×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Meet the ‘Masked Singer’ Costume Designer Behind Those Elaborate Looks

Fox’s “The Masked Singer” is a talent competition with a difference. The series, which drew 9.2 million viewers in its Jan. 2 debut, is not looking to find America’s next big star. Instead, it’s about hiding them as they perform covers of chart-toppers in masquerade.

Twelve celebs compete, with one singer eliminated each week as identities are revealed. Fog machines and backup dancers add to the ambience of this adaptation of a Korean format.

Fooling the audience, as well as the other contestants, requires some intriguing head-to-toe disguises — courtesy of the woman behind the masks of “The Masked Singer,” costume designer Marina Toybina. 

The four-time Emmy winner knows a thing or two about adding razzle-dazzle to performers’ wardrobes, thanks to her work on projects like Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” and Katy Perry’s 2015 Super Bowl halftime show. She says she was most excited to bring a “cinematic approach” to reality TV, a genre that traditionally has schedules and budgets too strict to allow for anything overly complex or avant-garde. 

Toybina started “Singer” with about 20 illustrations, creating characters like a hippo with LL Cool J-style chains, inspired by her love of hip-hop music; a demon-eyed white rabbit in a straitjacket based on the films “Edward Scissorhands” and “Donnie Darko”; and a golden lion that pays tribute to fashion designers like Alexander McQueen and Thierry Mugler as well as the “Chronicles of Narnia” books. 

Toybina says it seemed kismet the way the 12 inaugural singers appeared drawn to particular looks; the person dressed as a glittery blue-and-green peacock — a design that makes her think of a Las Vegas entertainer — performed a song from the Hugh Jackman movie “The Greatest Showman.” 

There were also technical factors to consider, such as whether the performers would be able to dance — or even keep from falling off the stage. Adjustments had to be made to ensure everyone could hear, see and, most important, breathe in the made-to-order masks. 

Toybina says there was “definitely trial-and-error trying to figure out the best way to hide our talent and make them become these characters without any sign of skin.” Other factors included whether the performer had the type of energetic stage presence that would be hindered by a more constricting design or if that person was statuesque and could pull off a more extravagant look. 

The nature of the show also required what Toybina describes as “very, very private” fittings at a “hidden-away” location. She also teases that these looks can be deceiving. 

“There were a few gender mixes within the costumes,” Toybina warns when asked about, say, a curvaceous alien or a corseted unicorn. “I had such creative freedom from my network and the producers that we were able to play around … and the cast was so open-minded as to who would go into a female costume or who would go into a male and how we’d adjust the build based on that.”

The designer is tight-lipped about the original sketches that didn’t make it on-screen, saving them for a potential second season that she says would delve more into fantasy. Might we also suggest a red herring? 

More TV

  • First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban

    First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban-Inspired After-Party (EXCLUSIVE)

    Celebrities at this year’s SAG Awards won’t have to go far for some tropical fun. Sunday’s annual post-show gala, hosted by People magazine for the 23rd year, is set to feature a Cuban-themed party space adjacent to the Shrine Auditorium. “We’re kind of going back to more of a thematic element. I have some close [...]

  • Young Tony Soprano in 'Sopranos' Movie:

    James Gandolfini's Son Michael Gandolfini Cast as Tony Soprano in 'Sopranos' Movie

    Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini, will play the young Tony Soprano in “The Many Saints of Newark,” the  prequel movie to the television series “The Sopranos.” “It’s a profound honor to continue my dad’s legacy while stepping into the shoes of a young Tony Soprano,” Gandolfini said. “I’m thrilled that I am [...]

  • Ray Romano

    TV Roundup: Netflix Releases First Trailer For New Ray Romano Stand Up Special (Watch)

    In today’s TV News Roundup, Netflix teases new stand up special “Ray Romano: Right Here, Around The Corner.” FIRST LOOKS Ray Romano returns for his first stand up comedy special in 23 years with “Ray Romano: Right Here, Around The Corner.” Doing two shows in one night in Manhattan, Romano riffs on friends, marriage, and [...]

  • Kevin BarnettFOX 'Rel' TV show panel,

    Comedian Kevin Barnett Dies in Mexico at 32

    Kevin Barnett, the comedian behind Fox comedy series “Rel,” has died while on vacation in Mexico of unknown causes. He was 32. Barnett’s New York City-based comedy career was just taking off at the time of his death, having recently executive produced and co-created Fox TV series “Rel” alongside comedians Lil Rel Howery and Josh [...]

  • Can't We Talk About Something More

    Roz Chast Memoir ‘Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?’ to Be Adapted Into TV Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Famed New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast is taking her sardonic wit to a television screen near you. Her best-selling graphic memoir “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” is being adapted into a half-hour television series by Shivani Rawat’s ShivHans Pictures and Ken Kwapis’ In Cahoots, Variety has learned. Emmy-winning writer Sheila R. Lawrence (“The [...]

  • Jesse Redniss Variety Entertainment & Technology

    WarnerMedia Debuts Content Innovation Lab Fueled by AT&T Tech

    WarnerMedia is launching an incubator meant to “combine emerging technologies with content from across its operating units to create new and innovative consumer experiences and businesses,” the company announced Tuesday. Led by Jesse Redniss, Turner’s executive VP of data strategy and product innovation, the WarnerMedia Innovation Lab is looking to integrate its intellectual property and talent [...]

  • Ilha de Ferro - Dante (

    NATPE: 5 Takes on Brazil’s Globo and Its 2019 Lineup

    MIAMI  — In hallowed tradition, Brazilian TV giant Globo unveiled its NATPE line-up on the first day of the Miami trade fair. With scripted and non-scripted promos playing to a thundering soundtrack Jerry Bruckheimer would have been proud of, this was, as ever for Globo, a polished and powerful presentation. But it also said much [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content