“I grew up in the countryside of England, on the outskirts of London, and my mum used to grow loads of herbs and vegetables and flowers, and she would make bread and wine and jam. I was influenced by this early on and I would make potions and perfumes from all of the flowers and herbs. My grandma collected empty perfume bottles and every time we would go around there I would sneak a couple out. At Christmas, I would wrap them all up with the potions and perfumes and give them as gifts. Everyone would recognize the bottles and have a laugh, but that really impacted the roots of who I am. It was my start.
My father was in the movie business and when he was working at Pinewood Studios, which was close to where I lived, he would sometimes take me with him. I couldn’t really go on set so I would sit in the makeup van with all of the girls doing everyone’s makeup and hair. They’d let me play with the wigs and hold the pins… So I thought, ‘one day, I’m going to be a makeup artist and a hairdresser,’ and that’s all I really wanted to do.
So I left school and I went to a local college to get a City and Guild qualification for hair and beauty. I went for two years and when I finished, I realized that it was completely useless because to go into London and be a top hairdresser, I needed to go and do an apprenticeship, so I kind of had to start all over again.
I had decided that I didn’t want to go work on a movie set and be there at 4 a.m. because my life would be miserable, so I decided that the salon life was going to be for me. I started training with a group of salons outside of London; the guy was partners with Daniel Galvin and he trained me as a junior colorist. I then moved into London and worked at some of the top salons there, and started my career amongst the society ladies of London. At the time, I had a big love affair with London; the fashion, the music scene, Vivienne Westwood opened her store, it was all going on on King’s Road. It was really a fantastic time to be there.
In 1990, I had decided to open a salon-slash-health club with my friend who was in the gym world. It was a little cutting edge for the time as nobody was really doing it. We got a lease for a place in London, we had the plans drawn up, and then the ’90s recession hit really hard and I lost everything. So then I needed to get out of London and I moved to America with 500 dollars in my pocket. My friend who I was going to open the business with rented an apartment in Los Angeles and I decided to go with him.
I arrived, not thinking that I was going to stay, and I met someone; he was a hairdresser and he worked at Juan Juan in Beverly Hills. Within two months, I’d been offered a job there as a colorist, and Juan offered to sponsor me for my Green Card. I remember thinking that the two years in college was a complete waste of time because it was more geared towards doing the movie stuff, but it was the one thing that differentiated me from a lot of other people and helped me to get my Green Card. So, in the end there was a reason that I had done the schooling.
At this point, my career just took off; I had opportunity after opportunity, starting with working on a shoot with Oribe and doing a complete color change of Niki Taylor for the cover of Elle Magazine. I worked alongside Johnathan Gale, who was fabulous, and as soon as I had completed my five years for my Green Card, I was offered a position at the then Prive Salon on Melrose Place. I took the job, and I was surrounded by people like Andy LeCompte, who was 18-years-old when I started working there, Byron [Williams], Leanne [Citrone], Andy’s partner, Kim Vo, Laurent [Dufourg]… We were all young and just starting. It was a great time for me; I started doing color for so many celebrities, like Kate Hudson, Charlize Theron, Brittany Murphy, Rebecca Romijn.
Andy LeCompte left to go to Chris McMillan and I decided to go as well. At Chris McMillan, I met Neil [Weisberg] and that’s when I decided to open a salon with him, and we became Neil George, which was a really hot celebrity salon. We also started a product line, which was sort of a dream come true for me and a nightmare for him.
About five years ago, my friend and client Kelly Wearstler, who owned the Viceroy Hotel Group at the time, asked me if I would be interested in doing an amenity line for the hotels. The Neil George product line had already started, and I said yes and I developed a line for her within the Neil George portfolio. Simultaneously, the other part of my business – the product formulations – started to grow as well.
In 2012, Neil George disbanded and we discontinued the Neil George product line. I repartnered with Jonathan Antin, who is a reality TV show star and a hairdresser, and we started the Jonathan and George Salon. I am now procuring a new line for the Viceroy on my own called Roil. This is a lifestyle brand, not a haircare brand.
Even now, 30 years later, I never look at my job as work. I just love painting, and I’m never bored. I really love doing what I do. With products, I’m just in awe at how it always reinvents itself and how it’s always really new and exciting. I’m just thrilled to be a part of it.”
– Celebrity colorist Amanda George of the Jonathan and George Salon.
“My Nan was a hairdresser and she used to have these old ladies around her house and she would be doing their hair for them. I remember smelling the perm lotion and I saw her chatting and socializing with these women and making them feel and look better. She became my inspiration and I thought it was a really fun job because to me, it was just about hanging out, chatting, and catching up. My Mum also used to have a lady come around the house every week or so to do her hair and I was fascinated by that from a young age. I used to have a loft at my parent’s house and I would play salon. All the kids would come and I would put rollers in their hair and try to perm it. Mid to late 80s, everyone had a perm so I was obsessed with trying to make hair curly.
I went to drama school for two years after graduation because I didn’t want to do hair, thinking it’s not normal for a boy to want to do hairdressing. I was beginning to be very aware of what other people might think because I was grew up in quite a small town. Drama school was great because I found confidence in myself. Alongside of that, I worked at a restaurant bar part-time to pay for school and when I finished drama school, I took on management responsibilities at the restaurant. One of the staff at the bar was a lecturer at a hairdressing college and I still very much wanted to learn about hair. She offered one-on-one training at her home and instantly, she told me I was a natural. Everything she was showing me, I was picking up very quickly. I thought to myself, I need to find a job at a salon.
I was out drinking in Bristol and I met a friend of a friend and we started chatting about how I wanted to work at a salon and go to hairdressing college. She told me to come by her salon called McQueen’s at the time. She said that she’d never trained someone so quickly and known they would be a success. She offered me a job on the spot. I had no experience, except a few one-on-one training sessions, and had just enrolled in hairdressing college which I attended once a week. To be honest, hairdressing school doesn’t teach you that much. They teach you the basics but you learn in the salon. The great thing about learning hairdressing in Bristol was that she threw me into the deep end. She gave me clients straight away and I learned about colors as well. After a couple of years there, I wanted to move to London. My sister, a colorist, had been working at a salon in London and she gave me a rundown of a few good salons.
My sister went to hairdressing school and was working at a salon called Michael Van Clark. I went about hairdressing a little differently but the profession is all in the family. I was offered a job at Daniel Hersheson, which is a big, amazing salon in Mayfair, and I went in and met them. They gave me a fast-tracked training program being a stylist, because I was already qualified from my prior experience. My starting title was as a Junior Stylist and I went back to shampooing hair. They re-trained and I built a London clientele and took on some managerial responsibilities. Part of the gig as a new stylist, you looked after the new models and new faces on the floor. One of which was the lovely Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and the other was Alexa Chung. They were 17 and 19, and I was 25, at the time. I met these girls as models and started doing their hair. Rosie moved off to New York after awhile, Alexa just landed the T4 gig, which is a weekend show for teenagers here in London.
I remember Alexa coming in with this long hair and telling me she wanted really messy, f-ed up hair but no one would do it for her. So I shredded her hair and chopped it right up. I realize now, that I’ve never been scared to do things. I just did what the client asked me to do and Alexa loved it. Alexa doesn’t deliberately try and set trends, she just does. The haircut that I’m known for is sexy and undone, basically you leave me and the whole time you’re away it looks beautiful, you don’t need to have blow dries, you don’t need to style it too much, it just sits and hangs. It couldn’t be further from the Vidal Sassoon way of working. It’s very freehand; I work visually, not technically. I move with the shape of the face. I do so many bobs a week – that’s the look – but what’s really exciting is that you’re creating something new and fresh and it’s not about a high maintenance haircut. It’s not about harsh lines, it’s about soft hair that moves and is natural. I hang out with a lot of girls and I feel like I have a good sense of what girls want and what they like. I’m really into fashion and I’m really into style and I feel like I work with girls like Rosie and Alexa and we create what we feel is right together. I work with them on trends and I keep a close eye on the shows.
Alexa said at the time – she must have been 19 – that no one else will ever cut her hair again! Around the same time, editors started to refer clients to me and as a result, I began popping up on people’s radar in London. My clientele started to really grow and then I started to do this guest spot for Shu Uemura when they launched their hair care line at Harvey Nichols. On the back end of that, I gained exposure to all of the top journalists, worked with an amazing hair care brand, created stories around hair, and in the meantime, both Alexa and Rosie’s careers were growing.
Alexa was doing a cover shoot for Company Magazine and she invited me along to do her hair. Then we did ES Magazine, Stella Magazine, and she was getting all of these requests for magazine shoots and she would request that I be the hairdresser on site. I was on these shoots at the talent’s request but at the same time, I was meeting photographers and booking agents too. In the last year, I did hair for Rosie and Alexa for UK Elle Magazine, which was amazing. The three of us have grown together, which is really nice. Most recently, Rosie and I did the Marks & Spencer campaign and with Alexa, I’ve been with her all through Fashion Week.
After 8 years at Hersheson, I really wanted to brand myself and I wanted to become my own person. I met Josh [Wood] through a mutual friend and we got along really well. He has this concept for a salon [Josh Wood Atelier; Notting Hill, London] where we’re all freelancers and we’re all self-employed, we come and go as we please, and with this idea, I have creative freedom and I can be a brand on my own, within a brand. I’m doing more freelance work, such as photo shoots, and when I’m in the country I’m at Josh’s and when I’m not, it’s because I’ve been booked for another job. In London, most celebrities and well known profiles will come into the atelier. These salons are geared for that clientele and we’re also very discreet. On the other hand, I do make home visits as well. What’s great with the atelier is that I’ve met a lot of interesting people such as Elizabeth Saltzman, Gwyneth Paltrow’s stylist, who then connected me with Gwyneth. I was really honored to work with her on the Goop Project, teaching people how to blow dry their own hair. I feel like I have a really amazing clientele and they each bring something so different as well.
Right now I’m freelancing, I’m my own boss and I love it. Who knows what’s next? I want to tap into the LA clientele in the states, maybe New York as well. I’d love to do red carpet, an Oscar season, a MET Ball season, and ideally, I’d like to split my time between here and there. London is my home and it runs in my veins. I’m very much based here and I’d like to take a little bit of London to America and vice versa.” –
– Celebrity hair stylist, George Northwood
*top 3 images by Beauty Banter; bottom 3 images courtesy of George Northwood, hair styled by George Northwood
“My sister [Paris Hilton] introduced me to makeup when I was 16 and we started going out. I never really wore makeup and when the fake I.D.’s failed, she put makeup on me and said, ‘this will make you look grown up.’ I’ve loved it ever since.
As for the cat inspiration, I think there are dog people and there are cat people. I’m definitely a cat person. I always had cats growing up. I love them; I think they’re elegant, they’re mysterious, they look after themselves, and they’re just easygoing and chill. I have two cats right now; one rescue that I found on the beach in Miami at the Soho House.
Davis Factor [of Smashbox Cosmetics] has been a friend of mine since I was a teenager and we always wanted to work together. Six months ago he called me and said that he wanted me to meet his team. We all met at the Polo Lounge and they brought bags and bags of all of their latest products, and they said, ‘What would you want to do?’ I immediately said, ‘Cat eye. I love cats and I wear a cat eye in some shape or form every single day. And I want to make a really cute kitty cosmetics bag to go with it.’ At the time, they were launching their new gel eyeliner [Photo Angle Pure Pigment Gel Liner] so we knew we wanted to put that in the kit, along with an eyeshadow trio which is reflective of my favorite cities, the places that I spend the most time in: New York, Los Angeles, and London. All of the colors in each Cat Eye Kit are reflective of the lifestyles in each city: LA is bronzy and beachy with neutrals, New York’s a little more sophisticated with a black, brown, and beige, and London is more colorful and poppy with purples. I love Smashbox’s Full Exposure Mascara, which is also in each kit.
I was very, very involved in the process and would fly from New York to LA to go to the studios and sit with the team for hours going through every color; all of the new products, the pigments, the technologies. We really spent time making these kits, and it was very important that, if I was going to put my name on something, it’s going to be very me.
All of the colors in the shadow trios really compliment each other, so you can blend them to make really pretty, different looks. With the New York Kit, I even use the brown eyeshadow as a brow powder. I use the beige shade as a highlighter and a base color for my lids. I think the secret to creating a cat eye is just being confident and going with it. A lot of people trace before and overthink it and they end up with uneven cat eyes, which is any makeup lover’s worst nightmare, including me. So I think you’ve just got to flick, and I usually get a Q-tip and makeup remover and edit any mistakes.
One of my favorite makeup application tips that I’ve picked up along the way is using white eyeliner in your waterline to make you look instantly woken up and your eyes pop.
Another tip that was passed down to me was about using eye cream and moisturizer before putting on primer. I never used to do this, but it really makes a difference. I actually started using age-preventative products when I was 17-years-old. Anti-aging eye creams, night creams – you’re never too young to start.
When it comes to makeup, if I could have only three pieces in life, they would be mascara, lip balm [Nicky is a die-hard fan of Rosebud Salve], and brow powder.”
To buy Nicky Hilton X Smashbox Cat Eye Kits ($54 each), click here.
“I started doing my skin when I was really little because I was prone to rashes and irritations at a very young age so I was obsessed with my skin. This started at about 5 years old. I was very active, very outdoorsy, a tomboy so I was always affected by the elements and my skin would get raw. Growing up, it was my job to do the dishes and I would feel how food touching my skin would change the texture and this got me thinking. One time I remember seeing a cousin of mine get stung by a bee and my grandmother dug deep into the ground to get to the clay level and she put it on him. At the time, it freaked me out but it took the swelling down and he stopped crying. I made that connection again. Around the same age, my feet would ache, really hurt me badly. I would dig into my foot to do reflexology, not knowing that I was actually doing reflexology on myself.
By the time I was 15, I could spot problems in people’s skin and just know how to help them and encourage them with food and lifestyle changes: how to clean their skin, how to give themselves facials at home. All because I was obsessed with learning how to take care of my own problems. It taught me so, so much. When I would go to the mall with my friends as a teenager, I would duck out and go to the health food store and sit on the floor and read all of the books. I was like a sponge for all of the information. My nickname growing up was Florence Nightingale. If you had a boo-boo, I was all over you. I would put my hands on people and they liked my energy. It would feel good to them and it was soothing. So, between teaching people how to take care of themselves and then soothing people with my touch, I had that golden combo.
At 15, my parents sent me to live in Italy. I lived with a Florentine doctor who was an acupuncturist on the side. He was able to tell me why when I touch my foot in a certain place, I would feel energy coming up my body and it would make my stomach ache go away, etc. So, he confirmed what I knew instinctively. It started me on this trajectory. This has really been my career my entire life, I was born into it.
I got my esthetician’s license when I was 19. I was living in Buffalo, New York and I started working locally. I started attracting a crowd. I’ve always been into all natural. Back then, for my massage cream, I would pick off a big, juicy aloe plant, open it up, scoop it out and use it. People would stop me on the street and touch my skin because they didn’t believe that it was real. I’ve always used essential oils, aloe, seaweed — basically, my same obsessions as now.
In 1980 I moved to New York City. When I first started doing facials, I would make my creams in the kitchen while my clients were sitting on the couch. I would go in and make stuff with my blender, melt beeswax and add stuff to it. I started on my line of products in 1983. I’m never done, I always add one or two products a year. My line is a wellness brand; it’s a natural, organic, holistic approach to aging.
Because I turned around so many people’s skin in the fashion industry, and hairdressers, who were working with the supermodels of the 90s, my clients were people like Cindy Crawford, Stephanie Seymour, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Karen Mulder. I was doing Jerry Hall at Mick Jagger’s house, Giorgio Armani, Iman.
I do shiatsu, reflexology, lymphatic drainage massage, reiki, crystal healing, and facials. I don’t only help my clients get to the root of the problem with energy flow and increasing circulation and balancing hormones naturally, I try to create homeostasis, which is a balancing in the body. When you have a problem with your skin, your skin is telling you to look inside. My approach to facials is a holistic one – mind, body, spirit balancing. It’s not only important what you eat, it’s important what time of day you eat – for example, breakfast to jump start your metabolism, and you shouldn’t eat after 8 o’clock at night because your digestive organs are on their own clock and they shut down. When you mess with the balance, you get skin problems, cellulite, water retention, low metabolism.
When I’m with a client and I’m touching them, I see how they respond to each product in my line that I’m using on them for their skin type. Every facial I do is custom because the skin is an ever-changing organ. It’s always influenced by what you do internally, even how you think and on an emotional level, which is why I use crystals. If you’re somebody who can’t take in love or can’t take a compliment, you build walls around your heart, and this actually effects circulation and makes it harder to absorb nutrients from your food and moisture from the creams that you are using. This is why I bring guided meditations into the treatment – to clear out the emotional stuff. It doesn’t really matter whose products you use or what foods you eat if you don’t have the root of the problem under control.”
— Celebrity facialist Susan Ciminelli
“I like to create something – and I like girls. I mean, not sexually, but I like to make girls pretty so hair styling was a natural profession for me. I started over 20 years ago in Japan and my boss is like Vidal Sassoon there and he taught me haircutting and American culture. I worked in Japan for ten years and then I moved to LA fifteen years ago.
When I was young, I was very picky and I didn’t like anyone to cut my hair more than what I asked for. I once had a very bad experience and had to leave the chair in the middle of the haircut. I was about 17 years old and I asked for half an inch to be cut but they cut close to two inches. It was really shocking! But hasn’t this happened to all girls? When you cut on dry hair, like me, my clients have the power to control the process. We can create together.
I call the type of cuts I do “freestyle dry haircutting.” Dry haircutting is already very popular in Japan, but I didn’t really start doing this technique until I moved to LA. This country has so many different types of women with different types of hair textures, so dry haircutting is easier to fit with a person’s personality, lifestyle and hair quality. Cutting on dry hair is very precise. I don’t cut a lot from the base. I cut the base but then I go back on very straight hair and I look for the unbalance, what doesn’t appeal to your bone structure. I then adjust it to your bones. I blow dry and straighten with a flat iron before cutting to see how each person’s hair moves and to see the quality of their ends. Sometimes, it is more obvious to see damaged ends this way. I usually see how the hair falls naturally. The key to this haircut is how your hair falls, how your hair moves, and your bone structure. If you ignore the bone structure, the haircut won’t last very long.
Anyone with thin hair should not be so adventurous. You should understand your hair and keep it clean and basic. You don’t want to give it too much texture. For summer, it’s popular to have face line fringe, especially this year. Everyone is going shorter, a shorter version of their current length.
With curly hair, you want to see how the hair is going to “shrink” [editor’s note: shrink refers to the way the curls dry up]. Face line fringe is good for this type of hair, but it should start from lower cheekbones or at the lip. This way, you can enjoy your hair curly or blown out straight.
People with thick hair have more potential, as long as your hair isn’t kinky curly. If you cut too short or too layered, your hair will frizz and end up looking like you have a bowl on your head. As long as you have a good balance though, you can enjoy many possibilities.
I usually convince people with very curly hair to wear their hair natural. I do less layers but extra texture by cutting into the hair, vertically. I don’t cut curly hair in a blunt way, I use the scissors like a laser, cutting up and down, and then blend it together.”
— Celebrity Hairstylist Mika Fowler, who has worked with Olivia Munn, Nina Dobrev, Emma Roberts, Rosario Dawson, and AnaLynne McCord.
“On my mother’s vanity there was this big round box with these marabou feathers, and I was always fascinated by them. They used to use the feathers to put on powder. She also had a tube of red lipstick beside it and I thought that was the coolest, most elegant thing I have ever seen in my life. I remember putting the feathers into the powder and applying this super thick layer all over my face until I was completely white. Then I tried putting on the lipstick perfectly but I think I ended up looking like a demented geisha girl.
Growing up I would paint my two sisters. I was addicted to the Munsters and The Addams Family and I would copy those haircuts or Spock’s point on “Star Trek”. I once I got into big trouble because I cut the point on my sister’s forehead crooked. It looked ridiculous; I basically cut off all her hair. I was always goofing around, putting makeup on myself and changing my skin tone. I wanted to be like Lily Munster and I would take powder from my mom and add food coloring to make it green and put that on my face. I was obsessed. Not only was I was obsessed with the most beautiful things in makeup but I was really into things that were witchy or gothic looking. In the 70s, punk and goth were in and I went full-on with that whole look.
My sister knew a gentleman who owned a whole bunch of hotels in Vancouver, Canada – where I’m from – and in the hotel there were strip clubs. This was during the early 70s so these were classy clubs, more like burlesque with the costumes and a grand stage. It wasn’t like it is now. I would do really cool makeup on the girls and they would be in costumes and dance around. My sister at the time was learning to be an esthetician and he said, “why don’t you girls come to the strip club and teach these dancers how to take care of their skin and do their makeup.” My sister would do their skin and I would do their makeup, depending on what their costume looked liked. While doing this, a magazine heard about me and my first cover was with a very well known model from Europe who had come to visit her grandmother in Vancouver. I just kept getting work after that.
I never went to school to be a makeup artist and to be honest, if you want to be a really good makeup artist, you have to have the eye. If you don’t have the eye, you can go to school all you want but you won’t get the eye for it. In fact, I’ve never even assisted. I wished I did because I probably would have learned a lot more than I do know now but I definitely have my own style. I’m really into beautiful skin and I work at highlighting the skin, giving glow and texture. Minimal on the eyes and I focus on one feature — luxe lashes or a big brow or a strong contour — but it’s never a full face of glamatron makeup. That’s not my style and that’s not what I’m known for. The natural skin look comes from me growing up in Vancouver with clean air, clean water, and clean food. In a way, I’ve always worshipped that end of beauty in a woman because we’ve really gone overboard in how much makeup we put on ourselves and also what’s in the makeup. We don’t pay enough attention to how toxic some of these ingredients are.
My career started with the Vancouver Magazine cover and I kept getting all of these local jobs from that exposure. Once I got bored of that, I thought, where to next in Canada? So I went to Toronto and did everything there was to do in Toronto and I remember working with Robert Sloon and even Lloyd Simmonds, who is now at YSL. Canadians have a nice little record of doing well for themselves in the beauty department. Then I went to Europe and cruised around in Germany and I used makeup as a way to travel around and not really care about what I was doing. I was literally learning as I went. Depending on the job and whether or not I could grasp the idea, was how I went about learning.
Through my travels and experimenting with different jobs like German catalogues and covers for German Vogue and British Vogue, I kept thinking to myself, I need to continue moving on and that’s when I thought, how about New York? At this point, I started getting sick and it only worsened. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, I had panic and anxiety attacks, I couldn’t sleep at night, I was tossing and turning, I couldn’t digest food, there were a whole slew of symptoms. In all honesty, this could have been anything but I got a hair analysis and a very extensive analysis of my blood work. When I went to pick it up, the technician asked if I worked in the cosmetic industry and I said, “Yes, why?” He said, “I see this a lot. It’s the chemicals in these cosmetics and I’ve seen a few other people with the same results from the cosmetic industry.”
From that point on, I started to really study and research and began asking questions. I ended up starting a website in 2004, talking about the whole cosmetic industry and some of the toxins used. The website was called BeautyTruth.com and I received a lot of press from it. A lot of people were asking me, “What should we use?” and that had me looking at these so-called natural brands. At that point in my life, I was becoming a raw foodist and thought these natural brands weren’t really up to par. I started playing around making my own formulations. With the help of a friend of mine in Canada who used to work for a paint factory, I began to formulate my own products. I was still experimenting with the models, trying to figure out what was and what wasn’t working, and I finally found a lab that would do a minimum run.
Here in New York, I landed Victoria’s Secret because of Gisele. I would put olive oil on the model’s skin when we were shooting, instead of vaseline and baby oil. Their skin was so soft and it photographed beautifully as well. I started getting known as the Organic Girl. I didn’t want to use harsh chemicals on their faces and the girls started listening to me. I introduced an organic skincare line to some of these girls, so my credibility was becoming better known. Gisele is a big advocate for clean makeup and healthy eating and we would be on set, I would be doing her astrology chart, and she’d be requesting me for jobs. She has stood by me this whole time and I love her to death. She has been very supportive and I have to admit, one of the most supportive people in my life. Miranda Kerr has also been a big advocate of my line. I met Miranda Kerr through Victoria’s Secret. Her and I are inseparable, I take care of her little dog Frankie, and she has her own organic skincare line, which I also promote with RMS Beauty. We have a synergy that works really well. Karoline Kurkova is another one, Evita, Anne V., they’re all using healthy makeup and a lot of these girls will wear my products in their daily lives.
As a makeup artist you still have your synthetic colors and heavy silicones for when you need to make the body really, really shiny — there’s a slew of products you really need to have to be a professional makeup artist, so you can’t go all green in your kit. The green stuff I keep for everyday use for the girls. My products work great for photo shoots but they do have their limitations. If I need to do extra coverage, I’ll use heavier coverage but I’ll add my Un Cover Ups into it so it doesn’t dry out and there’s more of a glow to the skin. It preserves your face better throughout the day. When I do Gisele for the MET, I use all my own makeup except for the mascara. Her skin is beautiful and when you have beautiful skin, you don’t want to cover it up with a mask. Your skin needs to breathe, it’s a living force, and Gisele is the perfect example to go to the MET Ball not completely looking like a made-up mannequin. She looks glowing and makes her relatable to the public. People love her. She’s not threatening, she’s not sculpted to death by contour and highlights. You can do that but it has to be minimal, so your skin looks radiant.
I knew I was doing well when I started working with the big guys, like Mario Sorrenti, Mert and Marcus and Glen Luchford. These people are the best in the business and they have their team, but I find that I’m in the running when a member of their team is missing. That alone has given me a sense of acceptance that I’m good enough to be working with these people. These same people also hire me because they want beautiful makeup and not something way off the wall. I’m pretty good at what I do and Sorrenti, for example, loves how I do skin. There’s never a problem when I work with him because he really likes my style. One of my best jobs was when I did Self Service Magazine with Mario in Fall/Winter 2007, with all the big girls — Edita, Lara Stone, Liya Kebede. A couple different covers came out and that was my first big job with him. It helped my career tremendously. That was my “Aha!” moment.
Everything with RMS came as a surprise because when I started, I had no sales people, no PR, I had nothing. I just wanted to go by word-of-mouth, just to see where the line went organically. I launched the line at the end of 2008 with 18 products — 6 eyeshadows, 6 lip-to-cheek, 3 Un Cover Ups, 2 lip balms, and a luminizer. Hands down, the luminizer is my best selling product and in second, the Un Cover Up. I will be going on QVC with my Un Cover Up. A lot of people don’t realize that I finance all of this myself. If I didn’t, the product wouldn’t be as good as it is today because I obsess over the ingredient quality to perfection. We tried it with cheaper organic ingredients and it doesn’t turn out the same. The quality of these ingredients is like a life or death situation, as to how the end product turns out. It’s unbelievable. We have a new product coming out really, really soon. We just introduced a beauty oil, which is amazing and we have new powders that rival the Make Up For Ever HD Powder coming out too.
I couldn’t not do makeup anymore. I have to do makeup. It inspires me to continue with the line. Every time I work with a model, I try something new and they tell me they want it. So I also have a bronzer coming out and I used it on a model the other day and she wanted to take it home with her. It’s really nice to hear your peers approving what you’re doing and supporting you. It’s an amazing feeling.” – Celebrity makeup artist and founder of RMS Beauty, Rose-Marie Swift
*top image: Model Doutzen Kroes and Rose-Marie Swift; bottom image: Rose-Marie Swift
“I was a nail biter as a kid, to my mid to late teens. It was something I was always ashamed of and I remember this statement my doctor made to me when I was a kid, that not only was nail biting a dirty and unsanitary habit but that it really said a lot about me when I met somebody because your hands are your greeters. When you meet someone, you look them in the eye and then reach for a handshake. In doing so, their eyes will see your hands and nails and it really says a lot about you. I really struggled with it and tried to stop biting my nails and it was something I didn’t recover from for a really long time. When I was in college and pursuing a music degree, I landed a job with a group that did industrial shows and for our first dress rehearsal, I had this beautiful, glamorous Vegas costume with rhinestones and feathers and a head dress. They handed me a microphone and I had these nubbed nails. The director took me to get a manicure the next day, but a manicure wasn’t going to do the job on short notice, so instead, I had artificial nails put on. They were porcelain nails back in the day and later, I instantly felt different about myself. I felt so much more confident, I didn’t even realize how ashamed I’d been of my hands and how I was constantly hiding them by putting them in my pockets. Only then did I start using flowery gestures with my hands. I couldn’t believe how powerful something as small as a fingernail could be.
After I finished college, I was working as a singer and a lot of my jobs were mostly weddings and bat mitzvahs but I really wanted to do theater and jazz clubs. I decided I didn’t want to make my living doing weddings and bat mitzvahs and instead, I wanted a day job like all my friends who waited tables. I started waiting tables and literally, and physically, I dropped a plate of pasta on someone’s head. I thought, “Wow, I’m not talented at this at all and it’s borderline dangerous.” I had to think of something else. I went to my Mom and said, “I know I have a college degree and I know it killed you to get me through this but I want to go to cosmetology school. It’s my other love. I’ll keep singing but I need to find another love as a day job.” So I went to cosmetology school and at the beginning I was much better at hair and makeup than I was at nails. I’d done my makeup and hair my whole life but I’d never given myself a manicure because I had artificial nails. On that note, I had to really, really work at it and it’s been a great life lesson for me – things that you really want and that are important to you, no matter what it is in life, it takes hard work and perseverance to get good at anything.
I did nails locally in Arizona, which is where I grew up, and then I moved to Los Angeles to sing and study more music. I was there for a few years and I worked at the Elizabeth Arden Salon on Rodeo Drive and that was where I had my first taste of holding hands with celebrities. I was just remembering the other day that I did Betty White’s nails every now and then in that salon many, many years ago which was pretty cool. There were celebrities and fashion-forward, high-end ladies that came into the salon, who were very confident and knew what they wanted. It was then I realized that I needed to become really, really good at what I did, because these women knew the difference between a good manicure and a bad manicure. I always loved the holding-hands-with-someone part. Manicuring is such an intimate service. You’re sitting across from each other at a very small table and holding hands with strangers. When doing hair, you’re standing behind the chair and speaking with customers through the mirror, if you’re doing makeup, you’re often close to your customers but there’s a brush in between you. When you’re doing manicures, you’re physically touching somebody, a stranger. It’s a very delicate art form to make somebody feel comfortable, because you’re really in their space. Some of my best girlfriends have come out of my manicure chair, because you spend so much time sitting and talking to them. It was something I learned from one of my first employers, B’Anne. She owned a day spa in Scottsdale and she taught me that manicures are such an intimate experience and that I needed to treat it as such, and treat the customers in a special way because a stranger is coming to you, sitting in close proximity, and you’re going to hold hands with them. That’s something that has always been very important to me – making someone feel comfortable when they sit in my chair. I try to teach people that when I’m training manicurists now, I feel like it’s a really sad, lost art in many of the salons I visit; communicating with your client, that feeling of becoming girlfriends is an opportunity you have. Even if you’re not going to be friends outside of the salon, you should feel like they’re your girlfriends in the 30 minutes or hour that you’re with them.
When I moved to New York in the early 90s, I worked at Frederic Fekkai in Bergdorf Goodman and I had very fancy ladies sitting in my chair, women who worked at Fortune 500 companies who were very high profile and powerful people. What I learned at that time was no matter how famous, wealthy, fancy, or powerful these people were, they were all just girls who needed a little attention and calmness in their lives. Whether it was someone who needed just a manicure or someone to hold their hand and help them breathe a little slower and I know it sounds really deep but that’s why I still love it. It’s a really special career.
I moved to New York to pursue music. To work with better jazz musicians and to get better at my craft. I was singing at night and working at Frederic Fekkai during the day and every week I would be wandering Bergdorf spending my paycheck and when I went to the cosmetics department and if you were really into nails, there wasn’t anywhere to go to get everything you wanted. You couldn’t get cuticle treatments, there were no polish removers, there were no files, or comprehensive nail care lines at all. So these women that came to our salon – we were using Chanel nail polish at the time which was rare – weren’t able to purchase any nail care or polish from the salon, but instead had to go to the cosmetics department and find out then that they couldn’t buy everything they wanted. I thought, “If I was this woman who was totally stressed out, really busy, and wanted a really high quality product all in one place, I couldn’t get it.” As a customer, it wasn’t possible. That was when my idea for the brand came.
Bobbi Brown was one of my clients at Bergdorf’s and her makeup line was also fairly new at the time and she loved the manicure I gave her. She ended up calling Allure magazine to tell them of a new manicurist and that they should come in and check me out. I didn’t know she did this and so they came in undercover and liked what they saw. Next thing I knew, they put me in their beauty directory; I’d only been in New York for a year so it was all so crazy. I had moved to New York with a purpose and that was to sing but after this Allure shoot, celebrity assistants would read about me and people that were traveling would start calling for me and pretty soon, I had a celebrity following. That Allure mention was the beginning of my New York chapter.
I was still singing at the time and even now, Martha Stewart hires me to sing at her parties. I would do her nails and then later, we would go to a party with my band to perform. There are periods where I don’t get to sing as often as I would like but just last week I sang at a Beauty.com event and recently at a big fundraising luncheon, and for the Home Shopping Network, a big black tie gala. Singing is still very much a part of who I am and what I do.
After being recognized by celebrities, an agent called me and I thought he had heard me sing somewhere. He told me he was an agent and that he’d like to represent me. I thought to myself, this is amazing and asked him where he heard me sing. He was confused and said, “Hear you sing?” I just assumed he heard me sing and wanted to represent me as a singer. Instead, he wanted to represent me as a manicurist. I didn’t even know that existed.
Everyone that I work with today – hair, makeup, the stylists and the talent – are famous. I understand the level of detail for what I do is important but I also understand now, that I need to be in and out and not linger when I’m not needed but being there immediately when I am. It’s a lot more than polishing a pretty nail.
When these photo shoots became more frequent in the 90s, I decided to leave the salon and go freelance. It was during this time that I was working with Bobbi, Laura Mercier, that I was being written about in magazines and everybody said to me, “You need to have your own product line.” On sets, I sometimes I had to make shades. I remember working with Polly Mellen, legendary editor at Allure magazine, and I was told to bring yellow polish to the set. I brought 10 bottles of yellow that day and she looked at all of them and none of them were the right shade. She asked me to fix it. I didn’t know how to fix it but under pressure and duress, you do what you have to do. I listened carefully to what she wanted and I started to play with the polish I had, mixing some white, mixing some clear until I came up with a color she liked. I never aspired to make colors, but after that, I thought it was really cool.
Soon after, one of my clients was to attend an award show and I wanted her to have something special so I mixed a color for her. She really loved it and everyone else really liked the colors I would mix. The market for caring for your nails, hands, and feet started to grow, along with all of these salons that started to pop up. One day, a friend of mine, Loretta, and I were at the pharmacy shopping for makeup and I kept saying, “If I were to do a nail polish, I would do..” Loretta looked at me and said, “Stop saying if you would ever. Either do it or stop talking to me about it.” Sometimes you need a girlfriend to look you in the eye and call your bluff. I’ve been thinking about all sorts of ideas for years and and I wanted women to have a full line of nail care products and not just the convenience of the $8 polish change. I also wanted high fashion colors with good ingredients, such as aucoumea which deters ridges from growing in your nails, biotin, and green tea are all infused in all of my color. So a lot of brands put beauty treatments in their base coat or their top coat and I don’t know if any other brands do what we do, so your nails are going to be stronger and the polish is going wear longer.
I told my brother about it when I first started to think more seriously and he agreed to help with my logo and we were looking at different fonts. I was planning my wedding at the time and my husband told me, “You’re going to do this over my dead body.” He’s now the President of the company. It’s a family affair, the 3 of us and now we have an office with 2 floors, 13 years later and a bunch of employees who say they’re Lippmann for life, which we love. Last night was a really exciting for us when we launched our first lip color called Bite Me, in collaboration with HBO inspired by the TV show True Blood. It’s a lip and nail set with great treatments.
When I was in cosmetology school a friend told me, “I know you love hair and makeup but you’re a singer. You stand up all night to perform, do you really want to stand up 8-10 hours a day and then go to a gig? Don’t you want to just sit down?” That was what really guided me towards doing nails and I couldn’t be happier. It’s funny how life works.” – Celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann
“I was 10 years old and I distinctly remember sitting in front of my mother’s makeup mirror and I being totally intrigued by what was going on — the packages, the colors, the textures, the transformational abilities, the womanly mystique of what that whole area was all about. I remember thinking, I want to do this when I grow up. I didn’t really know what “this” was and kids now are so savvy and really have an understanding of what happens behind the scenes and in front of the scenes, and I didn’t put it together that women in magazines and women in film were being painted by makeup artists. It was something I discovered later, in my teens. I was always the girl whose house you would come to to get ready to go to a party or any kind of school function. It was always the girl time that I remember, having more fun getting ready than actually being out. It was inevitable. I love that sense of camaraderie that happened in the getting-ready stages. So, I was always the go-to girl in school and I remained very focused on that.
After I left high school in New Jersey, I moved to Manhattan and I searched out my first makeup job. My first job as a makeup artist was at Bergdorf Goodman at the Yves Saint Laurent counter. I was very young and I think I might have lied to get the job. I was in heaven. I was doing makeup all day long, on all different kinds of faces, and working with a brand that was incredibly prestigious and very makeup driven. I learned a lot about application during that time and I also started to dabble in testing, assisting, and seeing what it would take to do makeup in other environments, other than a department store. I remember I assisted Bobbi Brown, very early on, on a show she was doing and then I had the opportunity to work at MTV as a freelancer. This was during the VJ era, when they were a big deal. Will Smith was a VJ, it was a fun time! So, I was in the studio part-time working with the VJs, like John Levitt. It was such a cool place to be. I was also working on no-budget music videos for Malcolm McLaren and just really cool stuff. I also started to cast, meeting with modeling agencies and hair and makeup agencies, because I was looking to do more. Then I had an opportunity to assist Francois Nars on a big fashion show. He had 15 or 20 assistants, and after the show, he came up to me and asked a little about me. It was a time when his full-time assistant was moving on, and he asked if I wanted to come and work with him. Right away I was his number one assistant. I stayed with him for a year and half and he definitely was my greatest mentor. It was a time when he was doing every single fashion show. We would go to Milan, Paris and New York, and we would also do the Couture. We did everything from Prada, to Gucci, to Valentino, to Calvin, to lots of Versace, and I was on-site with him working with the masters, including [Richard] Avedon and Irving Penn. We would work with the stars of the day — all of the supermodels and also Madonna. It was an incredible training ground and he was such a generous teacher. I still think he should be opening up a makeup school and every time I see him, I ask him when that school is opening because he’s a master teacher. I feel like everything I learned, I learned from him, in regards to technique, set etiquette, and practical things like where to do makeup. It sounds so simple but people don’t know that if they do their makeup in an area where the lighting isn’t ideal, the makeup isn’t going to look good anywhere. Things like that. I learned everything from him.
After a year and half with him, I decided to move to Paris to work on my own career. It was really fortunate that a lot of the people I met through Francois — editors and photographers we worked with, like Peter Lindbergh — were willing to give me a chance to be me. Peter Lindbergh was definitely one of the greatest influences on the style of makeup that I enjoyed doing and the type of women I enjoyed creating. The way Peter likes to capture a woman, and the type of woman Peter is known for capturing so well, is very much in line with my aesthetic. With Peter, he very much likes to see the texture of the skin — it shouldn’t be powdered, it shouldn’t be perfect. It should be very real and vibrant. Not grainy, because there’s a polish and a beauty to it, but it’s not about untouchable. It’s almost so alive, that you feel you can touch it. That’s what I like. I like the skin to look like skin. Even if there’s foundation there, you don’t know it’s there. I like the eyes to draw you in and a sultriness around the eye, and it doesn’t necessarily involve powders. One thing I learned from Francois was to be very good and fast and what I learned from Peter, is that you don’t need to be powder-perfect to be beautiful. He was a great influence and the fact that he was one of the first major photographers that I got to work with on my own, was a really big deal. It continues to be, even after 20 years working with him. Every time I get booked with him, I have the biggest smile on my face.
When I moved back to New York, a lot of the bookings I would get were actor-related, more than model-related. My boyfriend, and now husband, lived in Los Angeles and I lived in New York, and I was really resistant to being an “LA makeup artist”. I had a lot of pride in my New York fashion existence but, for love I started to look more and more into California and practically speaking, I was being booked more for actors. It started to dawn on me that actors were also becoming cover models and why not go to the source, so to speak, and also where my relationship was? I moved to Los Angeles in 2001 and I was on the airplane making my big, official move when I get a phone call from my agent at the time, saying, “Call me right away”. I call back and I remember standing at baggage and they said, “You’ve just been booked for the Vanity Fair Hollywood cover with Annie Leibovitz. It was my first time working with Annie, it was my first time working on a Vanity Fair cover, and I just remember being floored, thinking, “Okay, this is God speaking. I made the right choice.” Here I am, just landed, and I’ve just been booked for this Hollywood cover. I definitely believe in looking for signs and that was a huge sign that I had made the right choice. That was in 2001 and I’m going onto 12 years being in California and it was definitely the wisest choice — for my health, well-being, my life, and my career.
I’ve come into my own, in a way, and working with actors, it’s all about making this one woman her most beautiful version of herself, for whatever the situation is. Whereas with fashion, it’s more about creating a trend. Sometimes the circus of fashion would turn me off a bit, because it wasn’t my thing; whereas working with a celebrity, we can all relate to wanting to look our absolute best. There are some celebrities that I have long-term relationships with, like Kate Bosworth who I’ve been working with since her Blue Crush days. It’s amazing with her, because I’ve watched her grow into this incredibly beautiful, stylish, and smart woman. She’s so inspiring on so many levels and she’s my favorite Barbie, where I can do anything with. I’ve also had long-term relationships with Kirsten Dunst and Julianne Moore. I love the loyal, evolving relationships I have with these really talented women. It’s also really fun to meet new people. I just spent, almost two months of my life, with Charlize [Theron] doing all kinds of press tours, photo shoots, and really enjoying every second of her and making her more beautiful. I’m really inspired by her as a woman and as a talent.
Doing makeup for celebrities, you have to think about the theme and the scenario. Is it day-time, is it evening; is it natural light, is it a studio; what’s the movie about, what is the feel of the movie? If it’s dark and gritty, maybe you don’t want them to look dark and gritty. You need to know what the parameters are, feeling the environment out, and then making choices. Most obviously, what are they wearing and you also need to think what they’ll be most comfortable in all day. Some people don’t like a lipstick on all day. Sometimes for a red carpet event, a woman won’t want to be responsible for maintenance, so you want to do makeup that they don’t have to think about. Other people don’t mind having a really strong look, like Kate Bosworth for the Met Ball, where she would have to make sure that blackberry lipstick wasn’t all over teeth and her face all night. There’s all these different factors in play, but for me it’s about (a). making their skin looking juicy, gorgeous, and natural; and (b). what’s the vibe? Something playful with color? And you don’t need to be young to play with color. For example, Julianne [Moore], I can do a really bright teal eyeliner on her, that I would also use on someone who is 20, but done appropriately to who she is and where she is in her life.
I’ve worked with a few cosmetic brands as a spokesperson and I’ve dabbled in product development with those brands. I’m definitely interested in the world of product development, putting together a brand, and I’ve been in development on my own brand. I naively thought it was going to be something quick and easy, and a few years in, it’s really hard work. Almost like giving birth, but it’s the longest pregnancy I’ve ever had. I hope all the pieces with come into place and it will come to fruition. If that particular concept doesn’t, I know there will be another concept, whether it’s with an existing brand and I’m working with them doing some kind of product development, as an Artistic Director, for example. I love that and that’s what I really want to do next. I love doing makeup day-to-day, but I know I have so much more to offer because it’s really easy for me to communicate to a consumer, to a reader, how to do their makeup, how to feel their best, and how to be empowered by their beauty. I want to continue to educate and inspire using my voice through a brand that makes sense.” – Celebrity Makeup Artist Pati Dubroff
*top image: Pati Dubroff and Ginnifer Goodwin; bottom image: Pati Dubroff