Q&A: Charlotte Tilbury, Celebrity Makeup Artist

Makeup artist  extraordinaire  Charlotte Tilbury

Her products promise rocker-babe eyes, film-star cheekbones and goddess skin. Charlotte Tilbury—a.k.a. Kate Moss’s makeup artist—brings her signature brand of bombshell glam to Canada

With her cascade of fiery hair and practically 24/7 heels, Charlotte Tilbury takes her personal commitment to glamour seriously—so much so that she’d never allow her husband to see her face entirely naked. “I wear makeup every day. I also wear makeup every night to bed,” proclaims the London-based pro at the recent Toronto press launch of her self-titled beauty brand. Once she’s washed off her daytime look, “the bathroom door is locked, and the eye makeup goes back on: a feline flick, mascara and a little soft smudge.”

After launching in the U.K. in 2013, the Charlotte Tilbury collection is now touching down in Canada. The line will be available at Holt Renfrew in Toronto on June 15, and at Holt Renfrew in Vancouver on June 29. “It’s been in the making my entire life. It’s always been a dream to create a makeup line,” says Tilbury, a creative soul with a brain for business who consulted for luxe brands such as Giorgio Armani and Helena Rubinstein before starting up her own. “I’m a weird combination of art and commerce.”

Raised on the party island of Ibiza, Spain, by boho British expats (dad was a painter, mom a location scout), Tilbury first realized the confidence-boosting marvels of mascara as a teenager. With a few swipes, it seemed that people suddenly saw her as all grown up. Spellbound by silver-screen sirens like Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren, she quickly realized she wanted to work in beauty. And at age 18, she landed a gig assisting her mentor, the legendary Mary Greenwell, makeup artist to Lady Diana.

Tilbury and “great friend” Kate Moss first met on a shoot when they were both about 19. (Photography: courtesy of Charlotte Tilbury)

Tilbury and “great friend” Kate Moss first met on a shoot when they were both about 19. (Photography: courtesy of Charlotte Tilbury)

Since then, Tilbury has made her name mastering the art of the smoulder for runway shows, editorial shoots and celebrity clients (including Kate Moss, Penelope Cruz, Gisele and Cara Delevingne). But she’s equally passionate about making aspirational beauty accessible to all. Realizing that makeup counters can intimidate and overwhelm the everywoman, Tilbury organizes her colour cosmetics around 10 timeless looks, each named after a beauty archetype, like The Golden Goddess, The Rock Chick or The Vintage Vamp.

A customer can then simply pick her personality—or alter ego—and get a card-size cheat sheet listing the coordinated products. “We have this hand-holding system,” she explains. For those needing tutorials, the social-savvy Tilbury also does product demos on her YouTube channel. “When I decided to do this brand, I was like, I’m going to give up all my secrets,” says Tilbury before doing our Q&A. Take notes.

You were exposed to a glamorous life at a young age. What is one of your standout memories? My sister and I used to sneak into parties in Ibiza. I was so intrigued and excited by the sophistication and the beauty. Whether it was a pool party with the Rolling Stones or drinks with the original supermodels of the ’90s, it all shaped what my aesthetic has become today.

How did you come up with the characters your line is based around? The 10 looks at the heart of my brand are like a makeup wardrobe. It’s like having 10 trusty little black dresses to choose from. I realized that beauty, much like fashion, is cyclical and that there are looks and inspirations I would return to again and again. Curating looks is what happens in fashion all the time, but no brand had really offered this in beauty before. Each look has an eye, lip and cheek colour that go together harmoniously, and reflect a different lifestyle and occasion, whether it’s The Golden Goddess for a summer holiday, The Sophisticate for a board meeting or The Bombshell for a first date.

Above, from left: The Golden Goddess, The Sophisticate and The Bombshell, three of Tilbury’s 10 archetypal makeup looks

Which one is your own signature look? I always wear The Dolce Vita. It’s done with a palette of molten copper, chocolate and garnet shades, which suit and enhance all eye colours and skin tones. The neutral combination can be dialled up or down. [I pair it] with a pale nude lipstick named Penelope Pink, which I created in homage to Penelope Cruz. It’s a colour I used to custom mix for her.

Who is your idol when it comes to having it all in this industry? Estée Lauder is a huge role model to me. She was a pioneer, started a hugely successful business, was a mother and a wife—and of course looked totally fabulous doing it all. She was dedicated to every single aspect of her life, and her hard work and visionary spirit are a real inspiration.


Charlotte Tilbury’s Go-to Products

Above, from left:

Goddess Skin Clay Mask, $80. Based on an ancient Ibizan recipe, this mask is made of Spanish clay mixed with sweet almond and rosehip oils. “Mud is not only healing, but it also cleans out your pores. If you have a bump, it reduces the inflammation. And it feels like your face has had a massive drink of water.”

Charlotte’s Magic Cream Treat & Transform Moisturizer SPF 15, $125. Tilbury first cooked up this secret salve in her kitchen to cure models’ overworked skin backstage; it soon became a hot commodity among other makeup artists and celebs. “If I loved you enough, you could prise a pot out of me. When we launched, people queued up for it.”

Beach Stick in Moon Beach, $48. “Cream textures work better in summer. They’re forgiving on sweaty, oily skin and blend seamlessly.”


Charlotte Tilbury’s Beauty Rules

  1. For youthful-looking skin, luminous beats flat matte. Instead of traditional primer, Tilbury preps with her radiance-enhancing Wonderglow Instant Soft Focus Beauty Flash, $65—nicknamed “Gisele in a jar.”
  2. “No matter what size someone’s lips are, you need to perfect them with a liner.” It’s key for refining an asymmetrical shape, or a naturally faded lip edge. But to avert an overdrawn “drag queen” result, Tilbury says, the liner must match the lipstick.
  3. “My mother always told me that sun is the ultimate sin for your skin—it’s beauty suicide.” Tilbury’s protection of choice: Institut Esthederm SPF 50.


Text, with files from Carlene Higgins, FLARE. This article was originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of Cosmetics magazine. For more, download our iPad edition.