September 7th, 2015
Lisa Potter-Dixon’s smile is bright, wide and genuine as she slips into her seat across from us. Her eyes, framed by lashes coated in the new blue They’re Real mascara from Benefit, are equally emotive. The excitement about the imminent launch of her new make-up book is palpable as we settle in to chart her journey from shop manager to Head Make-Up and Trend Artist for Benefit – and now author. Read on for details on how to win a copy and an amazing eyes goody bag!
“I’ve been with Benefit for eight years. I started as the Boutique Manager in the Covent Garden store, which was the number flagship store at the time, and I was there for a couple of years. And basically we never missed our sales targets for two years there – I had an amazing team, really creative. You’ve got to remember that Benefit was a lot smaller back then, and I just saw a lot of opportunities.” Lisa quickly realised that the store’s location was a huge advantage – the headquarters for all of the big monthly magazine titles were all within easy walking distance.
“I got pictures of all of the beauty girls at the magazines, and I’d literally go in at lunchtime and see if I could grab them and say hi. I’d call them up and tell the girls, tell the editors, to come into the store to have their make-up done before any events they had,” she told us, utilising the shop’s location to its fullest. Such was the success of these ventures and the reputation that she was earning that Lisa became the brand’s Events Manager, driving the brand’s image as fun, trendy and positivity. “They [the brand] were so open to ideas. Then when we went in-house with PR I started to have loads of clients, started doing loads of shoots and stuff just when I could, when I had the spare time.”
Her drive and determination, already clear, became obvious with her next move. “I pretty much told them they should make me head MUA,” she said with a laugh. “I went in like, ‘Right, this is what you need guys,’ and they turned around and said ‘Actually, this could work!’” Evidently the risk paid off, as Lisa remains the only Head MUA and Trend Artist for the brand on a global scale, and has been for four years. “It’s not a make-up artist brand in the same way as something like MAC,” she acknowledged, “but ultimately we’ve got incredible products – it’s more customer-led than artist-led. I just wanted to be able to show people what the products could do.”
Speaking of demonstrating the products, talk turned to the upcoming LFW, which Benefit are much involved in. Lisa mentioned her long-standing relationship with Matthew Williamson – “I still do all of his print campaigns and shoots too, I love working with him” – and hinted at an exciting new collaboration for this season’s shows as Matthew isn’t exhibiting.
With such an outwards-facing role, it’s unsurprising that it was Lisa’s followers and the power of social media which got the ball rolling on her new beauty book, Easy on the Eyes. “My publishers actually contacted me on Twitter. Which is a bit crazy – I thought they were joking! So we had a meeting, and they’d been following my work for a while – they brought a big pile of mentions and tweets and magazine clippings – and then they said ‘So what do you want to do, what kind of book do you want to do?’” Lisa turned back to Twitter to decide, offering her followers a couple of options, and researched other existing make-up books, before deciding on an easy and accessible guide to stunning eye make-up looks.
“One of my favourite cookery books is Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals, making food simplified and streamlined – so I thought why not do it for make-up?” The result is a bright, fun, tutorial-led book, broken down into looks which can be achieved within five, fifteen and thirty minutes. Using a mixture of models and her own friends, Lisa wanted to make sure it appealed to ‘real women’, not just MUAs. With complete creative control from her publisher, she wrote the text, chose her photographer, and helped style and make-up each look with her trusted assistant Lauren Hogsden. Her conversational tone takes you through everything, from the history of make-up to how you can create the best brow shape for your face. Photographer Tom Andrew was instructed to keep retouching to an absolute minimum to emphasise the relatability of the looks. “I used five make-up brushes throughout the entire book! I didn’t want women to think they would have to go out and spend a fortune on a whole new kit.” David Wadlow completed the looks with gorgeous hair styling, with Lisa showering praise on her team-mates; “I couldn’t have done it without any of them.”
Beauty is in Lisa’s blood; her mother was a model in the ‘80s and the owner of a portable beauty salon, so she often found herself surrounded by make-up. Unsure of which direction her future should go in, Lisa settled on a degree in English and Theatre, with excuses to paint faces whenever she could. She did some test shoots, a bit of assisting, then found herself at Benefit and never looked back. “I always say to my team ‘If you don’t believe in you, then no-one will.’ It’s not an arrogance thing at all – I still get so nervous! But it’s a good thing, it keeps your toes. I treat everyone the same, celebrity or real woman, it doesn’t matter. And I think that’s what makes people want to work with you. I’m not going to bow down to someone just ‘cos they’re a bit famous – they want to be treated like everyone else! I just love making people, anyone, feel beautiful really. I think it’s about feeling beautiful, not looking beautiful. That’s the easy bit, doing the make-up, but if they feel beautiful then that’s the most important thing. That’s the power of make-up.”
Lisa clearly loves to challenge herself – whether it’s through work or tackling a triathalon – and despite the manic late nights, tight shooting schedule and writing in what spare time she had, she’d be more than happy to write another. “I learnt a lot doing this. I think people who think they know everything they need to are a bit ignorant. We never stop learning. I’d probably ask my followers again what they’d like to see if I did another one. I want to keep helping people in some way.”
Unsurprisingly there are a fair few Benefit products named when we ask what her top product picks are in her kit. “I genuinely do love They’re Real Mascara – there’s a reason it’s so popular and women are so loyal to it! And I have tried all the mascaras going, don’t think I haven’t, but it is the best for me. I’ve been obsessed with the blue one since I got my hands on it. I love Make Up For Ever, I’m so glad they’re back over here. I love the pigments, the colours, the textures of their products. Their eyeshadows, for me, are second to none. I love their matte powder eyeshadows. I used Benefit Gimme Brow in every single look for my book, it’s incredible – so quick and easy, no artistry needed! And for lips… I love Charlotte Tilbury lipsticks, I love them all. The Kate one, the nude, and the orangey-red So Marilyn shade are my favourites. You can tell it’s a make-up artist who’s made those products.”
“I genuinely love it all,” she said after a moment, when asked what her favourite section of the book is. “I think my favourite thing about it is that it’s achievable. Women are going to be able to do this, to create these looks. I can’t wait for them to get their hands on it. That’s the best bit; I feel like I accomplished what I set out to do. I think people find eye make-up to be really hard, a real beauty dilemma that’s made out to be so complicated when it’s not. So I’m really glad I made the decision to do the book about eyes – because what is the point of hiding all of the tips and tricks we know as MUAs? Why can’t every single woman know how to do a great smoky eye?”
Easy on the Eyes by Lisa Potter-Dixon (Ryland Peters & Small, images by Tom Andrew £14.99) launches on 10th September. To celebrate we have a copy of to give away, as well as a goody bag of gorgeous Benefit products to help you achieve Lisa’s eye looks! Check out our Twitter page, @Warpaint_Mag, for details on how to enter.