Monday, 7 March 2011

An interview with... Jackie Tyson, celebrity make up artist

Years in industry: Over 20

I recently caught up with Jackie Tyson, one of the UK’s leading celebrity make up artists who has beautified the likes of Katy Perry, Lily Allen, Sienna Miller, Daniel Craig plus many, many more. Jackie can also be seen on the X Factor, where she has been Chief Make Up Artist for the past 5 years. Clearly all this doesn’t keep Jackie busy enough as she also has her own make up school. Jackie talks to
Your Beauty Industry about breaking into such a competitive industry, making the transition from make up artist to celebrity make up artist and the realities of working with celebrities.

Tell me a bit about your career background.
I always wanted to be a make up artist. I went to school in Yorkshire, back in a time when no-one in Yorkshire knew what make up artistry was! So after I left school I came to London to do a beauty therapy course and did some hair and make up along the way. I worked for free for a year after I qualified to be a make up artist - literally any photographers or people in the film industry that I met, I would just bother them to let me work for them, for nothing. A lot of the photographers did start to take me on for [paid] work after that.
"Whenever I met any photographers or people in the film industry, I would just bother them to let me work for them, for free"
I did a lot of fashion at first, but then photography started to move into the music business, so I met bands and they’d say ‘oh yeah, come and do our video’ so then I’d meet video companies and record companies, and the whole thing very, very slowly snowballed into a career! I very much enjoyed working with music artists rather than models. It’s a different challenge; you really are looking after people rather than just doing their make up.

So your transition from make up artist to celebrity make up artist wasn't planned?

It was kind of organic really, from the kind of photographers I was working with. Also, I think I’m pretty calm - a lot of my friends who work in fashion are very flamboyant and very loud, and you can’t be that person with an artist – there’s only space for one artist in a room! So I think those guys will stick to fashion and be the centre of attention, while I’m quite happy to not be the centre of attention – I’m just doing my job.

What are the realities of working with celebrities?
It can be extremely glamorous, and it can be extremely unglamorous. For instance, when I was driving past here today [to eXcel in London], it reminded me of a video I worked on a couple of years ago with Snow Patrol on the wasteland out there. It was pouring with rain and all the boys were soaking wet – their hair was wet, their faces were soaking wet. We were walking across the wasteland and I thought ‘oh, I give up! I’m cold, I’m wet – they look terrible and there’s nothing I can do!’. So you know, there are some very unglamorous days but then, I’m at the MTV awards, I’m in Madrid with Bon Jovi, I’m staying in amazing hotels and being whizzed around in a Mercedes... which is just amazing. You get to have a taste of the celebrity lifestyle without all the hassle. It definitely makes you realise that being a celebrity must be really difficult.

"Think - 'if I’ve got 5 minutes, what can I do to make that person look better?'"
What are your top tips for anyone who wants to be a celebrity make up artist?
Be able to work quickly and quietly. Whatever else is going on, you need to make sure you can just get on and make sure your client looks as fabulous as possible. I can remember working with a proper A-lister and I was asked, ‘how long would you like to do her make up?’ and I said, ‘well ideally, I would like an hour – how long can you give me?’ and they said ‘probably about 5 minutes!’. But I’ll get it done – I can make anybody look better with whatever time you give me. So you need to hone those skills; think - if I’ve got 5 minutes, what can I do to make that person look better?

Who inspires you in your career?
I worked very closely with a make up artist called Adam de Cruz, who did X Factor with me. He is a flamboyant fashionista and he is a fantastic make up artist. We work really well together because I teach him things and he teaches me things, which is really nice that for someone who’s been doing it as long as we have, we’re still picking up tips – you never stop learning in this job.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
I don’t think I have ever been given career advice! My careers teacher told me I should be a PE teacher because I was good at netball and my mum still thinks I’m going to get a proper job one day! I was talking to an old friend recently through Facebook who I had previously lost touch with and they said ‘I can’t believe you have done what you said you would do – you said you would work with musicians and be a make up artist and you’ve done it!’ So it was just me being totally single minded in what I wanted to do.

It’s a very hard industry and I wouldn’t like to start again – there’s so many make up artists out there now. Also, when I first started there were no make up schools. I have a make up artist school of my own now, which offers 2-week intensive courses – I would have killed for that back then, just to know whether it was something I could do.

For more information on Jackie’s make up school, visit

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