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When I was offered the chance to speak with the makeup artist Christy Coleman, I said absolutely. Because not only is her work amazing and her client list a who’s who in the entertainment industry, more importantly, she’s a makeup artist who only uses natural products. And you know we heart this loves a do-gooder! Personally, I try to make smart choices in my beauty products whenever I can. But to Christy, it was less of a choice than it was a calling.
When preparing for the interview I took a look around her site. It was obvious I was about to have a conversation with a true pro. Editorial work with just about every magazine in the business. Shooting with some of the best photographers on the planet (Mark Seliger, Irving Penn, Bruce Weber). And oh, the faces she’s worked on! But it was looking through the collection of personal images on her site that was a real peek into her life, and illustrated some of the things I was to learn in our conversation. Photos of Monks mingle next to ones of cowboys and Heidi Klum, an elephant pic a few rows away from a baby chicken, her feet in Havaianas rest on the edge of helicopter flying over a tropical locale and many of her trusty and beautiful dog Rider Pearl. I knew this was a woman who would have some tales to tell, and I couldn’t wait…
wht: Your website says you knew your whole life you wanted to be a makeup artist. How did you get your professional start?
Hmm, that was a looong time ago. I got licensed as an esthetician, so I did skin first. I graduated high school early and moved from Wichita Falls Texas to Dallas and opened and ran my own skin care salon until I was 21. Eventually on a whim I moved to NYC, where I worked for the Morgans Hotel, then a fashion designer and I also tested. Which basically means when you’re first starting, you reach out to any photographer or modeling agency you can find and help girls who need pics for their portfolios.
And by tested, do you mean you do it for free?
Oh yeah, everything is for free in the beginning!
I guess that really helps everyone involved build their portfolios…
It does and still today, I do a lot stuff for free. European editorials and newer magazines; they just don’t have the budget. But the hope is that people see your work in the magazine and eventually campaigns come along. It helps your name stay circulated which helps you get more work.
I would imagine having a background in skin care makes you understand makeup a lot more. What skin needs in order to look good. Not just covering it up with makeup, but making it healthy from within.
Absolutely, appreciating your skin is the key factor in doing your makeup. If you can keep your skin looking natural you can play up your lips or eyes as much as you want and you’re not going to scare your husband!
Some people think they’re just cursed with a bad complexion. Do you think it’s possible to truly change your skin?
I think anything is possible! A lot of times what you really need to do is look at your diet. Food allergies can play a huge part in bad skin. Think about it, your skin is your largest organ. You have to take it a step further than just what you topically put on it. You need to think about what you’re ingesting. Poor eating habits, lack of water, caffeine, smoking-it all adds up.
Have you always been a healthy person?
I think so. I know that I have always been aware of alternate ways of thinking as far as health and beauty were concerned. As a kid I made smoothies and did yoga, and for a kid growing up on farm that was different! But also as a kid, after church my mom used to let me charge one beauty product at the local drugstore. And I got my first little tackle box full of tools.
That’s so sweet! My grandmother used to do the same thing with me at the Woolworth’s!
So, growing up on a farm must have really helped you with your later path, in that you knew early on how important it is to put good, healthy things in your body.
Yeah, when I look back on my life and realize what things were most influential on me, it’s the combination of a couple of things; my upbringing on the farm, brushing the dirt off a turnip, peeling it and eating it straight from ground. And watching my grandmother get ready for church on Saturday night; sitting at a table with a magnifying mirror and her hair in pin curls and dippty do. Watching that ritual of beauty; her adorning herself. Also, during wheat harvest when I used to have to take the wheat truck to the grain elevator, I’d look at fashion magazines while I was waiting. For me, it was a fantasy world. My family didn’t travel. I never left Texas or Oklahoma.
So, what was it like moving to NYC? Did it just blow your mind?
It was overwhelming! I always knew as a kid that I needed to see more. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate where I was from. I just had a yearning to learn more. This job, it’s not just doing makeup. I’m going to South Korea tomorrow for 4 days. In December I was in St. John for 5 days. I travel all over the world. So not only am I doing makeup, I’m seeing other cultures and other ways that people live. It’s amazing and I am so blessed.
How did it come about that you started to use only natural products?
I was a little frustrated; obviously when you go through something like watching your Dad deal with ALS, I was exhausted. (Christy’s father died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease in 2005. Knowing that her father was exposed to many chemicals and fertilizers throughout his life, she believes these items were the trigger for his ALS.) I felt like I needed to do something else. I had always been very mindful of how I ate and the things that I put on my body. The whole movement of being conscientious of what you’re putting on your skin and the ingredients that could possible cause you harm, if you take responsibility for that and you’re aware, that knowledge added to your beauty routine has the possibility to shift how women feel about themselves. It’s not just products, it spans across the board. If you can change one product you use, it’s a domino effect. You’ll start to think about what you put in your fridge, your cleaning supplies. I think it’s inspiring.
It got to a place where I had bought and had been sent enough makeup, and had researched and played with it enough that I felt confident to make the switch. You know, if I’m doing someone for the Oscars, I have to make sure that the makeup is going to stay. I have to make sure the products are going to deliver. That acclamation of being confident in it probably took about a year. Now, It’s so rejuvenating! And really inspiring to have made the change.
When did you “officially” become a natural makeup artist?
6 months ago. And I didn’t combine the natural makeup with my old stuff. I set up whole new bags of product. The bags too, all cotton, no plastic or pvc anything. And I just grabbed them and went to work. I just went for it. There were a couple of times that I called my agent and said “I don’t know if I can do this!” I was just staring into this bag of all new product, and even though I been practicing with myself and my girlfriends, until you’re in a certain situation, you don’t know what you’re going to need. You really have to learn your product. But it’s possible. There’s a beautiful range of colors out there. It’s a new market and it’s just going to get bigger. And the more awareness we can bring to it, it’s just going to make more companies become more aware too. It’s an exciting time.
Did you have to tell your clients you were making the switch?
No, I didn’t tell anyone. You know I still have clients sitting there smoking cigarettes.
Right, like “Natural? Why?!”
Exactly, I preferred to be subtle about my approach to things. I’m not here to judge anybody. Or to say your blush is killing you. I think by bringing awareness to brands that are out there and showing that this is an option is my approach. My regular clients that I have told have all been super open to it. But sometimes I just let someone discover it on their own. “Oh, my makeup looks amazing!” Then I get say “Well, guess what?” It’s part of the fun.
The list of photographers that you’ve worked with is amazing. What’s the most fun or the best experience you’ve had on a shoot?
You’re asking me such good questions! I’ve had so many, but I can tell you what was one of the most amazing moments of my entire life. I was doing the H&M campaign, probably about 10 years ago, and we were shooting in Morocco in the Sahara Desert. It was during Ramadan and we were staying in this really small stone hotel. I would wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of prayer and people chanting. It was incredible. Also, we’d take these big Range Rovers out into the big starry desert. One night we were shooting and from over this sand dune in the horizon came this sheep herder and his sheep. From the middle of nowhere! It was gorgeous.
Wow, to love what you do and appreciate every aspect of it. It’s so nice to hear.
I think traveling helps me to appreciate all types of beauty too. Botox and plastic surgery, I mean, no judgment. But personally I don’t understand the transformation of who you are, trying to change what you see in the mirror. And there’s so much more to being beautiful then trying to be someone else. I think it’s really sad. Getting to go India and Morocco and seeing all these beautiful women that don’t all look the same. There’s such a range of beauty in the world.
Who’s makeup do you really enjoy doing?
I love everyone I work on! But I think Emmy Rossum has a really gorgeous face. I did one of her first pictures for Vanity Fair. She’s a friend now, I’ve worked with her for so long. We’ve had a lot of really great travel experiences together. And she just has one of those faces, she’s like a porcelain beauty. Sheryl Crow is a really amazing woman. I just worked with Rashida Jones, who’s gorgeous and so nice and fun. She’s really spunky and has the most amazing eyes. I have never encountered anyone that I haven’t wanted to be there for. I once worked on a model with pink eye, that was a tough one. I’m such a clean freak, people laugh at me!
Are you like that with your house too?
Yeah, I am. I used to be really bad, but that changed once I got my dog. I used to have all these rules, you’d have to take your shoes off before you came in the house and things like that. My Dad, after he got sick came to visit me at my farm house in Jersey and I said “oh, you don’t have to take your shoes off!” And he looked at me and said “Am I in the right house? What happened to you?” And I said it was the dog and he said “We should have got you a dog years ago!”
It’s so true isn’t it? I have 4 dogs and cleaning just isn’t as important to me as it once was! It’s just a losing battle.
Do you have any homemade natural beauty treatments you can share with us?
Well, here’s something I do and you don’t have to make anything and it’s super cheap! I’m obsessed with Coconut oil. I keep a big jar of it by the shower and when I get out, I put it on my body, hands, toes. I use a tiny bit on the ends of my hair, on my face…
Oil on your face? What’s that like?
It’s a wonderful moisturizer. You use just a thin coat. Plus it’s anti fungal and anti inflammatory. It’s a really great beauty resource. Plus you can cook with it. You can get it at any health food store. I’ve turned so many of my girlfriends on to it, you’re gonna love it!
You can use essential oils too. There’s so many wonderful natural ways to approach beauty, especially in the bath. There’s a woman Jeanne Rose who has some really great books about making your own products. Rosemary Gladstar is another great resource. It’s really fun. You can have a little party with your friends. Buy some oils; rose, sandalwood, jasmine and some carrier oils and everyone can mix and match.
What are some of your favorite natural lines that you’re using now?
There’s a line called Nvey from Australia that I really like. Living Nature from New Zealand. Almay Pure Blends is nice. Dr. Hauschka is great, they make really nice eye shadows. Honey Bee Gardens is a smaller line that makes great eye pencils and good little lip glosses.
Are there certain products that you use on everyone’s face, regardless of age or skin type?
One product that I love, and it’s relatively new for me is called Elemental Herbology wind and cold therapy. It’s got this amazing smell and I put a little of it on dry looking concealer. It’s great on cuticles or dry lips. It’s my replacement for Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour cream. And another product I’m obsessed with that I’ve probably used a thousand times is Natracare baby wipes. I use it to clean my hands, wipe any migrating eye makeup off, I give it to the girls to wipe makeup off when they’re leaving. It’s always in my bag. They’re pure organic cotton with organic apricot, chamomile and linden oils.
Our thanks to Christy for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk to us. It was an absolute pleasure! And be sure to check out her blog for more tips and advice.