Inside Job: How Jules Heptonstall makes it work

October 15th 2015 / Anna Hunter

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Instagram @StTropezTan

St Tropez expert Jules’ career if the definition of glowing your own way. Here’s how he instigated a change in career path by sheer determination (and a hefty dose of good humour…)

What exactly does a ‘skin finisher’ do, you might ask? We asked pretty much that of leading tanning expert and St Tropez ambassador Jules Heptonstall, and the answer was quite literally, very colourful (not in a sweary way). He’s round at Nick Grimshaw’s house one day and leading a team behind the scenes at a fashion show the next, ensuring that his clients are immaculately turned out to the brief on each and every occasion. He works in collaboration with some of the world’s top makeup artists, designers and photographers, can call many a celebrity a close friend thanks to his wit, skill and dedication and is a very influential voice in the world of tanning and skincare- he’s the go-to man for press quotes and trend forecasts.

Just how did he rise to the top of such a niche profession, and how does he squeeze in X Factor, Strictly, private clients, blogging and family life into his week? It’s fair to say he’s pretty flexible...

GTG: Describe what you do. What does a typical day look like?

Jules Heptonstall: A typical day is something I can only dream of! My schedule changes almost every five minutes. Being a leading tanning expert for St Tropez I mainly work with celebrities which means I have to adapt to their ever fluid calendars but then I also have a growing blog so I have to balance everything out! Essentially I have two jobs; both work alongside of each other but they are quite the plates to spin, as follows.

Plate 1: Global Tanning Expert for St. Tropez – I am essentially one of the very very few go-to experts in beauty when it comes to spray tanning and using self tan. This means juggling celebrity diaries, working alongside some of the world’s biggest makeup artists (I just worked with Val Garland for what felt like a thousand shows over London Fashion Week SS16), giving my expert knowledge through hints and tips via magazines not only in the UK but across the globe, and filming how-to videos for St. Tropez’s various social media channels. I also work with private clients, those who just want an impeccable spray tan at home, and to me they are just as important as my celebrity clients.

Plate 2: My blog. I started my grooming, fashion and food blog over five years ago as a hobby, a creative outlet if you will. Gradually over time it’s grown and grown. Being someone who actually works as an expert in the beauty industry means I speak with clout and recommend good products, cook healthy and easy to make dishes and (I like to think) and often wear nice clothes! The growth in my blog has meant I’m starting to get booked to talk at events – I’m currently working with The Clothes Show Live bringing my beauty, fashion and tanning knowledge to the masses!

However, I do try to keep some form of routine! I wake up around 8am, and usually I’m straight on Instagram. I like to sit on Instagram and flick through accounts that inspire me before I get out of bed. I make my boyfriend and I organic coffee and usually have a Nutribullet smoothie or juice so that I can get myself geared up for the day. I love using Neat Nutrition Matcha Powder, the effect it has on me in terms of positivity is unreal. It’s basically the elixir of feelgood.

GTG: Could you tell us a little about your background?

JH: I studied International Fashion Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and essentially should have become a fashion PR or fashion buyer. After a stint in London I moved to Australia to work in magazines before returning to the UK and starting work with St. Tropez in the product development team. I slowly realised a desk job and spreadsheets just weren’t for me and I trained in spray tanning by assisting Nichola Joss who’s worked with celebrities including Cate Blanchett, Kate Moss and Keira Knightley. I was given my first break with make up artist Natalya Nair on The X Factor in 2011. From that moment my spray tanning career bloomed, I started my blog and I was then poached by Strictly Come Dancing where I was lead tanning expert for 3 years. I trained in makeup at the Cassie Lomas Academy in Manchester in 2014 to improve my skills ( I LOVE learning) and started my Youtube channel quickly after. I’m one of those people who can’t sit still, I love trying new things and pushing myself to achieve more and more.

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GTG: What motivates you?

JH: I’m lucky that at 29 I’ve experienced a fair share of stressful, elating and even some very dark work-life situations. It’s shaped me to remain wholesome and grounded but still able to hold onto the wisp of utter madness that luckily I can use to make those around me laugh. I read The Secret when I was 22 and something dropped in my head: achieve your dream. This might sound like madness to some, but every day I think about what I want, where I want to be and how I’m going to get there – what’s the next move? Where’s the next door opening and am I ready to close another door? I am always saying to my friends; turn the negativity into positivity. If someone cancels the meeting or messes you about it’s their loss, from that situation you’ve learnt the kind of person to avoid and to move away from. I was badly bullied at school and didn’t have an easy run into my 20s at all, but I turned that negativity around and had an ‘I will succeed, I will prove you all wrong’ attitude.

GTG: How do you organise yourself?

JH: I think five steps ahead. I can’t plan anything concretely because my schedule is never set in stone. I have a huge wall chart in my study with different stickers, coloured pens and scribbles, showing when I’m in London, when I’m back north with my family and when I’m overseas.

My boyfriend works in TV so we are at times like ships in the night. If we both scribble on this wall chart we’ll know where the other is, that’s the aim anyway. With a food shop I shop on Ocado from my mobile in the back of a cab and I buy in bulk – four almond milks instead of one and an endless supply of kitchen roll. I think that my work life could always be more organised, but don’t we all think that?! I try to set times in my head on places I can meet people and times that work for clients, so for instance on Mondays I just make content for my blog, I shoot videos, products and once every 4-6 weeks I shoot fashion with my amazing photographer Frances (we shoot street style and just bank the shots).

With tanning I know I’ll be in Covent Garden a few days in the week at St Tropez HQ, and I block out times such as Sunday, Thursday and Friday afternoons and early evenings for home visits. I’m currently tanning Nick Grimshaw (Thursday afternoons) for The X Factor and Claudia Winkleman (Friday afternoons) for Strictly Come Dancing. Friday evenings are for myself and my boyfriend to drink wine and listen to my friend Annie Mac on Radio 1 but other than that, book in wherever you see a space!

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GTG: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to do what you do?

JH: Brace yourself for one hell of a ride. I went to university and I’m so happy I did as it gave me a chance to grow into my own skin and find somewhere in the working world I liked (no boys schools do fashion and beauty!). But I don’t think you necessarily need to go to university to have this job, you just need the ability to learn new skills. I’m a great believer in assisting and interning. I moved to London with no money, and when I lived in Australia I had to sell my clothes to pay my rent. Don’t ever expect to start on a killer salary in this industry; you won’t!. Ambition, drive and the pure desire for a career will shape it, the dream job won’t be handed to you on a plate, you have to go out and get it for yourself. When I was assisting Nichola Joss she told me that it takes roughly five years to get everything kicked in, and it did. My head was down, I missed a few birthdays, skipped holidays and even worked 7 days a week at one stage but I’m glad I did. I feel like it’s finally starting to pay off, but I’m not giving up – the focus is still there I’m going for gold! Pick a career and run with it, give it time, stay patient and be prepared to start in one place and end up somewhere totally different. Your real friends will support you. Don’t work with a client you don’t like working with either, they’re not worth it. You are.

GTG: How do you achieve a work-life balance? (Your phone, social media, evenings etc.)

JH: This has taken YEARS to perfect! I’m lucky that many parts of my life don’t feel like work. Many of my clients have become friends so seeing them early in the morning or late at night isn’t that bad, especially if they feed me! I wake up 30 minutes before I’m due to get out of bed and actually use Instagram to wake me up (I only follow really inspirational accounts or friends). I find this helps put me in a driven mood for the day. I always put my family first, no matter what, which means at times I’ve lost out on some pretty big work but that 90th birthday, that graduation and helping my brother move into his first flat were worth more to me. It means a lot of long drives to the north of England but it’s fine, they’re worth it. I don’t check my phone after 10pm and I read before bed instead of watching TV or flicking through my phone. I try to set aside 3 nights in the week for work, the others are for personal.

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GTG: What 3 things do you do to maintain energy, focus and motivation throughout the day? (food, snacks, fitness etc.)

JH: I eat healthy and try to read my body through my skin, for instance I know if I’m stressed, run down or if I’m eating badly, it shows up in my skin (it’s the map to our insides!). I try to steer clear of gluten and recently I’m seeing a massive change in my skin since minimising the level of dairy in my diet. I don’t eat processed food at all and cook from scratch. Cooking for me is not only a way of eating healthy but it’s a way of switching off and just focusing on one task in hand.

If I’m working in a studio or an office I will usually go out for lunch. The fresh air clears my head and I’ll phone my Mum to talk about wall paint or curtains, anything that’s removed from what I’m doing at that minute. She’s a yoga teacher so keeps everything very balanced and centred. If I’m having a hard day I’ll phone my boyfriend, he’s great to have a rant with and he’s my biggest fan.

To get your hands on a bit of St Tropez magic and one of the most exciting innovations in tanning for quite some time, purchase our Latest in Beauty Cult Collection box, which is stashed with a mini St Tropez Gradual Tan In Shower.

Follow Jules on Instagram @julesvonhep and Twitter @julesvonhep

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