As makeup department head on many huge british hit TV dramas and comedies Alyn's work has certainly been seen by the masses. From the groundbreaking and incredible Queer as Folk, the massive hit Footballers Wives, four series on the huge hit Hustle, My Mad Fat Diary, Fat Friends and the brilliant The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret (one of my favourite shows, go see it) Alyn has designed on a succession of fantastic British shows. Currently working on the third series of My Mad Fat diary, while also working as Joan Collins personal hair stylist, I am thrilled Alyn took time to speak to me and share his career stories, and as always I get him to share some of his pro tips.
A snapshot of Alyn's long career

MANW: How did you start your career and what was the progression it took?
AW: I started my career by practising make up on myself.. in the late 70s and early 80s punk and new romantic bands had these very iconic looks which inspired me to experiment with makeup and hair. I also became involved backstage with school plays and fashion shows. There were very few makeup courses or schools when I completed my A levels, I trained at the Dawn Cragg School of Film & TV makeup for 2 years and I loved every minute of it. Dawn was very forward thinking with her training (I learnt airbrushing there) and she was made an MBE for her permanent makeup skills which she pioneered in the late 80s. After the course I spent most of my first year testing and building my portfolio in Manchester and after working successfully in fashion and advertising I returned to the school to teach short courses which is where I met Linda Davie who gave me my first break in television working on Brookside.

MANW: You are an accomplished hairdresser and make-up artist. Which path did you start on and do you see yourself as either a hairdresser first and make-up artist second?
AW: I always wanted to be a makeup artist first however, after completing my first year of makeup training, I was told by agencies that a hair qualification was needed. It wasn’t my original plan but I’m really glad that I did my City and Guilds hair training, I think it’s really important to know how to cut and style hair if you want to work in television drama. But I am always learning and adapting my talents, I often take courses to learn new skills and refresh existing ones. Creative Media Skills and Nasmah offer very good courses taught by professional and established artists.

MANW: Do you have a preference for the type of jobs and make-ups you like to do? Designing characters for TV dramas or do you prefer being a personal and working with just one person?
AW: I’m just happy to be busy and loving what I do. I like the variety of working in lots of areas of makeup and hair, whether it’s working with just one person like Joan Collins, with a team on a television drama, or at my studio with clients.

MANW: What is your process of creating character looks and how much say do you have in the designs?
AW: The process begins with the script and then the casting and it’s a really exciting process tracking a character through a story with makeup and hair changes. Usually the actor has the most input into how their character looks and then you have to blend these ideas with direction from the writer, producer, director and costume designer.

Queer As Folk was a really exciting and groundbreaking drama to work on, Davy Jones designed the first series and I looked after Charlie Hunnam (Nathan) and Carla Henry (Donna). Carla was great. she let me have free rein with hair designs and I received a lots of great feedback as at the time afro hair in drama was rarely more than just tied back. I then designed the second series which was my first big job as a designer and it was the perfect way for me to step up.

MANW: How much does logisitcal issues come into play with character designs, were there any ever limitations on something you wanted to do?
AW: Budgets and time seem to get tighter with each production, nobody wants to wait ages to see how clever you can be adapting a cheap wig to look amazing. I think as a designer you have to be both strong and honest to a production about what is achievable with the time and the money available.On Hustle it would have been great to do more disguises however the schedule rarely allowed this to happen.

MANW: You have worked on and designed some legendary shows like Footballers Wives, the ground breaking Queer As Folk and one of my favourite shows The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. Can you tell us about some of the stand out moments of your career?
AW: Oh thank you, the shows you mentioned were all great to work on. I worked on a Lottery funded film “PURE” with a group of young adults and to see them put together their own film with the help of an experienced crew, and the positive effect that had on their lives, was really rewarding for me. Other highlights were shooting a promo with Zoe Lucker In LA for Footballers’ Wives which was great fun, and also working for Spanish Vogue with Joan Collins last year. 

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?
AW: When I started out there was no internet, no mobile phones and product choices were limited, the industry is very different now. As one makeup artist said to me, “Anyone can pick up a bag of MAC and a brush and call themselves a makeup artist these days.” I think it’s a bigger and more exciting industry; the internet and social media provide a great platform to show your talents and network. I would advise new artists to practice and absorb as much creativity as possible; not everyone will be the next Pat McGrath. However, I think there is enough diversity in the industry for someone to find their niche, never give up on your dreams.

MANW: All artists have 'the wish list'; a face they would love to work on or a show or film they would have loved to have worked on. I've been obsessed with The Rocky Horror Show makeup since I was 3 and my current obsession is Nashville and getting hold of Connie Britton's hair. Who or what are yours?
AW: Toyah Wilcox, and Richard Sharah's makeup designs on her, were a huge inspiration at the start of my career, I would still love to do her makeup. I love Kevyn Aucoin's work, to work on the Supermodels would have been amazing. Audrey Hepburn’s hair in My Fair Lady was beautiful and inspiring and I also love all the Bond Girl styles, especially from the 1960s.

MANW: On to the good stuff, what are your tricks for flawless looking skin?
AW: When you work with an actress over a period of filming you really have to be on top of her skin care regime without becoming too dictatorial. I try to introduce good habits slowly, if she gets a breakout it will be you the production will look to for solutions. I think good skin prep before you start make up is really important, I have used Dermalogica products for years. I also use airbrush makeup which gives great results for television drama.

MANW: What are your top 5 holy grail kit products?
AW: You will always find MAC and Dermalogica in my kit, they have supported my work for a very long time. I always use L’Oreal Tec Ni Pli to set hair and The London Brush Company Brush Shampoo is fantastic. Bourjois is a fabulous brand that I have used for years and Bare Minerals is my favourite brand for sensitive skin and bridal work. I may also appear slightly biased however the Joan Collins Timeless Beauty range is really great, I especially like the bases and concealers. Joan has used cosmetics and beauty products for years and written four beauty books, she was determined not to put her name to anything she did not like herself.

MANW: What's your best make-up artist tip to give women?
AW: Happiness is the best beauty tip and also lots of sleep. 

MANW: Finally, false eyelashes - the longer the better or enough already they look ridiculous?
AW: I think it depends entirely on the project and the look you are trying to achieve. I really like the false lashes from House of Glamdolls but I’ve seen some beautiful makeups ruined by thick heavy lashes. 

For more info on Alyn visit his website here, on Facebook here or follow him on Instagram here.

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

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