Buckle Up

March 5th, 2014

March 5th, 2014

In-keeping with this week’s glamorous Hollywood feel, courtesy of the Oscars, Warpaint has secured the inside scoop with one of the top celebrity MUAs working today, Kristofer Buckle.

Kristofer Buckle

Kristofer Buckle

An impeccable eye for detail, along with his unfailing devotion to the perfect balance of intrinsic beauty and the power of makeup, has garnered the attention of the beauty, fashion, and film world alike.  His reputation for strong bone structure with attention to individual style and innate glamour consistently has his talents in demand, with clients including Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Blake Lively and Mila Kunis.

Kristofer’s collaborations list some of the world’s most renowned photographers, including Mario Testino, Annie Leibovitz, Ellen Von Unwerth and Patrick Demarchelier, and his work has featured in everything from Vogue to Rolling Stone.  Read on to hear how he booked his first ever job (Italian Vogue, naturally), the pressures of live events, and some expert tips on how to build your brand.

Kristofer's Marie Claire cover with Olivia Wilde

Kristofer’s Marie Claire cover with Olivia Wilde

WP: What inspired you initially to work with make-up?

KB: I was obsessed with transformation; that you can transform and become who you really are inside, or who you want to be, just by painting your face.

WP: Were you formally trained? If so, where?

KB: I was never formally trained, though I believe that the only way to truly understand make-up and why things work – or don’t – is by painting thousands of faces and finding your way.

WP: We saw on your Facebook page that your first cover shoot was for Italian Vogue.  How did that come about? How much pressure did you feel for working on such a reputed magazine as your first cover?

KB: I [originally] worked at a hair and make-up agency as a booker.  We needed to get an assistant to Industrial Studio right away to help Laura Mercier, and we couldn’t find anyone.  My boss sent me out of desperation, thinking I would be of more help than nobody.  When I got to the studio Laura showed me the look she was doing on Amber Valetta, and said I should use her make-up and do the same for Kate…  Moss! When we got on set Steven Meisel liked what I did, and booked me for the Italian Vogue cover and 20 page layout.  I was literally working in a cubicle, under hideous florescent lighting, and 20 minutes later I was painting Kate Moss and instantly had a career.  I didn’t know how I should set up, I didn’t know where I should stand… I was so nervous, but the models Gueniviere and Carolyn Murphy, and hair genius Garren, were so sweet and talked me through it.  I felt a ton of pressure because I was very aware of the fact that I was being given an opportunity of a life time.

WP: Who was your first celebrity client? Are you still working with them?

KB: My first celebrity was Glenn Close.  She scared the hell out of me.  I was afraid she would cook my rabbit!  I remember I was booked with Glenn for an Allure shoot and they requested that I bring lashes.  I brought about 100 pairs of lashes, of every shape and style.  I ended up only using about 5 individuals on each eye!  But the second celebrity I worked with was Mariah Carey, and that’s still going strong.

Kristofer Mariah Carey album cover

WP: What is it like working with someone for a long period of time and evolving their look over the years? Is it more challenging than working with new faces?

KB: Every client requires something different.  Some of my clients, like Christina [Aguilera], want a new look each album and to express themselves through make-up.  But most actresses and singers just want to look their best.  Even a face I’ve done for many years is constantly changing, sometimes even day to day.  We all have our puffy eye moments, and my clients sometimes get pregnant, so even though it’s the same face their needs change.

Kristofer Christina A cover

WP: You are known for your almost-invisible work with emphasizing and highlighting bone structure to create some beautiful images.  Do you have any tips or product recommendations for creating the perfect base and contouring?

KB: I use several foundations.  I prefer to use a product that is moisturising and offers coverage – this way you’re not limited.  The way I contour is a four-step process that is too complicated to explain in writing!

WP: Do you have a favourite look to create?

KB: I love drama!  I love pushing the limits.  I’m just not a person that gets excited about a scoop of ice cream.  I want a banana split!  Now I’m not saying that there has to be a magenta lip and a black liner, but even when I’m using a brown shadow and a pale lip I want it to make a big difference.  There are artists who are decorators, but I’m more of an architect.

Jessica Chastain's make up by Kristofer

Jessica Chastain’s make up by Kristofer

WP: What are the challenges of photo-shoots, compared to those of live (or animated) events, such as music videos and red carpet appearances?

KB: I think that photo-shoots are easier than moving image.  A photo is one frame that can be manipulated in post.  When you’re standing in front of someone on a red carpet, there is no hiding a sloppy job.  There are no miracles on the red carpet.  If it’s good, it’s good, and if it’s not it will be ridiculed publicly.  I do my best to make the people I work with look like the best photo they have ever taken.  For live events blending is so important, as is body make-up.  For a shoot, the lighting is set so that you know what you’re getting, but on the red carpet, your make-up is moving in and out of good lighting, and falling into some awful lighting too.  You have to be careful to control how the light will play on the face the best you can.

Kristofer's work with Blake Lively

Kristofer’s work with Blake Lively

WP: You’ve worked with some of the biggest celebrities, most influential publications and talented photographers in the world.  Is there anything you’re still hoping to achieve? Anyone you would love to work with, but have not yet had the chance?

KB: I am so grateful for the career I’ve had so far.  I haven’t worked with Lady Gaga yet, and I know it would be a good combo! There are so many things I will do, but revealing them as they happen is so much more empowering then revealing what they are before I get to it.

Kristofer Brides cover

WP: Do you have any advice for MUAs who are just starting out in the business?

KB: Experiment! Take chances; dare to make a mess of things and then learn from it.  Follow your eye, and your own instincts.  Paint every face you can get your hands on, but you will always learn the most from the ones that are less obviously pretty.  Your work also has to look good to you before anyone else.

Always say your first and last name when introducing yourself – your name and the reputation you create for yourself is all we have, so build a great one!  Be on time; I have gotten so many jobs and opportunities over the years because another artist didn’t wake up, because they were either irresponsible, drunk, hung-over, what have you.  If you want to be successful you must first want to be great at what you do.  If you’re a great make-up artist you will always work, because you sell beauty and everyone wants it.

Kristofer's work for Dior

Kristofer’s work for Dior

Lastly, it is a business…  be smart, and don’t let people take advantage of you.

All images courtesy of Crosby Carter Management.



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By Deborah Murtha

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