The art of makeup is so prevalent across every facet of our culture, that its presence can easily be taken for granted. Yet, you can’t ignore how much work goes into giving people the exact image they want to present to the public. Everything, from news broadcasts, to photo shoots, to scenes from Game of Thrones requires hours of craftsmanship to make sure that the people we see on-screen all emanate a larger-than-life glow. We decided to chat with an expert in the profession, and find out what it takes to succeed in the field of makeup artistry.
Zara Kaplan has been dedicated to the art of make-up for almost five years, beginning her career by working at the famous London makeup and skincare shop Space.NK. From there, she would go on to work with some truly huge figures in the entertainment industry, from athletes and sports pundits, to musicians and comedians. What we learned very quickly, was that her passion for the art stems from her love of the transformative capabilities of makeup.
“I have always been fascinated by makeup, and how it has the ability to transform someone from the inside out,” Zara explained. “Whether it’s applying a touch of mascara, or a bit of lipstick, I noticed how it could instantly pick someone up or make them feel special.”
According to Kaplan, there was no specific moment when she knew that makeup was something she could dedicate her life to- or make a living from. That said, even in the early days of her career, she encountered the glamorous capabilities of the field.
“When I was still working at Space NK, Helena Bonham Carter used to come in once in awhile to buy false eyelashes. One day, when I was on the shop floor, she sat down and asked me to apply some makeup and lashes on her. I was absolutely terrified, because that was probably my first ever encounter with someone of that level of fame.”
Of course, the job is rarely as simple as being invited to help a celebrity try out a new look. Once Kaplan started taking on serious television jobs, she realized that makeup artists need to find their place within the complex ecosystem that a shoot can often become.
“Set etiquette is the first thing I remember learning about at makeup school, and some of the first things I picked up on when I started out in the industry,” she recalled. “Lessons like knowing when to step in and do touch ups, or knowing when you’re getting in the way! I think before technique comes in, these lessons are crucial in order to be hired again, because you need to be seen as competent on set and able to help the day go smoothly!”
Another incredibly important lesson is the appreciation of how different techniques are demanded by different types of jobs. On a photoshoot, the models and crew can take breaks for minor fix-ups; meanwhile, on a television shoot, the subject will need to sit under hot lights for potentially half an hour. This means that photo shoots offer Zara far more creative control, allowing her to dedicate the time and resources necessary to achieving the dewy looks she loves to give her models.
“I spend a long time prepping a client’s skin, giving them facial massages and exfoliation treatments, should they need them. For me, skin prep is an absolute must,” she explained, adding, “the two things I believe MAKE a look are great eyebrows and perfect dewy skin. I always make sure eyebrows are perfect and brushed up. I’m a total sucker for big bushy brows, and I like to think that good brows are something I’m known for creating. I’m always being laughed at on set because I’m constantly running in to make sure the brows are on fleek!”
Meanwhile, work on television shoots requires more vigilance towards how time under a hot light can change the look of the subject. Not only does television require products that are long lasting, but it also requires the makeup artist to make sure the subject doesn’t start to look shiny from all the perspiration.
“Shine control is also really important, and something that I’m constantly looking out for on TV monitors,” she said. “I will always step in and blot away any shine and make sure the client has been powdered before sending them off to set!”
However, it’s still essential to consider the needs of the model, first and foremost. While Zara admits that, as an artist, she has an innate desire to experiment with different looks, it’s still incredibly important to fill the client in, and keep their thoughts and opinions a priority. For example, Zara explained how she’s currently the main makeup artist for Sasha Brown, an up and coming electro-pop artist who just released her debut single “Parallel” to much critical acclaim. When working with a client like Brown, who is still in the process of building her profile as an artist, consistency is key.
“When working with musicians, image can be a really big contributing factor to their success,” Zara explained. “That’s why I think it’s important for them to have a signature look that they are known for. Sasha and I always stick to the same makeup look because we’ve created a certain image for her that she will continue to be recognized and known for. That said, when it comes to red carpet events or special occasions, I find that’s where the room to experiment comes in!”
So far, Zara has had the opportunity to work with names such as Amanda Cerney (an actress and social media influencer with over 16 million Instagram followers) and Olivia Jordan (Miss USA 2015), along with brands such as Body Vibes and Oh so Fancy Lingerie. Of course, by all indications, this is just the beginning. When asked who her dream clients were, Zara mentioned Bella Hadid, Lilly Collins, Suki Waterhouse, Lilly James, and Margot Robbie. Considering Zara’s style, this is a no-brainer. After all, these women all rock an eyebrow game that’s pretty on fleek.