Interview: Makeup Artist Victoria Stiles
What is it like to live your dream as a makeup artist? Victoria Stiles shares the touching story of how she started, where she is today, and where she hopes to be in the future. We laughed, we cried. Read on:
Following is the transcript for the BlogTalkRadio interview with Makeup Artist Victoria Stiles.
Welcome to Solessence’s Fashion by the Lake on BlogTalkRadio. I’m your host Hillary Fry. Today we’re going to interview Makeup Artist Victoria Stiles. She has been involved in makeup artistry for events, celebrities, print, editorial, fashion, television and film since 1997, she’s pretty much covered it all. In addition she’s an editor at Beyond Beauty Basics, covering major events and launches. Let’s get her on the line.
Just wanted to jump right into it and ask you: When you first got the makeup artistry bug, how did that go about? Did it seem like an attainable dream?
VS:When I was growing up in high school, I would always do my friend’s makeup. Robin, who is one of my very best friends, and who is still one of my very best friends, would always let me play on her face, and test out different products, and all that type of stuff. She would basically be my real life doll. Her mother sadly passed about 8 years ago. (Pause, clearing throat) I’m actually cracking up because (clearing throat) this was actually a very sad time for us. Her mother passed about 8 years ago from breast cancer, and she encouraged me to pursue a career in makeup. If it wasn’t for her, I really would never have thought to pursue the career.
So until someone mentioned it to you, it wasn’t even a job opportunity. It was just something you enjoyed doing.
VS: Yes. It was always something I enjoyed doing, and she just really encouraged me throughout the process, just said, “This is your craft. You know what you are doing, and people need to know.” (clearing throat) – could we take a break for one moment? I’m sorry…
Sure, of course. While you are gathering your thoughts, I just wanted to mention, going from that point and jumping ahead, you’ve received glowing reports on a shoot you did at the Pentagon with (actor) Gary Sinese. One thing that was mentioned was your integrity, your professionalism. You were working in 90 degreee heat which, with makeup in that kind of weather, is pretty challenging. It has been mentioned on that high of a level your work and your craftsmanship, and it’s beautiful to hear that it started with a friend, that she saw that in you.
VS:Yes, yes. Thank you, I’m a little bit more stable now. I just haven’t talked about that in a very long time, and just talking about that brought back a lot of warm feelings. I just remember her words of encouragement, and they’ve just stuck with me throughout all these years. Honestly, if it wasn’t for my friend’s mother, like I said, I would never have thought to pursue a career, and I’m very thankful to have those words in me. And yes, working with Gary Sinise at the Pentagon was very amazing. He is such a gracious actor, I mean, just what he’s done for the military. He’s got the band called Lt. Dan Band, and he will go overseas and perform and just really get the troops up and together, give them a spirit and everything. He’s a beautiful person.
You had this opportunity to work with him, and it started with someone mentioning that this is what you should do, but how did you actually turn that into reality? Did you know places to start schooling? Are you self-taught? Did you already know someone in the industry?
VS: I would say I am definitely more self-taught. I did not go to a professional school. Growing up, besides working with my friend’s makeup, I would get tips from fashion publications. I think I was the only kid in high school that had an actual subscription to publications like Vogue. I would sit on my bathroom floor and open the magazine and play with my makeup, whatever makeup I had, be it Covergirl, Wet n’ Wild. I would just go to town on my face and practice, practice, practice, and then I started practicing on my friend Robin’s face. So it was just studying the techniques handed down by pros that were printed in the publications, to actually studying the pictures, to taking that and practicing on my face. It was really the very first layer, the basis, to my makeup technique. From there I actually started work with MAC cosmetics and I was with them for about five years
Was this job at a mall?
VS: I worked at one of the freestanding stores (Tysons Galleria in Virginia) and I worked there for about five years. That was really a priceless opportunity, because working with the general public you work with all skin types, all skin tones, all ages, and it’s a great experience. You learn what products work for what skin types, what looks well on this skin tone, that skin tone, what works for this eye shape, that eye shape and that really helped to hone my skills. Through MAC they actually gave us some opportunities to work on larger productions, and I had an opportunity to work on a Cher production that was here at MCI center in D.C., as well as Missy Elliott. So they gave us some opportunities to branch out beyond selling products to consumers
When was the moment that you made the leap, you know, the point where you said, “I’m actually a bona fide makeup artist.”
VS:Well, when I worked with MAC, I had that experience under my belt, and I started doing freelance makeup in 2004, mainly for weddings. It was a couple of years of work with weddings, working on my own, that I started to branch a little bit more out to do more of fashion and beauty and commercial shots and stuff like that. I guess I thought, I came to the realization that this is my career and this is my profession, when I started working with some agencies who booked me out for jobs. I felt like a real, bona fide makeup artist, professional makeup artist, and I could handle just about anything.
Tell us a little about the different types of jobs you’ve had. How does it differ when moving from print to celebrity, or working with an agency?
VS: Being based in Washington DC there is a lot of commercial jobs. I’ve worked on anything from a Wal-Mart print ad, that type of commercial job, to visiting national publications like O Magazine, Glamour Magazine, who were doing basic lifestyle shots of people for articles. Then also television stations, both local and national. I’ve worked with ESPN, who was here for one of the games, and worked with Emmitt Smith and all of the newscasters for the actual segment of the show. There are also a lot of visiting celebrities, especially now with Obama in office – there are all types of events going on. It’s like we are now going to get a name, the Washington D.C, area. We’re now coming into our own and yes, we’re here and we can be hip and trendy too, we seriously can! So there are a lot of celebrity events here now and I get to work on a lot of those as well. (Editor’s note: Stiles was also selected as makeup artist for Deborah Norville for the Inauguration Day events)
Do you have a preference for the type of makeup you do?
VS: I love beauty makeup, and I love doing beautiful makeup with pops of color, so I’d say I like to do the fashion editorials, that genre of makeup. I don’t get to book that a lot here in DC. I find I have to travel to New York, which is fine. That would be my preference, but I enjoy doing the clean, pretty makeup for commercial. It gets a little more glammy for red carpet, it’s great. I like the more creative makeup, but don’t get to do that a lot here.
Do you have line favorites or do you mix it all up?
VS: I do have my favorites, my go-tos. I definitely mix it all up. I found a great resource to be able to mix it all up: The Make Up Show in New York. You get to see so many brands and talk to all of these vendors and play with makeup. I think I came back from that show with makeup swatches up to my elbows. The main brands I use, I love Face Atelier foundation. It’s beautiful, especially for print or beauty – that type of photography. It gives a nice skin look and a nice healthy glow. If I need more of a matte look, I obviously would go with something that sets with more of a matte finish, so I use Graftobian as well. Colors, I love pops of color like I was saying. Yaby Cosmetics, which is great (yabycosmetics.com). It’s based in Toronto. She has some new hues (the creator) and she’s also a makeup artist so she understands color. Also with drugstore brands, I love Max Factor Vivid Impact Lipcolor, that is one of my favorite lipsticks right now.
But they’re leaving.
VS: That’s what I heard, what’s up with that?
They’ve actually been slowly pulling out of the market (read initial post here). I first realized it a while ago when I went into a store and they didn’t have the product and I thought, “What store doesn’t carry Max Factor?” The sales have slowly eroded. They are doing really well overseas; the founder was originally from Poland. It’s doing really well there but they figured they needed to cut their losses and just pull out of the US. But it’s incredible because Max Factor essentially founded Hollywood makeup as we know it, so to lose them is a big loss to (US entertainment and cosmetic) history.
VS: I definitely agree.
Stock up lady.
VS: (laughs) I plan on it.
Now, this is pretty exciting. There is something you’ve got out that shows your great use of color. You’ve got a fantastic book out. How did you get that started?
VS: Well, it’s a funny story Hillary. I just wanted a professional book to send to my clients, some of my ad clients and even my wedding clients, planners; just something they could have that they could put out on their coffee table, that my name would be on it, that it would be fresh on their mind. So I created a book on a self-publishing site called blurb.com, and it’s a hardback book, and it displays all of the poppy colors. I created this book and sent it out to some of my clients and blurb.com actually ended up putting up as one of their Staff Picks. I thought that was great. From there, a couple of makeup artists got together with me and said, “This is such a great book, we want to promote it.” They happened to be bloggers, started promoting it on their site, and its definitely grown. I didn’t even mean it to go in that direction. It was just a self-published book that I created for my clients and now people are buying it from blurb.com
It’s really nice because 1) it’s showcase your work, 2) it gives people an idea, a way to study your techniques, and 3) it’s just a beautiful book to have out on a coffee table.
VS: Yeah, the cover itself is one of my most striking shots. It’s the one I use the most for icons – I’ve been relating that shot to brand myself. The shot was taken by a very talented fashion photographer in New York, Jaime Nelson, and a lot of her work is, again, poppy stuff.
In terms of what is coming up ahead for people, what is trending in makeup?
VS: One thing that I noticed this February at (New York) Fashion Week for Fall 2009. You automatically think Fall/Winter you think really heavy makeup. It is actually opposite this upcoming season. It was very clean, very pretty, minimal makeup. I actually worked on two shows this past February, Alexandre Herchcovitch and Rad Hourani. Both shows were just clean makeup. Alexandre Herchcovitch did incorporate a little bit of color, just very light color on both the cheeks and the lips. More like a coral, a natural flushed hue. Rad Hourani, on the other hand, was just a very plain face, completely perfect. So the skin was perfected, emphasis on skin, nude colors. It’s an interesting look going into fall. Like I said, a lot of times when you go into fall you do smoky eyes you do vino lip shades and that sort of thing, but it’s definitely more clean this year. So that’s coming up.
So the coral is extending past summer into fall.
VS: It is. It is almost like coral is meshing into fall. I don’t know that it’s like rumors related to the “recession look”, you know, minimalist. I don’t think so. I think it’s just pretty, a pretty look.
Do you touch on skincare at all? You talk about the perfect face. It starts with skin. If your skin isn’t really up to speed, your makeup isn’t going to look that great. Do you have any recommendations?
VS: Yes. Although I’m not a dermatologist, I always encourage my clients to visit with a dermatologist to get a skincare regimen down. A basic skincare regimen would be cleanser, toner, and moisturizer. I love eye cream. I think every woman starting at the age of 19, 20 at the latest, should be using an eye cream. However, I don’t like using eye cream with alpha hydroxy in it – that pulls skin. I like more of a moisturizing eye cream. So, I encourage my clients to visit with a skincare professional, because you are exactly right. If the skin isn’t really smoothed out or the tone of the skin isn’t good, you put on more makeup. And the more makeup the heavier the look. It’s nice to start off with a fresh palette for optimal results with your makeup.
I wanted to ask about the alpha hydroxy. Does that mean you are against chemical peels?
VS: Not against chemical peels, just the alpha hydroxy in moisturizer. They are meant to pull the skin tighter, and I just think, just in my experience with it, it pulls the skin and then the skin will gently release over time. So you are constantly pulling and releasing, which makes the skin loose over time. So I’d rather just have a daily moisturizer when using skin care products, just a moisturizer without the alpha hydroxy around the eye area. Chemical peels are okay. I would say once every few months or so.
For people who are looking to become makeup artist, do you recommend involvement in professional organizations? If somebody is in Kansas, what are they supposed to do?
VS: Well, I really enjoy Michael DeVellis’ The Powder Group. They have Makeup Artist Summits all over the US. Maybe not Kansas, but they are a great resource for artists. They offer pro-to-pro, hands on, workshops. I actually took a workshop last October through the Powder Group at the Makeup Summit. I took James Vincent’s editorial beauty workshop, and going into it I thought, “Editorial Beauty! We’re going to learn all of these creative looks!” Y^ou know, more pops of color, maybe really dramatic eyeliner. He actually focused his editorial on clean makeup. Totally opposite of what I was thinking. But he incorporated some great products to highlight and bring forward the natural beauty of the face, and the end result, it was amazing. And he used very little makeup for it. I think I learned a lot through that, and I think any other artist interested in pursuing a career will learn through these artists, through these presenters through the Powder Group function. It’s a fantastic resource.
I think that’s a great recommendation. In speaking with Billy B, he’s done a lot of work with (Powder Group), speaking tours, and we were speaking about clean makeup. He said “Everyone wants to learn the crazy stuff, but clean makeup is sometimes the hardest thing to do. To really look like you have no makeup on takes a good hand.”
VS: It really does. It takes great precision. Some artists even use a magnifying glass to go over the face.
In terms of personal projects, what do you have coming up?
VS: I have a couple of personal projects coming up for editorial submission. I have shoots at Millbrook Farms. It’s a fashion shoot by a fantastic stylist that was handpicked by a photographer that I’ve worked with. This photographer I actually worked with in Paris last fall. I also have a lot of plans aside from makeup. I just have a love for blogging, and I really want to develop my blog, www.makeupartistbackstage.com. I started doing an insider’s look at beauty and trends, basically through my eyes, what I’m seeing behind the scenes. I’d really like to focus on developing more blog posts that give inspiring makeup artists a look at the industry, how to get into it, and more information on the actual process of everything.
That will be another great resource, and interesting to follow you on your trails too.
VS: I would say, further down the line, I am based in D.C. and I would like to travel a bit more with makeup. I got a taste of it last fall working in Paris and I absolutely loved it and would like to travel more, experience more. I found that East Coast makeup is very different from West Coast makeup.
Victoria Stiles with Olivia Thirlby, “Juno”
VS: Just different trends with each. West Coast is high gloss and very sharp photography. East Coast, in New York it’s just this very clean, airy, pretty makeup, very romantic almost. So I’d love to travel a little more, learn a little more on techniques worldwide.
How would people go about booking you for a job?
VS: They can go through my website at www.victoriastilesmakeup.com , and I recently acquired www.victoriastiles.com . Either way they can reach me through my website. I have a contact form they can fill out as well as a direct email address.
Director’s Cut: Three Questions Answered Off Air
VS: A photographer I mainly work with, http://www.nicholasjbara.com, was hired
for the job to work with Melody Gardot. He suggested me to her and her label, Universal/Verve Music Group. I guess they liked what they saw, called me on the last day of NYFW SS09 and asked if I could get on a plane the next day.
Melody Gardot’s cd cover – Ad in London Tube
What is your personal skin and makeup routine?
VS:Minimal on both. I use a basic Cleanser, Toner, Moisturizer SPF 15, and Eye Cream — all from one of my favorite indulgences The Body Shop. Makeup, when I actually wear makeup myself, I use Face Atelier foundation, Graftobian cream blush, Liquid liner, Bad Gal Lash Mascara, and MAC Ruby Woo Lipstick.
Barring the new fall trends, if you could only highlight one, is it lips or eyes?