Interview: Rae Morris

Rae Morris interview, Catalogue Magazine Summer 2013

She began her career as a hairdresser, but - thanks to a scary encounter with Naomi Campbell - she became a make-up artist. Now she's one of Australia's very best. Interview by Chloe Sargeant.

Full disclosure - I'm terrible with makeup. I use BB cream and sometimes mascara. If I can be bothered. It's mainly laziness. Be honest - do you want to pin people like myself down and just attack me with your brushes?
You know what, if your using BB cream and mascara, I think thats a good thing! I want to attack people who put too much on! Attack them with baby wipes! Those people give makeup a bad name, I'll take BB cream and mascara any day. 

Oh good! I feel better now. So, give me a bit of a background on Rae Morris: how did you start out in the makeup industry?
I was a hairdresser to start with. I was doing hair for a Miss Universe event one day, and Naomi Campbell had had a bit of a tiff with her makeup artist. I was just doing hair, but she asked me to fix her lips. It was one second of her life that she'd never remember, but it changed mine, because the second I grabbed a lip gloss that was sitting there, all the paparazzi burst in and started taking photos. The next day I was booked as an international makeup artist - who knew NOTHING. I never thought I'd even be good at it. I was never that creative as a kid. 

That’s such a strange way to fall into a career! Out of curiosity, was Naomi Campbell as terrifying as she seems?
Yep. One of the scariest women in the world!

So you never wanted to be a makeup artist growing up - did you always want to be a hairdresser?
Well, no. When I was a little girl I wanted to be a vet. But looking back at all the animals I had, they all had long fur and I used to ‘do their hair’. Probably the universe's way of leading me! I got a part time job in a salon when I was a young teenager, and was still thinking I was going to be a vet when I was older. Then I found out I had to put animals down and that was it. 

I read somewhere that you sustained quite a serious wrist injury before you became a makeup artist. Does that affect your abilities doing makeup?
Yeah, I have carpal tunnel, so I couldn't blow dry hair anymore. Makeup is much easier for me to do. 

Who were your biggest inspirations growing up?
It was always musicians. The ‘80’s – it was the era that I was seeing more men than women wearing makeup! And the hair - Mohawks, flat-tops, perms. Awful looking back on it now, but the creativity was so inspiring. I remember Boy George having a huge effect on me. Even when I was older and I started doing makeup, musical inspiration surrounded me. The man who trained me in makeup, Richard Sharrah, actually created Ziggy Stardust for David Bowie, which is pretty incredible! Musicians have always been an inspiration. 

What do you think is your biggest life achievement to date?
Well, all of it. Because I still look back and go, ‘how did this girl from Brisbane get here, I don’t understand.’ But I guess writing a book, and it becoming a best seller. I struggled at school with dyslexia, so seeing ‘author’ next to my name is really amazing.

Is teaching a passion of yours as well?
Yes. I used to do hairdressing teaching, and I used to get so frustrated. The hair and makeup industry can be so difficult and it wasn’t that they were teaching the wrong things, more like leaving out the little things that would actually really help. I definitely wanted to change that! I wish I had been told the things I teach, when I was starting out.

And you released your collection of makeup brushes last year. I believe it’s a 26 piece collection now? What was the main reason for you creating them?
It was something I started out doing purely for myself. A three-years-in-the-making project. I used to buy really expensive brushes, and yet the shape was never quite right. I was approached by a company to make brushes for me personally, then I was using one of them on Jennifer Hawkins one day. And she grabbed her wallet and wanted to purchase it right there and then. That situation kept happening, especially with makeup artist friends – so I decided to produce them mainly for them! And it all took off from there. 

So you started producing them because you were unhappy with what was on the market already?
Yeah… brushes that existed already all had that straight, blunt end to them. So if you’re trying to create a beautiful smoky eye, you get this awful edge, which you then have to get rid of. It was unnecessary! Mine are sort of the shape of a calligraphy pen, up to a point, so the shapes you create depend on the pressure you apply. They also have magnets in them, so they are much harder to lose!

Any future plans for any other products?
A few little things! Tweezers, applicators, just the essentials. They have to be the best though, I send them to about twenty people that I respect before I release them. If those people approve, I’ll release it to the public! Oh, and another two books, one for China and one for India!

So that will be six books by the time that’s done, right?
Yes! I think I’m going to try for ten…

Give us your most embarrassing horror story - ever badly screwed up?
Oh, god yes. I accidentally waxed someone’s eyebrows completely off once. I used nail glue instead of eyelash glue when applying false eyelashes when I was fourteen – the poor girl is probably still wearing them! I mix names up too, I met Heath Ledger once and had this massive conversation with him about Brokeback Mountain and all these movies he had done, then about ten minutes into it, he said, “You know I’m Simon Baker, right?” 

Best makeup advice for the everyday woman?
Know when the put the brush down! Take a photo of your makeup with and without flash – photos don’t lie. If you think you have too much on, you probably do! Oh, and know what suits you. Look at Angelina Jolie, her makeup basically never changes. Makeup doesn’t have to follow trends. Know what works for you. 

Ignore your tool kit for a second: what essentials do you always carry with you for personal use?
Basically nothing. BB cream, mascara, cream blush, lip gloss.

Your makeup pet peeve?
Overplucked or overarched eyebrows! When young girls use heavy powder, or when older women used shimmery makeup. Ooh, or foundation that’s five shades darker than the rest of the body. Or dark bronzer on pale girls! 

If you could give any one tip to someone desperately wanting to succeed in the makeup artistry industry, what would it be?
If no one was watching you, and no one was paying you, would you still want to do makeup? If you would, then eat, drink, breathe make-up. Find five makeup artists from around the world that inspire you, and follow their lead. Only look at the world’s best makeup artists and their work. When you look at that quality of makeup, you will naturally start focusing on the right level. If you have that kind of passion, you should be doing makeup. My favourite saying is, ‘what would you attempt to do, if you knew you could not fail?’