Backstage Beauty Exclusive: Caroline Donnelly shares her insider makeup tips exclusively with Focus On Style
Caroline Donnelly, M.A.C Pro Team Senior Artist talks to Kirsty Armstrong about the atmosphere working backstage during London Fashion Week, her desire to ‘make up’ singer, Paloma Faith, and must-have makeup products to stock up on for Spring.
Caroline Donnelly is a member of the M.A.C Pro Team and collaborates with designers to create makeup looks for fashion shows and magazines around the globe. She’s worked with a range of celebrities including Erin O’Connor, Elizabeth Jagger and Kylie Minogue. Her work has been published in British Elle, The Observer and InStyle and she specialises in body painting and beauty makeup.
But how do you make it big in the makeup artistry industry? Here, Caroline shares her insider makeup knowledge exclusively with Focus On Style…
KA: When did you know you wanted to become a makeup artist and what inspired you to do so?
CD: I didn’t think about make up artistry being a job until after I’d trained as a graphic designer and realised it wasn’t for me. I loved the illustration side and did this for a few years and then saw a part time make up course at a local college. I loved it. My teacher said I should seek a career in this and so I decided to go for it. After that I won a scholarship at the London College of Fashion for two years. I’d always loved make up and watching my mum put it on. I used to do make-up for other people. I was five-years-old in 1977 when punk broke into the headlines and TV shows. My dad had a couple of albums. I was already fascinated by 1950’s movie stars, and then there was disco. Even at a very young age I was intrigued by these women and their hair and make-up.
KA: What was the first big opportunity/job you were given?
CD: My first paid make-up job was as an extra assistant on the BBC show Byker Grove. I still lived in Newcastle at the time, where it was filmed.
KA: In terms of catwalk makeup, can you talk me through the development process of a makeup look from conception to the final look?
CD: The job starts with the stylist’s vision of what the girls should look like in the show. We then interpret this onto a model in a test situation, days prior to the show. The make-up artist will work together with the stylist, hairdresser and designer to create the final look and this will then be reproduced on the day of the show.
KA: Where do you gather your inspiration and ideas for makeup themes and looks?
CD: I’m inspired by so many different things! It could be make-up I have seen, art, movie stars, real people, fabric. It depends on the situation and what I am doing.
KA: Out of all of the designer makeup looks you’ve created, which is your favourite?
CD: So many shows and so many incredible makeups. It would be impossible to pick just one. One of my most inspirational experiences was with the make-up artist Kabuki; watching how he thinks, designs and makes his visions come to life.
KA: In the makeup/beauty industry who would be your ‘idol’ and why?
CD: There are so many people I admire, but some of the make-up artists whose work never fails to make me happy, are Topolino, Kabuki, Val Garland, Pat McGrath and Alex Box. Each for technical ability, their beautiful work and creative brains.
KA: Working as a MAC Senior Artist during fashion week, what would a day in your shoes entail?
CD: As a MAC senior artist working backstage we have to be very organised. Previous to the show we will have gone to the test and so we know all the products that will be used. As the official make up brand we have to make sure that all of the make up artists on the show will have the correct products. This means going to the MAC Pro store and pulling all the products needed. On arrival at the show we need to distribute these products whilst making sure the key artist has everything he or she needs. We will often help organise the team in line up, so let the make up artists know what the key make up artist wants them to do. For instance, a team to do bodies (moisturize and cover bruises), or they could be on lips, or powder, or whatever is needed.
KA: How would you describe the atmosphere, working backstage at a show?
CD: Sometimes it can be very calm, but mostly it is pretty hectic. Everybody just wants to get all of the models to be ready on time and to look beautiful, whatever the design. It usually starts off calm but then as models arrive late from other shows it’s all hands on deck. As the hairdressers need power for their work, we often have to go to the model in hair. Our tools are easily transportable. This means getting in between the hairdresser’s and sometimes partnering up with another make-up artist. This can be very tricky and your heart goes 90 miles an hour. Try perfecting black liner or sharp lined red lips whilst the models head is tugged about in hair! You get a great buzz from working on the shows. If everything gets really hectic it’s a great sense of achievement when it all works out, and it does because it has to.
KA: If you could use only one makeup product to create a look what would you choose and why?
CD: If I had to just use one product it would be foundation. It comes in so many different colours, textures and finishes meaning that you could create a whole face using just this one product.
KA: You’ve certainly made up many famous faces during your career so far, but if you could work with anyone, at all, who would it be and why?
CD: At the moment I’d love to do Paloma Faith‘s make up as she has an interesting look and she’d be fun to make up. She looks like she’s quite open to different looks and it would be an opportunity to flex the creative muscles
KA: What would you say has been your career highlight to date?
CD: Working with Cyndi Lauper last year was amazing, as I’d loved her growing up. I love working with Erin O’Connor as she is a lovely person with such an amazing face. Travel has been fantastic, going to places I would never have gone. I went to Beirut and loved it. Today I am going to Brazil.
KA: If I asked you to give a ‘makeup forecast’ what do you predict will be the key makeup trends for spring?
CD: Beautiful skin with a gorgeous glow in all the right places. Strong lips. Cream blushes in floral colours. Black around the eyes, or colour, or nothing. There are three rules for spring makeup: colour, colour, colour.
KA: What products should we stock up on to enable us to wear those trends?
CD: MAC Face and Body foundation or MAC Studio Moisture Tint are going to be the base of choice without a doubt. MAC Cream Colour Base, in a colour which works for your skin tone, to highlight skin on cheekbones, bridge of the nose and all of the usual places. Oh, and keep an eye out for a new blush formulation that MAC will be launching next spring, everyone loved these backstage.
KA: Which essential beauty products would you not leave home without?
CD: I couldn’t leave home without blusher, to give me colour in my cheeks; concealer, just for where it’s needed; mascara to open up the eyes; and brow pencil to give my brows their shape as I ruined them when I was young. I think these are beauty essentials for everyone.
KA: Lastly, complete the sentence: ‘Beauty is…’
CD: The old saying ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. It’s different for everyone. Look how you want to look. We are all individuals and your ‘own’ beauty is your beauty. –Kirsty in London