Make-up artist to the stars Louise Constad explains the highs and lows of being a make-up artist, and how she conquered the industry….
Award winning make-up artist Louise Constad boasts an impressive resume having worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. We’re talking Kristin Scott Thomas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Camilla Rutherford, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Tina Turner and Juliette Binoche. She has previously been honoured with Best Make-up Artist by Campaign Magazine and Best International Make-Up Artist from Italian Cinema Art, for her work as personal make-up artist to Kristin Scott Thomas and Juliette Binoche on the Oscar-winning film ‘The English Patient’. Surprisingly, Constad started out wanting to be a stylist, “I was seventeen, I was obsessed with fashion and I thought I knew it all. One day at a shoot, the make-up artists weren’t doing what I wanted and I thought, I can do it better than that, and I did. I just have a knack for it; I understand what is needed in a shoot.” Indeed, Constad appears to be born with a natural talent for make-up, having never attended any prestigious make-up schools or classes, except for one single half an hour lesson in 1979 costing her a measly £10, quite the investment. Constad’s philosophy behind this is straight forward, “It’s what you think of in your mind, your own artistic world; you’re not told what to do, it just happens that way”.
Recently Constad did a shoot for ‘The Guardian’ featuring Helena Bonham Carter, who had just completed Tim Burton’s fabulous remake of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. The article featured pictures of Helena dressed to the nines in various ‘Wonderland’ inspired garments: a miniature top hat with a fitted tailcoat, fingerless gloves, striped stockings with a huge pink hooped petticoat and corset. But what really caught my eye was the strong, striking make-up that had been applied to Helena’s delicate features. Using beautiful shading under the cheekbones and heavily lined lips with accents of pink all over the face, the look was ethereal and creative, yet simultaneously deeply intense with its vivid lines and contouring.
Constad has worked extensively with Bonham-Carter, doing her make-up for many film premieres and ceremonies. Helena’s look is famously quirky: queenie-style Vivienne Westwood dresses which are often corseted, piles of pearls, chokers and charm necklaces. The finishing touch is her mass of cranberry coloured hair piled on top like a cherry on a cake. The make-up though is what stands out. Helena’s chocolaty eyes are highlighted using pink eye shadow and copious amount of eyeliner, the lips are heavily lip-lined and glossy, and the cheeks are impressively rouged. Amongst the sea of faces all varnished with the same usual petty prettiness which we have seen far too much of, Helena is the one who catches your eye. And yet the papers and fashion judges view her as an over-cooked Burton creation. How is this so? Constad eagerly jumped in to defend Helena when I broached the subject, “Helena’s style is often misunderstood. Her hair is not messy; it takes up to two hours to get it like that, and if you look closely it is studded with gems and diamonds, with incredible attention to detail. Her dresses are designer, mainly Vivienne Westwood. She’s just not seen as normal.” Take note please, fashion prudes.
Her famous work on the set of ‘The English Patient’ actually put her off doing films for the rest of her career. “It was extremely hard working on the set; you’re working with people you don’t normally mix with. It was especially difficult in Italy when everyone would go to bed early; it’s a very lonely existence. But sometimes you have to go through hard times to get the rewards, it’s like taking horrible medicine that make you feel better. And the English Patient certainly did me a lot of good. ”
Having travelled to amazing locations in order to do work, Constad is no stranger to the daunting task of setting herself up in an entirely different culture, “As a make-up artist, you become a make-up gypsy; it doesn’t really matter where you’re working you have the same main ingredients: the make-up chair, the tools, the products and you just do your job “.
And what a job she does. Searching through the numerous make-up looks that she’s done over the years, its clear that Constad is able to use her talents diversely. From red carpet premieres to music video’s, there are no limits to her work. I wonder if it was a difficult rise to the top of her game. “Yes”, is the answer, “There is a lot of competition out there, but if you’re keen and strong minded you can do it, just don’t give up”. Having worked her way to the top of the industry purely through hard work and building up an amazing portfolio, Louise can safely say that she has achieved everything she has set out to within her career, “I’m very happy with my career, and even happier now that I can choose to do what I want like editorial, commercials, fashion shoots. There’s nothing I could say I’d want to do because I’m already in it, doing it”.
The endless list of celebrities Louise has worked with proves her experience; she knows the highs and lows of being a make-up artist all too well. “Within the industry you need make-up artist training as well as building up experiences. It’s up to you how clever you are. Say you’re doing the make-up for a pop video; you’re going to be working from seven am till midnight. As a make-up artist you don’t work every day, but when you do its extreme. You spend a lot of time sitting around waiting for cameras and lighting to be done, you’re sort of like a pencil in a pencil case, just a part of the job. That’s what it takes.”
Despite the intensity of the job working with some of the loveliest faces around helps, says Louise, “If you have a beautiful face and end up with some nice pictures then you’re going to have a good day. However, the more spots and dark circles you have the more you need my help!” Indeed, some of Louise’s best days have been with the porcelain skinned beauty Sophie Ellis Bextor, a favourite of hers to work with. “I’ve been working with Sophie for the last ten years of her career; Sophie is very beautiful and loves to experiment so yes it’s great working with her”.
Any celebs you’ve yet to paint? “I’d like to work with Paloma Faith, because she likes make-up and experimentation.” No doubt Paloma would run to Louise’s make-up chair given the chance. Paloma Faith, like Helena, is known for her wacky sense of style, unafraid to bend the rules. It appears that Louise enjoys working with weird and wonderful characters; could it be their courage to experiment with make-up that enthrals her? “With make-up you’ve got to work with fashion, you can’t keep doing the same look using the same products, you can tone down trends to make them wearable, but it’s essential to keep up with the times”.