With bright green hair and a well-loved pair of high-top trainers, Allie burst into the Academy on Friday morning. This was a spontaneous decision to swing by whilst en route to Luton airport, on her way to a job shooting Morocco. Allie now lives in New York and has a very jet-set life working on big brand campaigns such as Glossier and American Eagle.
i-D Magazine recently named Allie as one of the:
“5 next-generation makeup artists making it in beauty”
Dreaming up looks for fashion’s buzziest brands and painting pop culture’s freshest faces, these five artists represent the makeup industry’s new guard. Allie Smith is becoming a major creative force in the beauty world, working with virtually every youth fashion publication, i-D included. She’s created dewy complexions for an Opening Ceremony x Jacquemus lookbook, given Iris Apfel a red lip for & Other Stories, and painted otherworldly sapphire eyeshadow on St. Vincent’s Annie Clark. Fresh off the NYFW train – it’s only her second season working shows as a key makeup artist – she’s now focused on a beauty story with photographer Mark Lim, “inspired by politics.” Aside from Lim, whom she calls a personal favorite, Smith dreams of working with heroes like Cass Bird, Meryl Streep, Carrie Brownstein, Proenza Schouler, and hair superstar Holli Smith. To get where she is now, Smith says, she’s had to learn “to not be afraid of f*cking up and remain open-minded” and to “push through the initial discomfort of doing something off or ‘wrong.'” At the same time, she says, “there are always gigs or opportunities that come up that make you feel like you’re onto something good, which is really gratifying.”
Over a cup of tea we enjoyed the most uplifting couple of hours chatting with Allie. She told us all about her incredible career from its humble beginnings working any and every retail / salon job ‘ya know, just about covering the rent’ to now travelling continuously with magazines and brands as a key make-up artist. The positive energy that Allie bought into Delamar was infectious and inspiring. Success stories like this one are why we work so hard. The ultimate job satisfaction for Leda and the team here at Delamar is most enjoyed over these tea catch-ups.
“I owe a lot to Delamar. I came here because the training was full and included everything a serious make-up artist could wish to learn”.
On social media as a successful make-up artist:
We commented on the impressive Instagram content and following that Allie had built up; with a wry grin she explained her mixed feelings towards it:
“Sometimes that whole world feels like a Black Mirror social media contest. I keep mine about the work and I keep it real. It’s an amazing resource for discovery and connection but it’s much more important to retain traditional practices for career longevity. So many new make-up artists don’t understand what that even means. You don’t want to be known as that girl from Instagram.
You need to think carefully about the message you send out to people. You can really switch people on and switch others off, especially in fashion. It’s so important to be conscientious about who is watching you. I’ve made some incredible connections with people I wouldn’t otherwise have spoken to – that’s the cool thing about it. I treat mine as a professional diary of work that I’m proud of, inspiration and occasionally something funny. You will so rarely see me in any photos. I’m just waiting for the Instagram bubble to burst and to see what head will grow back in it’s place.”
A recipe for success
The kick-starter and shared common attribute of all successful fashion make-up artists like Allie is unrelenting passion that goes beyond any desire for money, recognition or lifestyle. It’s a pure obsession with the work. Such an obsession results in long hours of hard work, days of preparation and often nights in the bath spent thinking about ideas for an upcoming shoot. Kit building, cleaning and constant research becomes a way of life. When shoot day comes, Allie explained how she would soak up every minute of every hour without feeling like she was trudging her way through a regular job.
Allie still feels so passionate about her job that she doesn’t officially take holidays. A mistake many of our graduates make is thinking there is room for free and comfortable “down time” where they ignore their emails. Sure, take rest, but when your career is on an upward trajectory, it’s very hard to say “the chance of my being booked on something is high, but I’m going to go to Greece for 2 weeks with my family and forget about it.” In Allie’s eyes, if this is you, then you don’t want it badly enough. Thankfully, most of our graduates are unfazed by such a tough reality. Like a coiled spring, you must be ready to jump on the opportunities, which is exactly what Allie did ten years ago.
“I made myself an account on Model Mayhem, and constantly explored the creative gigs/models section of Craigslist. Yes Craigslist! I then connected with a model who really changed the course of my career by introducing me to a photographer that I built my portfolio with. It sounds sketchy and quite basic but it’s all I had. I was looking for people to work with in a time before social media. I got so lucky one day with a model called Gracie Hartzel who liked me and made an introduction to a top photographer which landed me my first Purple Magazine cover.
We always tell our students that all it takes is one job to change your career forever, and Allie had that experience with a photographer in New York who loved her work and opened up some big connections.
Being ready for the big work
After we discussed the obsessive and unrelenting nature of Allie’s work, the topic of “being ready” for the big jobs came up. How do you walk into a studio and lead the make-up for a big campaign? Allie commented how many make-up artists who make it look easy have been in the fashion industry longer than some of our students have been alive. The access to YouTube tutorials and other social media breeds an “over confident” make-up artist who can’t walk the walk at Fashion Week or on a commercial photo shoot.
“I didn’t use some contacts I had early on because of a certain readiness I needed. If you take this business seriously, you will need to feel ready to work with the very established people. I wanted to make my mistakes in an environment where it wasn’t going to cost me.”
Using live snails with the make-up
On her work with top American fashion photographer, Allie has worked a lot with Donna Trope and told us all about the challenge of using live snails with the make-up for a shoot:
“Donna was like “I want some snails”, so I called up Pet co. and then all the pet shops in China Town, and even tried an animal talent agency… to see if they had the snails. They had no snails. My friend was so sweet and he gave me some interns to help track down snails. Then I got a call back “Yo, I think I saw some snails in my back yard”. The intern went and collected a bunch of them in a soup container then went to the shoot.”
Allie has worked with a top selection of photographers including Nan Goldin – known for her lucid and vivid portrayal of New York life in the early 80’s. Nan has an unflinching honesty to show people at the mercy of life, her most famous work focused on sexual dependency, fragility and abuse.
On making friends in the industry
“A huge thing that people don’t pay attention to – make friends! Make friends with other make-up artists. Lend things, borrow things, have a community! You can pass work off to each other. There is enough work for everyone. Don’t compare yourself to other people – if you do that you won’t want to leave the house. Instagram is rubbish for comparison. Sometimes real friendships and rapport will trump your folio, which is always a work in progress. I’m living proof that you don’t need to assist people to get great jobs. I assisted a little but not on a major level, it wasn’t a huge part of my time and career. Everyone has a unique journey in this industry. I’ve made my career happen through making friends and always bearing in mind that this is a team career and not just about me/the makeup.
Have tenacity and perseverance:
I worked in Urban Outfitters on the weekends for some time, t shirt shops, everything you can imagine. You have to stand on your own and trust your gut, focus on why you are in a certain place. It was do or die for me and I didn’t die. I look back on those first few years in New York with such pride. I had nothing but it was ok. I’m tenacious to the bone – where there is a will there is way.”
On being a part of something bigger:
“My favourite thing is working with people who I can bring out the best of. It’s gratifying. I’m not always super inspired on every job with every team, and that’s ok. We still have a fun time; we get fed and travel all over the world. Fashion has a huge domino effect on pop culture. The big designers who we work with inspire the people all over the world; we create looks to vibe off a clothing collection, which then inspires every high street store. It has a ripple effect – we are holding up a mirror to the world and showing how we see the cool, the beautiful and the ugly.”
We are so proud of Allie’s success since graduating Delamar. Despite being a lead make-up artist on campaigns and shows… she keeps it real!
“I still eat froot loops for breakfast but I’m living my dream.”