How long have you been in the industry?
I’ve been a makeup artist for 25 years.
How did you get started?
I got started as a shampoo girl, cutting hair in Long Island. I was assisting at age 22 with [her now-husband] Anthony, who was a hairdresser. Around that time, I really wanted to freelance in both hair and makeup. That is when I started loving makeup. I worked at MAC in New York when I was 26. At that time, I was test shooting and meeting everyone.
What was your big break?
Being in New York was the start of my career. I was persistent. I went to the top person right away. I wanted to get close to the famous hairdresser Garron, so I had his boyfriend cut my hair. Once I met Garron, I showed him my test book and told him I wanted to meet Laura Mercier. Garron set up a meeting with her.
From there, I assisted Laura on all of her fashion shoots, like Italian Vogue with Steven Meisel, doing makeup on all the ’90s supermodels. We worked with Kate Moss, Amber Valletta, Naomi Campbell, Karen Mulder, Stephanie Seymour. We did shows with NARS, Anna Sui, Ralph Lauren and many more. Two years later, I joined an agency.
What makeup tips did you learn from “the Greats”?
Kevin Aucoin taught me how to do women of colour and reverse contouring. Laura Mercier taught me how to line the upper inner lash line.
Where have you travelled to for work?
I’ve travelled worldwide: Russia, Paris, Spain, Italy, South America, the White House! Mostly with Eva for 14 years. I am now living in L.A.
Who are your clients?
My main relationship is with Eva and the hairdresser Ken Paves. I often work with Jane Fonda. In the past, I’ve worked with Britney Spears. Currently, Roselyn Sanchez, Mandy Moore and Kerry Washington and at most red carpet and Oscars events.
Tell us about starting a makeup brand.
I had a line of professional makeup called Enjoue. I learned a lot from it. I’ve now had a whole education on how that works. I did this over 10 years ago. These days, there is a new way to approach a brand. I had thought about the Shopping Channel, but decided against it. There was so much opportunity, but I didn’t have enough funding. It takes a lot of money. Being self-funded, I couldn’t keep up with demand.
What would you tell someone who wants to start their own makeup line?
Start small. Do your research. Get enough investment. It’s difficult.
What is your advice to a new artist?
You don’t just arrive. I went out there and I went for it. It is hard work. Clients will come and go. They may want to use another flavour tomorrow. I did my research before approaching these people, to know who everyone is. Know your brands well and refer to them.
Tell us about your charity work.
Beauty Bus Foundation provides beauty services to women who are chronically ill. It creates beauty kiosks in hospitals in L.A. The women might be young girls, or women at home who can’t get out of bed because they are sick. I’ve been involved [with Beauty Bus] for eight years now.
Dress for Success is a foundation that helps women get back on their feet within the working world. I did this in Canada. After experiencing this concept, I spoke with the director of the charity about creating my own class, Glam for Success, in L.A. I’ve done two so far, which were very successful.
Beauty Extravaganza, held once a year at Ken Paves’s salon, helps women in need. We get all kinds of sponsors involved to do hair, nails, facials and makeup on fifteen ladies and we provide lunch. It’s beauty heaven!!
Beauty Against Violence is another organization that I work with. I did makeup once on a woman who was shot. This woman inspired me to give back to other women.
What are your thoughts on being a union makeup artist?
I recently became a member in the United States [union], which is hard to get into. Now I can work on all TV and movie sets, which I really needed in order to be with Eva. There are great benefits. It made my resumé bigger. Film and TV industries are very specific about being in the union these days. Working is illegal without it.
What are you up to lately?
I work on a TV show with Eva Longoria, called “Brand Hotel,” on ABC. It’s a show about a Miami hotel. Eva is the executive producer. Roselyn Sanchez is the lead actor. We are going to be shooting in Manhattan Beach in L.A., so it looks like Miami.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want to be known for helping women in need and for giving confidence to women. It’s painting confidence right on to their face! I enjoy it and love it. It fills my soul. It’s totally my purpose. It’s giving both them and myself a gift. When I launched my brand, it gave me a voice to talk about this. I want to inspire more people to give back by volunteering their time. You will see my new brand soon!
You can find Elan on Instagram @beautybyelan.