You Want to Go into Makeup
How has your definition of beauty evolved throughout your career?
My first vision of beauty was extra... over the top everything. All of the colors that you could think of, metallics in hair, metallics on faces, metallics everywhere.
As a child, I would watch women come in and out of my aunt's salon in Jamaica during the height of the dancehall era in the 90s; it was a lot of people going out to parties, people celebrating. But as I've grown, I've learned how to appreciate things in their natural state as well.
How long did you live in Jamaica for?
I was born in Brooklyn. Sent to Jamaica when I was about 3 months old. Then right before middle school ended I came back to New York, but my family wasn’t living in Brooklyn anymore. They were living in Jamaica, Queens.
So from Jamaica to Jamaica!
Yeah, it was very interesting because I moved at a time when there was a lot of hip-hop music coming out of Jamaica, Queens. My mother and my two aunts are also musicians, so I've been surrounded by music my whole life. I think that has a lot to do with how I view beauty as well. For me, a lot of musicians set the tone for what is beautiful, you know? What they artistically do with their looks definitely has an impact on what’s popular for our generation.
Did your time assisting influence your definition of beauty?
Absolutely, I saw beauty in a different way. It was also elaborate and extravagant like in my aunt’s salon, but there was a bit more of an artistry to it.
So for me, the two worlds came together. The women that I grew up around acted as if they were on the runway every day, it was almost surreal. I realized that a lot of the techniques that I learned as a child were also being used on the runway in fashion, but were being done in a different way.
I also learned time management, like how to do 40 models within a four hour timespan and make each of them feel special before they go on the runway. So it definitely changed the way that I view beauty, but not too much because I always have that same excitement that I did as a child.
I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology and graduated with my Bachelor's in Fashion Merchandising. For a second, I started to think that beauty was amazing, but maybe it was not for me. I was wrong, it didn’t feel natural the minute I stepped away from it. So I dropped everything and I went right back into the assisting world. And it felt right again.
When you were assisting Guido, Sam McKnight, and Luigi Murenu, what did you notice were the key differences for how each artist approached and worked with hair?
Everyone works in a completely different way. It was interesting to watch how each hair stylist manages their team, interacts with the designer, how fast they get the girls done, and the different ways that they achieve each look.
Did that influence the approach that you take now?
Absolutely. As I watched different people do things differently, I would pull certain aspects that felt right to me. I took one way of managing the team from one hairstylist, and I took how to approach a designer from another.
Sam is very good at talking to people, and you want to have him around all of the time. This job gets so intense sometimes, and it's good to see a smiling face around.
What does it mean to be the key hair stylist for a show?
The first thing that I do is have a really in-depth conversation with the designer and the stylist. I usually get along really well with both of them. I like to come in and do a pre-production meeting, where we talk and pull out references. I'm a reference junkie.
I like to talk about where the designer was when they came up with the concepts for the season, and what inspired them. Usually what inspired them will shine a light on the collection as a whole, even if it's not about hair. It’s more just for me to be in the same mindset as him, so I can ask myself, “What would you do if you were in his shoes and how would that look? How do you see the hair flowing with that?” Then we test different hairstyles on the models with the clothes, decide which one goes best with who, and then we take a picture of that hairstyle.
And that's only a couple of days before the show, right?
Usually, maybe two or three days before the show. But, sometimes if the designer sees an elaborate style in their mind from the beginning, like last year I did Telfar’s show and each model had a completely different hairstyle. So those meetings were two weeks before the show, just so I could source things and get certain wigs. Sometimes it’s also contingent on location because fashion week moves. I could be doing a show somewhere in Milan and the Paris show is a couple of days away.
So after we do the test and once the designer feels good about it, I make notes about how to create the looks for whoever’s on my team for that particular show.
When we get to the show, we do a demo on the first model that comes in. I like to put up pictures so that people have references. Then while my team is doing the other models, I'm looking everywhere the whole time, to make sure everything’s okay. Once all of the girls are finished, I check them individually and maybe change or alter the style a bit.
For each show, I’d assume there are at least 10+ assistants, some you’ve never met before, and there’s also not a lot of time. What makes a good teacher in that situation?
I was never really the best public speaker, but recently I've become very good at it. I think it's because I'm doing something that I'm really interested in. I'm speaking with conviction because it’s about something that I love.
I’ll go step by step, give them visual references, and basically put them in the mind of the designer as well. That way they’re not just doing the hair, they’re also in that world. I think what helps more than saying, “Oh, do this ponytail,” is explaining why we’re doing that specific ponytail and what it means. I'm also open to suggestions from the team, as well. Sometimes I’ll take them, sometimes I don’t, depending on if it works.
Our demos are also usually funny, just because I like to make jokes. Usually, backstage it's high energy, and a lot of people come in nervous. There’s been a lot of bad experiences over the years of getting yelled at or being rushed. So I try to create an atmosphere for the team where they can just relax and do the work. It’s not that serious, we're not curing cancer, we’re just doing beauty.
Yeah, well said.
I think when they feel like that, they react differently. The work has some more love in it. It's like, “Oh wow, he’s not screaming and he’s not running around like they used to.”
Congratulations on Dazed Beauty! That's so exciting.
What intrigues you about what they're doing?
I think it's a cool, weird way of doing beauty. I use the word weird because I'm weird, and I like things to be weird. It’s also still glamorous but in a different way.
It's catching a lot of people’s eyes. We’ve seen the beautiful girls with the big red lips, and now with Dazed Beauty, we’re seeing a lot of anime type things and some weird witchy stuff on there. It’s also mixing technology with beauty because that's where we’re headed. I think it connects to more people than what beauty was doing before. I'm very happy to be a part of it.
So how did you get to where you are today?
I’ve always drawn my entire life. Then I started painting, but on people. It's all that I know how to do, it's so natural for me. That escalated, and one day my friend said, "Yo - I'm moving to London to be a model. Come move into my model apartment and start doing makeup." So I took the plunge and lived in a model house sharing a bed with my mate in her box room.
Where are you from originally?
Oxfordshire. You step outside to countryside where there are only fields and sheep. It's super cute.
So you went straight from there to London?
Yeah, it was a strange time. But really great, as it gave me the opportunity to practice my craft on so many different girls. That was my first foot in the door, and then it just went from there.
Your work is celebrated for pushing boundaries. How did you first find the space to do that?
It actually took years and years for people to accept my work. I couldn't get any photographers or teams that wanted to shoot with me because they were scared of what I wanted to do. Around 7 to 8 years ago, there was only a handful of people doing this style of work.
I ended up taking the photos myself. Then over time, it caught people's attention. Funnily enough, the people that I'd asked before to collaborate with, after seeing my work they turned around saying, "Hey, what about shooting?" I definitely had to create the opportunity that I wanted to be given. I had to work hard and make that space for myself. I wouldn't have had it any other way as it taught me a lot.
During that time, were you also assisting?
Yeah, I was assisting on and off and I've always had a part-time job. I've worked all sorts of weird jobs to get by to ensure that I can stay in London, to ultimately do what I wanted to do. It's been a challenge.
Definitely. Because just staying in London, not even to mention being creative, is a challenge in itself.
You’ve been represented by Bryant Artists for about a year now, have you seen your work evolve as a result of that?
Definitely, one million percent. Having somebody that believes in you (S/O Louise) changes everything. It creates a whole new level of confidence in yourself from having someone that will back you no matter what, and protect you. Since we don’t have an alliance in fashion, up until you have an agent, it can be very difficult. The industry can be tough, but it's important to learn to stand up for yourself.
To have an agency like Bryant Artists behind you, it takes a load off. It pushes you to achieve more. It's like having somebody constantly saying, "Yeah, you go, girl.” Also, having Louise as my agent, it’s so good. When you sign with an agent, you're basically marrying them. It's a relationship and I think that's something that people forget. It’s integral to have someone that wants to care for you and she has so much love, it's beautiful. She'll randomly send me documentaries on animals, little things to watch over the weekend. It's wicked.
What do you think prepared you the most for where you are today? A person? An event? A learning experience?
I think that one thing can't take credit.
It's a multitude of everything. Every experience, every person that you meet. You know, it's that whole butterfly effect. If you didn’t sit next to that person on the bus who told you something, or if you didn’t meet that one person, your whole life could be completely different.
That being said, you have to take into account that every bad thing that happens to you is just as influential as any good thing, and it's really about understanding that and being able to manipulate it positively. Overall, I'm very aware that my whole journey up until now is because of every single experience or person that I've lived through or encountered.
Can you give an overview of what you do now? What’s a shoot like from the initial conversation with the client to the final image?
With commercial jobs, I usually stick to the brief that I've been given as there are guidelines in which you have to follow. However, even in those situations, I do still push certain opportunities. If I can, I try to get involved in casting to ensure that there is a representation of everyone regarding ethnicity, and the LGBTQ+ community.
One of the most important things to remember is that it is all about the team. You can’t go in with a set way of thinking, "I've got this great idea. I want to paint this crazy thing on their faces" because maybe the hairstylist comes up with a cool idea, or the lighting is different. So it's more about adapting your ideas to fit in with everyone.
Even if it is a beauty shoot, it's still about the whole team. A huge collaboration that you wouldn't be able to achieve without having your assistants or without having the lighting team, etc. You can recognize it in the final image, if somebody isn't a team player.
What was the last project that you found exciting and challenging?
I've recently launched a project that I collaborated with Samaritans on. It was an all-male beauty story that I cast, to raise awareness for men’s mental health. Mentally and physically, it was the hardest job I've ever done. Since it was such a personal subject, I was determined for it to be well received. Most importantly though, I wanted to make sure that anyone who did see it, could get the right help if they needed it. Definitely the project that I'm the most proud of.
I know you're launching a beauty book soon. Can you talk a little bit about the process of putting that together? What should we be looking forward to?
It's a very personal project. Only a few people have seen snippets of it because it's my baby. It follows my journey of creativity and connection. I cast those whom I have an unconditional love with; I paint onto their bodies and take the pictures on my film camera. It's about that one-on-one connection. Paired with excerpts from old diaries, love letters, and notes from those whom I love. Basically, it's a whole body of work that's just a good vibe.
You've taken a strong stance on cruelty-free beauty. Why is that something that's important to you?
I love animals. I'm a sensitive soul, and I was brought up vegetarian. I don't have the heart to kill an animal therefore I won't eat one, and I certainly can't use a cosmetic product that's then been tested on an animal. For the sake of what? Potential vanity or creativity? I mean, it goes both ways, but I have to remain ethical about it. I’ll constantly fight this. Until the law changes, I'll definitely be an advocate for it.
Have you ever found it to be limiting? For example, maybe you need to use a certain makeup that you can't have access to because it tests on animals?
I started changing my kit two years ago, at first I found it to be difficult. There weren't many products available, since then it's changed an incredible amount. It's been amazing. Any brands that we do contact, they're happy to help.
What's different about a brand that is environmentally friendly and cruelty-free is that they legitimately care. They want to do as much as they can to promote that you can have a mascara that's just as effective, but an animal doesn't have to die for it. Brands are changing, but there are still a lot of items that I'm looking to add into my kit. We still have quite a way to go, though I'm extremely positive that we'll be there in no time at all.
I view your work as art. The painting is displayed on a model, which is then captured by a photographer, but at the end of each look, you have to wipe away your designs. Has that process influenced your view of art?
That's actually something that I love. The fact that you do wipe it off, it's disposable. There's something so beautiful about celebrating the creative flow that comes through you in the moment. I don't ever tend to recreate something. I get asked to do the same thing over and over again, and I have to explain, "You know what... I did that for a shoot a year ago, so I’m just going to leave that there. Why don't we try this instead?"
People do get stuck in that field, where it’s difficult for them to accept change. But I think change is something that I've definitely learned from makeup. I love being in that moment, leaving it there, and then going straight to the next thing.
I also saw that you co-founded Weather Gurlz, which places a strong emphasis on taking care of yourself while being in a creative industry.
This industry can be a place where you're pushed to your limit. Sometimes you can’t take lunch breaks, sometimes you’re surrounded by negative energies, and sometimes you’re just simply in a bad situation. It's imperative to be that light and to not only do it for yourself, but to educate others how to look after themselves and care for one another.
That's something that my co-founder, Michèle Côté and I are constantly doing. We go out of our way to look after ourselves on a daily basis. Naturally, we thought, “Well, we should be helping other people do that as well.”
The responses that we've gotten since starting Weather Gurlz, have been incredible. With our workshops, it's been so special to open doors to a new community where people are kind and want to help one another.
It also forces you to ground yourself. It's really just about truth, and about making the space you want to create in, safe. So when you're at work, you're not really working for someone else anymore. It's less pressure, once you can take care of yourself and everyone around you.
So, when you say that you go out of your way to take care of yourself, what does that mean for you? Is that staying up an extra 30 minutes to take a bubble bath? How do these ideas translate into your daily life?
I have a checklist. If my mood changes, I’ll ask myself “Right. Have you had enough water today? When was the last time you had a snack? Have you been outside for air?” I literally live on this list.
Everyone thinks I'm really funny because every day at work I go for a walk. I say, "Right, guys. Going to go out, get a coffee, be back in a bit." I need that time to myself. People will also ask "Why have you been in the bathroom for 10 minutes?” but I'm actually doing a cheeky little meditation. You've got to do what you can in the situation that you're in. Even if you’re having a stressful day, there's always an opportunity to take a couple of minutes, pop to the bathroom to breathe and re-ground yourself.
It varies for everyone, there are a multitude of things that you can do for yourself. We all have specific needs that we should cater to. The more that you get to know yourself, you're aware of exactly what it is that you'll need. If you know that day is going to be stressful or busy, pack your bag mindfully, whether it's another bottle of water, a certain snack, or headphones to listen to a Ted Talk, etc. I’m always quite strict on that with myself.
So how did you get to where you are today?
DD: I'm originally from Poland. My interest in fashion started very early, I remember I used to watch fashion TV at my grandparents place, especially the backstage footage from the shows. At first, I wanted to become a stylist, but after flipping through magazines, I started to become very interested in makeup. I found it super interesting how makeup could change your perceptions of a model and how powerful makeup really is.
So when I was 16, I went to my first makeup school in Poland, and then I set up my first makeup studio in my bedroom. I started doing my friends makeup, and then I actually got real clients. After that, I knew that’s what I wanted to do, so I found a makeup school in LA and that was all I thought about.
When I finished high school I went to Los Angeles. That was also when I became financially independent. I went to MKC Beauty Academy and I had my first real work experiences while I was there.
I came back for Christmas to my hometown in Poland, and then I decided to try Paris, as it seemed to be the best choice to work in the fashion industry, and still not too far from home!
It was so spontaneous because I just took a bus with my makeup kit. I didn't know anybody, and I didn't know the language. It was really a big adventure. I’ve been in Paris for 8 years already, and I'm living my dream :)
So what happens after you first get booked for an editorial, can you talk about your creative process?
So the client reaches out to my agent, and then we confirm the booking. On set I’ll talk with the stylist and photographer about the concept and the idea, which is one of the most exciting parts of the job, we get the model ready, and then we shoot. Then normally the shoot comes out a few months later.
Everyday looks completely different. Every job brings new experiences, new people, so in the end, you get to know a lot of people from the industry.
What prepared you for where you are today?
My biggest life lesson was my first year here in Paris, which was extremely difficult. It was a sad time, but it made me grow up more in 1 year than I would have in 10. When I came to Paris, I told my parents that I had friends and it was fine, but I actually didn't know anybody. I didn't know where I was going to stay. I didn't know the language. I had to change apartments 7 times that year.
It was a really difficult time money-wise, as well. I didn't make money from the jobs that I was getting yet. I was surviving on a month to month basis. It was really tough, but at the same time, it made me really strong. And also I was only 19 years old, so everyone was telling me that I was too young for Paris, that maybe I should go to London, New York, or LA again, because they’re all more open to young people. But I was very good at saying no to that. Then I got my first big job with Dior.
When I was in LA, there was a contest where you could win a trip to Milano, meet an agent and start working there. I didn't speak English well, and so I didn't win. But when I was in Paris, they followed my work and my progress, and then they said that I am the winner of the year, It was amazing experience, and I believed that everything can be possible! When I was in Milano, I received a call from Dior in Paris, asking if I could do the makeup for a video with Emily Weiss. It was amazing.
Then my friend recommended me to Max Mara and I did makeup for Maria Giulia Maramotti for her portrait, and she really liked me, so I was booked for shooting with her for 6 different Vogue’s. After a year, my mailbox started to get very busy. I built a strong portfolio, I got an agent, and then every month I started to take bigger and bigger steps. I'm happy I didn't give up and always followed my dreams!
What's the biggest difference if you’re working for a brand versus a magazine?
Editorials are more creative as we’re given the role of transforming the model into a character. Also, we can change the look as were shooting in order to fit the story line, so there’s definitely more freedom there. When it's a lookbook for a brand, it’s usually very simple. We're more focused on the clothes, so the models need to look fresh and natural. The makeup is usually just to enhance the model’s beauty.
For the shows, when I’m the key artist, I meet the designer first, and we’ll speak about the collection, create the look and do a fitting. When the look is decided, every model usually has the same makeup look that goes well with the collection.
When I work on the makeup team for a show, usually it's all decided beforehand. We learn the look the day of the show, we know exactly which colors we have to use, and the exact look that we have to create. Usually, the models all have to look the same but we always need to adapt to the shape of the eye or the colors, blush, and of course the foundation. You know, so just the same look but adapting to the particular faces.
Is there a difference when you’re working for an independent magazine versus a conglomerate like Conde Nast?
I feel as if independent magazines are more thematic in the sense that they normally carry a strong theme throughout the entire issue.
How do you go about sticking to your aesthetic but making the client happy?
My whole idea is that whatever I do, I want the model to look beautiful. Even if we're going for something creative, I still want the model to look like a person. I love to play with colors, I love to play with textures, and I love artistic things, but at the same time, I love natural beauty. I think it's very helpful because I can adapt to different concepts. I'm not only doing crazy makeup or natural, I can adapt to either concept while still keeping my own aesthetic.
What is it like to be your own boss?
It’s amazing to think that everything is in your hands, and that every move is really up to you. It’s important to learn to stay motivated and to follow your way. I actually love marketing and promoting myself, so I also have a blog. I work on social media a lot and it has given me the ability to propel my own career forward as a makeup artist. Being your own boss is definitely empowering, if you don’t like something you can change it, which I think is wonderful.
What are the benefits of being represented by an agency?
I think the right time to be signed to an agent is when you feel that you don't need it anymore. You have to already be quite busy because their job is mainly to organize everything. As a makeup artist, we might work nearly every day. So if we had to manage all of the planes we take, the hotels and dealing with clients, it just wouldn't be possible to work everyday. They also build relationships with clients, make appointments with potential clients and propose us for jobs.
What are your go-to products?
Okay. First, I love the Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate which is fantastic, in any season. Especially in summer, because you can use the shade part to bronze yourself and give a little bit of a healthy glow with the illuminating part of the product. Basically, you don't feel like you're wearing any makeup, but you're still fresh and glowing.
Then the Orgasm blush from Nars, I love all of the blushes from Nars... Also, Charlotte Tilbury has a great mascara that you can apply in layers, and the lashes still look very fresh, nicely separated, and elongated. It's called Full Fat Lashes.
What's the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
I love to travel. I feel like I went on a makeup trip around the world :) also meeting people, it's fantastic. On every set, there’s always a mix of so many personalities and cultures from around the world. Things keep getting more exciting, so I'm sure I’ll never be bored of it.
Congratulations on your By Dariia Day Launch!
Thank you! So 4 months ago I launched Silk Pillowcases which are dedicated to beauty!
I am personally in love with this product, I have very sensitive skin myself and when I first went to Vietnam, one lady recommended me to sleep on silk, and I fell in love with it, and I just had to create the best possible version of it to share with my clients!
The kind of silk that I’m using for the pillowcases has been a beauty secret for about a thousand years in Asia, and it's amazing. The idea is that we usually sleep on cotton, which has a very rough surface. It breaks our hair, and we wake up with a bed head. Silk also takes less of the moisture out of our skin. What we sleep on really affects our skin. I’ve been working on it for the past 2.5 years, so it's my new baby, and it’s helped me a lot.
I’ve been using one for the past 4 years, and a while ago I left mine in a hotel in Argentina and the only place I could find the same silk was on Amazon but it was mostly satin not silk, and I was disappointed with everything. So I started asking people in Paris if they sleep on silk? They said no but were very excited to do so! So, I was like I have to do it, I have to!
Tell me more!
So first, it's 100% natural. When we were traveling to 6 different countries to find the best quality, we decided to choose China, because that’s where silk originated from. It was their secret for more than 2,000 years. Then we found a manufacturer who makes traditional silk of the best quality. We worked on this special weave and to develop the fabric that is the best for our beauty, with no toxins and any allergens. Silk is very fragile, so I wanted to make the pillowcase durable so that you can wash the pillowcases in the washing machine, because everybody is busy in their life. We made it from very luxurious weight of 25 momme, which is very unique and precious.
How have you been able to balance creating your own company and still working as a makeup artist?
I love my job, and I love to work and be active, so doing both I feel finally fulfilled :)
What effect has the influx of digital media had on makeup artists?
Within two years it's extremely changed. Now I feel like it's not enough just to do makeup. To be successful, we have to put our work on social media. Backstage beauty used to be a big secret. Nobody wanted to share anything, and everything was very closed off. Now, suddenly everything's started to be very open to the world. If you use it, it can give you a lot of opportunities.
You can learn everything from the internet now, which is fantastic. For example, I do my tutorials, which I make and edit myself, which I learn how to edit from YouTube. If somebody really wants to find and learn something, it's so accessible. Everything is there. If you search it, you can find it.
How would you like to see this industry evolve?
I would like for things to go back to being focused on the designer’s perspective, more trends from the runway than from TV.