Honolulu Community College Cosmetology Professor Jess Aki has two more Poʻokela Awards to add to her growing wall of honor.
She was recently recognized for best hair, makeup and wig design for two Diamond Head Theatre productions, Cinderella and Sunset Boulevard, at the 2012 Poʻokela Awards.
The annual awards ceremony celebrates excellence in local theater and is sponsored by the Hawaiʻi State Theatre Council.
“A labor of love”
Working in the theater is her way of giving back to the community. She started out at Hawaiʻi Opera Theatre doing makeup for the chorus, and then she moved to Mānoa Valley Theatre where she worked first as a dresser and then as a wig designer. In the summer of 2005, she started to work on shows at Diamond Head Theatre.
She has since worked at Palikū Theatre at Windward Community College, most recently on Phantom of the Opera, doing the wigs and helping with makeup. Just this past summer, Aki had the unique opportunity to work on a movie set for an independent film entitled, Man Up, a comedy that will be released this fall.
For Aki, it is a labor of love.
“My grandfather and grandmother met each other on the stage. So it is in my blood. Granddad would have Melbourne Stone from Gun Smoke over to play cards. Actors on stage or TV and movies are just ordinary people with a job to do,” shares Aki.
A University of Hawaiʻi 2010 Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching Award recipient, Aki has found a creative outlet in theater since leaving the salon seven years ago.
“I love teaching. It is the fundamentals of a skill that cannot be changed, so I need that creative outlet to stay energized. I get to transform people, turning witches into beautiful goddesses and young men into princes, genies, and werewolves. How much fun is that! I have a hobby that entertains people and helps them enjoy life a little more,” says Aki.
—By Billie Lueder, executive assistant to the chancellor and director of communications and external affairs, Honolulu Community College