May 1st, 2014
She spends her life jet-setting around the world, backstage at every major fashion week and working with everyone from hot young things Cara Delevingne and Rita Ora to the iconic Grace Jones – which is why Warpaint were thrilled to sit down and spend some time with Cher Webb, one of the UK Senior Artists for MAC Cosmetics. Following on from her fantastic seminar on ‘Hollywood Beauty Icons’ at this year’s UMAe, we dove right in and discussed everything from her journey through the MAC family tree to the famous face she’d love to get her hands on.
WP: So you’ve just done your demo, and you talked about your Hollywood icons. Tell us what that was like.
CW: I loved it. For me, that’s one of my favourite things because I do actually like to replicate their make-up myself! I love Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn – these classics who are really easy to talk about because everyone knows them, but their looks are still so valid now. They’re just so iconic. They can be reworked, whether it’s for the red carpet or backstage at a show.
WP: Who is your favourite icon?
CW: Brigitte Bardot. She’s gorgeous, I love her. That ‘no make-up’ make-up look, the peach lip and the slept-in smoky eye that everyone tries to recreate.
WP: She always looked like she’d had a fantastic night the night before!
CW: Yes! And been with really interesting people, but she never looked hung-over. In fact, she always looked like she had just been on the juice diet! There’s a picture of her in a white high-waisted bikini, leaning into a car – I’ve got that on my wall. And she’s just so naturally curvy and beautiful.
WP: How did you get to where you are with MAC?
CW: I started off in Kingston. I worked there for two days a week, and I think you just need to show that you’re really willing. I then worked in Selfridges, which is where I learnt… well everything really. It’s just so busy in there, and every single person who sits in that chair is different – everyone is from a different walk of life, has a different skin type or skin tone. You have to be really quick; I think the key to being a great MUA is to be very, very fast.
After that I worked at the Pro Store, and then went on to being a Trainer, so I’ve pretty much worked my way around the family tree.
WP: How long have you been with MAC?
CW: 11 years. I never thought I’d be in a brand for that long, but with my job every day is so very different! Whether it’s travelling, the people that I meet or the celebrities that I work with, the relationships that I’ve built – I would never have had the opportunity to do all of that.
WP: Had you done any formal training?
CW: I went to beauty school at Southampton Technical College [now Southampton City College], where I’m from, and did an NVQ-level certificate. I did lashes, waxing, facials, massage – and make-up was only six weeks of the whole two years, so I really only learned the basics. Then I had a break for four years, and went travelling and danced, as I was a trained dancer as well. Then I thought about working for MAC as I had a qualification, which was required. I was so inexperienced but I had the chat. Sometimes you can be a great MUA but you’ve got to have that something else.
WP: Do you think that’s because you’d been a performer? That you’d been able to almost put on a character?
CW: Yeah. And I think it’s listening to people as well; if someone’s in your chair, you don’t just go straight into the make-up! The face is so personal, so you’ve got to let them relax into it a little bit.
WP: So when you started to move through and start to work more with the editorial side of things, and the celebrities – how did that come about?
CW: With the celebrities, I was on the Events team. They’d send you to do a celebrity for an event, and then you’d get feedback on it, and then they might request you again. But I’ve learnt most of my techniques from celebrities – I worked with Grace Jones in January, who is hugely iconic. She was just sat there, and I was thinking, ‘She knows her face.’ She’s very dominant, and she was happy to show me all these tips and tricks.
Helen Mirren was the same, she had all these tips on how to work her face, and she knows how to carry the make-up. They can be so generous, and I never expect it at all. But I can take on board that feedback, and the things that I learn, and still not take things personally. Because if someone does my make-up, I always tweak or change something about it – so if they want to do that I tell them to go ahead, show me or tell me what you want me to change. Because they know! They live with it day in, day out. And we might only see them once, ten minutes before they need to go!
WP: Have you done much on the show side of things?
CW: Yes, I work backstage in London, New York, Milan and Paris every season. So for three of the four cities I don’t see any of my family, my friends – I could never get a pet, lets put it that way!
WP: What can you tell us about the hygiene practices in the industry, especially when travelling?
I’m really passionate about this. At MAC, it has been drummed into us from day one. We did some experiments in a lab on what was in some of our cream tester products – you couldn’t even imagine what they found. And people do things like go up to the counter, and take a pencil, and pop it into their waterline! That’s directly into your bloodstream!
I hate the thought of my kit, inside, all this bacteria just travelling around, so I’m always really thorough. I always scrape everything out. I always sanitise any lipstick I’m using straight from the bullet. And I make sure my brushes are always really clean – I would never use a dirty brush on someone, because I would hate for someone to use one on me.
But the UK are really hot on it, they really are. And Americans are as well. Some other countries are a bit like ‘Whatever darling! As long as it looks good!’ They just don’t see it as… important. But hopefully we’re slowly influencing them.
WP: Which fashion week is your favourite?
CW: New York. It’s the first one, the first place to start a trend. The models are fresh, you’re back into the backstage vibe – by the time you get to Paris, the girls’ skin is practically hanging off, everyone’s tired and your kit looks like a bombsite. You haven’t seen your friends, family, boyfriend, girlfriend, cat or dog – which you don’t have anyway, because you can’t!
I think Paris is the most chic. I do love the shows in Paris, they have an elegance to them.
WP: Do you have a face which you would love to work with?
CW: I know it’s really cliché and I know that everyone probably says the same thing, but it would have to be Kate Moss. I’ve seen her many times, at different events, and every time I do I just want to get my hands on her! I want to see for myself because I know that her face is just so versatile.
WP: And what do you think about Cara [Delevingne] and the new breed of girls?
CW: I love Cara. She’s a bit quirky, and she’s got such a personality backstage. When she walks in, you know that she’s there. She does create a buzz – people want her to walk, to be the first, to open their shows. She has an energy about her, similar to Jourdan [Dunn]. They love to hang out backstage, and the cameras just go nuts at the two of them. They have a lot of fun together, and they’re just so stunning. I worked with Rita Ora quite a lot, and worked on her tour last year, and Cara and Rita are also close friends.
WP: Rita has a great look, really different and fresh.
CW: Yes, absolutely. Really fresh. And I think she’s going to be quite big. I think she’s still at grassroots level, and is going to be one of those names who are around for a long time.
WP: Where do we see you next?
CW: I actually have not stopped since January. I’ve been to Seattle, New York, Paris three times. . . I actually just need a little break! I’ve moved house in between all of that too. Next on the list is Lake Como in May, for four or five days, to do a trends presentation for all of our new A/W ideas and products to lots of press people.