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Tricks of the Trade: Make-up Artist


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BY Jenny Kate Sherman June 02, 2010 · Published by Resource Magazine

Make-up artist Pascale Poma talks to Resource Magazine about the role of her profession, the hardest part of her job, and viewing skin as a canvas.

This article has been contributed from the Spring 2009 issue of Resource Magazine, courtesy of the publisher. To subscribe to the magazine and explore Resource’s online features, visit the Resource Magazine website.


Photo by Daniel Clavero.

Most little girls have the desire to play with their mother's make-up. While most children make messes of their faces rather than masterpieces, some grow up to be a make-up artist like Pascale Poma. Poma works with models and celebrities on photo shoots, combing her artistic passions and personal instinct for fashion with her unique talent for make-up artistry to make the world a little more beautiful. Here is the lowdown on make-up from the guru herself.

Where did you come from? Where did you go?

"When I was eight, I got my first Barbie doll and a bag of fabric ends from Madame Seccaris, the old lady next door. I would spend hours cutting and sewing clothes for my doll. I would change her hair, put on her some of my father's anti-wrinkle cream and some of the make-up my mother had. When I got more Barbie dolls I would have them present the clothes I made for them. The dining table was a catwalk! Later, as a teenager, I would experiment in making creams for my mother with whatever I could put my hands on in the kitchen. I wasn't allowed to put on any make-up, but I often used some brown shoe-shine cream as blush and some drops of Mercurochrome mixed with Vaseline to tint my lips.

Did you ever know that you're my hero?

If anyone ever has any doubts about the impact make-up artists have in films, magazines, and fashion shows, Pascale Poma sets the record straight. "Try to imagine any model or actress going anywhere without their make-up done. Some make-up artists are behind great looks that give models or celebrities their identities. Change them and you will see a huge difference in these famous faces. You might not even recognize some of them!

Crayons, eyeliner, tomato, to-mah-to!

"My favorite brands?" Pascale says . . . "It all depends on what I need to get in terms of effect. But all in all, I love the stuff done by L'Oréal. What they do for Armani Cosmetics is fabulous. I studied science when I was in high school and I had lots of chemistry and biology classes. I am more interested in these subjects. Cosmetic chemistry—the more scientific part of the cosmetic business—is fascinating to me. Today's make-up is about great technology and scientific breakthroughs.

Step back, you're dancing kind of close.

"The first thing I do when I begin putting make-up on a person is to clean my hands and throw a piece of gum into my mouth. Then I moisturize the skin to plump it and smooth its texture. I paint as a hobby, so I do see the skin like a canvas. Just like a linen canvas, the human canvas has to be flawless before the first stroke of 'paint' to make it capture the light and let it radiate through."

Can't we all just get along?

"When I was in make-up school in Brussels, Belgium, we had a week of training at a trauma center that treated people who had been in an accident or had cancer. After that experience, anything else—people with attitude, PMS, bad breath, pimples, etc.—is a piece of cake. You just concentrate on making that person as beautiful as you can and shut down your personal feelings. I enjoy working with men and women, but sometimes with a man, a hint of powder reveals something you couldn't see before.

ABC, it's as easy as 123.

"To me, the hardest part of the job is having to cope with models who can't get over themselves and don't accept the virtual persona we are creating for the sake of the picture. I don't like some of them going, 'This is not me, I never wear lipstick.' The other problem is when everyone—stylists, hair stylists, and photographers—is working on their own and not collaborating with one another to get a coherent image. The best jobs are when all of the above doesn't happen and the magic can therefore freely operate. It sometimes really takes my breath away."

Wax on, wax off.

"I don't get frustrated that at the end of the day my work gets washed off," Pascale Poma says. "Most of the time, it is captured by the camera, for eternity and for all of the world to see. What can be frustrating at times is when the photographers miss capturing it properly. You know, when the lighting or angle is not right."

Little box of tricks.

The most important tool of a make-up artist? "Besides my hands? My pencils. Not long ago, someone stole all of my brushes. I literally felt crippled. Some of those brushes had been with me since the very beginning. There were an extension of my fingers!"

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

"Before studying make-up, I studied and graduated from a fashion design school in Belgium. So for me, everything starts with the clothes. When shooting a fashion editorial, I will discuss with the photographer or the art director to know when their vision is. But ultimately what helps me get the right make-up direction are the clothes and the story we are going to tell. I just don't get how some people never even look at the clothes and come up with hair and make-up 'creations' that have nothing to do with what the clothes have to say. Fashion is a serious business and the harmony and accuracy of all the elements in the final image are crucial to me. The wrong styling can ruin a story. The wrong make-up has definitely the same power. Now, if we are talking about working with an actress, I will look at her face first and make her look her best by enhancing her strongest features. The dress she is going to wear should beautify what she already has; it acts like another layer of make-up. There is nothing worse to me than seeing all of these women having the same kind of make-up, hair, style, etc. What works for one person doesn't always work for another. Make-up is here to enhance their personality. What is still true is that beauty sells. No doubt about that."

Set Elements, Styling, and Props

Featured photographer: Daniel Clavero

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