How does a Star become a Madame Tussauds Museum Wax Figure?

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April 7th, 2012

There are many branches of the Madame Tussauds museum around the world, and many people visit these entertaining venues to see the wax portraits of their favorite celebrities. Many people wonder how a wax figure is created, and how the process to be a wax figure is begun.

There are various stars who have been made into Madame Tussauds' famous wax figures. Celebrities in the Madame Tussauds galleries range from Lady GaGa to President Obama of the United States of America. Each figure is made to represent a star or famous figure and represents them as closely as possible in a realistic wax form. Each sculpture is accurate in almost every possible measurement. Figures represent Hollywood A-list actors and world leaders, among other famous people.

After the celebrity or public figure is selected, which can be for reasons ranging from popularity to service, sculptors spend over 800 hours working to paint, sculpt, and measure each figure. These artists are trained to make the replicas very realistic, so much that the mannequin may seem to be real until further inspection. Clothing, eye color, and any other attributes a person has are taken into account before the process is ever started.

To start the process, the subject is invited to a sitting where the measurements and photos are taken. A historical figure, world leader, or superstar may not be able to come, and if so, sculptors then work from photos. There are over 250 measurements that have to be taken in order to start a figure. This will make sure that the facial dimensions, height, width, and other aspects of the star are correctly transferred to the sculptor's clay.

Each sculpture is made to be two percent larger than the actor, leader, or historical figure. To do this, a metal skeleton is built, clay is formed and manipulated around the form, and then wax is applied at a later time. Wax shrinks when it dries, so the extra two percent will be eliminated as it solidifies. The body is split into sections for molding, with the head being molded separately.

After molds are created for the head and body they are filled with hot wax. This hot wax settles into the crevices of the mold, taking the shape that the clay created. The wax is left to cool and harden before the process is continued.

The process of finishing the sculpture from this point takes hundreds of hours. Each individual strand of hair has to be separately placed on the figure. These strands are inserted into the wax in a natural fashion that mimics that of the subject.

Teeth and eyes will be the next pieces to be completed. These are normally added in the form of denture-like pieces and glass eyes, which look realistic. This all must be done before the figure has any skin tones added.

For the skin, an oil-based paint is used in layers. These layers allow depth of color that will mimic the natural look of human skin. The paint will also leave a texture that is realistic to that of human skin. After this, clothing is added and the figure can be revealed in the museum's gallery.

There are no main requirements to become a wax figure, but all of the figures in the galleries are either A-list stars from around the world, sports figures, models, historical figures, or world leaders. The oldest figure in the museum is located in the London branch and is of Madame du Barry, Louis XV's mistress. It was sculpted in 1763 and is also one of the earliest dated examples of animatronics.