With a level of obsession suitable to the most dedicated Method actor, Lisa Eldridge, celebrity makeup artist, global director of Lancôme, YouTube personality and now author, ruminates about her work all the time — in fact, it’s what energizes her.
She collects vintage pots and powders, researches their history, and explores their taboos — and even says she sees the word “makeup” when she looks at swirling seaweed, decaying walls or graffiti. She often concocts her own fundamentals, and hopes to come out with a signature collection soon.
This story first appeared in the November 18, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I love every aspect of it, the chemistry, the science, the history. I think it was in the early Nineties that I was in Portobello Market and saw somebody selling a box of Biba makeup, which at that time was about 15 years after it went bust. I bought it,” says Eldridge from her cozy studio in North London, where she keeps an archive filled with bits including an early Max Factor lipstick and a Chinese powder compact that’s more than 2,000 years old.
“I was always interested in finding out how makeup went from being something that was frowned upon and only used by prostitutes and actresses, and then became mainstream,” explains Eldridge, who was raised in New Zealand and Liverpool, and is married to photographer Robin Derrick, the former creative director of British Vogue.
Her break into the business came more than 20 years ago, when she got booked to do Cindy Crawford’s makeup at the last minute. “She was such a big supermodel, and I was like a baby,” Eldridge says. “She loved what I did, and asked me to come back.”
In addition to her day jobs — which include prepping actresses such as Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley and Lily Collins for the red carpet, and working with photographers including Mert & Marcus, Peter Lindbergh and Patrick Demarchelier on editorials — Eldridge has written a book, “Face Paint: The Story of Makeup,” that traces the history, sociology and economics of the business. Not surprisingly, she says, Hollywood played a leading role.
“It extended the imaginings of what a woman could be,” Eldridge says. “Girls were going to watch these films and see the characters and the makeup. With fanzines, you got the first how-to’s, with actresses talking about their look.”
Eldridge points to Elizabeth Taylor’s prolonged dramatic moment — filming “Cleopatra” with Richard Burton — as another turning point. “Paparazzi would take pictures, and Liz wouldn’t bother to take off the makeup from the day. Images of them having dinner would be in the magazines, and that influenced how everyone was making up their eyes.”
Eldridge is also a YouTube personality, modeling looks for occasions from the everyday to meeting an ex-boyfriend or handling PMS days. She uses a variety of brands and accepts zero advertising.
Still, one type of job can give her the jitters: red-carpet work. “There is no room for error,” says the perfectionist, whose artistry shows not a trace of nerves.