I first met makeup artist Charlotte Wood through our mutual friend, Monica from The Elgin Avenue, and now I also know her through her work at Lancôme. Charlotte’s story is really inspiring – she started as a self-taught artist on the Lancôme counter at Selfridges and now works for the brand at events like the BAFTAs. Naturally, I wanted to pick her brains for the My 9 to 5 feature, so here’s her career-story so far…
When did you first know you wanted to work in the beauty industry?
I fell into it by chance, actually. I went to theatre school and trained as a dancer, and whilst I was auditioning I got a part-time job on the Lancôme counter in Selfridges; just doing the odd days here and there. I absolutely fell in love with the brand and found that I was good at the job (coming from a theatrical background you’re always working with makeup, so I wasn’t a stranger to it), and after a while I started working there full time. Initially it was a hard to break away from dance, which I’d trained so hard and intensely for, but I felt like it was the right move for me and my parents were really supportive.
Was it daunting to jump into the world of Lancôme without any formal beauty training?
There is a certain amount of training involved at Selfridges, but essentially you just get stuck in. I was really lucky to be working with such an amazing team of makeup artists at Lancôme and I learnt so much from them. And because Selfridges is such a big tourist destination I had a really varied mix of customers from around the world. Having that exposure to so many different women everyday was a great learning experience for me.
How did you make the leap from the Selfridges counter to the head office?
I’d been on the Lancôme counter for about two and a half years when they asked me to start working with the team in head office on certain aspects of the website. I was only at the London HQ a few days a week to begin with, and moved there full-time in September. So now my days are really varied – I could spend the whole day in the office working closely with the digital and marketing teams, or I could be in a department store helping out with events and makeup appointments. I’ve also been doing quite a lot of photoshoots recently, which is really fun.
What are the pitfalls of working in the beauty industry?
The beauty industry is really competitive. There are a lot of talented makeup artists out there so it’s hard to get noticed. So that’s probably the biggest challenge. And washing makeup brushes is a bit of a bore. I have to set aside an hour to wash my brushes because a lot of product gets stuck really close to the roots, so you really have to give them a good scrub and then leave them out to dry overnight. It’s a long and tedious process and your hands get a bit pruney afterwards.
What’s the coolest thing about your job?
Working at the BAFTA Awards this February was the biggest career highlight for me so far. It’s such a rare opportunity to work on a prestigious event, and to go behind-the-scenes and see how it all runs was absolutely amazing.
What was BAFTA weekend like?
Lancôme are the official beauty partner for BAFTA, so guests were invited to have their makeup done by Lancôme artists. That weekend we all had back-to-back makeup appointments from 9am, because on Saturday there was a nominee dinner and the ceremony took place on Sunday evening. It was really intense and quite hard work – you have to make sure your makeup lasts because once the client leaves you don’t have the opportunity to touch ups like you would if you were on a photoshoot. And there’s no room for errors, because once a picture is taken it will be online within seconds. I was all over the internet that evening to see how my makeup had photographed.
What are your favourite beauty products?
Definitely Lancôme mascara! They have the most amazing mascara collection, whether you want a natural look or volume. At the moment Hypnose Drama is my personal favourite, but it always changes. I’ve got all of my friends hooked on it too! I’m a bit obsessed with the Lip Lover at the moment too. It applies like a gloss but is richer in colour like a lipstick and I wear one of the nude shades all the time.
How to you unwind after a tough day at work?
I’m quite a social person so I always love hanging out with my friends, whether it’s going for dinner, drinks or even just staying in. But when we do go out it’s always, “Charlotte, will you do my makeup for me?” So I’ve made a rule now that I have to do my own makeup first because otherwise they’re ready to go and I’m still applying my foundation.
Which other women working in the beauty industry inspire you?
I really love following Lisa Eldridge. I was super happy when she was named Lancôme creative director of makeup in January because I love her YouTube channel and have followed her for a really long time. When I was first starting out on the counter I learnt a lot from her videos. And, interestingly, Lisa Eldridge actually started her career at the Lancôme counter in Harrods, so it’s really inspiring to see how full circle her career has gone. I don’t know if my career will go in that direction, but it’s nice to see it can be achieved. And I also love following Pat McGrath’s work as well. I just love her makeup, whether it’s the really clean, simple look or the full-on Swarovski masks she created for Givenchy last season.
And, finally, what’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?
I definitely try to work along the lines of “if you don’t ask you don’t get”. Not in a pushy way, but if you don’t state what direction you want to go in to your mentors or your managers how are they going to know? And they’re the people that can help you. So I’m learning to put myself out there a little bit more and ask for opportunities.
Find Charlotte on Twitter and Instagram at @charlotte_w_88. Photos courtesy of Charlotte Wood.