Lawrence Davis and Stevie Martin (‘Respect’ hair and makeup team) on transforming Jennifer Hudson into Aretha Franklin

“The first thing that went through my mind was, ‘I have got to get this right,'” admits Lawrence Davis, the hair department head for the Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect” starring Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson. “Everyone knows who Aretha Franklin is. Just being true to the story and doing her legacy justice [put] pressure on my shoulders. I knew I had to do everything in my power to get this right.” Watch the exclusive video interview with Davis and makeup department head Stevie Martin above.

“Respect” is directed by Liesl Tommy and premiered in Los Angeles on August 8. Along with Hudson, the film also stars Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Marc Marron, Tituss Burgess and Mary J. Blige. It chronicles the life of “The Queen of Soul” from age 10 until the recording of her “Amazing Grace” album in 1972.

“There was not as much makeup as hair,” explains Martin. “Just defining those staples that she did… to draw the audience in to make sure that, historically, it’s accurate.” With a team of just 13 makeup artists, Martin was responsible for the looks of dozens of cast members. “It was all hands on deck,” she admits. “I was busy, busy, busy!”

Hudson sported several iconic hairstyles in the film including a beehive, pixie and afro. Of all the looks, Davis had a clear favorite. “The performance beehive was my favorite look,” he says. “Only because it’s one of the iconic looks that we’ve seen Aretha in. It was one of the most flexible hairstyles. That was one wig I was able to change into two styles. Because of the weight of it, I needed to make sure Jennifer could be comfortable in it while she was performing. That’s one of the pieces that I’m most proud of because I built that piece from scratch.”

For the concert sequences, Martin got creative when creating the look of a perspiration-soaked diva known for pouring everything into each performance. “I didn’t want to compromise the makeup,” Martin says. “The things they have out for artificial sweat, I didn’t want to keep retouching that all the time. I came up with a compilation of products… and I knew that it wouldn’t run. It wouldn’t go anywhere. It just gave it realism because she was a drinker. Yes, she’s sweating, but her body is detoxing at the same time. And trying to find a balance of not too much sweat. I didn’t want anything that I did, concerning makeup, to be a distraction.”

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