Verge were lucky enough to sit down and chat with the incredibly talented Aimee Adams. Aimee is a leading celebrity make-up artist with a client list that includes everyone from Tom Ford, Elle Macpherson, Robert Downey Junior, Sienna Miller and Helen Mirren, to Ralph Fiennes, Michael Fassbender, and Rachel Weisz. Along with this, Aimee has also worked with a whole host of high-profile brands such as Burberry, Elizabeth Arden, Agent Provocateur, L’Oreal and Max Factor. Read on to find out some of Aimee’s top tips, her pet peeves, and why she’d love to make up Elvis Presley.
Could you tell us a little about how you got started in your profession and how your career progressed?
I came over from Texas in 1988 as a fashion design student from America, I was supposed to do one term and go back, but that didn’t happen. The next day, I was in Piccadilly Circus and the first person I spoke to I married – it was for real. I called my mum and said “I’m getting married to a man with tattoos who wears leather jackets and has piercings, and I’m changing my course and staying in London.” She was shocked to say the least. So I changed my course to Special Effects makeup – a specialist course for two years including all aspects of hair, wigs, theatre makeup, prosthetics, blood, guts, gore – all of that. I don’t work in any of that side of the industry anymore I just do beauty and celebrity and fashion work now – which I find a lot easier – making someone look good is easier than chopping their head off! Back in 1988, it was a completely different industry to what it is now. Now, it’s a good thing and a bad thing, with social media and YouTube, girls in their bedroom in Huddersfield with a bag of MAC products are makeup artists – good on them! That’s great. But.. there’s only so many jobs, and there’s about 6 billion people doing makeup artistry now – because it’s such a fun and interesting thing to do! But back in 1988 there was a small handful of really good people – and that was it! There was lots of work and lots of money; I was working straight out of college on beauty campaigns, working with Madonna, doing massive jobs! I really landed on my feet. I’d been playing with makeup since I was a kid. It comes very easy to me.
There’s definitely a skill to it.. I’ve been trying to perfect my makeup for years and I still feel like a small child playing with mummy’s makeup at times..
It does take a lot of practice. People say “it’s so difficult! How do you do it?” and I think people really overcomplicate it, just simplify it, it’s very easy to do makeup! I think you probably do know what you’re doing, you will know what suits your face more than I do because you look at your face every day. I’m very loose about it, when people say “oh you have this eye shape you MUST wear this… use THIS product and not THIS one” it’s so not what I do. I use products from all over the planet that I find on the internet, from the pound shop, stuff that’s really expensive. I spent years using felt tip pens on my lips – because it just worked! Just think like a makeup artist – a lot of people get locked into “well I have to use this MAC mascara because everyone says to use it” and I just think – don’t believe EVERYTHING you read or hear. Try things out – if it works, it works!
Your career has spanned over 25 years now – how would you say your techniques have changed over this period – with the introduction of HD TV and now with the introduction of 4K TV?
Yes! It’s actually been 27 years now. That’s a good question, because my techniques have not changed at all. I think a lot of other people’s have because, although I was trained in theatrical and TV makeup, TV used to be really rubbish, the definition and the resolution was shocking, and now we’re talking 4K; so the colour, the definition and the detail is extremely clear and true to life. It didn’t used to be like that, so people used to layer on makeup really thick, but I never did, because I started working in beauty and close up photography – where if you put really heavy makeup on it looked very thick! So I was working with magnifying glasses and big bright lights – I want to see everything in great big microscopic detail – so it had to be really fine work. So in a way, that is HD, that IS 4K. Now that Sony’s come out with this, I think some makeup artists may be panicking a little bit, because you can’t get away with anything!
Out of all the makeup you do; Editorial, Commercials, TV, Red Carpet, what is your favourite?
I love the editorial work that I have to travel for, I do like to travel, I do a lot of editorial trips so that’s definitely a contender. But I also love beauty, beauty is a challenge, it really is. You know it’s going to be printed in a magazine or on a huge billboard or in a catalogue so it’s really got to be right. We’re lucky we’re able to retouch on stills, you don’t get away with mistakes as much on film – if there’s one eyelash pointing the wrong way on stills they can fix that on camera. I like the challenge of doing beauty. I’ve wound up doing loads of work with celebrity, but I haven’t chased it, it’s really just happened. I know a lot of makeup artists want to be celebrities themselves, but I’m not interested, I don’t want to be a celeb. I don’t think I could wish anything worse for myself or even my worst enemy, to be chased and papped – no thank you very much! I’ll leave it to them!
Could you tell our readers, what are your holy grail products that you just can’t live without? Let’s try and narrow it down to 5?
Red lipstick – I use it a lot at work. It’s become very trendy in recent years, it just keeps coming up and rearing it’s head. I’ve worn it since I was about 15 and now I’m knocking on 50’s door so it’s all about red lipstick for me! I’m not fussy about brands, I’ve got lots of different brands of it but it’s just amazing. Everyone looks good in a red, people say ‘oh I can’t pull it off’ but you really can! Second would be powder – there’s a powder that I found when I was a teenager called Cornsilk and I’m a massive fan of it. It’s a loose powder; I’ve used it on the darkest skin in the industry and the lightest and it works for everyone. It makes everyone look soft focus without changing the colour of your foundation.
I also love sheet masks – they make you look a bit like Hannibal Lecter. There’s a Korean company that’s come out called the Mask Bar. They’re very good. I buy them off the internet, they’re amazing. You can also get more expensive ones from Shu Uemera and SK2 but you can actually see a difference, and you feel like you’re treating yourself. I pop mine in the freezer for a few seconds and I really like feeling refreshed after using one.
Third would be gadgets. I’m a gadget freak. I love magnifying mirrors and portable lights. I’ve actually bought magnifying mirrors in the pound shop, they work really well and they give a big magnification, if I don’t have these with me I really panic!
Lastly I have to say I’m addicted to blotters. The Cornsilk powder is great but I don’t like using too much, so I use the blotting sheets to soak up the excess oil.
What is your pet peeve when it comes to make-up?
How long have you got?! I can’t even think of my number one there is so many! It’s probably got to be the TOWIE eyelash thing, it drives me mad! I love a false eyelash as long as it looks like it could be your own. I can’t stand that plastic TOWIE lash at 7 in the morning and you have a girl on the tube with the Kim Kardashian style contouring which hasn’t been blended, really heavy, with around 3 sets of these plastic lashes! It looks ridiculous! Even at midnight in a club when I’m slightly drunk you still look ridiculous! That does wind me up. People’s eyelashes must be falling out because they’re using so many heavy eyelashes! It doesn’t have to look false! I have so many peeves when it comes to make-up, just too much makeup looks terrible. I also love watching people do their makeup on the tube, I just feel like dropping my card into their lap and saying “I can help you!”. Good lighting is essential for makeup!
What is your top, universal makeup tip that everyone should remember?
It goes back to detail, people just don’t take enough notice. They do their makeup in the back of a car, on the train to work, in bad lighting in their flat and then they don’t realise that if they went out into daylight and looked close up they would look horrific. Well, yes you do, because you haven’t checked your makeup in different lighting and different mirrors! It really is essential. Check your makeup in a side light, in a shadow, in the bright, check that you look good in ALL different lights. Look very closely. Imagine
If there were 3 people in the whole world, dead or alive, that you could do makeup for. Who would they be and why?
They’ve got to be fun!
First has to be Marie Antoinette – she’s kind of cool and it would be interesting to give a royal historical figure a makeover. Next, an absolute classic, Marilyn Monroe – it’s all about the red lips which I love, she’s just so sexy and all that. Last but not least would be Elvis Presley – I do a lot of men’s makeup. I just watched celebrity autopsies, the whole series back to back. I even bought the book he was reading when he died on the toilet! It’s fascinating! Men’s makeup needs to look like they’re wearing nothing, that they’re just naturally gorgeous so it’s a challenge in itself. Plus, I’d just really like to meet Elvis. He’s so cool.
I’ve chosen 3 dead people! That’s interesting
That’s probably because you’ve had everyone from Tom Ford to Madonna already!
Yes you’re probably right! Ha ha!