We chat to the international makeup artist about her journey to the top
From making up some of the world’s most recognized faces (Keira Knightley, Victoria Beckham and Emily Blunt to name a few) to creating looks for prestigious magazines like Vogue, i-D and Harper’s Bazaar to say Liz’s career has been extensive and varied would be a wild understatement. Here we chat to Liz about how she made it to the top and how she balances it all now she is there.
Why did you decide to specialize in makeup?
When I was little I was always fascinated watching my mum apply ‘her face’ and I was mesmerised by all her little pots of colour. Makeup was always a treat for her and she would always be buying a new lipstick to try.
I was always into style and fashion: whilst at school I would spend all my Saturday job wages on magazines like i-D, The Face and Vogue. I remember seeing a particular story in a Vogue that inspired me so much and from that moment on I knew that what I wanted to do was be part of the creation of these amazing images.
I used to go to the clubs in Birmingham in the eighties and I loved how everyone painted their faces - this was the Steve Strange, Leigh Bowery era after all. It fascinated me how you could change a face with makeup and when I couldn't get my hands on all of the colours I would revert to using watercolours to create looks! From the Midlands I then moved to London to do a course in makeup at the London College of Fashion.
When was your big break?
It was a long slow process and a very different one to now. I didn’t start by assisting someone which is how many people get into the industry now but instead did test shoots to get my book together. I don't think I had a big break, it was more of a natural progression and a lot of hard work. One thing that really stands out was working with the late Corinne Day and Kate Moss together - that was such a special relationship. Looking back, working with David Simms and my first i-D cover have also been big highlights.
What does an average day look like for you (if there ever is one!)?
What I love about my job is that no two days are ever the same. Some days I might be getting a celebrity ready for a red carpet, sometimes I am doing the makeup for an editorial and I am often travelling for a shoot.
When working on editorial projects I always have a discussion with the team about what we are doing: the look we want to create, who our girl is, the feel of the shoot, the clothes. Teamwork is so important in my job and I still get so excited about creating the look! We might get a girl ready, take some pictures and find something isn't working, it might be about changing a lip, or taking the whole thing off and starting again. It's a process, but such a rewarding one when you are on a great shoot and the result is strong images.
If I am getting someone ready for a red carpet I will have usually seen the dress before. Again it's a collaboration between the actress, myself, the hairstylist and the stylist - the look has to all work together. It is a little different than working with a model. An actress will be promoting a movie but will be herself so I always want her to feel as beautiful as possible and look herself. It isn't about pushing boundaries - unless of course she is up for it and the look needs it!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love every aspect of the job. I get to work with amazing, inspiring people and I love bringing out the beauty in someone. I love working with skin, creating beautiful skin, not masking it with lots of foundation and concealer. I am a complete product junkie so love to try new things, new textures, new colours. There are always new things in the beauty industry and it is constantly changing and improving.
I also love teaching through the Premier Workshops. It's a great experience to pass on some of the tips and tricks that I have spent many years perfecting to people starting out!
Are there any aspects of your job that you find challenging?
The hours can be challenging. Sometimes I am up really early and finishing late. I can't go to bed unless my brushes are clean - it's like removing your makeup before you go to bed, a job that has to be done! The travelling can sometimes be a little challenging. My kit is very heavy so that can be a little tiresome!
What's the most common question you get asked by clients?
Skin, everyone wants to know how to get the perfect skin! And everyone always wants to know what the best products are; the best mascara, the best foundation... I could chat about it for hours!
What's your team 'me'? Who do you rely on to keep you happy, healthy and sane?
My friends and family are very important to me although I don't get to spend enough time with them. My way to relax is boxing. I go to a boxing club and it really helps me with the more challenging aspects of my job. It helps with jet lag, is a great way to de-stress and shakes the circulation up (I spend long days on my feet).
How is your industry changing?
Social media is so important in my job now. Every aspect of the job is immediate. It used to be that everything was shot on film with Polaroids so you didn't really know the story until it came out in the magazine, but now it is all digital. We see the story developing before our eyes, we know when we have the perfect shot, whereas photographers used to shoot so much film.
The world has really opened up through the web, there is so much information out there. Everything is immediate; on the runways we see the looks before they have even hit the runways!
There are so many more makeup artists out there now. Learning to become one has become much easier due to the courses out there and they are much more specific. But I think it's equally as hard to be successful in this industry with so many more people doing it. There really has to be a lot of dedication, you have to live and breathe work and have a strong work ethic to succeed.