Unseen Women of SNL
SNL, the quirky, satirical, and beloved sketch comedy show, has influenced generations of watchers. It was created by Lorne Michaels and premiered on October 11, 1975, making it one of the oldest live TV comedy shows in the U.S.
We all have our favorite SNL sketches to quote and we’ve celebrated female SNL superstars like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph (and Sarah Silverman before she got fired).
But what about the women we don’t know about? What about the ladies who are behind the scenes who play a huge role in the costume design, photo capturing, and makeup? They may be unseen, but SNL wouldn’t be the same without them.
It’s time we give these ladies a shoutout! All of these women have made a significant impact on the show and industry, from industry milestones to the unseen talent behind the scenes.
Yvonne Hudson: First African American Female Cast Member
Yvonne Hudson was the first female African American character and third African American person who appeared on SNL during season 6, the show’s 1980-1981 season. While she never had a major role on the show, she still made history.
Marilyn Suzanne Miller: One of the First Female Writers
A true inspiration to young writers, Marilyn Suzanne Miller was asked to join the original writing staff of SNL when she was only 25 years old. She made great strides as one of three original female SNL writers, writing sketches for Gilda Radner, and collaborating with Steve Martin and Dan Aykrowd. For her work on SNL, she won two Emmy’s and several Writer’s Guild of America Awards. She also won a Humanitas prize for her episode written on Breast Cancer in 1998.
Cecily Strong: Longest Tenured Female Cast Member
Cecily Strong is considered “one of the most memorable current cast members.” She’s been part of the SNL cast for ten years beginning in 2012, making her the longest tenured female cast member in SNL history. After college, she did improv at Second City in Chicago where SNL discovered her. She has served as co-anchor for Weekend Update and has been nominated for two Emmys.
Laraine Newman: Cast Member
Julia Louis-Dreyfus: Cast Member
Julia Louis-Dreyfus was given the opportunity to feature on SNL when she was only 21 years old, making her the youngest female cast member at the time. It was after her time on SNL that she moved into one of her most recognizable roles as Elaine on the hit show, Seinfeld.
Mary Ellen Matthews: Photographer
Mary Ellen Matthews is SNL’s cherished photographer who captures each precious moment. She started her career with SNL in 1993 as an assistant to photographer Edie Baskin, who became her mentor. Edie Baskin created SNL’s signature look, creative still images of hosts or musical guests that air before and after commercial breaks, known as ‘bumper photos.’ Mary Ellen followed in her footsteps.
Her ideas are inspired by anything from album covers, famous paintings, or scenes from movies. She curates the perfect image to capture each unique personality. She also creates animated and slow-motion videos.
In addition to SNL, her photography career has even taken her on tour with Aerosmith and she even photographed the weddings of Kate Hudson, Tina Fey, and Liv Tyler.
Amy Tagliamonti: Makeup Artist
Amy Tagliamonti is known for her work on SNL as well as Gossip Girl. She began her career with SNL in 2001 and earned the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Award for Best Contemporary Makeup in a Motion Picture Made for Television or Special.
Jodi Mancuso: Hair and Wig Designer
Her biggest task is finding ways to turn SNL cast members into public figures (celebrities, politicians, and other characters) for sketches. She does this by carefully crafting hair and eyebrows, among other things.
In the docuseries: Creating Saturday Night Live, Mancuso explains how each handmade wig takes about 50 hours to complete. Despite such painstaking work, she’s passionate about the job and loves the challenge. In regards to her work on the show, she said: “It’s pretty exciting, and an adrenaline rush for sure.”
Her hard work and dedication have earned her six Emmy Awards.
Now You Know
The next time you’re watching SNL, you’ll be thinking about the women behind the scenes who use their talent to curate the show that we know and love.
Shoutout to the women who take iconic photographs, do special effects makeup, and create wigs that turn cast members into beloved characters. And let’s not forget all the women who paved the way for them.
They may not have as much fame, but they have passion and the courage to wake up and do what they love each day.