In our long-running series, "How I'm Making It," we talk to people making a living in the fashion industry about how they broke in and found success.
It would be all too easy to describe makeup artist Violette as chic, French and simply leave it at that. But while she does happen to be French — and very, very chic — she also happens to be one of the most creative face painters in the beauty industry today. With a CV that includes stints at Dior, Sephora and most recently, La Mer, plus experience in editorial and runway makeup, Violette is also forging a new path as a beauty vlogger on YouTube, an outlet that is giving her the chance to expand her social presence and communicate with real women. If you haven't started already, hit that "subscribe" button: She's one to watch.
Tell me a bit about your background. Did you always have an interest in fashion and beauty?
I was raised in a French, 'intellectual artist' world, and I have studied painting since I was three. I don't think I was like, shy, but I was always a bit too wild to really connect with kids right away. I remember when I was really young and I was sitting and painting, and kids would come to me to see what I was doing. This is how I began making connections with people, through colors and stuff. That was my creative bubble where I felt safe. It really became a big way to communicate for me. So I was in art classes really early, and then when I was a teenager, I would go on holidays at this couple's workshop in the South of France. They trained me on how to make my own paintings, how to paint on any kind of canvas, and I would just sit on the floor, surrounded by very old glass bottles of pure pigments, and all those colors just made me feel super emotional. This is, I think, is one of the biggest trainings for what I do today.
When I grew up, I studied fashion design and painting at the École du Louvre, and I couldn’t decide between both [subjects], and one day I ended up putting makeup on my friend for the first time, and I was like, "This is like dressing up the face and painting the face." It was like my two loves at the same time. So that's why I never wanted to assist [makeup artists] or go to makeup school because I wanted to do fashion design on the face or painting on the face, not [just] makeup. I left for New York when I was 18, and I had the smallest kit ever; you can't even imagine that I had all my products in it! I knocked on all the doors of the agencies and that's how I started.
What were some of your earliest jobs? You've done editorial, runway and everything in between.
When I came back to France, I found an agent right away that was kind of interested by my weird background, so I got super lucky that I found someone that could push for me. And by accident I ended up doing a feature for American Vogue, so the fact that I had American Vogue on my résumé kind of helped. But what really helped me was French Vogue. Carine Roitfeld had heard of me, and I got a meeting with her. When she saw me, I was wearing these Chanel shoes and this Balenciaga skirt, and she was like "Is that a Balenciaga skirt?" And I was like, "Yes." And she was like, "Okay, so you're a Vogue girl." My book was so weird and strange, but she saw something in it — that's her talent, I guess. She asked me to do five stories for her as a test, as an art director, so I made it as a book and I sent it to her. And then, she did a feature on me as a new face in fashion in French Vogue, and gave me stories in issues.
What would you say is your signature look? What are some of your best tips when it comes to applying makeup?
I guess I would say my signature look is glowing skin with velvet lips. For me, it's the most seductive thing because red lips are like a magnet to the eye, so people are staring at your lips, but they're not able to kiss you. It's a weird seduction game that I like. The glowing skin is important to me because you need to show that the rest [of the face] is very real and sincere, not like you have too much makeup on. I always say that when someone is into your makeup more than your [overall] look, it's like seeing the magician’s trick.
And what I always tell people about my philosophy of makeup is love who you are. If you're putting so much makeup on, and contouring and changing your features with makeup, how are you supposed to learn to love yourself? Every night when you remove your makeup, you're going to be disappointed. "Oh, this is me. I forgot. And if people saw me like this, they wont like me." So my thing is, even if I do very creative makeup on you, it's to show who you are inside so you learn to love who you are with your flaws, which are something I like because it gives humanity to the look.
Tell us a bit about other brands you've worked with before your current role with La Mer.
I was Dior's Makeup Designer for three years, and now I still work with them as a consultant. I'm also a consultant for Sephora, and I work with them on developing products for their range. I work with a bunch of brands, and for La Mer, I'm their brand ambassador for Skincolor de la Mer because I really believe in this product and I wanted to be a part of it. I think it's a great product, and it's good for your skin, which is so important to me because I'm very into wellness. I will never do something for money or for fame if I don't believe in it. It took me so many years to build my credibility, and I have an audience that I love so much — I wouldn't want to betray them by saying bullshit. It's very important for me to stay true, even if I work with different brands, I have to stay very, very honest.
You share so much of your amazing work on Instagram. What made you want to start your YouTube channel?
It really was funny because I love Instagram — it's a window to the world, and it's an incredible way to communicate with people and discover so many incredible unknown brands. [Before starting my YouTube channel] I'd scroll down and see all the tutorials, and it's kind of fascinating, but I don't want to put 38 products on in the morning. A, I don’t have time, and B, I don't want to look like I have all this makeup on! Maybe it looks nice in artificial light, but on the street, I've seen it and it's not cool. For me, it's not real, and I was thinking, I don't consider myself as [just] a makeup artist. I'm a real woman, and if I don't relate to this; I'm sure there are other women who won't relate to it, either. So I woke up one day and said, "I want to do a tutorial the way it is, not trying to make it different." I do my makeup in an Uber, I do my makeup at the bar before I get a drink with some friends, so I'm going to show this. Sometimes I do my makeup in the street, so I'm going to do that as well. It's real life!
I want to post [videos] once a week and be very regular on this. For me right now, that's my big project because it's so fun, even though I was so nervous when I launched the first video.
Fashion and beauty can be such intimidating industries to break into. What advice would you give someone who wants to work in this business?
I get those messages a lot on Instagram, and I want to be very real on this because I know I got super lucky. I think it's not an easy thing, and someone gave me this advice and I think it's very good: For four years, you have to give everything you have, everything you can, but if it doesn’t work, you need to change something. You need four years, which is exactly what I did. Another thing I would advise is don't take makeup class: do art training and assist. I didn't assist, but I think if you do, it will help you because there are so many people who want to do this job, and if you assist someone, it will help you get more connections. Also, be very loyal. Never forget who helped you in this industry — I think that's key to success.
It sounds like you're pretty busy at the moment, but what's next for you?
For now, my big project that I'm working on are my tutorials, and communicating with women directly. That's touched me so much. I'm still evolving in my tutorials, and I'm making it even more sincere and close to my heart. I want to be involved in something creative because I think if something super creative is done in a "real" way, it's a very interesting approach. I want to keep consulting and I'm a big fan of developing products. I hope one day I can create my own brand because I have all these products I make myself on set and I'm kind of sad that I can't share this because it doesn't exist yet!