I have to admit, I’ve always thought makeup or ‘face paint’ as something rather frivolous—or practical (since it’s so handy at hiding flaws from people with otherwise perfectly good vision). But then, as I learned more about it, I began to think about it differently too. (The shift begun when I was researching a story on makeup competitions for a theatre magazine—one of the privileges of being a writer is that you come to learn a lot about the most random things).
You see, in many ways, it’s art. The canvas just happens to be different. And like art there’s much to it beyond just an expression of creativity. It can be very political, for example.
Recently, for FLARE, I interviewed London-based celebrity makeup artist and author of NYT best-seller Face Paint: The Story of Makeup, Lisa Eldridge.
Eldridge’s fascination with faces begun at an early age. In art class, she’d draw portraits on paper and use makeup to colour them in. “It felt natural to me to draw faces and put makeup on them,” she admitted to me, “I used to look at great paintings and you can see the makeup represented on the face —the blush and lip colour which weren’t natural even then—in 18th century French paintings everything is embellished in a way that’s kind of like painting makeup.” More than just a form of art and a chance to play with texture, Eldridge finds the politics, psychology, and tribal aspect of makeup fascinating.
That early passion spiralled into a successful career and today she’s known to many from her YouTube Channel where she gives pro advice, as well as being the former creative director for Boots No7, and the current global creative director for Lancôme. Not short on celebrity clientele, Eldridge has worked with the likes of Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet, Cara Delevingne, Katy Perry, Emma Watson, Kate Moss, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lopez, Sandra Bullock, and many others.
As we continue to play with ‘face paint,’ Eldridge hopes that we appreciate just how fortunate we are to be able to wear and experiment with whichever makeup we like—without being insulted or judged for wearing it. “[This last century] is the first time in the history of the world to be somebody who enjoys makeup because if you were even allowed to wear it in the first place, you’d have to wear and apply it a certain way and not go anywhere outside of that.” But this has all changed, now. “If you live in Canada, but you like the way Japanese girls do their makeup you’re able to see it on the Internet and social media, get tips from girls in Japan…there’s so many styles to choose from and you can change every day…and if you want to, you can wear no makeup at all, without being criticized.”
Several years ago, just as makeup gurus were infiltrating Youtube, Eldridge predicted that: “Everyone will be their own makeup artist.” And it happened. It really happened.