Celebrity make-up artist Emma Day works with regular clients such as Dame Judi Dench, Isla Fisher, Kate Mara, Elizabeth Debicki, Riley Keough and Kiernan Shipka. This week we ask her what its like to work with some of the industry’s biggest names, a typical day in her life and who her influences are within the industry.
Hey Emma Lets startbyh asking what prompted you to start a career in beauty?
I had a background in fashion styling as I was obsessed by fashion as a teenager and assisted the legendary fashion stylist Judy Blame for a while for I.D magazine who was very inspiring to work for..I then started singing for some cool 90s record labels and then finally settled on doing makeup in my mid 20s..I didn’t love fashion enough to be a mega fashion editor and I was decent at singing but never going to be a superstar so I started doing makeup which I had always loved and fell into it really easily and naturally. I had always loved makeup and beauty and it was just a natural fit.
Have you thought about developing your own range of make-up?
I think every makeup artist fantasises about having their own range! It’s definitely something I think about – it’s just about perfecting a vision and finding something unique in the marketplace. I get to try everything out there and have a good knowledge of what woman gravitate to so am honing that.. I am also obsessed with perfume and often think about my own creations. It’s all there in incubating in my brain!
Can you talk us through a day in the life of being on set or a photo shoot with you?
My work is usually with actresses and celebrities so I always pack a kit specific to whom I am working with so I will go through that all the night before to make sure I have the right products and have clean brushes. I don’t usually work with assistants unless its more than one client, which is rare, so am pretty hands on. I always listen to how my clients want to look, their ideas and preferences, what their stylist thinks..Unlike fashion which is more trend related, the kind of makeup I do is very much about what makes my clients look their best and it’s very collaborative.It’s also about being a gentle and soothing influence as many of my clients have travelled from the US or are working crazy hours and are severely jet lagged so I always pack things like instant working face masks, essential oils and eye masks (I love Elemis, Sisley, and Suqqu ones) as well as Berocca and EmergenC to help with tiredness. It’s all about making the day as pleasant and painless as possible especially on press junkets and always thinking ahead.
Where can you see yourself within the next 2 years then further 5 years?
At the moment I am really enjoying the travel aspect of my work and am making the most of trips to Europe and to the U.S so I predict more of that..I particularly love California and spending time in LA so that may well become a more long term plan as it’s a place that I really feel myself in and it’s always been good to me! I love the more natural, spiritual and well being aspects of LA.I would love to consult more intensively with a brand that’s a good fit and I am definitely thinking of my own brand as well.
Have you ever experienced any low points in your career and what did you do to overcome the barriers?
Low points.Well, I would say I was a slow burner! I certainly was quite poor for some time! I went into the industry very easily but there were definitely times when I didn’t have a great fit with an agency and when I worked more in the celebrity arena rather than the fashion one I found the right placing in the industry for me so work came in more naturally. I am now enjoying it coming full circle and do fashion shoots too as actresses have a strong influence on fashion now. I think it’s very important to find your niche and perfect it rather than spreading yourself too thinly but it does take some time to find where one fits and feels happy.You just have to stick it out and be prepared to reinvent yourself from time to time! Assisting really amazing people early on was the best thing for me – I was the first assistant to Lisa Eldridge before she took on her assistant Jessie and she was incredibly generous and inspiring – I learned not only how to do good makeup but also observed how she behaves with people and how down to earth she is and makes people feel comfortable.Having a great mentor who encourages is really important.Having more of a foot in the also US definitely changed things for me.You just have to keep having faith and looking at the bigger picture.. be prepared to fail and pick your self up many many times.Eventually, things will stick.
What are your favourite beauty trends or seasons?
I don’t have favourite seasons – I always look forward to the new seasons and new colours. I would say my influences/references are more based on characters or people from history rather than trend driven – although I do incorporate trends within those influences – I am more interested in classic beauty and making people look the best they can rather than “trendy.” The fact is all makeup trends come back around again.I love looking at old fashion pictures or images of movie stars from all eras and am very drawn to classic beauties and style from women like Catherine Deneuve, Jane Birkin, Rita Hayworth, 70s Jerry Hall, Angelica Houston, Bardot, Lauren Hutton etc..
You have worked with some well respected industry people, who would you kill to work with?
I am hugely lucky to have worked with some incredible people and faces.I was always in love with Judi Dench and she’s been a loyal and very special client for over 3 years now.I think she’s one of the most beautiful people I have ever me inside and out.I love Cate Blanchett and Julianne Moore – they are the red carpet queens but also seem amazing, wise and inspiring women. Tilda Swinton is another one! I have massive girl crushes on all of them.
How important do you feel it is to inspire other women out there on a mission and how do you feel you do this?
I hope that I am always positive and enthusiastic.Women are in a great place in history.We can do what we want to do and be responsible for our own choices…If we don’t decide to have families, it’s not frowned upon and if we do have families and work, that’s ok too! If there is one thing I can say is, be fearless and follow your heart and your truth. Dare to dream and dream big..Don’t listen to the voices that tell you you can’t because it’s all possible – you just have be true to your life vision and don’t give up when it’s hard and you get tested.
That is all part of the journey, I look forward to every day I go to work and I know that is a huge privilege and a blessing I am so thankful for.Stick it out.Remember that enthusiasm, self – belief and a positive attitude are infectious and will open up pathways for you.If I have a bad day, I always follow my dads advice and remember” Tomorrow is a new day”.
Do you feel enough is being down to empower and support women starting their own business’s?
I think there is good support out there for women.. I had help from The Princes trust to buy my portfolio many years ago – it was £250 and it started me off and encouraged me.I also had a makeup artist who gave me a lot of her old products to start me off as I didn’t have much money to buy products so I try and do the same myself to aspiring makeup artists.You have to get out there and network and do the work yourself, do the research and graft – the more you put out, the more you will bring in and it’s all out there.
Can you share your top 5 tips for establishing a career as a Make-up artist?
1.Do a well-respected course to learn the basics. For fashion work, you don’t need to do a long one but for film, it’s more technical, so a longer course is needed to learn prosthetics, period makeup etc
2. Get out there in the real world and work for a retail brand if you can. You will learn how to do makeup on all kinds of faces, talk to people and build up your kit.
3. Assist if you can, the big fashion makeup artists often need large teams and keen and good assistants. Once you are on one team, even if you are asked to do the absolute basics you will be getting the best education possible! I did many shows with many big makeup artists including Val Garland, Charlotte Tilbury, Lisa Eldridge and Pat McGrath and thats where I learned everything rather than doing a course.
4. When you start working, be on time, be organised, invest some money on good brushes and foundations. Leave your personal issues at home and be prepared to change your social plans if shoots go on late without complaint. Always be smiley and always smell clean and nice! Doing makeup is very intimate on a mental and physical level to be on top of your game at all times.
5. Act confidently even if you don’t feel it.Make the person you are doing makeup on feel relaxed and in good hands. Listen carefully to what they like, change the makeup if asked gracefully and be gentle with your brushes and hands!