When art meets make-up

Lan Nguyen-Grealis is an award-winning make-up artist whose artistic flair has made her a firm favourite with celebrities like Paloma Faith and Pixie Lott

Born in Ireland to Vietnamese parents, Lan Nguyen-Grealis has always had a passion for art. She was blessed with artistic talent too, and with 13 years as a make-up artist under her belt, she has risen to the top of her profession. Her little black book is packed with celebrity clients including Paloma Faith, Taylor Momsen, Millie Macintosh, Caprice, Jessica Lowndes, Kimberly Wyatt, Laura Whitmore, David Gandy, Pixie Lott and the Sugababes, and for her new book, she worked with Rankin to show why make-up really is an art form.

When did you realise you wanted to pursue a career in make-up artistry?

My career started when I was working in a photographic studio as a receptionist and tea lady and was asked to step in to do make-up when they were short staffed. I was lucky enough to assist a photographer there. Then, through word of mouth, I got to work on many great projects. I only realised after about three years of learning and working that I wanted to pursue it properly.

How did you go about achieving this goal and what obstacles did you have to overcome on the way?

I kept networking and taking any opportunities of testing with photographers on shoots and working with new people – sometimes unpaid and many low budget. This allowed me to create looks for my portfolio for submission to magazines. The main obstacle was generally trying to make money, but I’ve been very lucky to earn enough to survive and be creative.

What training did you do to learn your amazing skills?

I studied art from a young age, but I didn’t get the opportunity to train. I learned on the job and kept practising ideas and concepts on myself.

What would we find you doing on an “average” day?

I don’t ever have an average day as I’m always doing something different. But a busy day would be working for a show such as London Fashion Week, where I would be completing 18 to 26 models within three hours with my team, doing interviews with press in between. Then I’d rush off to another show and complete the same process, sometimes fitting in a few front row VIP clients too.

A quiet day would be working on a fashion editorial, where it’s all about the clothes and not the make-up, so I would only be spending minimal time for a natural look and touch ups throughout the shoot. Even so, it could take eight hours or more for the shoot to finish.

What do you love most about your work, and what kind of looks do you most enjoy creating?

I love meeting new people and having the freedom to create. The looks I most enjoy creating are beauty looks for editorials and fashion shows as they can be natural or creative, but I enjoy anything that is a challenge.

What’s been your most difficult job so far?

I think the most difficult job was my own fashion show for my book launch during London Fashion Week. I had so many press and celebrities attending that I put myself under so much pressure to create many intricate looks from the book. I had to manage and organise it all by myself from the beginning.

What have been the high points of your career?

There have been so many I don’t think I can pick any out as every new experience makes me so grateful to be doing what I love.

You were Paloma Faith's make-up artist on The Voice. What is Paloma like to work with and how did you decide on her make-up for each show?

I absolutely love working with Paloma. She’s so specific in her look, depending on her outfit and hair. We like to decide on her make-up together.

Are there any special considerations you have to take into account when deciding on your choice of make-up for TV work?

Yes – there are many things, especially shine on the skin and how the lighting is. To avoid shine, I generally have a selection of different mattifying primers, pore refiners, oil-free foundations and a selection of HD foundations with concealers. To compensate for hard top lighting, I would make sure there is minimum make-up under the eyes and that the shading isn’t too dark. Using fine loose powders and mineral touch up powders with pressed powder also works well for most lighting set ups.

Why did you decide to publish a book and how did you decide what to include in it?

I wanted to bring make-up to the forefront for everyone – not just those in the industry, but those outside of what I do too. And I wanted to include imagery that tells a story from how as a make-up artist I found my inspiration, which is art in my eyes. It is a journey of my thought processes.

How long did it take to shoot all the amazing artwork for the book?

It took me about 24 days to shoot, spread out over a year and a half. Most of the looks were created for the book and had never been seen before.

You also run make-up workshops. Can you tell us a bit about those please?

I enjoy teaching, and now and again I offer workshops to general make-up artists or those looking to be inspired. It’s important to give back, but also it’s a good way of finding new assistants as I see how eager they are to learn. Readers can get in touch directly through my website Lan-makeup.com or visit my Facebook page lanmakeup to find dates and exclusive announcements.

Which brands do you most enjoy using?

I love all the brands out there as most have something special in the range. I particularly like MAC, Kryolan, Burberry, Nars, Makeup Forever and high street brands like The Bodyshop and Bourjois.

Would you like to have your own line of make-up one day?

Yes, I wouldn’t mind that – I have lots of ideas that I think women would like.

What are your ambitions for the next few years?

I have lots of projects going on at the moment, so I am living my ambitions and ticking my boxes. Beyond that, I have no idea what’s next. I just hope my book keeps getting out there, inspiring people.

What advice would you give to anyone who is considering a career in make-up artistry?

Make-up is an amazing industry as long as you are motivated and enjoy working as a team. For 2016, what would you love to see women in the UK doing with their make-up? I would love women to play with more colour and invest in good brushes!!

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