Liz Kelsh always had a passion for make-up, spending her early years collecting empty lipstick containers and perfume bottles, which little did she know, would be the start of a very large collection to come.
“I just loved everything about cosmetics,” Liz said, “So much so that my grandmother used to get us a big Christmas present every year, and while my brothers and sister were getting bikes, she got me this beautiful fifties style vanity case.”
“That was the start of my make-up collection, even though I wasn’t aware of make-up artists or anything like that, I was just always obsessed.”
Liz’s passion for cosmetics didn’t stop at her vanity case though, reflecting on cold, rainy days growing up in Ireland where her mum would cut through department stores to avoid getting drenched.
Liz said she remembers slowing down in the cosmetics department to take in the luscious scents, and eagerly try to grab hold of products as her mum would attempt to drag her away.
“I still feel that now, whenever I go to London and I go into Selfridges [department store], I just stand there. It’s so comforting to me.” Liz revealed.
It wasn’t until Liz was in her teens that she read an article featuring a day in the life of Kevyn Aucoin that opened her eyes to the possibility of a career in make-up.
“I remember reading that article and the biggest lightbulb went off in my head and I was like, ‘finally that is the job for me, I can’t think of anything better.’”
However, during the time that Liz was growing up there was a lot of unemployment in Ireland, the focus at school wasn’t necessarily finding a job you loved, but finding a job at all.
“If you got a job, you were really lucky that you weren’t on the dole – that was the mentality,” Liz recalled, “You weren’t told about things to study at college, it was, ‘Did you want to do a secretarial course or did you want to work in a shop?’, Make-up wasn’t something you could go to your careers guide for.”
So Liz took it upon herself to chase her dream job and resorted to getting out the good old yellow pages to look up make-up courses but could only find beautician schools.
Through her determination though, Liz came across a make-up shop in Dublin, Makeup Forever that sold professional make-up supplies, whose owner had previously worked as a make-up artist in the film industry.
“I spoke to the owner who said she was going to be doing a small make-up course but was waiting to get enough interest in it,” Liz said, “I drove this poor woman bonkers calling every week asking, ‘Are you doing the course yet?”
While waiting for there to be enough interest in the course, Liz began going around to modelling agencies and asking them for career advice about the industry, but it was one agency in Dublin, Asset Modelling Agency, that opened doors.
“There was a really nice guy who ran it who said he did castings on Saturdays with new models to see if they were photogenic or not, and normally he would ask them to do their own makeup, but would I like to come in and do their make up for them.” Liz said.
Although the position was unpaid to start with, Liz loved being able to learn through trial and error, but after just two weeks, the owner of the agency offered her a paid position.
“I would get 50 pounds and then go straight away and buy a new brush or something for my kit.”
“From there he started recommending me and giving me paid work, and the models would have me in their portfolio so they would start requesting me to do their make-up,”
Liz approached the head of make-up at the time, Gordon Anthony from MAC cosmetics, and asked if she could help, willing to wash brushes, or even shine his shoes, she just wanted to be a part of it.
“He welcomed me with open arms and was a real mentor to me; he told me things like what was expected to have in your kit at every show, and just generally how it all runs, just the little things, he was really caring and nurturing” Liz said.
“Fashion has the name of being quite cut-throat and everybody being a bit antsy, but because my first introduction was with this beautiful, gentle, artistic guy, that’s the way I be when I’m directing shows,” Liz said, “I see the way people work so much better when you’re kinder and nicer to them.”
Liz has spent more than twenty years building a reputable career, working with celebs such as Jennifer Anniston, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Hawkins, Vanessa Hudgens and Kim Catrell. She has also written a book, Makeup By Liz Kelsh, and is the Australian Ambassador for Max Factor.
Recently, Liz partnered with Manicare to launch affordable, quality make-up brushes for the everyday woman.
“They were brushes that were in my head for a long time,” Liz said, “I always thought there’s no shortage of really good, expensive make-up brushes, but the gap in the market was affordable, good quality brushes.”
“So when Manicare approached me to do a collaboration with them I absolutely jumped on it!”
Liz was passionate about creating a range that wouldn’t create buyer’s remorse, and that allowed customers to be able to choose the brush they needed easily.
“When there’s millions of brushes, people are like, ‘What one do I need?’, So we wanted to really slim it down, so the range is for people who are doing their own make-up so you can get the right brush to do the right job.”
And Liz’s advice for people trying to get into the industry?
“Just keep doing makeup, do makeup for everybody that stands near you. When I started, my poor sister and mum, and even my younger brother, I absolutely tortured them because how you get better is just by doing it more and more.”
“Concentrate on your craft, even if I’m doing make-up for Ava (Liz’s 10 year old daughter) and her friends for Halloween I will put as much effort into it as if I was doing a Vanity Fair cover.”
*The Manicare x Liz Kelsh brush collection is available at Priceline stores and independent pharmacies Australia-wide.
When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was 10 I think I wanted to be a window dresser.
If you had one day to try any job in the world, what would it be?
I would love to just for one day be able to sing really, really well. Imagine having Adele’s voice and standing on stage and just belting out a song.