Celeste Duquesne calls herself a makeup artist, but to us she’s an artist who just happens to use faces as her medium. For her, “it starts with the skin. Once the skin is prepped, and there’s a canvas, you can go from there.” She’s not a fan of trends because of their tendency to restrict original thought, and she’s someone who craves possibility. “What makes me happy is when someone thinks that the impossible is possible,” she says. “I always love that challenge, taking someone and transforming them with them still being who they are.”
You compare skin to a canvas, which is interesting to me, because I’ve always been intrigued by the job title “makeup artist.” There aren’t very many other job titles that contain the word “artist.” What do you think that is? How does it apply to your work?
You’re creating from the very beginning. Skin is constantly changing, your mood is constantly changing, your face is constantly changing, and your environment is constantly changing. So you have to evolve your makeup. That takes creativity. There are makeup artists who are trained to do the same thing on every person. To me that isn’t artistry. It’s fine, and it’s a good beginning. But if someone says, “Oh, I could never wear that,” or “oh, I could never look like that”—the creativity is finding how to do it together.
As for the canvas part, I’ve always felt that you have this flat page, and the question is, what are we going to do with it? I’m all about color, I’ve always loved to mix color, and I’ve always done that, ever since I was a kid. I taught myself how to do makeup by playing with color.
So you’re almost like a makeup therapist.
I guess so. Makeup artists always get told a lot of stuff. It’s very personal. We’re touching your face. You’re looking at yourself in the mirror every single day, you know yourself, so when you let someone into that place, it becomes personal. It becomes a trust between two people. You can have this incredible resume, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to connect with every single person. My style may not work for so-and-so, but it will work for someone else. I’m really big on working together, on always finding out what people need or what’s missing or what’s going to excite them when they walk out the door or go into a photo shoot.
Like an artist with a palette. A lot of the language of makeup artistry is similar to the language that painters use, which I think is awesome.
Well, you know, there are some makeup artists who started off in art school and went into makeup artistry. I didn’t. I was an actress, actually, so I started off creating characters. When I was a kid, I would want to play a character, so I would paint my face and then act it out. That’s how I started, at seven. It was really fun for me. I should have taken photos doing that, since for me it’s a form of creativity. I am an actress, so in working with actors I know that there’s a process in developing something and that thing coming to fruition. That’s part of the puzzle.
What’s the most transformative experience you’ve ever had with a client, where you feel like you changed the client’s perspective on himself or herself?
One of my favorites is a woman in her 70s, a very conservative person, highly judgmental in a way, but still a lovely woman with lots of heart. She had a lot of wrinkles—all of the things that make it challenging to do someone’s face.
How did she find you?
It was a friend situation. Everybody we were with wears makeup, and she never would. One night she was going to a party, and I said, “Let me touch you up; I just want to put some skincare on you before you go.” I got to do her entire face, and she looked so incredibly beautiful, without looking like she’d been done up. It was really about her looking fresh and alive, to really show the beautiful woman that she is, because she’s very very strong. She stood up straight, and everything became open, like a movie star, and everyone said, “You look great, you look so beautiful.” She felt very alive and beautiful. After that, she said, “I want to go shopping with you and find out what I need.” Now she has her routine. She still doesn’t wear a lot of makeup, but she has the right foundation for her face now, and the right eyeliner and mascara and lipstick.
That’s a great story.
It was so cute. That’s my favorite thing, seeing someone feel glamorous for a moment. It’s just…sweet.
What are you three favorite looks and why?
- The smoky eye. For me, that’s the easiest thing you could possibly do. I just did a tutorial in France about the three-minute smoky eye. Learning how to use one or two products is very important. That’s what I always do on myself, I throw on a little mascara and eyeliner and go. Maybe I’ll put some lip gloss on.
- The red lip. I love red lips. I think every single woman in the world should own a red lipstick because everyone looks beautiful with red lips. Everybody always says, “I can’t wear red, it’s too bright,” but that’s the whole idea. Just own it. Women look great in red in their 20s, their 30s, their 40s, their 50s, their 60s—there’s not one woman who doesn’t look good in red. It’s really about you. If you’re going to wear it, don’t feel self-conscious. You have to wear it with confidence.
- The no makeup look. Normally no makeup takes more makeup, but if you can master that, where it’s all about your skin and beautiful lips and cheeks, I think it’s just gorgeous. I think that everyone should have that kind of look if they want to take a photo.
Who are the icons that did these looks well?
As a young girl, I was highly, highly influenced by Coco Chanel. I even tried acting like her—I would look at myself in the mirror and put a cigarette in my hand and try to be Coco Chanel. I think she was extremely good at mastering the red lip and the smoky eye. I was also big fan of Rita Hayworth. I watched every move that she made, every move of her face. I loved how her face always looked so smooth and soft with a beautiful red lip. The textures—it was just fantastic for me. Of course Brigitte Bardot is a favorite. I always think the big smoky eye with the big flowy hair is super sexy. I loved her. She still wears that look sometimes, and it works for her. I was also really into Paulina Porizkova, the Russian supermodel in the 80s, because I loved how she wore her bangs, and she had this beautiful clean face. I was influenced by her makeup because it wasn’t really makeup-ish. I also loved watching women in the 70s. I was really into Diane Keaton, I was really into Mia Farrow, their quirkiness, their faces. They didn’t really wear any makeup, but they were interesting looking. Actually, they were wearing makeup, they were just wearing it in their way, but they were naturally quirky and beautiful. I was into their style because it was very individual.