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Five Minutes with A-List Makeup Artist Lisa Aharon

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Ever wondered what it’s like to be makeup artist to the stars? Me too. And I may have just got us some intel. 

I spoke to makeup artist Lisa Aharon who has over 20 years of experience working for brands, celebrities and behind the scenes at red-carpet events. And with names like Gwyneth Paltrow, Dianna Agron, Alexa Chung, Rachel Brosnahan and Florence Welch on her list of famous clients, it’s safe to say she’s made it to the big time. 

Here, she shares how she got to where she is, what goes into preparing for a red-carpet job, the surprising celebrity who made her star struck and what’s next for makeup. 



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Where it all began

Everyone’s got to start somewhere and for Lisa, it was 20 years ago at film school. “I was going to Vancouver Film School for a completely unrelated course,” she tells me. 

“I noticed that there was a Makeup for TV and Film class available. At the time, I was working as a sales rep for a beauty supply company and thought maybe it could help me.  I was dying for something artistic and also loved the idea that I could provide education for my accounts.”



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So, Lisa quit her full-time job and decided she wanted to pursue a career in makeup artistry straight away. “There was a sense of ease that I experienced, and still have, while applying makeup.  It’s incredibly cathartic, regardless of the stress that can come with the job.”

She soon got herself an agent, moved house and freelanced in the fashion and advertising industry. “Working under super talented and accomplished makeup artists in New York during Fashion Week cemented my love for both the city and the work and so I moved in 2007 and have only looked forward.”

Any ‘pinch-me’ moments, I ask her? “This freelance path is such a rollercoaster that I’m never entirely sure,” she says. “Though I’d say signing with my first agency in NYC did feel like a turning point.”


Onto the red carpet

I can only imagine how chaotic a red-carpet event can be, particularly behind the scenes. Lisa knows this first hand. But I wanted to know how she prepares for a red-carpet makeup artistry job. 

Does she have the look she’s going to create on her client all mapped out? Or is it a case of speaking to them when they get there and deciding on the spot?

“The fashion most often dictates the glam,” she explains. “Ideally, first and foremost (ahead of time) I’ll ask to see the look.  From there I’ll talk to the client and ask if there’s anything in particular that they’re feeling for makeup.”

Lisa says it’s good to have connections with other creatives too. “If the hair stylist is a friend (they almost always are), I’ll also touch base with them to see what they have in mind. Sometimes the stylist will weigh in too – it’s a collaborative effort, as it should be!”



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And on the day? “There are always little details in the makeup that get shifted but the main concept is already established. This being said, sometimes this preparation isn’t an option and you go with the flow in the moment!”

Luckily, Lisa’s a pro so not much goes wrong on her watch. But I thought I’d check if anything stood out. “If you’re asking about fallen lashes on the cheek or white powder reflecting on the red carpet, no. Or at least not that I can remember!” What a pro.



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Star struck

Working with celebrities on a daily basis must feel like the norm for people like Lisa. But I wanted to know if she had ever been star struck by any of her clients.

“Yes, David Byrne,” she says. Though I was expecting her to say Gwyneth, this is unsurprising given his music industry legend status. “I was working with Arcade Fire at the time and David was performing a song with them. He was after a full painted face (it was a film reference) and I had no time to prepare.

I was so nervous but he was super friendly and warm. The makeup look turned out really well too. I just wish that I had more photos!”



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Choosing favourites

It’s all well and good creating the makeup looks that other people ask for, but which one does Lisa enjoy creating the most? 

“I love to create a beautiful skin more than anything but you can’t beat a striking eye,” she says. “Every shade of smokey, bold eyeliner, lots of lashes. I love them all!” 



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And what about her favourite iconic look? “Brigitte Bardot’s black winged eyeliner. It’s timeless, sexy and has continued to be in fashion throughout the decades.”

If you’re reading this and want to take your makeup look to A-list level, Lisa has some clear advice. “Get the right tools for the job,” she says.

A good set of brushes will make it easy to blend and diffuse your makeup and make application much easier. Also, never skip prepping your skin. A plump, hydrated complexion will make for a primed and perfect canvas.”


Desert island picks

If I were heading to a desert island, right at the top of my essentials list would be mascara. But Lisa looks at it differently. “Could you imagine mascara removal on a desert island? Haha!”

Hmm, good point. What would she take then? “Lash curler, cream blush and a tinted brow gel,” she says. I love the way lashes look lifted and open the face immediately with a curl.  It’s the thing I never skip in my routine.” 



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Cream blush, she explains, would cover three bases. “It is a fantastic easy to use multi-purpose product.  It works well for cheeks, lips and if safe, even on the eyelids for a light wash of colour.”

And why brows? “They really do frame the face, with or without a makeup look,” Lisa explains. “It makes a big difference to have them kept in place and filled in a little.”


What’s new for 2024?

Makeup trends change with the seasons, but I wanted to know what Lisa’s predictions were for the coming year. “I’m seeing fresher skin and more natural looking makeup coming back into fashion,” she explains.

“That being said, in the winter months I think we’ll see heavier, doll-like lashes and darker shades on the lips.” You heard it here first.



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The takeaway

What I admire about Lisa is that despite all the glitz and glamour of working with some of the entertainment industry’s biggest names, it doesn’t seem to be her be all and end all.

For Lisa, what matters seems to be how she can make a difference to everyone – not just the rich and famous. “It’s been an ever-changing evolution to say the least,” she says. 

“I still love teaching people about skincare and makeup and have found joy in doing that through my social channels and working with brands.”


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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