We were the first to interview Nora Hewitt, just moments after she was crowned Face Off‘s ninth champion. In our one-on-one interview, Nora explains her plans for the prize money while revealing why she never expected to win. Plus, find out why her own parents didn’t think she would win even though she made it to the finale.
SheKnows: Congratulations on being named the winner of Face Off.
Nora Hewitt: Thank you [laughs].
SK: How hard is it to keep something like that a secret for all these months since filming wrapped?
NH: It’s hard, but it’s not hard. Once people found out I was on the show, all the girls at work tell me every day, “We know you won.” They just say that, but they didn’t know that I won. That’s everyone’s favorite question to ask. I love to just tell them to keep watching. That question is, like, the No. 1 question I get asked constantly. People always laugh because they know I couldn’t tell them, but they asked anyway.
SK: You’ve won $100,000. Any immediate splurge plans?
NH: Honestly, I’m pretty financially responsible. I will probably pay off my student loans just to get that out of the way. I plan on using the money to further my education, take some Stan Winston classes online, take some seminars, learn things from other people in the industry. I’m just gonna be buying supplies and make sure I can support being able to constantly create for the next couple of years. I’m literally just going to use that money to make myself a better artist and get my hands on some fun, new supplies I haven’t gotten to use. This industry changes week to week and day to day, people are coming up with new products. I just want to stay right on the cutting edge of everything.
SK: So you haven’t been given the check yet?
NH: Oh, no. I’m still in the poor house, man. I’m like three months behind on rent. It’s like Pop-Tarts and corn dogs all day [laughs].
SK: How long ago did the final episode actually film? How long have you been waiting for this moment?
NH: Oh, dude. It feels like an eternity. At the same time, it feels like five minutes and the season went by. I can’t believe it’s already over. We filmed the show for 60 days, which is not a lot of time at all. I got back to Pittsburgh some time in April, so I guess it was the end of March. You can’t talk about the show for a long time… we were all really anxious and dying to find out when we could finally tell people we were on the show. The whole thing has been pretty surreal.
SK: Walk us through that moment when you’re waiting for the judges to announce this season’s winner. Did you think you were going to win?
NH: No. I had no idea. Honestly. I think every challenge I probably thought I was gonna go home. I definitely didn’t think I had it, especially standing up there with Ben and Evan. They are such amazing artists with so much talent. They’re such nice people. Just good, genuine people. I really wanted one of them to win… throughout the entire season we didn’t really care because whoever was gonna win was gonna win. We wanted to help each other out as much as we could. We were all rooting for each other way more than we were rooting for ourselves. So to stand up there with Ben and Evan, they are so amazingly talented, I definitely didn’t expect to win. I didn’t expect to be in the final three. It was a surprise to me, I think, more than anybody.
SK: The conversation on social media had many fans expressing their hopes that you would win it all. What’s it like experiencing so much fan appreciation?
NH: It’s really cool. I’ve been fortunate to not really have too many people come at me from a negative place on Twitter or Facebook. That’s been a blessing. I know other people have been ripped apart. I’ve been really fortunate to stay on the outside of it. I’m so thankful. You never know how they’re gonna edit things and put them together. I didn’t know what to expect when the show came out. Thankfully, I got really good feedback from everybody. It’s a really cool thing. I’m glad that people are enjoying the work I’m putting out.
SK: After winning it all, you had some emotional closing comments about how your victory would make your dad proud. Why was that so important to you?
NH: When I decided that I’d go to school for this and I made up my mind, he and I didn’t exactly see eye to eye on it. He’s not an artist. He’s like a business, straitlaced kind of guy. He doesn’t have an artistic bone in his body. Initially when I told him this is the school I want to go to and this is what I plan on doing with the rest of my life, I think he was hesitant and concerned about my future and well-being. He just didn’t understand how I was gonna support myself doing it. It took a long time for me to convince him… it took me a long time to convince him to help me financially with school. He just didn’t really get it and he wanted me to go to school for something, in his mind, that was a little more stable and responsible for a real job. I wasn’t changing my mind. Once I figured out this is what I wanted to do, I was not gonna let anybody tell me what I was going to do… when I was in school, I tried to do the best I could to prove to him that investing his time and money in my education that I was gonna do something with. I didn’t want him to think I was just doing it because I thought it was cool. I wanted him to know that I was serious about it. I really tried to do the best that I could in school, which I think I did… it was validating for me to be able to do something that was recognizable and he could see this is what I’m supposed to be doing and that this is a legitimate career path.
SK: What has his reaction been to watching you on the show week after week?
NH: He loves it. He freaks out. He’s all about it. It’s very cool. He’s like my No. 1 cheerleader. He’s very supportive now, and he’s totally on board. He’s done a 180. He was super proud of me before Face Off. I know he didn’t have any idea that I won. It’s cute. They [her parents] are super supportive and they think the world of me, but at the same time they’re not like eternal optimists, either. They are very realistic people. About a week ago, my dad texted me and said, “So proud you made it to the final three. I know you didn’t win, but I’m really proud of you” [laughs]. I was like, “You don’t know that I didn’t win, but I’m not gonna tell you.” My parents didn’t want to know.
SK: Tell us about your final three characters. You really took control of your team as you were working on these last makeups of the season. How confident were you throughout the process?
NH: … for us, these three characters epitomized our full potential on the show thus far. I think for us, it was some of the best work that we’d done all season. I think it was some of the best teamwork that we had all season. We really enjoyed working together. They really were there to do anything they could to help me win and help me put the best product out there in front of the judges. I am so thankful. If I didn’t have Jasmine and Meg, if it would have been anybody else, I don’t know how things would have went. Everyone is wonderful, but I just think for some reason that combination for that challenge at that time in the universe, it just all made sense. We worked so well together and we got so close on that challenge. We really just loved every single character we made. It was really, really awesome. I really owe everything to those two. They just killed it for me. They were amazing.
SK: At the end of the show, Ben said you deserved to win more than anybody else. On any other reality show, those who don’t win are frequently bitter and angry. What is it like having such a close bond with your competitors and hearing somebody talk about how deserving you are to beat them?
NH: That’s overwhelming, man. I’m so close with all those guys. I really feel like I walked away from Face Off not only winning, but more important to me than anything are the bonds that I formed with those people. Especially when it got down to the final five. Scott, Ben, Evan and Jordan are such amazing, beautiful people. You couldn’t ask for better people to be there in the end with. Ben is such a nice, humble, gentle spirit and such an amazing artist. Me and Evan are so similar in so many ways. We are both so hard on ourselves. Him and I connected in a lot of ways in just how we would end up feeling at the end of certain challenges. We would go into Reveal Stage day just feeling doomed, even though we’d end up being a “top look.” A lot of times, Evan and I just couldn’t see how good some of our work was. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing, we’re just really hard on ourselves because we expect a lot. I learned so much from everyone there, especially Ben and Evan toward the end. This season was just full of so much talent on so many different levels. I’m glad I was on Season 9, for sure. All the seasons are amazing and have such great talent, but this season was just, for me, very special. I don’t know if it was just because I was part of it, finally, but it was just a really beautiful, unique experience.
SK: Has it been emotional watching it back on TV?
NH: A little bit less because I know what’s coming and what to expect. It takes me immediately back to that mind frame. It’s not as overwhelming. It’s more like nostalgic. Most of the time I’m just laughing at things because I’ll remember little things that happened that day. I end up sitting there reminiscing to myself about things that we talked about, things we did at the house, in the lab or in the van on the way to the lab. For me, it just brings back some really fond memories of the time I got to spend with these guys.
SK: Is there one particular makeup you’re most proud of this season?
NH: The finale makeups, definitely, I think were my favorite of the season. I really, really enjoyed my gatekeeper that I did with Jasmine when we were partnered up. It was actually the first cowl that I ever sculpted or molded. It was really intimidating, but it actually came out really well. I love the paint job. I love the sculpt. I think, for me, my gatekeeper was probably one of my favorites I did all season.
SK: What have you been doing since filming Face Off?
NH: I am currently still in Pittsburgh for a couple more weeks. I’m planning on moving to California in mid-November to try and seek employment at some of the shops out there. I’m gonna head to California to continue to try to get into the industry. I have been doing some stuff out here. I just got done shooting a really tiny, micro-budget independent film in upper-state Pennsylvania for about two weeks. I’ve been keeping busy. I did a convention in September called Mask-Fest and HorrorHound, which is in Indiana. I was pretty much — from the time I got back from the show until last month — I was prepping for that and getting products ready to go because I was vending. I have been trying to keep busy doing little gigs that I find here and there. I’ve just been trying to keep it going and heading to Cali in a few weeks. I’m really excited for what opportunities may come once I get out there.
SK: Being in Pennsylvania, I’m assuming you attended Tom Savini’s makeup school.
SK: What’s it like working with an icon like him?
NH: It’s cool. It was really intimidating at first because I idolize Tom. I love his movies. That whole era in the heyday of effects with blood gags, all that stuff is my favorite. I love that kind of stuff. Tom really pioneered a lot of the practical effects and really figured out how to do a lot of those classic gags early on. For me, I’m like a huge fan. Now, at this point, I see Tom every week. I watch the show with him. We hang out. Now, it’s cool going from watching his movies, to being really overwhelmed when I first met him, to now it’s a normal thing to text him or hang out. It’s really surreal and really crazy. It’s on such a casual level now. It’s weird. There’s been so much change in my life within the last three years. It’s ridiculous. I’m just very fortunate that school went so well and that I went right into Face Off. I’m just being really optimistic about anything that’s coming along for me next.
SK: I know Ricky was also a Savini student. Did you guys meet each other there?
NH: Yeah, we did actually. I was a first semester coming into the program, while he was a fourth semester graduating. We got to hang out a few times in social gatherings at school, but we didn’t hang out all the time. I did know Ricky and we had some contact before the show. That was really cool to have a familiar face.
SK: What are your plans for Halloween?
NH: I am a huge Halloween-lover. It’s like my Christmas. Honestly, embarrassingly enough, the past three years I have not had anything major going on for Halloween. I’ve been busy with school and work. I’ve been working full-time bartending. The last three Halloweens I’ve been just hanging out at home. I’ll do my makeup and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters and watch horror movies all night. I’m not sure what this year has in store yet, but I always enjoy just a good night of friends and horror movies and handing out candy to all the little creeps that are running around the neighborhood [laughs].
SK: What’s your go-to horror movie?
NH: If I’m just sitting around and I gotta throw something on, I love watching The Shining. The Shining or The Exorcist are great Sunday afternoon movies. Those are, like, movies that I could have on all day in the background.