How did you get your start in makeup?
As a teenager in England me and my friends got into doing each other’s makeup and hair, and making outfits from stuff we bought at jumble sales to wear to see bands or go to clubs. I started looking at magazines like i-D and The Face and realized it could be a fun thing to try and do for REAL (Ha!). Maybe it’s because of this that I prefer the homemade, DIY feeling of shoots that feel spontaneous and improvised. Every mood board and pre-meeting is a little death to the creativity, I think.
If you weren’t in makeup, what do you think you’d be doing?
I have no idea what I’d be doing. I hope something creative and fun. I did all kinds of regular jobs before doing this for a living, and none were fun exactly, but I met some cool people.
You’ve had a long, high-profile and diverse career in makeup What do you think gives you and your work that longevity?
I think it’s because, while I have certain things that I’m known for, I’m pretty adaptable and not too precious about it. I have range and I can turn my hand to most things. I like collaborating with different people and trying new stuff, and it doesn’t hurt that I can work fast and get the job done!
As one of the most innovative artists in makeup, how do you find new and unique ways to express yourself in your work?
Thank you! Every job is different, even if some of the elements or other people involved are the same. Each job has its own specific structure and requirements, you need to understand the focal points, the feeling or mood of the work you’re engaged in, you have to talk to the people you’re working with, and be willing to try different things out to get the best result.
Your use of color in beauty is so incredibly impactful. Are there ever mistakes when using boldness in artistry?
We all make mistakes, and as long as you don’t totally fuck things up, they are usually salvageable. I’m obsessive, as many of us are, about color, and I’m keenly aware of how it works in various lights, with the palette and silhouette of the clothes, the hair, and most critically, the model. I think the key is to try and understand the balance of the work. Sometimes the makeup is a prominent part of the picture or show, sometimes it may seem invisible or irrelevant, but doing the right kind of nothing can mean as much as making a big statement with a look. I’ve often said that I’d rather be a small, integral part of an amazing job,than front and center of a disaster.
How do you define beauty today?
I don’t. I can’t and never could. A million things and people and places are beautiful to me, and I suppose at least as many are ugly or aggravating! In terms of my expression of beauty, playing with color in the abstract and applying color to the face are my definitive engagement with the idea of beauty. That’s the closest I get to a meditative state, the moment of applying makeup and seeing the way the face responds, and how the light, color and texture enhances the features.
Your social media truly gives followers a wonderful look at your personality, humor and your personal life as well as your amazing work. Why do you feel it’s important to show both your personal and professional sides?
I didn’t do it on purpose! My husband nagged me into starting on Instagram, he created a monster! I wasn’t on Twitter or Facebook or anything beforehand so I just began by putting up pictures of things that interest me, and I think I got better at it, and it’s cool that other people like it too.
How do you decide what gets included, and curate that mix so beautifully. Is there a plan or is it all organic?
I just do what takes my fancy. It never really occurred to me to “manage my account” or curate it. There’s a certain amount of professional courtesy involved in posting work, of course. Personal stuff is a judgement call — Is it funny? Beautiful? Interesting? Informative? Maybe just mildly diverting is enough.
You are such an inspiration to our industry. I always wonder with so much inspiration that you give, what inspires you? All sorts of things, including all the usual things, art, films, travel, photography, theatre. I can’t wait to see the Alice Neel show at The Met. I have a fascination with Giorgio Morandi, and I’ve just found out about artist Liorah Tchiprout from an Instagram post by Kay Montano. The thing that rarely inspires me, strangely enough, is specific examples of other people’s makeup. Probably because I’ve been at this long enough to have absorbed a ton of beauty visuals into my bloodstream/memory/DNA so there’s a lot in here! [Taps head and winks.]
I love seeing your meal posts come through my feed. What makes a dish one that you want to photograph and share?
Did I enjoy cooking and eating it? How did it smell? Was it a joy to behold or ghastly looking but delicious? Food is endlessly fascinating and as we must eat we might as well celebrate it.
Your dogs, Raggio and Ralph, have also earned quite a place in your followers hearts. Any plan for their own Instagram?
Absolutely not! Those little bastards take up quite enough time as it is! I love them really.
What are you most excited about right now?
Some kind of return to a bigger world. I dare not use the word normal, because normal is not to be aspired to any longer, but I want to share air and music and laughter with people. I want to see all of peoples faces again, to wander aimlessly through different cities, chat in supermarket lines and hug my friends.
Words Michael DeVellis
Photos Dick Page @dickpageface