When a very young Lisa Eldridge decided she wanted to be a make-up artist, the industry wasn’t nearly as well-established as it is now. As she settles for an interview in her quirky London home, her two loveable cats merrily strolling around, it slowly becomes clear why she’s one the most successful make-up artists in the world.
It all started aged six, when Lisa was trawling through her mother’s fabulously vintage cosmetics box: “There was amazing Mary Quant stuff and all these fat sticks of colour and eye colours in tubes, just amazing make-up. I totally fell in love with it.”
At a time when the job ‘beauty make-up artist’ wasn’t widely considered as a profession, the 13-year-old Lisa started doing make-up at school plays. “I was saying to teachers at school I want to be a make-up artist, but nobody knew what it was then.”
She then gained first-hand experience at Complexions (a make-up school which has since closed down), on an evening course which also kick-started the careers of Jeanine Lobell (founder of Stila) and Lee Pycroft. ”In retrospect, it was such a good place, because it was before make-up artist training was such a business.”
By day, Lisa would work numerous jobs, and was even fired from a famous London department store because instead of pushing cosmetics sales, she was telling women what actually suited them.
Lisa created a strong portfolio, testing with models and photographers across London and Milan. Having admired Mary Greenwell’s Vogue covers from the 1980s, she approached Mary’s agency and they instantly loved her work.
Her big break came when she did Cindy Crawford’s make-up for ELLE. “We got on really well. She said to me, what are you doing for the next couple of days?” It was then that Lisa accompanied Cindy to a concert for Fox TV, and found herself on the Wembley stage with Cindy and rock legends, Guns N’ Roses, an event she postponed minor surgery to attend.
Throughout her career, Lisa has worked with the likes of Chanel, Japanese cosmetics giant Shiseido and in 2003, was appointed Creative Director of Boots No7. She also made made her TV debut on the popular Channel 4 show, 10 Years Younger.
“At first I was worried, I was thinking oh God, is it going to ruin my career, because to be on TV is so different from being behind the scenes,” she recalls. “I thought about it and thought no, it’s a real challenge for me … And that kept me fresh.”
Overwhelmed with thousands of letters from viewers seeking advice, she began creating her videos on her website: “There’s all these girls doing make-up on Youtube, there’s obviously an appetite for it but there was nobody professional.”
Today, the cosmetics industry is a completely different ball game thanks to technology, but Lisa remembers a time when re-touching wasn’t an option: “I remember doing things like mascara ads at the beginning of my career, and that picture of the eyelashes close up, that would be what was in the magazine. We’ve all had that experience of separating eyelashes with a pin, lash by lash.”
With her client-book glittering with celebrities (Kate Winslet, Jennifer Lopez, Kate Moss), does she ever get starstruck? “Do you know what? I don’t,” she says. “It’s because when I turn up, this person, this iconic star, is in a robe, with her slippers on, no make-up, a bit tired. I think for real, regular girls that see those people, they’re like wow. I see them in a whole different light.”
Sat in her kitchen, she continues to tell the story of her admirable journey, reminding us that what Lisa Eldridge doesn’t know about make-up and beauty, quite frankly isn’t worth knowing. Her glowing complexion is a testament to her expertise. “I’ve been doing it for 20 years, and if I go and do a job, I want to do it brilliantly … I still enjoy it as much as I did when I first started. I’ve never lost the passion.”
Click here for Lisa’s 10 glowing beauty lessons.
Learn more about Lisa and take a look at her videos on her website.