Junior Aiyana Herrera Wins State in Skills USA Competition

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Josh Galluzzo, Features Editor

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In an environment of over seventeen hundred teenagers, it’s often hard to display one’s individual skills to any open audience.

Junior and MST student Aiyana Herrera recently had her time in the spotlight, and it isn’t over yet.

On March 17th in Exeter, New Hampshire, Herrera competed in the state level competition of the Skills USA contest – a competition which pits those students specifically talented in different disciplines, trades, and arts against each other for prestigious awards and prize money – and took home the gold medal with her special-effects (SFX) cosmetics display.

Aiyana won the “Job Skills Demo Open” sect of the state competition, a field where any and all CTE (Career Technical Education) disciplines are put up against each other. These skills can include job skills, interview, prepared speech, and specific competitions like welding, cosmetology, etc.

“It was nerve wracking. Since it’s an open field, there’re so many different things that you could have done,” Herrera recalled.

Aiyana’s interest in SFX makeup specifically coalesced relatively recently in her life, but it’s been a part of her for much longer, she said.

“I grew up watching anime and saw all of the amazing effects and thought ‘Can I look like that?’” she explains.

Soon after, she began to wonder how it is certain effects are achieved in movie makeup. She took to the internet, finding lots of techniques and information on YouTube, where she started to develop her own style.

“When watching, I started to think, ‘I could do that like they did, but do this instead to make something else happen,” she said.

Aiyana considers herself to still be ‘relatively a beginner,’ despite her accomplishments.

“I started this is sixth grade, but only really got good at it in eighth,” she said.

Herrera took the gold at the Exeter states with a display on an SFX zombie bite of her own design. She laid out five different mannequin hands, each detailing a different step to the process.

Her makeup process is relatively uniform: she forms an idea, sketches it with eyeliner on skin, uses scar wax, liquid latex, gelatin, and other materials to construct the desired effect, and then paints on the colors to finish the look. This process normally requires about two to three hours, however Herrera had only five minutes to complete her project on the competition floor.

Herrera remembers finishing the competition, surprised to receive her gold medal at the awards ceremony at Concord High School on March 19th.

“I was so relieved after, it’s like a crazy weight off your chest, and it was crazy to think I actually won on state level,” she said.

For this accomplishment, Herrera now has the prestigious honor of participating in the national level of the Skills USA competition, with nine of her companions from the Manchester School of Technology. Nationals take place in Louisville, Kentucky from June 19th through June 23rd, during which time she will be one of approximately sixteen thousand competitors duking it out with their unique skills in the Job Skills Demo Open field.

This event requires a large amount of fundraising, however, and Herrera urges anyone who would like to support to talk to her about the ongoing fundraisers the MST crew is hosting.

Looking forward, Herrera hopes to enter cosmetology school and get her cosmetics liscence right after senior year. While her exact career path isn’t clear to her yet, she’s hoping it involves her SFX skills, or her other artistic passions, including drawing, painting, sculpting, makeup, nail art, and jewelry making.

In the short term, she plans to double up on both the Cosmetics 1 and 2 courses at MST next year, and return to the Job Skills Demo Open competition as well as the specific cosmetics competition that Skills USA offers.

As for Nationals this year, Herrera remains confident, remembering how far she’s come since she started honing her SFX skills.

“The first thing I did was make a cut out of toilet paper and glue and worked my way up,” said Herrera. “You just have to use what you have; after all, I only use grease paints from Walmart. I just keep working at it.”

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