Friday, November 7, 2008

First Look Fridays Interview Series: Makeup Artist Joanna Schlip

One of my favorite experiences during New York's Spring 2009 Fashion Week? Meeting the fabulously talented makeup artist Joanna Schlip. Her resume is quite impressive, with clients including Aisha Tyler, Kim Raver, Ellen Pompeo and Eva Longoria, and editorial credits ranging from Allure and Harper's Bazaar to Seventeen and Teen Vogue. She even works with makeup line Physicians Formula. And through it all, she's so energetic and full of life, bringing excitement and an amazingly full personality to her work. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with her at length about her career, her background and even what she does in the little spare time she's got! Read on to discover more about the fabulous Joanna Schlip.

Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I knew I wanted to be a makeup artist since the age of 9. I don't have a memory for the desire of anything else. I was born in New Orleans and grew up in Scottsdale. I would buy French Vogues in Arizona and just hide them as if they were Playboy or something! By the time I was 18 I picked up enough money to move to Paris. I tore the masthead out of French Vogue. I had a master plan, walked myself into French Vogue, told my parents I would be back in a year and I was back 15 years later. Walked in without a portfolio. Within 4 years I was working on my own.

I will say this. If somebody would ask me today if they should do that, I would say yes. But there's so much research available now that they would say they can't. But I almost feel like we educate ourselves out of things. Trust me, I had honed my skills. I did makeup every day since I was 9, on my friends, et cetera. I had enough money to get me home in case my master plan didn't work out. But at the same time, no one had ever told me you need an agent, you need a book. So I just went.

How did you first become interested in makeup, and what led you to become a makeup artist?
I think it was this model that moved in across the street. She was the single lady. Kinda like Cheryl Tiegs. She'd been to Europe, she'd done all these covers of Bazaar. I look at her level of success and it was actually very average. But it was like me taking my whole portfolio and putting it on the wall. When you walked the walls of her house, she had pictures of her every which way, and I was like, "That's so not you!" (At 9 I was kinda sassy.) And she'd say, "No, it is, it's just different makeup." I moved to Europe in the 90s, so these were pics in the 80s. That makeup was over the top, and big hair, and you had a little more creative license. So I think that caught my eye.

I thought how when I would do somebody, it was kind of like I could look at them one day, and depending on my mood I could completely alter the way the world saw them. Like if you do a super smoky eye and raise your hand in math class, the teacher's not gonna believe you. But if you go to an Ashlee Simpson or Avril Lavigne concert, you'll fit right in.

From my left brain to my right brain, I got it, I could map it. It was kinda like the whole transition, how you could take yourself from one place to the next. I used myself as a canvas. I was that girl who could go in a cheerleader outfit behind the building. I always got along with every type of person, it was easy to mix in. I feel that makeup had a lot to do with that. You know high school and elementary school is so cliquey. I always had that fascination with different circles of people and how easy it was to break in.

Have you worked with any makeup artists who inspired you? What did they teach you?
Linda Cantello, Francois Nars. He was amazing. I worked with Kevyn Aucoin. It doesn't really matter, the fame some of these people who stayed in Europe stayed in the editorial circuit and they would blow my mind. There's a Japanese painter who I used to live next to in Milan and hang out with. She taught me how to do a full painting without ever lifting the brush. There's all these different people -- I hung out with a lot of artists, especially in Europe -- it was a weird community. We could talk about color. I didn't have a TV for 15 years in Europe. I had a different way of going through the world in the sense of who I was around and how they would inspire me.

How did you become involved with Physicians Formula, and how has this affected the work you do?
It's really interesting because it took my level of appreciation for the industry to the next level. I get product and I like it, I don't like it, I just move on. Being involved with Physicians, now I'll watch people go from concept to show. I love that they're local and I'm hands on. The fact that they're local and I'm very in touch with the CEO and we have a good rapport and conversations. They really come to me for advice. They have their way but I love working so hands on with them. I'm not separated from them.

They're a small company and there's something so charming about that. It's kind of like having your own line but not having the financial responsibility. You want to see it grow and blossom, but I don't have the millions and millions of dollars to do it like they did.

What are some of the moments that have stood out as highlights in your career?
1) Seeing my first cover of a magazine -- joy. You never get over that feeling.

2) Melissa Etheridge at the Grammys when she came out with no hair. That was an intense moment for me. I'll never forget that moment.

3) My first red carpet Oscar moment.

4) Christina Applegate and her announcement to the world. The Emmy appearance this year was huge to me.

5) Seeing my book published and being on Today and Oprah ... these things freak you out! They're happening to you but you're not even kind of aware that they're happening. It takes you two years to do the book and you're so in the process and you're not sleeping and it's 21 hour days and it's hardcore! And when it's done, you're like, WHEW! It's a relief and a celebration.

6) I'm on the TV show Blush that airs November 11 on Lifetime. It's the search for the next great makeup artist and I'm a judge! Me, Hal Rubenstein and a rotating guest judge. Charli Green is a mentor and Vanessa Marcil is the host. They called me to get involved.

What are the products and brands you simply can't live without?
Joanna Schlip, makeup artist, First Look Fridays interview series, Physicians Formula Shimmer Strips

1) Physicians Formula Shimmer Strips.

2) I try to do as much organic as I can because of the status of some of my clients.

Joanna Schlip, makeup artist, First Look Fridays interview series, NARS Orgasm Blush

3) Who can live without NARS Orgasm Blush?

4) Physicians Formula felt tip eyeliners. Everyone's come out with them afterwards. For me, liquid liner can be thick. This is a way to get definition of the eye really quick and punch it up. It looks like a tattoo almost, and it lasts forever. If you're not doing lashes, I'll go in there and just use it to poke in where the lash is missing to give an au naturel set of lashes. I will always go with that as a base.

5) Armani foundation. Can't live without that.

What are your top 3 makeup tips?
1) Don't be afraid. It's makeup, so you can always wipe it off. Don't fear to try. It's not permanent, it's just makeup.

2) Always look at your skin in every kind of light you can. Check it out in daylight, florescent, candle light, check it out from room to room if you're gonna do a full day.

3) Always curl your lashes. I think that's just probably the number one thing to making somebody look more awake, more feminine. A little sexy, gives a little more flutter to your blink. I love lashes!

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
I would say having a woman feel more beautiful after you've left the room. Whether it be a bride or a celebrity, it doesn't really matter. For somebody, once you've done their face then they feel better and more beautiful. Like when you go to a comedy club and you feel so great because you laughed all night ... it's just that the experience leaves them feeling when they leave me better than when they came in. However that shows up, if somebody can leave with that feeling of it was great, that's it.

Being a makeup artist must be fun -- but what do you do for fun when you're not playing with makeup?
I love to scuba dive but unfortunately there's a lot involved, so I can't just say I'm gonna go scuba diving, I've got an hour! When I have half a day off I'll try to plan travel. That's huge for me. I think that it's as simple as going to the MOMA and the Guggenheim in NYC. When I came back I went to the Getty. I found myself getting back into that whole thing, trying to get inspiration to be in awe of somebody else's work. I'll also pick up a magazine and be in awe of somebody else's work. I love architecture, I'm a huge fan. I have a lot of architecture books.

I love that you see beauty in everything!
I see so much talent and sometimes that freaks me out! Like the Walt Disney concert hall, I have that on my screensaver. I just can't believe that. I love modern architecture, I'm not a big fan of colonial. It just blows my mind.

Two nights ago I went to the Thompson in LA and I'd never been there. I was looking at the pool, the architecture, the way they lit the place, and it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. It was so incredibly gorgeous. It gets me inspired. It's just beautiful. And for somebody to take from concept to show, for me, now that I realize the process in so many different aspects of my life, whatever it is to actually get it done is just massive.


  1. How cool that you got to go to fashion week!!!!

  2. Great interview on Joanna Schlip!!! Both Joanna and Kevyn has set the bar high for us makeup artists from New Orleans, LA. I am proud and working hard to follow in their footsteps everyday. Thanks for the interview.