Go behind the scenes of New York's most intriguing spots with the new Behind The Experience video series. This week you'll get an insider look at Times Square’s iconic Madame Tussauds New York. How do the figures get made? How far will the team go to get the anatomy exactly right—like in a hidden spot on Priyanka Chopra Jonas's body?
City Guide's Lea Whitener sat down with Alexis Tymorek, the Marketing Executive at Madame Tussauds New York, to learn more.
A Portrait Study by John T. Tussaud, John Theodore Tussaud (1921). The Romance of Madame Tussaud (2nd ed.). London: Odhams Press. p. 120, Public Domain.
Secret #1, there was a real Madame Tussaud, Anna Maria "Marie" Tussaud. She was on the wrong side of the French Revolution. They shaved her head but she managed to get released before the guillotine fell. She went on to live to age 88.
AT: It is! Madame Tussauds New York is in the business of having fun and making great memories with our guests.
CG: Where are you now?
AT: This is actually our A-List Room, this is one of the first rooms in our attraction. It’s really that big “wow” moment. A guest steps out of the elevator and it opens up and Adriana Lima is standing on a water fountain. Typically there’s music playing, there’s lights going. It transforms you into this A-List party and you start to really feel like you’re mingling with the celebrities.
CG: What are some tips to have the best experience at Madame Tussauds?
AT: The best way to get the most out of your visit at Madame Tussauds New York is really taking in every single figure. All of our celebrity figures are exactly made how the celebrity is. So the same height, the same birthmarks, the same hairstyle of that time. Every hair is also individually put into the figure, so everything is very authentic, and very real to the person. We also have Priyanka Chopra’s outfit. It’s a big, luscious red dress and the designer actually made that for us to put on her figure.
CG: Can we touch?
AT: Yes! So, typically, pre-COVID times, our guests were able to put their arms around the figures and really interact. Because of what’s happening right now, we just ask that guests are a little bit more cautious, courteous, and maybe refrain from some of that right now until we can actually all have fun together in one room and not have to worry about the pandemic.
CG: How big is the attraction?
AT: At Madame Tussauds New York we have about 200 wax figures and they range from A-Listers to Marvel Superheroes to sports athletes and everything in between. Our attraction is about 8,000 square feet and it encompasses 9 floors. So it’s very large. Typically it takes a guests anywhere to 60 minutes to 90 minutes to get through the entire thing.
CG: How real are the figures?
AT: With every celebrity figure that we make we use the actual person in any way that we can. We actually for measurements we take over 200 measurements of the actual celebrity. I think one of my favorite fun facts actually has to do with Priyanka Chopra. When we made her—she’s of course our Mrs. Jonas—when we made her figure we noticed she had a little burn mark right on her arm. And I think she explained it was due to, I don’t know, she burned herself with a hair tool or something but she has a mark there. And of course, when she came here to see her figure, we actually had that mark exactly where she has it.
CG: What goes into making a figure?
AT: It is a team of about 20 studio artists and they work on the figure for about 6 months or so. So it’s everything from building the wax mold and kind of building the head, it’s hair insertion, all the different hairs are individually inserted in the figure’s head, and it’s also about sourcing outfits and making sure that pose really reflects that person at that time. For Lionel Messi, we actually had individually put every single hair around his mouth to kind of frame that beard. They actually go through the attraction at the wee early mornings of the day before our guests come in to fix up every single figure.
CG: How about younger guests, students?
AT: We also have an amazing world leaders gallery and culture room that features some of those people that these students are reading in their textbook. So George Washington, of course Abraham Lincoln, we have Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, and even some of the esteemed writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway. So these people that are students maybe they read about it and they can never really connect with them. They come here and it clicks and they connect with the real person.
CG: Anything else we should know for a visit?
AT: Madame Tussauds New York has been a Times Square staple for about 20 years. We just celebrated our 20th year last year. When you walk down the iconic 42nd Street you can’t miss Madame Tussauds New York. We’ve got music playing, we’ve got celebrity videos right outside of our attraction, we’ve got people dancing, we always have figures in the lobby. So it’s really a kind of iconic moment as you’re walking down and reinvigorates 42nd Street.
We’re actually trying to feature a little bit more of the behind the scenes work on our TikTok. Of course TikTok is the latest craze so if you follow @madametussaudsusa, it combines all of the secrets and figure maintenance and behind the scenes stuff at all our different attractions. TikTok’s where it’s at!
Madame Tussauds New York, 234 W. 42nd St., Times Square, madametussauds.com/new-york