- Emma Day is an established editorial and red carpet makeup artist, working with some of the world’s biggest celebrities.
- She originally started her career as a fashion stylist, but realised she loved makeup after working a job for a friend.
- She’s based in London but travels the world to perfect the faces of A-list clients.
London-based makeup artist Emma Day travels the world — from Cannes to LA — perfecting the already beautiful faces of the likes of Karlie Kloss, Isla Fisher, and Tom Hanks for red carpet appearances and photo shoots.
And the Suffolk-born woman — now in her mid 40s — has no formal makeup training.
Day originally set out to be a fashion stylist, and moved to London at the age of 17 to pursue a career in the industry. She worked as a first assistant to i-D magazine fashion editor and jeweller Judy Blame.
“I started out as a fashion stylist, assisting Judy Blame, who was the 80s’ cool fashion stylist — he invented the term,” Day said.
“I was working for him when [current Vogue Editor-in-Chief] Edward Enniful was working for [stylist] Simon Foxton. It was a really fun time.”
However, Day realised she wasn’t like Enniful or Blame who “live and breathe fashion.” “I really enjoyed it but I didn’t know if I could dedicate my whole life to it,” she said.
At the time, she also had a singing career working for “quite a few record labels,” but she saw an opportunity when a friend was looking for a makeup artist for a shoot in the countryside.
“I thought, I’ll give it a go,” she said. “My friend was open-minded enough to say OK.”
“I’d always enjoyed beauty, and from that I found I really enjoyed it,” she said.
She quickly got a second job working on a short film with 90s model Susie Bick.
“I’d grown up looking at pictures of her — and Dior ads,” she said. “She was an amazing face to do. I confided in her that it was only the second time I’d done makeup. She told me I was really good at it and I should pursue it.”
She ended up assisting on fashion shows with iconic makeup artists Miranda Joyce and Lisa Eldridge, the latter of whom who took her on as her first assistant.
“Shows became a big thing to learn — you get thrown into the deep end,” Day said. “Some people you connect with and bond with.”
Eldridge was one of them — and a lot of the techniques she’s learned came from her and Joyce.
“I didn’t train — I learned as I went along,” Day said. “I had a lot of friends in fashion already. Some people weren’t open [to me], but others were helpful and kind, giving me breaks.”
She added: “Sometimes when things fall into place, it seems like it’s what you’re meant to be doing.”
Gracing the covers of magazines
Now, she’s an established editorial and red carpet makeup artist who travels the world as part of her career.
“I started off in fashion and then went into more celebrity,” she said. “At one point people used to turn their nose up a bit about celebrity work — now it’s on the front of magazines. It’s all crossed over — it used to just be models.”
She’s been at agency The Wall Group for nearly five years — ever since she visited them in the US to try to convince them to take her on board.
Most of her travel is in Europe, as very few celebrities fly their own teams of makeup artists over, so she often gets jobs across the continent.
However, she goes back to the US every year for awards season in January and February “to escape the gloom,” she said. “It’s nice to be in LA that time of year.”
“A lot of my work is when people go to the shows — there’s a lot of stuff for fashion week,” she added.
From Karlie Kloss and Judi Dench to Cannes Film Festival
Some of her recent career highlights include a shoot with Karlie Kloss for Adidas…
Working with Bella Hadid on a Dior mascara launch…
…and working with Judi Dench for the premiere of “Murder on the Orient Express.”
“I’ve worked with her for about five years, all her public stuff,” Day said.
Throughout her career, she has also worked with the likes of Kate Mara…
…and Isla Fisher, pictured here behind the scenes with Day…
…then on the BAFTA red carpet with one of Day’s favourite looks.
Rebel Wilson, Sienna Miller, Shailene Woodley, Kate Beckinsale, Suki Waterhouse, Gemma Arterton, and even Tom Hanks are also among her clients.
When we spoke, she was preparing for an editorial with Maisie Williams the following day.
Her work has appeared in the likes of Elle, Marie Claire, and Town & Country.
She worked the Cannes Film Festival red carpet in May — her seventh time at the festival — an experience you can see in the video below.
While she said the red carpet is “always fun,” she added: “I really enjoy doing press junkets because you’re in a lovely hotel.”
Another perk of the job is forming close relationships with the people she works with often.
“If you’re working with someone really lovely, it’s fun,” she said, “I work a lot with the same hairdressers, it’s like a little family sometimes.”
It’s not always glamorous
But the job isn’t always as glamorous as it seems.
“The main concern you have is obviously to get a really good base you need natural light,” Day said. “You could be sending someone out with the completely wrong skin tone, then it’s all over the Mail Online.
And some venues she has to work in make this quite difficult.
“You do get some instances of very beautiful hotel room with ambient lighting,” she said. “You’re doing someone’s makeup in the pitch dark and trying to cobble together lighting situations — it’s quite comedic.
“I had to work with someone recently in Blake’s Hotel — it was pitch dark, you can barely see [in there],” she laughed.
“I’ve got my makeup light [but] it didn’t turn on. The model had just flown in, was very tired, and had quite specific ideas of what she wanted.
“We somehow cobbled together a lighting situation by pulling off lampshades,” she said. Luckily, the model liked her look.
She impacts more than just makeup
Whether it’s in the middle of a lighting crisis or dealing with a difficult request, the most important part of the job is staying cool, calm, and collected.
“In those situations when you have a lot of factors against you, you just have to be confident and make the client feel confident and like you’ve got it under control,” Day said.
Often, the clients she’s working on are getting ready for important career events like photo shoots or red carpet appearances — so her role is as much about giving them confidence in themselves as it is about ensuring they like how they look.
“That’s one of the main things you give to red carpet or celeb work — you have to be a stabilising influence even if even if external factors are against you, like bad lighting.”
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