Pointers from the Professionals: Elle Leary, award-winning makeup artist
May 23, 2012
From her first memories watching her mother apply makeup as a little girl, Elle Leary has had a fascination with enhancing natural beauty using makeup. Focusing on creating a healthy, glowing appearance, Leary has worked with stars such as Alanis Morissette and Audrina Patridge. Her work has been featured on the pages of publications including Good Housekeeping, InTouch, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Maxim and People Magazine.
She has also worked to make people look their best on the screen, stage and runway for more than 10 years, working backstage for everything from Nickelodeon events to Dancing with the Stars.
Growing up in San Diego, California, Leary developed her signature technique – creating fresh, radiant faces with just enough edge. She worked for Make Up For Ever before becoming an independent makeup artist. She graduated from the Los Angeles-based makeup academy Award Studio and has managed two Los Angeles salons.
Hear what she has to say about what makeup techniques will make you look your best.
Q. What inspired you to start a career in makeup?
A. I have been obsessed with makeup since I was a little girl – I used to be so fascinated that my mother could put on her lipstick without a mirror and perfectly on the first try!! In 1995, my mother and I also opened a dance studio, and [I] couldn’t figure out why my girls didn’t stand out on stage … I tried to apply their makeup differently and it made such a huge difference. Before I knew it, I had the makeup bug, and a line down the studio [of girls] waiting for their turn to have their makeup done!!
Q. What are some of your favorite projects to work on? Shows, shoots, appearances?
A. Some of my favorite projects to work on are red carpet events and editorials!! I love making my clients feel beautiful and confident to walk down that carpet. The collaboration between my client and I for these type of events is the best part. Making their vision come to life makes my day. On the other hand, after the first magazine editorial I did, I was hooked. To be able to be so creative, dream up ideas and see them in print is so gratifying.
Q. Who is your favorite celebrity (or celebrities) that you have ever worked with? Why?
A. I just love working with all my clients, I have been so blessed to have worked with some amazing men and women. One story that I love to tell is at the beginning of my career I had an opportunity to work with the legendary Pat Sajak!! I started one morning at 4 a.m. with him and he had me laughing and feeling comfortable in the first 10 minutes. He is such a humble and lovely man. I grew up watching him on TV and now I was doing his makeup!!
Q. When you first meet a client, what is the first step you take in transforming their face into a work of art?
A. When I first meet a client, I like to take a step back and see what feature I am going to play up. For most people it is their eyes, because when [we] first look at someone, we look at their eyes and they convey a tremendous amount of emotion through them!! Women at home should do the same. Pick one feature – eyes, lips, cheeks – and have fun.
Q. Do you use some of the same tried-and-true makeup techniques on a number of your clients? What are they and why do you keep going back to them?
A. It really depends on what face shape and skin type my client has for me to decide what technique I will use, but I really concentrate on glowing, healthy skin. I start with a rich oil-free moisturizer [and] liquid foundation, which I apply with a brush and then blend with a sponge. Blending your foundation and making sure it is a seamless finish is so important, especially as we go into the spring and summer months. I also apply powder very sparingly to keep the skin radiant!!
Q. What are three cosmetics you cannot live without?
A. Mascara, cream blush and a lip stain!!
Q. What is the most common makeup mistake the average woman makes?
A. I feel the biggest mistake is that women use the wrong foundation color or use too much. I always suggest to match your foundation from your jaw line to your neck and also on your chest. That way you will be sure that your face matches your body. Also remember to try to let some of your natural skin show through your foundation. If you slowly build your foundation you will ensure you don’t get that cakey, fake end result!
Q. If you could give one piece of makeup advice to the average woman, what would it be?
A. To really play with makeup and see what works for you. It is all about feeling comfortable, confident and beautiful. Makeup just enhances the beauty that is already there, so find what works for you and remember, less is more!!