In the big picture, the work of a great makeup artist is the underscore, the emphasis––be it of a lone image, or a moment on the runway. Few know better than Londoner Lauren Parsons that in makeup a fine distinction sets apart the daring and the dull. Those who can interpret its shades into radical pleasures or the precious ordinary are often called on to be the architects of an aspiration, make smitten by bold color or go full-tilt with a hard line. These acuities are part of Parsons’ artistry that makes her a common sight on the sets of Tyrone Lebon, Harley Weir, Karim Sadli, Francesca Burns, Max Pearmain and others. Her work can freely traverse the needs of an American Vogue cover shoot or a luxury campaign like Dior to the more cutting-edge, say, Le Monde M, Self Service, Another, Lebon’s #myCalvins campaign and more. We spoke to the makeup artist and contributing beauty editor for Dazed about her career start, maintaining a personal vision, plus her days off!
How did you get your start? At what point did it become a “career”?
I was very fortunate that when I stopped assisting, some great people took a chance on me at the start of my career––it was incredible going straight in to shooting i-D and doing advertising jobs in Africa with Alasdair McLellan, a dream in fact. Simultaneously, I was very much part of the new generation of creatives coming up at the same time (my first editorial was with Harley Weir) and people and clients were willing to take a chance on us… I’d say the first time I actually looked at my career and thought, ‘boom, the hard work has paid off’ was in 2016, I’d got a body of work I was proud of, I’d done the second ‘#myCalvins’ Calvin Klein campaign with Tyrone Lebon & Max Pearmain and I was doing a Self Service cover shoot with David Sims and Joe McKenna. Professionally, I couldn’t have been happier.
Flash forward, what are the modern challenges of being a makeup artist?
I think the challenges we face today are very much the same things make up artists have faced before and that’s to be able to change with the times. Change is the only constant. The only difference now is trying to navigate the advent of social media and the need for content as well as the actual work. I think you have to approach that in the same way one did before it became so important and that’s to, just do you and your make up. The one thing you can depend on, is that trends (be that fashion trends, who’s the hot new person in beauty, who’s influencing who…) always come and go. You just have to make sure that your work is relevant and in demand when the hot new thing has dissipated.
What has allowed you to stay true to a personal vision as the job has changed––has it?
I think something I have always lived by and it’s never let me down is: the only person I’m in competition with is myself. As you succeed in the industry you have to be able to constantly adapt and modernize your aesthetic, rather than changing it completely just to remain trendy.
A few of your favorite looks you’ve done?
I am fanatical about great skin, polishing individuality and creating an effortlessly desirable woman. Because of that, Phoebe’s last two shows at CÉLINE will be forever faves. I did a real cross-section of looks on multiple people for Self Service with David and Joe, that whole story still makes me smile… and I did a story with Harley and Lindsay Wixson for i-D, I love the whole thing but there’s one picture of red glossy lips that’s a real favorite, too.
When you aren’t working you are…
Being thoroughly frumpy haha! I love going to look at National Trust houses, cooking, finding new restaurants on Instagram, exhibitions, doing Zumba & pilates… doing anything to acclimatize to normality after getting off the fashion train. Speaking of trains, I’m very much looking forward to an upcoming trip on the Orient Express…