Extended Interview Feature with Michelle Court, Head MUA at Court On Camera.
We had the pleasure of meeting incredibly talented, energetic and insipirational MUA Michelle Court back in April this year, when collaborating on a shoot with Italian photographer Tommy Napolotano in the oh-so eclectic Soho, London. Carnival Magazine is delighted to share with you an exclusive extended interview with the Essex-based make-up artist, talking explicitly about her 10 years in the industry, her distinctive bold and vibrant style and her launch of agency Court-On-Camera-Creatives. Michelle gives her tips and tricks of the MUA trade, with advice for aspiring and established creatives. We talk airbrushing, body paint and how to get a foot in the make-up artistry door...
Tell us about you! What are your hobbies outside of MUA?
Hello my name is Michelle Court and I grew up in Rayleigh in Essex. My hobbies outside of make-up are going to festivals, lovely dinner parties with friends, going to the gym and cycling. I do Pilates too, which keeps you fit and helps to keeps your posture strong - which is a must in this industry. Carrying heavy make-up kits and working on your clients can take its toll on your back... so it's good to keep active.
At what age did you discover your passion for make up?
I was always good at Art at school! My junior school noticed this talent and offered me a scholarship to go to New Hall Grammar School, but I declined this offer and wanted to go my local school instead. I used to watch my mother do her make-up and my older cousin too, and as I grew into a teenager I found my interest in make-up grew also! Using the Rimmel lipstick in infamous shade Coffee Shimmer, white eyeliner and blue mascara, I always liked to experiment with make-up. I used make-up as an art form to create different looks and bring out my bubbly personality. I was never afraid to use a bold colour on my eyes or lips!
How long have you been working as a MUA? Where did you start your career in make up?
I've now been in the industry for over a decade and I just love what I do. Being a MUA allows me to stay creative and work with a fantastic variety of fellow creatives whilst on set! Once I left college, I got straight into make-up. I worked my magic for a couple of local magazines and had my work published, inside and on the front cover too. I was over the moon and remember feeling so excited to see my work in print for the first time!
Did you study make up or a related course at college/university? Where did you train to be so talented?
I went to college after school and studied BTEC 3D Display Design, which included technical drawing, window dressing, interiors and paint effects. I always remember getting the UCAS form chucked at us, being asked ‘what do you wanted to do next’? I thought about where could I earn money and still be around people, get to use my creativity and love for art along the way. It came to me… make-up! The course that really stood out to me at this point was Theatrical Media Make-Up. This all started in 2002 and I graduated in 2004. I got a few jobs with a girl band shortly after, my first paid job in the industry. My work also got published in a few local magazines and I was finally getting my name out there!
What do you love about make up?
I love the way make-up can really change how a woman looks and feels about herself, enhancing her features with the tricks of make-up artistry. You can instantly put a smile on your clients face when they look in the mirror for the first time and see the true transformation you have made to them. Even putting on a splash of red lipstick and black mascara can dramatically change the way a person looks and feels. Make-up has the power to create confidence, especially with a pop of your favourite colour on your eyes and lips!
What kinds of looks do you prefer doing?
I love experimenting with different styles of make-up, but I especially enjoy using bold and exciting colours. For example; clashing bright oranges with bold shades of pink on the lips, with electric blues and greens on the eyes can be an incredibly bold and striking look. The brighter the better I say. Having said that, I also like to use neutral shades and dewy looks for commercial style make-up. For example browns, taupes and pastel shades. These all work really well on camera too, helping to bring out the models eyes and features in a very natural way. I generally prefer doing avant-garde style make-up, allowing my creativity to be pushed to its limits.
Do you have a particular style or specialism within make up artistry that stylists and photographers seek to use?
I do have my own style of make-up that I think can be recognized in my pieces of work. This is good to have, as it allows you as an artist to stand out from the crowd and get your work noticed. I also use the art of airbrushing make-up which looks flawless on and off camera. This technique is requested by increasingly more photographers within the industry because it creates less of a need for retouching on the final images, saving the photographer a lot of time in post production. It's also great for TV and film with its HD ready formula.
What is your favourite product to use?
I love using Kett Cosmetics airbrush make-up, it is my favourite product in my kit. It comes in a variety of colours and fantastic shades for the cheeks and eyes.
Which make up artists inspire your work?
There are 3 main make-up artists that inspire my work; the late Kevyn Aucoin, Alex Box and Charlotte Tilbury. They all have different styles and are true masters at their work. Kevin was the make-up king of his time, and I first discovered his work back at university when I came across his infamous book 'Making Faces'. It encouraged me to look at make-up in a different light - it really can transform a face. He would turn woman into men, men into woman, even use contouring tricks to change the structure appearance of the models features. He was simply a magician of make-up. Alex Box's style and flair is so creatively bold that it caught my eye straight away. With her distinctive style, her strong bold use of colours and textures - I instantly become a fan of her unique style of make-up artistry. I also love her brand, Illamasqua, it's fantastic! The range has a great collection of daring colours and bold pigments, allowing you to express your personality and alter ego through the power of make-up. Charlotte Tilbury, the fellow red headed MUA, only caught my eye just over a year ago when I attended her 'Rock & Kohl' event. I loved her clean and sultry style, perfect for editorial and beauty work. Her style is flawless and her application is seamless. She's worked her make-up magic on super models all over the globe and she has also brought out her own range of make-up which is full of complimenting shades, shimmering golden and dewy textures. Ideal for any shoot!
What other sources do you use as inspiration for shoots?
Before I found my love for Pinterest and all of it's readily available sources, I used to find my inspiration in art and nature. I see something that I love the colour or texture of and I will take a picture of it - this will then come in handy while on future shoots. I've never come un-stuck on shoots or found in difficult to think on my feet and come up with creative ideas. I'm constantly thinking and visualising new styles and ideas, getting excited when I can then incorporate them into my works of art. I love what I do and I think this passion really shows in my work.
What do you love about the fashion, beauty and photography industry?
I love meeting new people and collaborating with creatives - this job allows you to do just that. It's exciting going to work knowing you are going to be a part of a new team of people for the day and that you will all work together to help each other create the best work to fit the brief for that shoot. I plan to network with more and more creatives, branching outwards towards different countries and allowing myself to go further a field -become an international MUA in the future!
What do you find most challenging about the industry and MU artistry?
There is a lot of competition in this industry. I like to help other creatives and will always pass on work to other MUA's if I can't do the job myself. But within my time in this job, I've also found it to be very dog-eat-dog and often, people seem to be out for themselves. It can be hard to know who your friends are and who's out to just use you for your contacts. You have to be pretty thick-skinned to deal with the fashion industry. It can be difficult at times and also very cut-throat.
You’ve worked on shoots all around the world! Where is your favourite place to shoot?
I travel a lot with my work, which is great. One of my most memorable trips was working over in Berlin for the Make-Up Show. The city is beautiful and bursting with creativity. I met some amazing MUA’s from all over the works and got to collaborate with them all, learning new tricks of the trade and sharing my knowledge with them too. I've recently worked over in Ibiza and this was a fantastic trip! We got to stay on a 5-star yacht and shoot in beautiful million pound villas! The locations were so amazing; secluded beaches and wonderful weather. The island is magical and I enjoyed staying on the elite yacht and shooting with a great team, including Italy’s Tommy Napolitano (featured in Carnival Magazine ISSUE 01). I will never forget that trip, it's defiantly one to remember.
Where can we find more of your work, where has it been previously published?
My work has recently been published in Hunger-TV online. This was a great shoot, with the talented photographer Jay Stewart and model Chloe Lloyd. My work is also being published in ROUGH Magazine (online) this month. I worked on a Maleficent style shoot last month, and this was also published in Pro Hairdressing Magazine. This was a great shoot, where I got to use my special effects make-up skills to create killer cheekbones on my model!
Tell us about the your MUA work and involvement with Gavin Kemp’s Futurism editorial, also showcased with Carnival Magazine ISSUE 02.
Gavin Kemp is a fantastic photographer and creates superb images. I had the pleasure of working alongside him and his creative vision for the Futurism editorial. The shoot took place in the heart of London city, around the Paddington area. We used the surrounding buildings to compliment the futuristic look and feel of the shoot. I love shoots like this, because you work with the stylist and/or fashion designer to come up with the perfect look for the model - ensuring to tie in the make-up with the clothes as well as the overall look and feel. I allowed my creativity to really come alive on this shoot, using lots of bright colours and mediums. I used yellow on the cheeks and bright bold colours on the eyes and lips. I think it really brought the shoot together, with hair and make-up being on the right side of avant-garde.
Tell us about your favourite shoot you’ve worked on. Who was working on the shoot? What was the concept and theme? What did you love about it?
The most interesting shoot for me was with a very creative photographer about 4 years ago. He takes his photos to another level and uses special effects in his work. We created a fairy shoot, taking our model to the woods and turning her into a flying butterfly fairy. We had her in a harness and suspended in the air. The hair was covered in butterflies, and the make-up and styling was magical too. The edited photographs were fantastic! The photographer gave the model beautiful wings and erased the harness - so our subject looked like a flying magical fairy in the woods! This shoot was so creative that it will always stick in my mind!
Tell us about your most challenging shoot yet.
Each shoot is very different and presents you with different challenges. My most challenging shoot yet was working my skills on a selection of woman who had disfigured faces from severe burns, acid attacks and fire accidents. It was extremely challenging to cover their scars and to correct their disfigurements with the clever use of make-up. It was very rewarding to see their happy faces in the mirror once I'd made them up. Naturally, I found it quite upsetting knowing that these ladies had all once looked in the mirror and seen them selves smiling back - with no scares or disfigurements. Vicious attacks or incidents had left them with those scars, causing a different face to look back at them through the same eyes.
You are extremely passionate about your work, and rightly so! How has your outlook on life changed from the beginning of your career to now? What have you learnt along the way?
I'm very passionate about my job and I think this shows in my pieces if work. I've learnt a lot on the way, growing as a MUA and pushing the boundaries when it comes to make-up. Learning to take criticism and knowing when you need to up your game are vital. The best piece of advice I was ever given was to 'think outside the box', try a different look and don't always do the same style of make-up. I had my own style in the beginning, always creating the same smokey eye look in different colours. I realised this wasn't going to make me stand out as a MUA. I challenged myself to create art upon the face, using different styles and mediums to create new exciting looks. My motto is; you’re only as good as your last shoot. You must strive to produce stronger and bolder work, each and every time.
You are the founder of Court on Camera Creatives; tell us about what you and the agency do.
As the Founder of Court-On-Camera Creatives, I know that most agencies are run by business minds not creatives. I have been in the industry for over a decade - so I wanted to create an agency using the best MUA's, hairstylists, stylists and photographers that I've had the pleasure to working with over the years. I've handpicked each and every creative on our books because of their skills, personality and speed on jobs. They all excel in all three of these factors, and that's what I look for in a great artist while on set. Most agencies represent creatives from recommendations or pictures they've seen of their work. I've actually collaborated with each and every one of them, and I know exactly how they all work on set. This is a big factor to making your business work. This handpicked team of creatives are representing our agency. We need only the best onboard, delivering to the highest standard on each and every shoot.
How did Court on Camera Creatives come about? Was this something you were thinking of and working towards for a number of years?
I saw a potential for Court-On-Camera as a brand to grow. I am a freelance MUA of over 10 years and I wanted to branch out. Helping other amazing talents get work, and coming together as a team to work on more exciting projects and shoots together was the intention. I was like an agent anyway, always passing on work to my fellow creatives or organising teams of people for big shoots or fashion shows. I thought, ‘why not set up my own agency where I can then, with a click of a button, send the client a link to my chosen creative’? I trust my experience in the industry to only put forward the best.
Who do Court on Camera Creatives work with? Who do you represent?
Court-On-Camera Creatives works with brands such as Warner Bros, X-Box games, BodogUK, Sony Records, Ford, Fashion & Bridal magazines, clothing brands, hair / beauty products, in addition to TV & Film. We represent a small but elite group of creatives that will bring the best results to each of our clients with excellent service and professionalism.
Your launch party took place in April, tell us more! It was quite the success! Did you have a good time?
The launch party was a fantastic night. I organised the whole event on my own, putting together a night of ‘fashion meets music’. From the models, the creatives, the venue, welcome drinks, invites, cupcakes, topless waiters and the performers - I put the whole thing together really managed to pull it off. My guests all loved the shows I arranged, including high fashion catwalks of bespoke dresses and suits, lingerie - burlesque dancers too opening each show! We had a performance from The Voice UK's Leanne Jarvis to close the show. It was held at the beautiful No.41 Club in Mayfair. The venue made my launch night even more special with it's stunning décor, giving the agency the elite and stylish feel. I hosted my night too - up on the microphone, talking to my guests about my new venture and my advice on the industry itself. I got a really great reception and was told I made a good compeer; it was nice to bring a bit of my personality to the event and allow everyone there to know who Michelle Court is and why I had chosen to set up my own creatives agency!
Did you gain a lot of exposure from the event? Who did you have on the guest list?
I had lots of positive feedback and great attendance on the night. The event got exposure in local newspapers and online too, on guests blogs and posts. The guest-list included a lot of faces from the industry, including magazines, film producers, hair companies, beauty bloggers, editors of OK & Fabulous Magazine, PR companies and designers.
We loved the body paint at the event! Who works on these? I’m sure it got a wonderful reception!
Amongst all the rush of organising backstage, putting up banners and making sure everything was set for the opening; I was up to my elbow in aqua paints with my assistant MUA Rebecca, body painting black tuxedos on our two waitresses. Madness, I know, but I wanted these ladies painted to show off another skill we can provide our clients with. This also gets a great reception at events, guests like to have photos with the body-painted ladies and it brings an elegance of creativity to the event. Giving the guests an insight of what's to come from us!
What’s next for you and Court on Creatives? What are your future aspirations for the agency and your own MUA work?
The future plans for Court-On-Camera Creatives is to watch it grow from strength to strength, knowing I have a fantastic team onboard helping the business grow, working together to produce the best results every time. I hope to branch out and maybe go international, having an office over in Berlin. This is a beautiful and creative city and I would love to bring our talent over there too. Who knows what the future may hold. But I'm looking forward to the journey ahead for us all!
Do you have any aspirations for your own makeup product line?
Men and woman alike are fascinated with everything that is beautiful, and strive to be beautiful themselves. This is the reason why retailing cosmetics makes for a good business idea. This may be something I would like to look into for the future, taking a step back from the busy life of a MUA and maybe have my own line of make-up products. Called Court-On-Camera-Cosmetics, of course.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become a MUA? Do you have any tips or pointers?
If you are looking to become a make-up artist, don't think it's an easy option. It takes a lot of time and passion to get to where you want to be. There will be knock backs and fierce competition, with every MUA fighting to get to the top! You will need to be a very dedicated talented artist to have a chance of making it and being successful in this fun but competitive industry. When you finish your make-up course and decide this is defiantly the job for you, it’s all about the networking. Wherever you are, whoever you meet, always have your professional business cards to hand! You never know who you might meet and who they might know. It's about connecting with people that can give you a chance in this industry. Get in contact with photographers and stylists, organise shoots and get creative when building your portfolio and skill set. Working alongside other creatives will help you gain confidence for when you get booked on a real paid job. You must be outgoing, professional and easy to get along with. Working as part of a team is a must and you will have to adapt quickly when working on shoot with new people!
See more of Michelle's incredible MUA work in Carnival Magazine Issue 02 and on her portfolio website. You can see more of her work in Gavin Kemp's Photographer Feature. Also, be sure to visit her elite creative agency with handpicked talent within the industry, Court-On-Camera-Creatives.