Here is a great interview (yeah !) of the wonderful Alice Lane (Girl crush !) who is a make up artist in New York.
I don’t know if you remember, I had been so inspired the first time I met her, in Paris. At that time she was working with Aaron de Mey and I had fallen under their spell.
Since then we saw eachother again, on shootings or on the street… She started to build her solo career.
Now she works for US and Italian Vogue and many others.
With her talent and passion, I am not surprised of her success, and I thought you’d be interested to know how to become a make up artist.
Hi Alice! Can you tell me a little bit about where you’re from and how you got started doing makeup?
I’m from England, Shropshire, which is by Wales. I guess it would be like being from Vermont in America, and just with sheep and cows and not much else…
I did music from the age of 12 all the way through. That’s how I went down to London, and that’s how I came to New York. I sort of fell into makeup around 2005.
I was so lucky because I got to assist Aaron de Mey, and I just started being his full time assistant and going to Paris, I was just really lucky, because he’s such an amazing make-up artist and such a lovely person. I learned a) how to do make-up and b) how to conduct yourself properly because the fashion industry can be quite intense and he’s such a nice guy that’s why it’s easy for him, because he’s kind.
You went to art school, right?
Yes, I did, but I was a dropout. I was an art-school dropout.
I wish I’d stayed now, I look back and think wow you know that would have been amazing years of my life. I’m not proud of dropping out at all, I wish I hadn’t.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I either wanted to be a drummer or I wanted to be a music journalist.
I heard you started doing makeup while you were in a band.
Yeah, I was in a band and my ex is a music photographer. When he shot bands they would hate having a hair and makeup or even a stylist, so I started to help with hair and makeup.
I think the first musician I did was the guy from The Killers, and he wanted mascara. I remember being so nervous like putting it not only on a person, but a boy. It was super scary.
So how did it become more of a career?
I was trying to figure out what I was trying to do with myself and what inspired me. I love fashion, one of my heroes is Vivienne Westwood. I was looking at old Westwood shows in a magazine and I looked at the makeup and I thought to myself, “oh it’s like painting, she’s painting a face, that’s interesting. I could do that.” And I just sort of started learning more and then got so lucky to be a full time assistant to somebody who had the exact same feelings about it. And it just went from there. I was really really lucky.
So how did you get your assisting position? What was the path to getting that?
I assisted a few other people. My acupuncturist introduced me to a wonderful makeup artist and lady called Susan Houser, that was my first assistant position. Then I basically called up Aaron’s agent and asked. He was doing a show for Marni down in Dallas and I flew to Dallas and was on his team of people. Then I went with him to his shows, as his fourth assistant or something. I didn’t even know how to do makeup, it was really terrifying. Then I went full time and he taught me everything.
So you didn’t necessarily go to school to be a makeup artist. Would you recommend that to someone who’s aspiring to be a makeup artist?
I would, but I think you need to always be in motion. It’s really important to have motion for yourself, and to always be learning. I read a lot about makeup. I go up to The Met, and I look at old paintings, and if you look at their faces you can see the highlights they put in are exactly what we do. And I think that if you’re really are serious about doing something the motion will come to you and you won’t have to force it. But definitely each day search.
So you do editorial and you work on ad campaigns, shows, a little bit of everything. So what was the process like for growing your career?
When you start, you really pay your dues, and you have to do a lot of editorial and you work for free constantly. But I’ve never seen it as, “I’m going to work and I’m not getting paid.” With editorial you don’t really get much at all.
I think if you think in your head, Oh I’m not getting paid for this, you’ll set yourself up to fail. You have to think I’m going to do this, I’m going to do a beautiful face, and from that someone’s going to see it and I’m going to get another job, and another job, and another job. And then you meet people and stylists, and then the advertising work comes. And the advertising work is so great. It’s such a luxury to do it. And that pays for all that other hard work, so it balances.
Do you have a favorite brand or magazine you like to work with?
I really love working for Vogue, I feel very privileged, and I always work with Phyllis Posnick. Every time I go and work with her I learn something new. Even on the most simple sitting, even if it’s a man we’re photographing and I haven’t even done a single bit of makeup I just sit there all day watching Phyllis. It’s my favorite, she’s completely involved.
What is that process like for you, working with an editor, photographer and model to come to a final vision?
Well, it depends on the shoot, but there’s definitely a form of hierarchy on a fashion shoot. I love that; it thrills me.
Normally, the stylist will tell you the direction or the references of what they were thinking. I always try to put that in my mind. Sometimes they’re very precise and say it’s this color lipstick and this color eye, that’s what I see. And I just try my best to make them as happy as possible. And other times they’ll say to me, I don’t know, “have a look at the clothes, what do you think,” and that’s fun too. But you just never know, and that’s why when I go to work I like to take a lot of scrapbook things and reference pictures. Also, I have photos of ideas I did that didn’t happen, because that could be good for something else. Sometimes you work with a hairdresser and you can see their ideas too and what they think.
When you’re working on a big shoot like that do you ever feel like sometimes your vision gets compromised?
Probably. But it’s really not about me at all. It’s about the picture and the final result. And as long as everyone’s happy and the final picture is beautiful, that’s really all that matters. The only time it’s about me, and what I think, is if I‘m doing an individual beauty story and it’s about makeup. And then it matters purely, and again just in result of what is the picture going to be. Nothing else matters. Unfortunately, or fortunately.
So what’s an average day like for you?
Call times have been getting earlier and earlier, I don’t know what this is all about, I remember this 9 o’clock thing.
But you show up at 8am, set up. You sit down, you talk to the stylist, if you haven’t discussed it before the shoot, and the photographer, meet the model. The hairdresser almost normally goes first. And I got so used to that that when they say, “do you want to go first?” I’m like ummmm. I kind of like to feel it out a little bit.
Then you do the makeup and the hair. It depends on the photographer but sometimes they’ll do a test shot to see if it’s working. You might have to change it, and you might have to change it ten times, you have to be ready for that. That’s a really important thing: try not to get too set on an idea in your head, and too rigid. Because then when they ask you to change it, you can get a little upset and it could destroy your creative flow. Try to think it’s just a trial.
At the beginning, I’d do the makeup and if it had to be changed in any way I’d be like, “ oh my god, I messed up!” and you didn’t. Everybody has to change something. The editor changes it, the photographer has to change, everybody has to…
How do you keep your work interesting and exciting?
That’s what being, searching, is about. You could get very easily into a rut, doing the same makeup, and having the same feelings about things. You have to look at the collections, you have to learn about the designers and what they’re doing. You have to look at films happening, music that’s happening. And get inspired by what’s going on around you and then bring it into your work. Because things are always changing, things are always happening. Even you can be inspired by what the weather was like on that day. Divine little things.
How do you challenge yourself?
You’re only as good as your last shoot, as far as I’m concerned. You’re only as good as the one that you’re on. If you sit back, like I had this beauty shoot come out in Italian Vogue, I could tell you a hundred things that were wrong with it and what I would have done differently. And if I had looked at that and been satisfied I think I would be pretty boring.
When you first start out in makeup, is there an initial investment you need to make? Did you build a kit?
Yeah, I built a kit. I think I spent $500, I spent most of my money on brushes, and you just gather little bits of makeup. In the beginning I only had three body makeup colors, but I’d mix them and make colors. Then you can go to certain makeup stores and they’ll give you discounts. It builds over time.
What would you say are the essential things you need to have?
I think you need good brushes, you need good skincare, you need good base products. I use Laura Mercier. Good skin is really important. If you can do good skin, you can do anything with that. Unfortunately with things like skincare, the more you spend the better it is.
So you’re in New York now, you were in London before, do you think that as a makeup artist you need to be in a big city?
Yes, in order to make money. You could be an amazing makeup artist living in, I don’t know, the middle of the desert, in your own way. But if you want to make money, you have to be here.
How do you define beauty? What is beauty to you?
I think it’s joy in a person. I work with the most beautiful women in the world, and if somebody’s unhappy inside, it just is not beautiful.
And people that are interested in life are beautiful. I have to say funny people. I was thinking the other day, what do I find attractive in a man? And it’s one that makes me laugh. It’s people with humor and wit, and that sort of spark to them. They’re magical people.
You have worked with a lot of great people like that. Do you dream of having that kind of recognition for yourself one day, or do you feel that way now?
I read this interview once with Didier Malige and they asked him who he liked to work with, and he said he liked to work with Aaron because he’s a really nice guy, and that really struck more with me than anything else. I have my good days and bad days, but I hope that I do a really good job and I keep it together and am nice.
Would you say Aaron is your mentor?
Yes, and Phyllis.
Great mentors to have! What’s the best advice that you’ve gotten from both of them?
Phyllis is to be precise.
Aaron has taught me so many things. I think that Aaron is just always enthusiastic, he’s always happy. Aaron will, if he sees an assistant struggling with a heavy box, he’ll go carry it. And that’s kind of amazing, because there’s a lot of snobbery and he will be there on his hands and knees scrubbing the floor with the assistant. You know, we’re not all perfect, and we’re not all like that, but to try and be as good is a great goal.
What would you say your proudest moment in your career has been?
I’ve had so many great moments. When Italian Vogue came out last year, the beauty story in that, and it was my first beauty story for the magazine. I did actually quite extreme makeup, and I was quite proud of that. And, when I started to do the Oscar de la Renta show, and it’s 50 girls, and there’s a lot going on.
What has been your most challenging moment of your career?
Learning to keep things together, if you’re not having a good day. The thing with fashion is if you’re having a bad day personally you still have to go to work and give 100% and be happy and because it’s all of these other people relying on you.
Well I have to ask, what is your beauty routine personally?
I like to use the Eve Lom cleanser with this washcloth. It’s this little muslin washcloth and you steam your face with it, you steam your pores. I’m obsessed with skincare because I feel like red heads have skin that’s so fragile and also doing makeup on 16 year olds every day doesn’t help.
So really good facewash, big moisturizer, sunblock, conealer, and then I love lipstick. I never wore mascara for my twenties. But now, I’ve turned 30 and I need a little bit. But that’s it. I’m very minimal. I don’t tend to wear makeup to conceal, more as an accessory, like if I’m wearing something fun, I’ll put a bright lipstick on. Oh and I bleach my eyebrows.
What’s your dream for yourself for the future?
I want to be a better makeup artist. I really want to. I’ve got so much more to learn, so many more things to discover. I want to just get better and better.
Any final words of advice for aspiring makeup artists?
I just think it’s important to be happy and positive. And also compare is despair, 100%. Don’t get all psycho about what other people are doing. Everybody does it, we’ve all had our moments on models.com. But you just wasted half and hour staring at them, when you could have been a) having fun b) dancing to music c) cleaning your bathroom. There’s so many other things. We’ve all done it, but just don’t. Stop it. Slap, slap yourself. Shut your hand in your computer. That’s what you should do. Step away from the technology.
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