Members of staff put the finishing touches to the wax figure of Star Wars character Chewbacca at the Star Wars At Madame Tussauds attraction in London on May 12, 2015. Justin Tallis—AFP/Getty Images
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How the incredibly lifelike wax figures at Madame Tussauds are made

For more than 200 years, Madame Tussauds has been making wax figures that are so lifelike you might think you’re standing next to the actual person they were modeled after.

Madame Tussauds’ more than 20 global locations are home to wax figures of famous people like Jimmy Fallon, Jennifer Aniston, Adriana Lima, and even Barack Obama. The opportunity to take a photo with their favorite celebrities (even if in wax form) is highly appealing to tourists, and Madame Tussauds is usually packed. 

When it comes to a celebrity’s wax replica, every single detail is carefully recorded — from exact eye color to visible tattoos, moles, and beauty marks.

Each figure is made at Madame Tussauds’ central studios in London, then sent to their assigned location around the world.

Here’s how the incredibly lifelike wax figures are made.

Each figure takes a total of 15 artists three to four months to complete. The New York City location adds seven new figures each year, and globally the company aims to make about 230 figures in total. The first step of the process is a sitting with the celebrity.

Madame Tussaud's
Victoria Secret model Adriana Lima during her sitting. 
Madame Tussaud’s

During the sitting, more than 250 measurements of the celebrity are taken, including finding their exact hair, eye, and skin color.

Madame Tussaud's
Madame Tussaud’s

After the sitting is done, the figure is sculpted in clay.

Madame Tussaud's
Madame Tussaud’s

The sculptors have to make sure the measurements are exact, and that their figure is starting to come to life.

Madame Tussaud's
Madame Tussaud’s

Next, the molding process takes place — this is when the wax comes into play. Figures are cast in wax for about 170 hours.

Madame Tussaud's
Madame Tussaud’s

After a successful molding process, the hair insertion is next.

Madame Tussaud's
Madame Tussaud’s

Each strand of hair is inserted individually by hand. This intensive process takes about six weeks to complete.

Madame Tussaud's
Lady Gaga’s wax figure gets hair insertions Madame Tussaud’s

Next, oil paints are used to mimic the exact skin tone. Artists are sure to make the skin translucent and a realistic texture.

Madame Tussaud's
Madame Tussaud’s

Once the skin is finished, they insert the eyes and the teeth. The eyes are matched exactly to the subject’s eye color and are made individually from acrylic resin. The teeth are designed from a mold that’s taken during the sitting.

Madame Tussaud's
A sculptor works on model Adriana Lima’s wax figure.  Madame Tussaud’s

The final step is finding a wardrobe for the figure. Generally subjects will donate a wardrobe for their figures to wear.

Madame Tussaud's
Madame Tussaud’s

Finally, finishing touches are made, and the wax figurine is ready for the spotlight. Once the finishing touch-ups are done, figures are sent to their official locations in a custom-made, foam-lined crate.

Madame Tussaud's
Madame Tussaud’s

Although all figures are made in London, each location has its own studio team to make sure their site’s figures are up to par, and maintenance is done daily.

Madame Tussaud's
Madame Tussaud’s

There are more than 200 figures at the New York location, and globally more than 2,000 figures.

adriana lima madame tussauds
Madame Tussaud’s

By Courtney Verrill | Insider

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