July 21st, 2015
She’s very much the MUA of the moment, with queues around the Kryolan stand at this weekend’s IMATS just to meet her. She headed up the Graduate Fashion make-up team for Bourjois and Paloma Faith has her on speed dial – Warpaint catches up with the uber-talented Lan Nguyen-Grealis.
WP: When did you first become interested in make-up?
LNG: I started assisting a photographer backstage for all the fashion and couture shows worldwide. It gave me first-hand access to everything that was happening when I had no idea really what make-up truly was.
WP: We hear that you’re self-trained – do you think this has contributed to your success?
LNG: Yes I am self-trained and in some ways yes it has contributed to my success as an artist, I haven’t copied anyone’s technique or been overtly influenced. I had to figure it out myself, from the techniques to learning the business. I guess it’s also made me fearless to go for what I want to do, as I never had the rules explained to me as such.
WP: What was your first big job as designer or department head? How did you make that jump from a more junior role?
LNG: It was a big award show for L’Oreal. It was their 50th Anniversary held at Earl’s Court and I was one of three make-up artists to submit a proposal and make-up design for the looks. Up ’til then, I had only done small gigs for theatre, pop videos and makeovers, so it was a really big jump with over 20 make-up artists in the team to manage. I never looked back though. Sometimes it’s nice to sit quietly in the background but as the pressure mounted someone had to take the lead – that was me.
WP: What is your favourite genre of make-up? Editorial? Fashion?
LNG: Fashion or editorial? I have absolutely no idea of the difference. I love all genres of make-up. I guess it’s the concept and clothes that for me, makes it different. I just love collaborating and being a part of an amazing image, back to my photographic roots I guess.
WP: What would you say are your top kit essentials? And your favourite brands?
LNG: Definitely a good foundation, concealing and contouring brushes, a highlight in liquid and powder form, cream and powder blush. A good white eyeshadow and my Greasepaint palette too. My favourite brands at the moment are MAC, Kryolan, Burberry, Urban Decay, Bourjois, The Body Shop and Maybelline.
WP: Would you say you have a calling card in your work? A particular look or style which identifies you?
LNG: My calling card is probably a flawless, structured make-up look with details and creativity that’s beautiful. I thrive on making my canvas beautiful. I use lots of textures and glitter.
WP: You’ve worked with incredible talent and brands – is there anything you’d still like to achieve, or anyone you’d still like to work with?
LNG: I feel I have only scratched the surface of the industry and been very lucky to be a part of so many cool projects. However there’s always plenty more to achieve. I would love to work in film design, to develop brands and of course take my skills to new levels and create more inspirational imagery that will last forever. There are so many more celebrities that I would love to makeover and give them different looks.
WP: You have your own book launching – what inspired this? What can we expect to see?
LNG: My new book Art and Makeup is essentially a tool for anyone interested in make-up. It’s also a translation of how I became a make-up artist, and a history of the arts that influenced my skills to date. You will see images which I specifically directed to showcase these skills within all the areas of make-up such as film, theatre, fashion and beauty. You get to see through my eyes what I created and how. I was inspired to do this as I felt make-up is always discussed as an art form but I don’t think it’s always been shown like that. By turning my work into a beautiful coffee table book I hope I could attract all walks of life and give them the opportunity to experience our wonderful world of make-up.
WP: You’re the youngest ever winner of The Golden Mask – that must pile on a fair bit of pressure! How does it feel to be honoured in such a way?
LNG: I am very honoured to be the youngest award winner and really felt that it’s so amazing that my work has reached out to people as far as it has and it makes me want to do even better. The fact that I was recognised for my skills is really actually a relief, and rather than add pressure it tells me that what I am doing is worthwhile and has purpose.
WP: What are your plans for the rest of 2015?
LNG: I’ll be concentrating on promoting my book with a big launch at London Fashion Week. I’m working at the shows again as well as working on more creative projects but I’ll also be travelling and educating. I’m already booked to travel to a few countries to discuss and present, which I’m really excited about.
WP: Do you have any advice for young and developing MUAs?
LNG: Keep practicing – get as much experience as you can, whether it’s assisting, working in retail or weddings. No matter what area you are interested in, there will always be a path and direction which will naturally happen as long as you put in the hours. Nobody owes you anything, remember that! It’s down to you to stay proactive and put yourself out there. Someone once advised me: ‘Stay where you are and make a nice living doing make-up or take risks, PR yourself and see what happens.’ Naturally, here I am trying to see what happens….
Art & Makeup by Lan Nguyen-Grealis is out in September, available for pre-order from Laurenceking.com, Amazon and Waterstones. All images courtesy of Lan & Laurence King publishers. Copyright images: Camille Sanson, Catherine Harbour and Mark Cant.