Life as a celebrity facialist and Make-up artist |

5 mins

Life as a celebrity facialist and Make-up artist

Beauty expert Nathalie Eleni brought Ellen Cummings along with her for a day working as a make-up artist on promotional and red-carpet events

Nathalie Eleni has worked in the beauty industry for over 20 years, with her career taking her on a journey from in-flight beauty therapy for Virgin, to painting actor Charlize Theron’s nails for Snow White and the Huntsman and tanning actors on the Wonder Woman movie set.

She now specialises in skin, make-up and grooming for events, and has worked with the likes of actors Michael Sheen, Anya Taylor Joy, Jodie Whittaker and Catherine Tate, model Yasmin Le Bon and Girls Aloud star Nicola Roberts.

Eleni regularly works with television and film actor Joanne Froggatt, who has appeared in an array of hit TV shows including period drama Downton Abbey, thriller series Liar and ITV medical drama Breathtaking. We joined Eleni as she helped prep Froggatt for filming for CBeebies show Bedtime Stories, and her attendance at the annual Bafta Fundraising Gala.

Preparing for the day

As any form of mobile therapist will know, deciding exactly what to bring in your kit and being able to haul it around to different locations is one of the hardest practical aspects of the job. For Eleni, streamlining is key. She explains, “I sort out my kit the night before, including cleaning all the brushes because I like them to be really fresh. Then on the day, I spritz them with Clinisept before I use them.”

She adds, “I try to personalise the kit so I don’t end up carrying loads of stuff. I have a lot of regular clients, so I know the kinds of tones, products and textures that work well for them. It’s highly unlikely a client will want an outrageous look; I get a brief beforehand and the stylist will send some inspo pictures, so I can minimise the products I need to take with me.”

Start with skincare

Alongside her work as a make-up artist, Eleni is also a trained skin expert with certifications in brands such as Environ, Hydropeptide and Espa – so skincare naturally forms a crucial part of her work with clients.

“Because I don’t know how my client’s skin is going to be on a particular day – they could have been on a shoot or flying – I usually take a good selection of skincare,” she says. “I also bring some face tools and gadgets, as well as masks, because clients love the skin prep.”

Personalisation is present throughout Eleni’s work, and her process changes depending on the client. “Joanne has naturally amazing skin and is so good at looking after it, so I don’t have to do too much with it,” she explains.

“I tend to start her prep with a face massage and the Hydropeptide Polypeptide Collagel eye masks, then I use an airbrush with my own blend of hydrosol waters – you get all the benefits of the essential oils but it’s very gentle because it’s in water, and it helps to make the skin fresh and vibrant before applying moisturiser. This is a great way to layer skincare and lock in hydration without making the skin sticky, which helps make-up last longer.”

Make-up magic

On the day we joined Eleni, Froggatt was attending the Bafta Fundraising Gala, requiring two looks with very different vibes. Describing her process behind creating make-up looks, Eleni comments, “I work quite intuitively, so I don’t massively plan looks ahead of time. My looks are always about fresh, glowing, vibrant skin and enhancing natural beauty. Once I’m in front of my client I just kind of go with my creativity, taking into account how their skin is feeling and if they want more or less coverage.”

The look Eleni created for Bedtime Stories worked to draw attention to some of Froggatt’s defining features. “Joanne has naturally beautiful, long eyelashes and gorgeous eyes, so I used a coppery-bronze Charlotte Tilbury shadow and lots of mascara, then defined along her lash line with a chocolate brown liner.”

While Eleni is all about the glow, there are cases where it has to be toned down a little. “For filmed appearances, you do have to mattify because there’s a difference between glowing and shiny,” she explains. “If someone is going to be on a TV show for an extended period, it can get very hot, so I tend to use a mattifying primer on the T-zone, do the glowing make-up, then pat a bit more primer around the areas that can get shiny, before applying a light, translucent powder all over.”

Once filming for Bedtime Stories was done, it was on to the red-carpet prep. This look was a lot more edgy, working with wet-look hair and a slinky black dress. “Most of Joanne’s hair was styled away from her face, so I really wanted to enhance her eyes and work with her amazing lashes by building up inky black mascara,” Eleni says.

Preparing celebrity clients for big events like this usually involves working with a team of other professionals; on this day Eleni was working alongside hair stylist Narad Kutowaroo, fashion stylist Abisoye Odugbesan, and photographer Pip Bourdillon, who was taking behind-thescenes and pre-event photographs. While this might sound like having too many chefs in the kitchen, working collaboratively is key to a successful look and is one of Eleni’s favourite parts of the job.

“What I think is so lovely is that everyone respects what the others are doing. For example, I will listen to what Narad wants to do with styling the hair because he’s the expert in that. We all work towards the end goal together, and it helps to have someone else there to get their opinion on whether certain looks work. Being self-employed, it’s also nice to work with clients who often have the same team because there’s a level of continuity.”

L-R: Abisoye Odugbesan, Alexa Pearson, Narad Kutowaroo, Joanne Froggatt, Pip Bourdillon, Nathalie Eleni and Ellen Cummings

Staying productive

“Hurry up and wait” is a phrase often used on TV and film sets, and the same goes for long days as a make-up artist. While Eleni had to create two different looks for Froggatt and be on standby for touch-ups during the filming, there was also quite a bit of free time.

As someone who likes to have multiple plates spinning, this was a great opportunity for Eleni to complete other tasks. She explains, “If I’m on a job with someone for the day, there can be a lot of waiting around so I try to get other things done. I’m also a beauty journalist [Eleni has been beauty director for Country and Town House magazine since 2006], so I often spend time writing, or researching products. I try to maximise the free time, although sometimes I will just sit and scroll on Instagram to relax my brain!”

This article appears in April 2024

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