Where were you born?
Just outside of Venice, Italy
Where do you live now?
What’s your sign?
When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A Fine Artist
How did you get your start in makeup?
I signed up for a makeup class with Diego Dalla Palma. At that time, he was the leading makeup artist in Milan and in high demand. When he had double requests, he would recommend me for the jobs he could not do.
If you hadn’t gotten into makeup what do you think you’d be doing right now?
If I hadn’t gotten into makeup, I would probably be somewhere in the art business. I’ve always been intrigued by art restoration—working to preserve masterpieces. And this intrigue has never gone away.
How did you know that the makeup industry was where you wanted to be?
By my second booking, which fortunately for me was a shoot for Italian Vogue, I realized that this career was a possibility and it really ignited my interest.
What was your first memorable work as an artist?
A very creative beauty story for Italian Vogue with famous photographer Fabrizio Ferri.
What are the things about your work that makes it the most interesting to you?
Being able to play with colors. I love the process of transformation, the rewards of collaborating with iconic women and iconic photographers and directors. Last but certainly not least, I love the adventure of traveling for my work. Recently, I travelled to Pakistan and Cambodia with Cher to save Kavan, the loneliest elephant in the world. We shot an awareness raising documentary. It was thrilling from start to finish.
What are the challenges you face as a makeup artist?
What is most challenging about being a freelance artist is that you never know when and where your next booking will be. And this makes it impossible to commit 100% to anything — from vacations, fun art classes, family events etc. Because we all know that if a great booking comes along, you aren’t going to refuse it. So, this can impact your personal life, and that’s why it is mportant to have great support from your family.
What should someone who is looking to develop a career in makeup know before getting into the business?
Always do your best. Don’t ever feel like you have “arrived”. There are always ways to grow and improve. Know that you cannot depend on clients to be loyal all of the time. Try not to take it personally when they work with someone else—this is hard to do.
Try to build a variety of clients. Believe in yourself and try to be yourself creatively, instead of following trends. Have confidence but know your place. Build good relationships without being aggressive. Be aware that there is a fine line between being confident and being OVER confident. Make sure your work speaks for itself. And don’t gossip.
What are some of the most important qualities that a makeup artist can have?
Professionalism is key. Keep researching in order to be prepared and inspired. Being a team player, being open to last minute changes and requests and thinking out-of-the-box.
How do you continue to grow as an artist?
In order to grow as an artist, it is important to stay inspired, to not lose the urgency to improve and experiment. It is also very important to maintain good relations with the team you are working with and being respectful of other people.
What has changed most about the industry in the time that you’ve been working in makeup?
What changed the most was the “generational” shift to digital photography. It’s a completely different way of shooting. There’s a stronger reliance on postproduction now, as opposed to earlier when a good photographer was also a master of lighting. Another big change is how makeup has improved in formulations and color selection.
How has social media affected your career or work?
It has not affected my approach to makeup or my career. However, it has greatly affected others. Due to social media, there is an overwhelming tendency to adhere to makeup trends whether they are appropriate or not.
Do you have a signature style?
I don’t like to limit myself to a single style. I love doing everything from extremely natural to very creative or from very soft and blended to very graphic. I believe that versatility is very important to a makeup artist.
What type of work do you find most satisfying?
I find most satisfying any work that gives me creative freedom.
What project did you have the most fun working on?
The feature film Dreamgirls because of working with Beyoncé on such a great project and because the director Bill Condon gave us creative freedom.
What project was the most challenging?
The one where the airline lost my makeup kit so I spent the whole night trying to figure out how I was going to do my job and praying that it would show up.
Do you ever get stuck creatively?
Rather than getting stuck creatively, I would say that my artistic enthusiasm diminishes when there are too many guidelines and parameters.
You work across many mediums – editorial, video, film, red carpet – do you prefer one type of work to another?
Editorial is my favorite because it is usually a more intimate collaboration with the photographer. And I have never lost the thrill of seeing my work in print.
What would your clients say is the best thing about working with you?
My versatility and being able to come up with creative solutions on the spot.
What inspires you?
I feel inspired by life. What I mean by this is that there are no boundaries to where I find inspiration — nature, art, movies, great conversations with other artists. One of my favorite pictures in my book, One Woman 100 Faces, was inspired by a dream It is
an image with eye lashes made of black strips that curl behind her head. It was really powerful. It was truly mind-bending because I don’t think I would have thought it in a conscious state of mind.
Whose work do you admire?
Do you have a project that you’ve done that you are especially proud of?
I am extremely proud of all of the projects I have done with Beyoncé. And I am proud of my book, One Woman 100 Faces. That book One Woman 100 Faces has become a must-have for pro makeup artists around the world.
How did you come up with this concept?
The name came to me first. At the time, I was doing a lot of shoots with my husband Alberto and our favorite model Mitzi Martin. When the name came to me, I realized that we had a lot of different and beautiful images of Mitzi and we loved working together. So, we started shooting more together and continued for many years. In the end, we had over 100 images, but the book showcases 100 complete transformations.
What’s next for Francesca Tolot?
I will let life surprise me. In the meantime, because the pandemic and lockdown stopped all makeup work, I found a new creative outlet which is ceramics.
Words Michael DeVellis
Photos courtesy of Cloutier Remix