Where were you born?
I was born in Jamaica.
Where do you live now?
What’s your sign?
I was born under the sign of Sagittarius.
When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was younger, I did want to be a makeup artist. I am not from the background where this was seen as a good job in my family. There was no career advice available to me at the time, but I loved reading magazines and looking at the models. When
I saw a makeup artist at work on a photo shoot one day as I was making my way home from secondary school, the image of seeing the makeup artist with a large palette applying lipstick to the model was very exciting, and brought to life the pictures I
had seen in my mother’s fashion magazines.
How did that transpose into a working in makeup?
I started out working in the theatre, and later transferred to television and films. Following my training, I was a trainee in the theatre. My first project was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and the star was Jason Donovan. My duties were to
help the department head with the day-to-day makeup of the cast. My department head would do television projects and music videos as well, which she used me as part of her team. From there, I got into the music business, pop videos for different bands. I ultimately collaborated with the band Soul to Soul and ended up working with them. I was the makeup artist on the 1989 world tour which was a career highlight, and one that got me a real start in the industry.
If you hadn’t gotten into makeup what do you think you’d be doing right now?
I absolutely love my job as a makeup artist, and cannot imagine doing anything else, however, I do have a keen interest in nutrition and would probably pursue a career as a nutritionist.
How did you know that the makeup industry was where you wanted to be?
I knew I wanted to be in the TV and film industry, because I was drawn to the creativity, the ability to help create different worlds which can transport the audience. Storytelling was, and still is, an enjoyable part of my job. The collaborative nature of the work is
also very appealing.
What was your first memorable work as an artist?
IMy first memorable work was working on a shoot in the theatre, this was before I was working in films. We were filming Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the magic of the camera work stuck with me for a very long time. I had never seen a Steadicam at work before —the access that the camera had in moving with the performers getting close-ups whilst moving. Also seeing the amount of energy that it took from the operator was new and exciting to watch.
What are the things about your work that you love?
I love working in makeup because of the way it can transform people, the different mediums in which it can be used, whether you are doing a wedding makeup or a huge transformation or a beautiful editorial look, makeup and the skill and experience of using it is the main factor involved. It can also empower, giving confidence. I also love the storytelling aspect of makeup in filmmaking. Collaborating with actor and director also enhances my love for being a makeup artist.
What are the things about your work that makes it the most interesting to you?
There are so many interesting things about my job. I love the way I am constantly learning new things; makeup incorporates history, art, literature, depending on the project. I always learn something new on each project.
What are the challenges you face as a makeup artist?
There are many challenges to being a freelance makeup artist; being unemployed after each project, working with different teams, learning to look after your money.
Was there ever a time when you thought you’d give up?
I have never thought of giving up makeup, it’s the career I wanted since I was an 11-year-old girl. Being a makeup artist is a most fulfilling career, in which I am constantly learning new things, be it art, architecture, history, all of this can be learnt during prep for a project. I am driven to keep on this path, as a makeup artist can touch people’s lives in entertaining and educating. Collabo rating with different actors and directors enhances the love of my job.
What are some of the most important qualities that a makeup artist can have?
In order to have a career in makeup, one should learn to be adaptable, develop strong people skills, learn to read a room, and remember it’s never about you, be a team player, be open to learning new skills in line with your work.
What makes you a good makeup artist?
I am a good makeup artist because I have learnt my craft. I love being creative. I like meeting new people. I love learning new things from different cultures.
How do you continue to grow as an artist?
By keeping up to date with technology. I like being able to continue learning new skills. As an artist, the learning does not ever stop.
Would you say that you have a signature style?
My signature style is clean and fresh. I like to put skincare at the front and centre of my work. By investing in good skincare, it means I can then work with a well-prepared palette to create beautiful clean makeup looks.
What has changed most about the industry in the time that you’ve been working in makeup?
The industry has evolved, with the advent of new cameras come the responsibility of perfecting colour match on skin tones, precision lines, blending products into the skin. If you are using lace made facial hair, the lace has to be made on HD lace and hand lay around the edges to blend. The HD cameras are very unforgiving. The new makeup products which are created to work with HD are also a game changer. One of the most positive changes is the availability of makeup for Black people in a wide range of colors and price range. Social media has also greatly impacted the industry in a positive way, in terms of being able to reach a wider audience. It can also be used in keeping up with
the latest developments in the industry, as well as being able to connect with fellow artists and appreciating their work. Social media also makes learning and celebrating each other easily accessible. It’s a great tool used correctly.
Do you have a project that you’ve done that you are especially proud of?
I am very proud of Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey. It has made a cultural impact. I am proud of the impact it has made on the industry and life as a whole, I have received so many uplifting messages from both my peers and the public. My particular joy is seeing children getting inspired by the work.
What project was the most challening?
The most challenging project of my career has been shooting the movie The Last King of Scotland starring Forrest Whitaker, who won the Academy award for his performance. It was the first time I was a department head on a project of that size. We were shooting in Uganda, recreating a very well-known character. There is no filmmaking infrastructure in Uganda. My team was inexperienced in filmmaking; we had prosthetics, wigs. Having to make Forrest Whitaker look like Idi Amin, and keeping the
makeup on in the heat, was a great challenge. MAC Pro Studio Finish was a life saver. The result was transformative.
What would people say is the best thing about working with you?
I think my work colleagues feel safe, supportive, and valued working with me.
What project did you have the most fun working on?
I always try to bring an element of fun into my work. The days are super long so we have to make sure we can get through the day.
Whose work do you admire?
I admire the works of Kehinde Wyle, for his take on some of the classics from the Old Masters with black protagonists, very empowering. Zadie Smith, as a fellow Londoner, for her depiction of our city and people always gives me a sense of belonging, and for portraying her truth. Jean-Michel Basquiat for being a true genius. I find his work very inspiring. Watching Barry Jenkins’ storytelling, his colour palette in photographing black skin makes me a very happy makeup artist.
What type of work do you find most satisfying?
The most satisfying work is where I am allowed to be creative. Being creative for me is the hope that it will inspire people.
Do you ever get stuck creatively?
I don’t tend to get stuck creatively as I like to feed my creativity between projects. I love to people watch, attend art galleries, museums, and I love travel so I am always finding inspiration. I think, as creatives, it is our duty to continually find ways of keeping creativity alive.
Do you prefer one type of work to another?
I love my job and find it satisfying on many levels. I love starting on a project with a blank slate, designing the looks, which can be doing research if it’s a period piece, the research can lead down many unexplored avenues which I find appealing. Once
we are up and running, the day-to-day running of the department is satisfying. The planning for big days with lots of background players, day players and cast means collaborating with my team and other departments that we work closely with such as the costume department. Physically doing makeup and hair is always the cherry on top once all of the research, planning and briefings are all completed.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by nature. I am inspired by art. I find inspiration in people. Inspiration is all around, we just have to stay present and be aware.
Words Michael DeVellis