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Mini facials, studying and SPF: The secrets of a successful makeup artist

October 2nd 2015 / Anna Hunter

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Kelly Cornwell on why reading both books and people can get you far in the beauty industry…

From high fashion to pared back, makeup artist Kelly Cornwell can create almost any cosmetic look her clients dream up, and she has some VERY prestigious clients (think Vogue, Vanity Fair, Cerutti and the likes of Elizabeth Hurley and Emily Blunt). Her vast knowledge bank and flair is in demand, and as Beauty Director for Wonderland she’s at the forefront of cutting edge beauty developments and the eye responsible for many a boundary pushing shoot. As well as promoting innovation, she is a firm believer in a holistic approach to beauty, hence her role as makeup artist expert for ELEMIS. We quizzed her on how to make it in the beauty business, what makes great makeup and what she keeps in her personal kit while jetting around the globe...

Get The Gloss: How did you get started in the world of makeup artistry? Did you have a mentor or particular source of inspiration?

Kelly Cornwell: I started my makeup journey as soon as I left school. I received a scholarship to attend the London College of Fashion at the age of 16, to do a two year full time course in Fashion Styling for Hair and Makeup. At the time I loved Kevyn Aucoin; he had some great books out and it was the 90s. From my point of view there wasn’t much happening in makeup (it was all grunge!), so his glamour was a source of inspiration. Books were a big thing when I started as there was no internet, so you couldn’t Google someone. If a client had a particular look in mind from an era you had to know what that was, and the only way to know was to look at lots of books. I then assisted various makeup artists for eight years, completing a two year full time assisting job with the great Linda Cantello, before finally signing to Premier Hair and Makeup at 26 years of age. I’ve now been with them for 12 years!

GTG: What skills do you think are essential for being a great makeup artist, both practical and from a ‘people’ point of view?

KC: Skills are obviously important, colour matching and application in particular, but I did learn early on that makeup artistry is also about good taste and communicating with people. You need to know how to read people, which is hard as what a natural look may be in your eyes could mean something completely different in somebody else’s.

GTG: Would you say that you have a signature style? Is there a makeup look that you’re known for or particularly love?

KC: I feel I do have a style, I’m a BIG skin ‘base’ girl. I always like skin to be clean and glowing even if it’s a matte look; it has to be clean and well prepared. If you look at my work the skin is always alive. A splash of colour also works wonders.

GTG: What has been your most exciting or unusual job to date?

KC: There have been lots of exciting jobs, one that is special to me was working with Lee McQueen, on one of the last shoots he did, a shoot with Nick Knight and McQueen for his campaign and a video for his last show. The video was played while the show took place, and it featured model Raquel Zimmerman alongside lots of real snakes. It was an amazing experience, but sad in hindsight as it was to be his last.

The best place I have been has to be Alaska for an advertising job. I saw the Northern Lights and the surroundings are breathtaking.

GTG: What are your personal beauty must-haves?

KC: Personal must haves of mine are ELEMIS Pro Collagen Cleansing Balm, ELEMIS Pro Collagen Marine Cream, ELEMIS Pro Collagen Eye Renewal, lip balm, mascara and not forgetting a cream blush.

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GTG: Skin is your canvas; how do you look after yours and recommend that clients do the same?

KC: No matter what time I get in, I always wash my face. I don’t always moisturise at night, but I wash away all the dirt. You can always make up for the lack of moisture in the morning! I also use an SPF, and while I’m not a big ‘sun’ person, on shoots I’m often in direct sunlight at the hottest time of the day, so I always apply SPF both on my clients and myself. I’m of the opinion that you should take a little sun each year, not lie baking in it for hours. I always do a mini facial on my clients before any shoot or personal appearance etc. It works because hair comes first, so while hair is being done, it gives me time to prep the skin with a mask, eye mask and various creams, which is really a must before any makeup application that has to stay fresh for sometimes 12 hours or more.

GTG: Your job involves a lot of travel; how do you stay energised despite jetlag and long hours?

KC: I try to rest whenever I can. I love travelling on my own as it gives me valuable ‘me time’, which is so important, especially these days (I just don’t think we get enough!). If I get to an airport early I go for a massage or a quick facial- ELEMIS have a great spa at Terminal 5, which is great to get you ready for a long haul flight, but I also love the massage chairs. It’s great to get a back and feet massage to get the blood moving. A good eye mask and refreshing facial mist are musts too.

GTG: How do you like to relax on rare days off? Are you more DIY or ‘day spa’?

KC: I like a DIY approach but I do also enjoy going for a treatment. Having one is a great way to break away from your phone and think of other things. The House of ELEMIS quartz bed is amazing when you want to disconnect from the world (even just lying on it helps!); team it with a massage and it’s bliss.

GTG: What’s your attitude to health, fitness and wellbeing?

KC: My attitude to health, fitness and wellbeing is do everything, but have a ‘little and often’ attitude. We all get carried away with the ‘quick fix’ and being a size 0, as long as you’re fit and happy it shouldn’t matter what size you are.

GTG: You’ve trained ELEMIS staff to apply makeup post treatments and facials. What are the essential elements for a pared back beauty look?

KC: If I have just been for an amazing facial I don’t want to pack on loads of makeup, but if I’m meeting someone for a drink or dinner I also don’t want to look shiny and hot. It’s about just enhancing what you have so that the skin looks glowing and bright from your facial. You should only need a little concealer under the eyes or on a pimple, a cream blush, a dusting of powder then a smudge of liner and some mascara. Add a little gloss or lippy and you’ll look incredible. Pared back beauty at its best!

This feature was written in partnership with ELEMIS

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