We’ve teamed up with the British Fashion Council on “How To Become”, a video series spotlighting careers in fashion.
Jamie Windust /Makeup by Mona Leanne
Jamie Windust /Makeup by Mona Leanne
Introducing our brand new video series “How To Become”, spotlighting only the most innovative and boundary-pushing names in fashion. We’ve teamed up with the British Fashion Council to explore careers in fashion and their unusual trajectories, with trailblazing talent interviewed by Wonderland’s Editor-in-Chief Toni-Blaze.
First we had Bulgarian photographer Bogdan Plakov, then Solange Franklin Reed. Next up, experimental makeup artist Mona Leanne, who has worked with brands such as Paolina Russo and DB Berdan.
Watch the interview now, or read a shortened version of the interview below…
Hi, my name is Toni Ibekwe I’m Editor-in-chief of Wonderland and I’m joined by the amazing makeup artist, Mona Leanne. We are going to be talking about her journey on this Wonderland X BFC “How to Become” episode. How have you been?
I’ve actually done some courses too like straight away. I enrolled myself in some special effects makeup courses, because that’s been on my to-do-list for literally forever. So that’s been really, really fun. And then filming a lot of content, which is something that usually gets put on the back-burner too. So I have been keeping productive.
What was your earliest makeup memory?
I don’t remember what it was for, but we had some dress up day at school. Maybe it was world book day or something and I went as a trapeze artist and my mom put makeup on me for the very first time like mascara and blush and I can still literally remember what it felt like to have it applied and how I felt when looked in the mirror. It just felt really special.
Who were you earliest inspirations?
I think it was through shopping at Illamasqua that I discovered who Alex Box was, because I just like, who’s doing all this amazing makeup for all the campaigns. Then I discovered people like Lee Bowery and that just opened my eyes to a whole new world of what makeup could be.
What advice would you kind of give to any students that want to apply for art school?
CSM was so amazing. I do look back on the whole experience now and I’m so grateful for everything I learned, but it’s really tough going there. And probably, I think when I was there, I didn’t enjoy it so much because it really is tough love, but it builds you a really thick skin and that’s so imperative for working in the fashion industry. So definitely I guess my advice to any of the students is just, you know, stick with it and don’t take things too personally and take it all in your stride and also just really like embrace who you are. Because that’s kind of what CSM is all about, everyone in my class was so different, you know, everyone had their own style. Be true to who you are.
For anyone watching who wants to land like an amazing assistant role, what advice would you give them?
Assist as many different people as you can first because there’s so much to learn from everyone. Like 10 different makeup artists would do “natural skin” differently. Absorb as much as you can because there’s just so much to gain from working with someone and learning from someone that’s been in the industry for like 15, 20 years. It gives you a new found respect for the industry for sure.
Makeup by Mona Leanne
Makeup by Mona Leanne
How would you describe your style/aesthetic?
I’m very drawn to colour and my work is very colourful. I think that just comes from my art background. Also I am a perfectionist. So I do love doing graphic work and line work and kind of really technical stuff. I just really enjoy the process of doing that but as far as like labelling it, I don’t know, I feel like my style is kind of still growing and I do like to adapt it to different jobs and I love like so much different makeup styles.
Do you remember your first editorial shoot?
I was thrown in the deep end. It was a location shoot in the depths of winter, it was snowing and I was doing makeup on a little bench by the sea. It was cold and hard conditions, but actually I still really loved the photos like they turned out really nice. It’s all black and white and the makeup was quite moody. It was pretty nice for my first editorial.
Do you have any favourite editorials when you look back?
I guess one that definitely sticks out in my mind for Salt Zine which is a zine that’s run by two of my really close friends. And we did the shoot with the photographer, Derek Ridgers, who obviously has so much amazing iconic like 80s club photos, and we were kind of doing modern day take on that. And it was a massive cast about 20 people and they put on an actual club night actually, and then everyone had like a massive look and then it got shot during the club night. So that was definitely a very memorable one and really fun makeup wise. And then there was this other shoot that I did with photographer Steph Wilson, who’s also a good friend of mine and it was just really beautiful, it was with horses and it was like just a really epic location shoot.
How you deal with like a difficult client?
I actually have this thing that I do, which is probably going to sound really weird, but if I’m ever in a really stressful situation, I always just imagine that I’m a rock in a fast-running stream. So if you think of a rock in a fast0flowing stream, the rock stays still, and then everything’s just flowing past it, so I kind of imagine that I’m just still in a situation I’m letting all the stress and like bad energy like fly straight past me because the most important thing about being in really stressful situations is that you can’t let it get to you, especially when its like on a job and you have to just remain cool, calm and collected.
What advice would you give in terms of looking for an agent and how to kind of navigate that whole situation?
Definitely shop around, and meet as many different agents as you can and keep your options really open. Like don’t get too fixated on like one agent or even just about the agency thing, because the most important thing about getting an agent is that you find someone that’s really, really right for you. And who really sees like your creative vision and who you are as an artist. So keep your options open and don’t rush into it.
Makeup by Mona Leanne
Makeup by Mona Leanne
What kind of essential things do you think people need in a kit?
Most important thing is to make sure that you have a good range of products to do an amazing base. So like foundations, concealers in every skin tone, doesn’t need to be anything super fancy, but just as long as you’ve got like good range of colour and some nice skincare, because there’s no point doing all the creative stuff if you can’t do a really nice base. And then I guess the second thing I would say is just try and find as many multi-use products, so products that you can use on the lips, cheeks and eyes. So like MAC cosmetics, for example, do some really good palettes, they’re super bright colours and they’re just like grease paints and you can use them literally for like full face paints or like lipstick.
Do you have any standout moments when it comes to London Fashion Week and creating looks?
My favourite look that I created was for a show that I did for DB Berdan, and it was on the model Jamie Windust. And the whole show was about really embracing all of the models, like, characters in real life. And so Jamie at the time was wearing this amazing eyeshadow which would go right to the back into their temples in bright blue. So we did that and then made everything else more colourful too. And then I painted this floral design, like all over their head and went kind of all around the ears and like down the neck. And it was really colourful and really beautiful and it was really fun to create and Jamie’s so lovely to work with.
How long do you have for someone like that?
We only had like three hours and it was like a lot of models and the hair was bonkers. So it was tight that show. And I think I had about two or three assistants helping me do that look on Jamie. It was a whirlwind, but that’s kind of like all part of the fun isn’t it.
What’s your take in terms of the future of fashion shows and the future of makeup as well?
Obviously there has been so much talk about it going digital. That definitely things are moving more digital even like beauty-wise which is kind of like hard to ignore. I think maybe there will be less fashion weeks, like maybe like two main ones that’s like men’s and women’s combined, which I don’t think would be a bad thing because it would mean less travelling for everyone. And then the beauty industry, I do see that going more digital. I mean, it is already, I didn’t think I was going to be like doing all this like digital content as a makeup artist, but here we are and it’s quite nice actually, because it’s good to move with the times and do things that you didn’t think you were going to do and stuff. I don’t think that the beauty industry is going anywhere because I feel that more and more people are getting involved in it, whether it’s for a job or just even in free time, you know, it’s like a therapy or whatever. A lot of people find comfort in makeup I think.
And do you have like a dream artist or editorial or brand that you would love to work with in terms of beauty and makeup?
I love looking at all the makeup of the Met Gala, you know, because people go like all out there. It would definitely be a dream job to like do someone that has this crazy idea that would be so amazing. That’s what I get most excited about is just when someone comes to me with a project that’s kind of, quite a big idea and they want me to kind of execute it for them. That’s sort of my dream, my dream scenario. And then obviously if it’s for like big music video, if it’s with a big artist then that’s amazing, but it’s not about like specific people so much.
What hopes do you have for your career?
I definitely hope that it’s a long one and I hope that it continues to make me as happy as it makes me now because I do genuinely love my job. And then I really want to make an impact, I’d love to make an impact on the younger generation because I’ve had some amazing mentors throughout my career. And it’s definitely, really shaped me as an artist and made me so much more of a better artist. So if I could be that for someone else, then that would be really special and make me feel very happy.
Thank you so much for joining me on the BFC X Wonderland “How to Become” series. I’ve been Toni-Blaze Ibekwe, Editor-in-chief of Wonderland magazine and I am signing out. And Mona you’ve been gorgeous.
Thank you so much for having me.