Professional make up is a big industry these days. It has come a long way in the last hundred years or so. This article looks at five of the most influential professional make up artists.
George Westmore was one of the early make up artists in film, but his influence is still felt to this day. He was born in the UK and started his working life as a hairdresser. In the early 20th century he moved with his family to the United States, and worked as a wig maker. This eventually led to his move into make up.
Westmore later started the first ever movie make up department and taught his four eldest sons the techniques of the profession. Later on his two younger sons also worked as make up artist. Westmore committed suicide in 1931, but his legacy did not go with him. His sons continued to be hugely successful in the make up industry, in roles such as make up chief at Paramount, head of make up at Warner Bros, and head of Universal. His grandchildren also worked in the industry. Every major film studio was touched by the Westmore family, and their role in film make up cannot be underestimated.
Jack Pierce was another early influence in cinema. He first worked in the movie industry in the 1920’s. He worked in a number of different roles in film, starting as a cinema manager. He later tried his hand as an actor and as a stuntman. He eventually edged into film make up, which became his forte.
After some early success he was hired by Universal Pictures. Universal has become one of the most successful studios in Hollywood, but at the time in was newly established. Both Universal, and Pierce himself, had some early success, especially in the horror genre. Their earliest major success together came with Dracula in 1931. Many were astonished by Pierce’s work in the now famous horror. His most impressive work, though, came later on in the 1930’s with Frankenstein. The way Pierce transformed actor Boris Karloff into Frankenstein is legendary to this day.
Kevin Aucoin’s first foray as a make up artist was doing make up for models for free in New York. While doing this he was discovered by Vogue magazine. At the age of only 21 he was hired by the floundering make up company Ultima 2. A year later, in 1984, he launched the ground breaking line, The Nakeds. At the time make up tones were made separately for black and white women, and The Nakeds was the first line that worked on all skin tones. It worked with yellow undertones instead of pink or peach, and was revolutionary at the time. The line resurrected the Ultima 2 brand and was the most influential development in make up over the next 20 years.
Aucoin worked with a number of celebrities, including Madonna, Cher, Sharron Stone, Janet Jackson, Tina Turner and Brittney Spears, and charged up to $ 10,000 per session. He died in May 2002.
Bobbi Brown graduated from Emerson College in Boston with a degree in theatrical make up. Her first major success came in 1991 with the release of a range of ten lipsticks, under the name Bobbi Brown Essentials. There have been many facets to Bobbi Brown Essentials over the years since, and is still synonymous with make up to this day.
Throughout her career, Brown has mostly worked on looks for magazines and fashions shows. She is also the exclusive beauty editor of the television show, The Today Show. Brown is a partner in the charity Dress for Success, where she gives underprivileged women attractive clothes and make up for job interviews. She has worked with the likes of Meg Ryan, Brooke Shields and Drew Barrymore in her time, but now concentrates on working with non-celebrities.
Laura Mercier was born and raised in Provence in the south of France. She went on to study make up application in Paris. Soon after finishing her studies she was offered a job as make up artist and instructor at her former college. Soon after she worked with the French make up artist, Thibault Vabre.
Mercier moved to New York in the mid 80’s and worked for a team that launched the American version of Elle magazine. Her next step was working on an advertising campaign for well established magazines such as Vanity Fair and Glamour. Other clients of Mercier’s around this time were L’Oreal and Maybelline. In 1996 Mercier launched a ground breaking make up line that is designed to be appropriate for all women. The line is still going strong and sells all around the world. Amongst Mercier’s famous clients have been Madonna and Celine Dion.
Andrew Marshall (c)
Professional Make Up Artist