Friday, May 4, 2012

First Look Fridays: Makeup Artist Nikoletta Skarlatos

From Freida Pinto in Immortals to Leven Rambin in The Hunger Games, makeup artist Nikoletta Skarlatos has designed some intricate and truly gorgeous looks throughout her career. Read on to discover the product she uses to make skin glow, her secret to long-wearing eyeshadow and so much more.

How did you first become interested in makeup, and what led you to become a makeup artist?
I became fascinated with makeup artistry since my early childhood in Greece. In the United States, I was a very serious ballet dancer until I went away to University. During those years as a dancer, I designed my own costumes and my own makeup for every configuration and character. I studied the Grand Masters, Art History, fashion photographers and many great creative female forces of nature, such as Coco Chanel.

My life has been full of magical and serendipitous events. I believe in manifesting one’s dreams through hard work and leaving oneself open to opportunity. After I finished my academic studies, and could NOT find a job, I had a chance meeting with the Regional Director of Chanel Cosmetics. She created a position for me within the company on the spot, and within six months I was handling the Upper West Coast with this mentor. Soon thereafter, I became the West Coast Makeup Artist for Chanel as well as product promoter and trainer.

As madly in love with Chanel as I was and always have been, Leonard Lauder himself came to see us and lured us away from Chanel. The opportunity with Lauder had me moving to Los Angeles. I then worked for the Lauder corporation in an even more expanded capacity, all the while learning makeup techniques, skincare formulations, product development and designing signature makeup looks for their brand.

In Los Angeles, I became involved with commercial advertising, high fashion editorial and music videos. A friend suggested that I go for an interview for a film that was to turn Union. The interviewer was Johnny Depp, and although he had hired his makeup department head, he was involved in the selection of the key position. I was fortunate to have been chosen. As a result, I found myself in the unique position to be able to study prosthetic and special effects makeup artistry under the department head, John Caglione, Jr.

You were the designer and department head for both Immortals and Flight -- and in fact you were nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Makeup for Immortals. What was the experience like for each of these films, and how did you concept the looks for the different characters?
Designing and department heading Immortals was a creative dream. I got to collaborate with the incredibly talented costume designer, the iconic Eiko Ishioka, as well as all of the creative teams per each department. There were many amazing characters to develop, from the Gods and Goddesses to the Soldiers to the Titans. I wanted the Titans to be something spectacular and not seen before. I took the influence of Post World War II photographer Dieter Appelt and the way that he portrayed decomposing beings. I wanted the Titans to look as though they were cracking apart a la Appelt.

This was a difficult task to achieve, and I had various groups of very talented artists mixing different formulations to achieve what were ultimately the three looks that I chose to be utilized: the very cracked look, the medium fast movement cracked look and the painterly Titan look. Equally, I loved creating and working with Freida Pinto as the Goddess Phaedra. I created a sort of high fashion meets ancient Mesopotamia look on Freida and carefully guarded her natural, (and beautiful) skin tone.

Amongst the various groups of soldiers, the Heraklions were inspired from a John Paul Gaultier fashion runway shot, and then I had my team creatively incorporate a lot of abstract painting with texture to complement Eiko’s menacing costumes. There were many facets to this film, and it was a very creatively fulfilling project.

The film Flight was at once a completely different and an extremely rewarding experience for me. I had always wanted to work for Robert Zemeckis and I know that I echo the feeling of many on this film, that the experience was seamless and beyond compare. Because we were shooting in high definition, and the red camera, there were many specific challenges with the makeup effects involved. I had to do many tests with appliances, blood and freehand sculpting. I designed the effects for the film as well as the plethora of makeup looks for the various characters: crash wounds, burns, beauty, drug addiction, cancer addled patients, tattoos. It was necessary to be hyper aware of texture and the visibility of any uninvited nuance to the makeup. The Director of Photography (Don Burgess) was wonderful and a great collaborator.

What are your top 5 favorite beauty products?

1) My skincare line (not yet available but coming VERY soon). I have been formulating and using my products for years, all biodynamically charged and resonant with the natural elements of the skin. As the skin is our largest living and breathing organ, it is of the utmost importance that it is fed both in and out by highly oxygenated food and vitamin sources.

2) Julie Hewett Cheekie. Made with rich camellia oil, this product finishes any makeup and makes the skin glow and come alive.

3) Ve Neill makeup brushes. After all of my brushes had been stolen years ago, a friend referred me to Ve’s Brushes and I have been using them since that time, all over the world in every capacity! I particularly love the angle shadow brush.

4) Dior and NARS eyeshadows. A tossup! Both give beautiful, rich finishes and are easily manipulated even when mixed with other products.

5) Chanel Le Sourcil de Chanel Perfect Brows. This is by far the best brow product ever made! I bought a lot, as Chanel is notorious for discontinuing great things! This product I cannot live without!

What are your top 3 makeup tips?

1) Take Vitamins D, A, C and E to protect the skin naturally from within, against sun damage. Also Vitamin B-12 shots are a necessity to do the same and boost the system with antioxidants. Take these in their purest, most organic forms possible.

2) Using a long stemmed angle shadow precision brush, take a hint of Evian, Vichy or any spray water, and dip into your powder eye shadow. Paint this on the inside of the eyelid, from the center outward. Immediately the eye is opened up and this form of application allows for long wear and durability. This was taught to me by Laura Mercier, and I have used this tip for years.

3) I always mix a little moisturizer into my foundation after having already prepped the skin with toning and hydration. The skin MUST look alive, and this can only be achieved through illumination after hydration. The objective for me with makeup, specifically beauty and editorial/press, is for the skin to glow and for my client to look luminous and flawless. Through hydration and highlight/shading, the face can easily be transformed into an object of radiance!

Being a makeup artist must be fun, but what do you do in your spare time?
I love music and dance and politics! I love to create layers of sound through music. I have been blessed with an amazing career which has taken me all over the globe. I am captivated by travel and learning about other cultures and their languages and music. I am devoted to helping others with health opportunities and have been for years. I try to donate my time toward helping and learning in the areas of holistic healing and each journey has been rewarding on many levels. Life is truly a blessing and I do cherish every moment of it, including this great moment with you, Jamie!


  1. I had the opportunity to meet Nikoletta not too long ago. She is a truly talented individual and has much to offer in this life. This article is beautifully written and truly portrays the unique woman and artist that she is.

  2. Nikolettaji, Good going, I knew from the day one you're a real winner. All the best

  3. Congratulations Couzie!!!

  4. Really amazing work by a brilliant makeup artist.

  5. i read & like your post, this is great information ||| thanks for posting

  6. we just want to say that Nikoletta is a truly talented artist.
    We would also like to add that she is a true humanitarian. These are our feelings because we know her well as she happens to be
    our daughter.

    Perikles and Arita S

  7. Nikoletta is an inspiration, enjoyed reading the article and meeting her thought it!!! Thank you Jamie

  8. Having seen the amazing work of Nikoletta thruout the years and her dedication to her craft and her growth in the business and her attention to the most smallest detail it is no wonder she is beloved by so many and continues to soar!

    Keith Holman Designer

  9. Well done Nikoletta. Have you seen the latest Burn Notice?

  10. I had the opportunity to meet Nikoletta many years ago while learning Spanish in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I must say a very smart and talented human being! Remember Hugo the squirrel monkey? Congratulations.