The museum, an institution in the British capital, has been attracting thousands of visitors from all around the world since it opened around 200 years ago. Founder of the museum Marie Tussaud learnt her trade when she became an apprentice to a doctor and wax modeler in Paris in the 1770s. She opened a small wax attraction but left Paris in 1802 for England, taking her wax exhibits with her. After touring England for 33 years, she set up the London museum which is now a global brand with 14 museums worldide. Eight new figures are introduced into the museum every year, says PR Manager Nicole Fenner; as diverse as Republic of Turkey's founder Ataturk, who can be found placed at the "political leaders" section, to celebrity footballer David Beckham. It takes around four months to make a figure, utilises a team of around 20 skilled artists and costs £150,000, says Fenner. Oil paint is also used on sculptures in order to give them that "real look", she says. Some of the techniques that artists at the museum use date back to what Madame Tussaud herself would have done back in 1800s. "We have actually had 23 figures of the Queen herself and some of our sculptors have had sittings with her. A sitting can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours,” says Fenner.
When sculptors make a wax work of a historical figure they immerse themselves in that person by watching hours of film and looking at photos in order to be able to replicate that person in clay.
Real human hair is used on figures to make realistic beards, moustaches and eyebrows, "When we produce figures, each hair is inserted strand by strand, so it can take one of our hair inserters about 6 weeks to do a full head of hair. Even the eyelashes are inserted strand by strand, our Adele figure has four layers of eyelashes, in order to give her that dramatic look that you would see if she was performing," says Fener.
Figures at the museum are dressed as we are used to see them on the screen. They have a wardrobe team who actually make some clothes for their figures. But most of the time, they get donations from the stars themselves. British boy band, 'One Direction' donated the clothes for the sculptures themselves as did British actress Helen Mirren.
It takes the museum's colouring artist, Rebecca Holmes about two and a half hours each morning to re-touch the make up of all 300 wax figures before the visitors come in.
"We freshen up their make-up. Not only their face, but even the skin on their face, hands. When public come in, they are allowed to get up close and personal with the figures. Visitors may have oil or dirt in their hands, so over time bits of paint can start to wear off."
Holmes says it is sometimes hard to remove some marks, "Occasionally, you will get someone like 'One Direction', if fans are kissing them, you will get a lip stick mark and that can be quite difficult to get it off. You might need to just take some solvent, wash it off and then you have to try put the whole cheek back on which can be difficult."
Visitors get a chance to look at celebrities closely, get their photos taken shoulder to shoulder, touch and even kiss them. It can also be surprising for visitors to get to see the actual body measurements of the world leaders or celebrities. Some fans find Madonna shorter than on TV and some others find David Beckham skinnier than he actually is.