist set to 'Face Off'

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Fans of Syfy's reality competition "Face Off" would no doubt agree with Steve Tolin's reason for wanting to be a special-effects makeup artist.

"It doesn't get any cooler than that," said Mr. Tolin, 34, who grew up in Elkins, W.Va., and runs his own shop in Beechview.

Mr. Tolin, who arrived here 15 years ago to attend the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, will be a contestant on Season 5 of "Face Off." It premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. There's a big twist this time around: Eight new faces are joined by eight veterans of seasons past.

"I've seen every single episode of the show," said Mr. Tolin, who also builds websites. His own is at "Some I've seen two, three, four times, trying to do my homework."

Tom Savini School grad Samantha Allen is also among the newbies. Savini grads on the veterans side include Alana Rose Schiro and Eric Zapata, and Tate Steinsiek also attended the Douglas Education Center program in Monessen.

"It's kind of a stand-alone because it's the first time we're doing this," said "Face Off" host McKenzie Westmore. "I think it's going to be really interesting for the viewers to see some of their old favorites come back and some newcomers that they might fall in love with now for the first time, too."

Mr. Tolin has done special effects for the big and small screens, as well as stage productions. On his website, he notes that his "blood work" on a 2007 production of Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre was such a hit, he was hired to re-create it for more than a dozen more productions of the show across the country.

He is working on pre-production for a zombie movie and will have some theater work coming up. Building websites is also a creative outlet, Mr. Tolin said.

"I would say 80 percent of my work happens outside of Pittsburgh. I use Pittsburgh as a base of operations, and whenever movies come through town I will definitely work on them. But it's hard to make a living to support a family with just that amount of [local] work. So I'll travel all over the country and sometimes internationally."

His family includes wife Erica Highberg and daughters Violet and Amelia.

He said as someone used to working as a crew member on set, being the one followed by cameras was a strange experience.

"The biggest surprise to me would be how different it is to be a cast member as opposed to being a crew member. In my heart, I'm crew. I don't know if it's like this on all reality shows, but there is very little contact [between cast and crew]."

Despite the sometimes gruesome nature of the work on "Face Off," those involved say they are proud it's a show that takes a peek behind the curtain and can be shared by different generations.

"I think the parents get sucked into the competition aspect of it and then, there you have it, something that people can watch with their children," said Glenn Hetrick, an FX designer and "Face Off" judge.

"They're so grateful for that, and I think that's really the biggest aspect of our show that contributes to its success."

Also in reality TV ...

• University of Pittsburgh grad Christy Biberich was sent home on "Brother vs. Brother" (HGTV, Sundays) after a teammate refused to allow her to buy a stackable washer/dryer unit for the renovation of a scary laundry room.

"It is frustrating when you feel you can't do what you know you should do," said Ms. Biberich, who owns her own design firm in Los Angeles.

Drew Scott, one of the "Brothers," said it was a tough decision, and he was sorry to see her go. In an online interview, he called her an "awesome competitor."

• It did not take long for the Blue teammates on "Capture" (The CW, Tuesdays) to establish themselves as the arrogant team everyone wants to see gone. But Eric Praxedes and Shane Steinman are a wily duo. Even after another team used a "sabotage" reward that caused a siren to sound on the Blues' vests, they STILL eluded the hunters.

And just to show how taking the high road is beneath them, the Blue team members came across a stash of food earmarked for everyone and proceeded to stuff their faces. Then they threw the rest of the food into standing water so no one else could eat.

The Green team of Aliquippa's Antoine Burton and Kareem Dawson steered clear of the whole mess.

• "Breaking Pointe's" Zach Prentice is quickly proving to be one of the most tearful personalities on reality television (The CW, Mondays), but he was all smiles after winning the comic role of Napoleon for Ballet West's "Cinderella." Now, could someone please explain to Zach who Napoleon was?

Chartiers Valley graduate Allison DeBona still hints that she might give up dancing, but for now she is thrilled to earn a role in "Cinderella" as the Winter Fairy.

• "Farm Kings" (Great American Country, Thursdays) is featuring an episode that brings Miss Pennsylvania contestants to Freedom Farms' market in Butler for a Special Olympics fundraiser. The King family's youngest child, Ben, has Down syndrome. GAC will donate $1 for every Get Glue check-in during the episode, up to $5,000, to Special Olympics.

• Want to try out for "The Price Is Right"? Then come on down to the Meadows Racetrack & Casino from 2-8 p.m Aug. 22. As a CBS affiliate, KDKA will be interviewing and videotaping contestant hopefuls, two of whom will win free trips to Los Angeles to watch a taping of the show.

Once there, one of the two will be guaranteed a bidder's spot on Contestants Row. The show, hosted by Drew Carey, begins its 42nd season this fall. Participants must be legal U.S. residents and at least 18 years old. Official rules are at


Maria Sciullo: or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.


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