Alexa Riva Ravina is a successful Delamar Graduate who trained with us 4 years ago. Proving that there is a space for everyone in this industry, Alexa’s work swings between a contrast of high-end commercial work (very much a reflection of Alexa herself), glamorous weddings, fantasy, gore and special effects make-up for performers, celebrities, characters and models working in the more creative domains of entertainment and fashion.
Straight commercial make-up artists are rarely also prosthetic fantasy make-up artists, but Alexa has defined her own career by following her passions, a lesson for many students to observe. As a sharp dresser with immaculate hair and make-up, Alexa is often found elbow-deep in bloodied prosthetics or adorning a body-painted performer with glitter and Swarovski crystals. The important message from Alexa’s success is to be authentic in the pursuit of career satisfaction. For this reason Alexa has never formally “assisted”:
“I prefer to been in charge of what I’m doing. I love the creative process, staying up all hours drawing lots of sketches, seeking inspiration from the strangest of things. I like to use many textures and mediums so I wouldn’t enjoy being unable to lead the creative of a look or design, unless of course it’s for someone as amazing as Pat McGrath, Caroline Saulnier, Alex Box, Matthew Barney, Neil Gorton… then I’d shut up and do as I’m told!”
The choice to come to Delamar was a career change for Alexa, who previously completed a BA Hons 1st Literature and languages degree at University College London. Using her fluency in 4 languages and academic background, Alexa then spent several years providing simultaneous translation services for the Crown courts and UN and organising big events for international FTSE 100 companies. This corporate world was a high-pressured environment that helped Alexa develop her stamina and strength as well as her eye for detail. Interestingly many of our students from corporate, flight attendant or performance background work well in the make-up industry. Alexa is now proving how often the most successful artists come from such a contrast of backgrounds.
At age 28, after losing her father to cancer, Alexa decided to fulfil her dreams. He always wanted her to have a “serious job” because he was old fashioned and thought “clever girls don’t do makeup”. She decided life was too short and you should do what makes you happy. After extensive research, she chose Delamar as the best makeup school and enrolled on the One Year Cert HE Professional Make-up Design course:
Doing the One Year course at Delamar was the best choice I have ever made. I chose to specialise in Advanced Fashion because I enjoyed that so much and have always loved fashion itself, having worked for Gucci and Alexander McQueen while at University. I was not ready for hair at that point in my life; hair is so hard if you don’t have a natural talent and love for it. I have developed my hair skills since through constant practice and now feel confident with it and see it as an essential part of the makeup look I am creating. You can always learn more though so am looking at coming back to do a hair course at Delamar.
I started the course thinking I would be good at beauty and maybe character make-up, but thought I would struggle with prosthetics. How wrong I was, It was one of my favourite parts of the course! Being able to transform someone entirely, making whatever is in your mind come to life…Now I do prosthetic fantasy make-up work all the time. I sat next to a girl at Delamar who worked really fast, this threw me as I’m such a ridiculous perfectionist and prefer to take the time I need to get it exactly as I want it… But it taught me to work fast and learn from others, it was such an enriching experience . It’s a constant growth process at Delamar.
Like many of our students with an academic background, she had to overcome some snooty attitudes, the main misconception being that intelligent or academic people shouldn’t become make-up artists. You can read all about this issue here.
On being yourself:
I was not someone who would choose to work in a salon or sit in a studio every day and sculpt pieces. I do it for certain jobs but I need to travel, have very varied jobs and meet new people to be happy and fuel my creative process, it isn’t who I am in my soul. I love people, glamour, chaos, working on an exotic location or on a gorgeous set for a high-end shoot. This is why I am so lucky to be working with clients like Hugo Boss, Dior and Louis Vuitton who book me for shoots and events. I love that high fashion energy and I love to feel challenged, I work best that way.
On making money:
I still do the odd unpaid editorial for my creative satisfaction, some collaborations to explore new trends, I am volunteer regional manager for Look Good Feel Better, a makes-up based charity that helps people deal with the side effects of Cancer (Lookgoodfeelbetter.co.uk). I feel it’s what my father would you have wanted, I remember how much he enjoyed pampering when he was ill.
Ultimately though, bills don’t pay themselves and am never afraid to be upfront about my fees. I am always fair and they reflect the quality of the work my client will receive. When starting out in my career it was passion over money every time, I was so happy to just do what I love as much as possible, but once you get going you have to start charging people properly. Know your worth and people will ultimately respect you more for it.
On the longevity of Delamar’s training:
“I still have my beautiful Delamar folder full of notes to remind me of everything on the course. Every time I need a refresher I revisit these notes as the teachers were amazing and taught us so much and so well. Those notes and drawings are still a bible to everything I do.”
On finishing the course and getting started:
I was quite surprised that I was the only distinction in my year because there were a lot of talented and competitive students. This goes to show how hard you have to work for this mark at Delamar and that it will prepare you for working in the industry. I spent so much time preparing for my exhibition; I went to Snappy Snapps about 20 times, (they all knew me by name in the end, I bet they were sick of the sight of me), roped in everyone I knew for photos and modelling to help me, from random photographers I had met years earlier to friends of friends, even my 84 year old neighbour – if you don’t ask, you don’t get! I still come to see the student exhibits every year, I love seeing the talent developed by an intensive year of Delamar training. It feels nostalgic and reminds me of how much fun I had.
My first work came from being proactive with the Delamar agency:I would always say yes. Every job I did resulted in another. It snowballed from free work to such exciting projects. This made me so happy! The Delamar Agency kick started everything! I worked on a 2 week Film with an A list Bollywood star. I learnt so much on this film about how to deal with VIPs to set etiquette, etc. The film was very well received and it was my first of many as head of department: The line producer recommended me for several other films as a result.
My top advice – don’t turn down any jobs when you start. Even jobs you don’t want to do, even when people are rude to you, even when it messes up your holiday plans, personal life and even when you have to travel for hours. Show up and keep taking the work, if you impress with your “can do” attitude, professional yet friendly demeanour and makeup skills you are bound to get more work off the back of it. Word of mouth is how I have built my career, trust me, it’s the best publicity.
On the future:
This year I am focused on building my empire, in the early stages of developing a make-up range and opening “Carnage Couture”(carnagecouture.com) with my business associate Kirsty Graham in August. It’s a one stop online shop for all prosthetics, from the most gory wounds to the most glam of customised elf ears, glitter horns etc. Not everything is plain sailing, it takes long hours, boring legal stuff and lots and lots of effort but I am using my commercial background to navigate the process. It also really helps to share the task with someone else I trust and be a bit less of a control freak as a result. I’m feeling so inspired this year to step everything up a level and develop my brand.