Aimee Adams is an amazing makeup artist with a legendary 23 year career. She has worked for all the major glossies; Elle, Vogue, Marie Claire etc. She does advertising campaigns for some of the biggest brands in the world like Elizabeth Arden, Babyliss, Harrods, L'oreal, Maybelline, Head & Shoulders, Marks & Spencers, Max Factor, Oil of Olay, Pantene, the list goes on. She has a worked with a huge number of celebrity A-listers, including members of the Royal Family, Madonna, Helen Mirren, Joan Rivers, Florence Welch, Rachel Weisz, Natasha McElhorne and Sienna Miller. She was also a long time spokesperson for both Revlon and Inglot Cosmetics. In our chat Aimee shares some fascinating stories from her amazing career with me and, as always, some fab pro tips.
MANW: Hi Aimee, can you tell us how did you start your career and what was the progression it took?
AA:  I have been obsessed by makeup since I was a little girl, I used to eat my mum's tubes of lipstick when I was about two so I guess you could say I developed a real taste for it! As a preteen I got a Revlon makeup mirror as a Christmas present, it had different light settings for office, daytime, night etc and all different angled adjustable mirrors and I would sit and paint my face for hours. I made myself up like all the pop stars at the time; Madonna, Boy George, David Bowie. I'm still a nerd when it comes to light and how it shows off make up, I do my own make up with 4 different sets of magnifications of mirrors and 3 different light sources. I never thought about doing make up as a career as I was really in to fashion. I studied fashion design at an American college where I grew up in Texas and in 1988 I came to study for a term at The London College of Fashion as part of my course. Once there I saw the makeup students doing these amazing special effects and prosthetics and having been obsessed with blood, guts and gore as a typical gothic American teenager I was entranced and I changed my course. I did the 2 year BTEC Specialist Make Up Course and loved it but I found myself working more on the fashion and beauty side, which is what I do now and I just kind of fell into that side of the industry. I love it and still pinch myself that I earn a living out of something I find to be so much fun.

MANW: You mainly do fashion and beauty make-up, were you ever tempted to work in dramas or film?
AA: At the beginning of my career I was more interested in film but I found a lot more inspiration in making people look beautiful rather than doing character or prosthetic work. Beauty also enabled me to use my fashion background to better use. Also, I travel a lot for shoots and I feel more comfortable in a small editorial or beauty crew where there are normally less than 10 people, rather than working on a big film production where there can be dozens or hundreds of people. Now I like stills best, I guess I'm just used to that side of the business. I take my hat off to makeup artists who do film work, I think it takes a special mind frame and skill set and I think I'd be rubbish at things like continuity. You also tend to spend weeks or months with the same crew away from your family and that is totally not for me.

MANW: Which do you prefer doing; editorial shoots, commercials, tv or red carpet events with celebs? 
AA: My favourite work is definitely editorial and beauty. I'm very lucky that I still get to go on a lot of trips, I've seen a lot of the world through my work. Just in the past year I've shot in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Venice, Sicily, Rio, New York, Poland, South Africa and I'm packing to work in Las Vegas. I've also held a few contracts with different makeup companies, I was Revlons' makeup artist and spokesperson for 8 years. I would speak to the press about the products, how to get specific looks with them, travel to various countries to makeup their celebs and go on TV to promote the brand or do launches and makeovers in shopping malls. I really enjoyed this kind of work and about 7 or 8 years ago it also led to some consulting work which I love. While in Poland with Revlon I came across the most exciting makeup I had ever seen.. amazing colours and huge variety. I was in the middle of a presentation in a mall and didn't have time to look through the whole range but it was so cheap I bought one of everything.

It got such a big reaction from celebs and beauty editors when I got back home that I contacted the company to see if they would consider selling in the UK. I met and formed an amazing relationship with the owner and creator of Inglot and began consulting on colours and researching new product development for them. We created a palette system called the Freedom System that lets you choose over 3 trillion combinations of sizes and colours of lip, cheek and eye products to make different sized bespoke palettes and this was probably the bit of the job I loved the most. As Mr. Inglot is a chemist I could just show him what I needed and within a day or two I would have 10 shades of the product in my lap to test, amazing! We travelled a lot to promote the brand and open new stores and now he has hundreds all around the world. I'm so proud and my heart still beats a bit faster when I walk into an Inglot shop. I almost love making products more than I love doing makeup but a finding a full time job doing that isn't so easy!

MANW: You've had a very successful career working with lots of high profile celebrities, including some members of the Royal family (I include Madonna in that!) Can you tell us about some of the stand out moments of your career?
AA: I never intentionally went after the celeb side of the job but when I was working with Revlon they encouraged me to do lots of celebrity work as their spokesmodels were all actresses. I worked a lot with celebrity photographer Terry O'Neil and he rang me at midnight one night asking if I could shoot Madonna with him the following afternoon and could I send my portfolio to her first thing in the morning for the thumbs up. I was already booked to do a magazine cover shoot in the morning so I went and did the cover shoot, got an assistant to cover me and then went off in the afternoon to make up Madonna and Antonia Banderas for the Evita press shoot. I really thought there would be a massive entourage with her and we wouldn't even get a chance to speak but it was just me and her in a room for an hour. She gave me all sorts of marital and relationship advice which was surreal and, when I asked what sort of thing she wanted, she said "I'll have what you have on". When I was 15 I tried so hard to get my makeup to look like Madonna and now here she was saying she wanted her makeup to look like mine!! It was such a one-off moment. They had told me she didn't want anyone to touch her hair but when I got there she said "I saw you also do hair, I'd like a French pleat" so thank god I had brought my hair kit even though I was told I was only doing makeup! I tend to carry a lot of equipment with me as I never want to be caught out. I've been making up Tess Daly for years and I know what I need in my kit with her as she always likes a golden girl, sexy, smokey look but a few years ago at an editorial shoot with Tess the fashion editor said "so your agent gave you the brief about the avant grade neon makeup look we're going with today, right?" Ummmm, NO! I ran around the shops near where we were shooting looking for anything day glo and now I'm infamous for carrying kits that are pretty much unliftable.

I spent two years travelling with the Duchess of York when she was the Weight Watchers ambassador. This was a real learning curve as I not only had to do makeup but mucked in to make sure that every aspect of her life ran smoothly. That was also the only time I've ever been flown on a private jet when all her crew got to attend the Golden Globes with her in Hollywood. Rubbing elbows with all the A-listers in a social scene was incredible, t
hat was a real stand out moment for me. 99% of the job is not glamorous at all but then occasionally you just get a moment of "OMG I can't believe I'm getting paid to do this!" I've learnt a lot from working with famous people, half of the job is how good you are and the other half is how you interact with people. I've seen screaming tantrums galore, you have to know how to diffuse a situation and make a person feel comfortable. Dealing with people's insecurities and egos is much trickier than making them look pretty, you almost need a degree in psychotherapy as well as makeup experience!

Another stand out moment for me was making up Tom Ford which was amazing. I had heard a rumour that when he was the designer at Gucci he threw a tantrum and chucked everything out of the office window that wasn't black or white. My kit is a riot of colour and sometimes looks like a bomb's gone off in it, so I sterilised every single item and took out every compact, brush or product that wasn't black or white. When I go there I laid it out beautifully like little soldiers. When he came in he said he didn't want any hair or makeup but then when he came to my table and eyed up my makeup he asked me to describe exactly what I would do on him. He let me do it and I swear that my kit was the deal breaker. He also eyed up my vintage mink coat that had zipped panels around the waist and hips so you could have 3 different lengths of coat and don't you just know it was on the Gucci catwalk the following season!!

MANW: You've been in the industry a long time, how do you think it has differed and what advice would you give to new artists starting out? 
AA: The industry is a lot more difficult to break in to now than it used to be but if you really have the fire in your belly you can achieve anything with perseverance, networking and practice. So many things are different now, budgets are a lot tighter now than they were. I can remember a trip I went on to Zanzibar and Tanzania many years ago, we shot the job in the first 2 or 3 days and spent the next week holidaying on safari, this would never happen now- time is money and every minute on a shoot has to be accounted for. So many shoots I've been on in the past year or two have had behind the scenes film crews and this never used to happen, everyone wants footage for their website and they often ask me to speak to camera and explain how to get the look of the shoot. A lot of people that work behind the scenes are put off being in front of the camera and I totally get that. I used to do quite a bit of live TV and makeover shows like The Clothes Show, Style Challenge and This Morning and, while I'm kind of used to having a camera on me, it's not something I really enjoy doing particularly but these days you need to be prepared to be a talking head as well as a makeup artist. 

Digital photography has changed things a lot for better and for worse in numerous ways. You used to have a limit to how many rolls of film you could shoot and now you can shoot thousands of frames with no limit so shoots last a lot longer and you don't necessarily get paid overtime. There wasn't any retouching before, so things had to be right in camera. If a model had a scar or a tattoo you had to know how to cover it perfectly, now you can manipulate anything about the image. The makeup can be completely altered afterwards so it's difficult to see from someone's portfolio exactly how skilled they are as a lot of it could have been perfected in photoshop. Also, with the emergence of Youtube tutorials, digital and social media it seems like anyone with a bag of MAC can call themselves a makeup artist. It's good that the knowledge of makeup artistry is so accessible to everyone but professionally there are a lot more makeup artists, and really good ones, than there were 10 or 20 years ago so it can be more challenging to get well paid work. 

I would advise new makeup artists to take any job that's going even if it's not something you're crazy about, any work is good work in the beginning.There will come a day you can pick and choose what you do as a freelancer but at the beginning it's very important to gain experience and contacts. There's nothing wrong with doing weddings or parties or events, sometimes these can be the best cash in hand types of jobs- I'd like to get a few more of these myself! We'd all like to be shooting the most prestigious, high paying jobs but I think in the current economic climate if you are working and earning money you are doing really well.

MANW: All artists have 'the wish list'. My current ones are the TOWIE girls, I'm dying to give them make-overs. Who's on yours?
AA: I've worked with all the TOWIE girls, OMG the lashes! God help me. I had to give Lauren Goodger a make under and she wasn't too happy about it, she looked amazing though. I've racked my brain about this one and
there isn't a celeb I'm dying to get my hands on. If I had to name someone I suppose it would be the Queen, I'd love to do her makeup! I've turned up to Buckingham Palace a couple of times when I was making up Fergie and the man on the gate said "Miss Adams, we've been expecting you" which was surreal. One time I got in trouble for using the Duke of York's loo, I had no idea no-one else was allowed in there! But yes the Queen, that would be amazing, Fergie used to tell me she is really cool. I'd love to give her some of my tips, she can so rock a red lip!!

MANW: On to the good stuff, what are your tricks for flawless looking skin?
AA: Obviously the usuals of drinking water, cleansing your face and getting a good amount of sleep BUT I am fanatical about using SPFs the whole year round. It amazes me how many British people will fry their skin at any given opportunity and then wonder why they look rough and wrinkly. It makes me cringe to see so many sunburned people walking around every summer, people just don't realise that UVA's-the ageing rays- can penetrate through the thickest, greyest winter clouds and even through windows- sunscreen isn't just for beach holidays! I'm also a beauty gadget geek and love things like the home microdermabrasion systems, wrinkle reducing pillowcases, micro-needling and those machines that make the muscles in your face jump. Anything that staves off a face lift is my friend.

MANW: What are your top 5 holy grail kit products? 

AA: I only use one powder and it is Corn Silk Original Satin loose powder. It's amazing as it's only one colour but works on every colour skin, I've even used it on Alek Wek and she has the darkest skin in the industry. I also couldn't live without Visine eyedrops, Bioderma Crealine H2o, any kind of facial blotting sheets and Shu Uemura brushes and cleansing oils, they are the best.

MANW: What's your best make-up artist tip to give women?

AA: Don't over do it! I'm amazed how much makeup young girls use now and at any time of day. Fair enough if it's the evening and you're going to a do but to see someone first thing in the morning on the tube with 6 inches of slap on looks wrong to me.. TOWIE has a lot to answer for. Try to use a foundation like Armani or even a good BB cream that makes your skin look like skin, not a mask. Unless you are covering serious acne, scarring or a port wine stain heavy duty foundation just looks like a drag queen and is very ageing. I would also advise women to not impulse buy at the counter, try something out and walk around in it all day, see how it wears and if your skin reacts to it. That goes for make up and skincare, ask for samples and try them out at home or bring your own little travel pot and ask for a small bit of whatever you're thinking of purchasing. Skin care and makeup is really expensive, most women probably have hundreds of pounds of the wrong products (as we do in our wardrobes) that we just don't like or don't suit us, it's such a waste.

MANW: Finally, false eyelashes - the longer the better or enough already they look ridiculous?

AA: Enough already! I do love a good lash but if it doesn't look real it's not my cup of tea. They can be thick and luscious falsies but I like them to look like they could almost be real, I buy human hair lashes in the drugstores in America that are jagged on the ends so they look like they could be your own. Those huge fake plastic looking dolls lashes look so ridiculous and I hope it's a trend that won't be around forever.

If you liked this interview and would like to read other leading industry makeup artists stories have a look at the rest of the 'Meet The Artist' series here.


  1. Great interview. Careers are not given, they are made. And your hard work shows! I'm impressed by the level of professionalism you bring to our industry, as so many are picking up brushes calling themselves makeup artists without putting in the time or education to truly be professional.

    1. Thanks for the comment Laurie, hard work does show! Have you read my other "Meet The Artists' interviews? So many fascinating careers

  2. Really enjoyable article - such a down to earth person and lots of great advice!


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