Ever since Target—and by extension, Pixi Beauty—launched in Canada last year, I've been the makeup brand's biggest new fan. You already know how much I love the H2O SkinTint, and whenever I wear the Shea Butter Lip Balm in Coral Crush, I get compliments galore. Everything they make just works.
When their global makeup artist, Amanda Bell, was visiting from London a few weeks ago, we obviously HAD to meet. And so we did—in fact, there was so much beauty ground to cover, we ended up scheduling a phone chat after that, too!
Today, in part one of the interview, you'll learn about Amanda's beauty philosophy, her career as a makeup artist, her favourite products, and some priceless (and hilarious) words of wisdom on beauty self-esteem. Stay tuned for part two, where Amanda will share her all-time best makeup tricks.
Grab a drink, sit back and image the answers are being delivered to you in Amanda's lovely English accent. Enjoy!
Have you always been obsessed with makeup?
My obsession with makeup started very early on in life. I remember being three years old, and it was the 1970s, so not the best decade for makeup looks. But to a three-year-old, glitter was just the bomb. My family, friends and neighbours would give me their old makeup. I used to have a vanity—it sounds glamorous, but it was plastic and very child-like—and I would store the makeup and do what I liked with it. I used to love the textures, the way you could blend cream eyeshadows out. I suppose it was the intensity and the finishes you could achieve. So much more interesting than Crayola crayons!
From there, it was not a very far leap into magazines. My mum was really into Cinnabar, Youth Dew—all the Oriental fragrances—and I became very aware of the ad campaigns that went with fragrances. There was a model, Willow Bay, who was the face of Estée Lauder, and I remember being absolutely enthralled by her face. Along with really unusual women like Grace Jones, Marie Helvin, Jerry Hall.
It was not necessarily liking one type of beauty, but being absolutely enthralled by all these very diverse types of beauty. I started reading Vogue, Elle, French Vogue, French Elle. To anyone visiting, I would ask, "Do you buy magazines? Can I have a look?"
When I was about 13, and my friends were saving money to buy whatever, I'd be buying makeup. It was just my lifeblood.
Did you study makeup artistry?
I originally studied art. It was very strange. Back in the day, there was no Internet and no Google. I knew there were star makeup artists like Way Bandy, but to me, as a teenager, everyone seemed to be in New York and not British. One makeup artist in the UK that people knew about was Barbara Daly, because she did Princess Di’s makeup. She had her own line of makeup in The Body Shop, but somehow it didn’t translate to the glamour and amazingness I saw happening elsewhere.
So I studied 3D art (which has to do with anything three-dimensional) and originally thought I might go into set design. At art college, I made friends with fashion and photography students; we used to get together and I would always do the makeup. It was terrible. I was always full of so many ideas, taking inspiration from magazines, films, celebrities. It could be Blade Runner, science fiction, Ava Gardner, Veronica Lake, Jodie Foster. There are so many kinds of beauty and so many things to inspire you. Classical paintings as well. The skin tones and pops of colour by the Old Masters.
That went on until I realized that actually, as much as I loved the idea of becoming a set designer, it didn’t excite me the way makeup did.
What was your first job in makeup?
When I graduated, I started freelancing in London. That’s when you start to learn your trade, so to speak. And I was a weekend person at the Prescriptives counter. It was just the most amazing thing, being able to look at a skin tone and blending up a product for that skin tone. Although it was hard work, it was a great practical experience for two years to work on so many different skin tones, age groups and types of women. It really made me understand colour.
I was an absolute makeup geek and used to memorize the names of different products, too. People would ask me, "Do you remember Guerlain Terracotta core from 1989?" and I'd be like, "Yes, I do."
I suppose I now realize that I was destined to work with makeup. I've been working as a makeup artist for 21 years now, and I’m literally as obsessed as the day I started. It’s just incredible. It is like a madness. I'm still blown away by the way you can transform a face. Now that I look back at it, I am working with the ultimate 3D element, which is a face. So it completely makes sense. I was halfway there; I was just barking up the wrong tree.
How did you come to work with Pixi?
Petra has always been supportive. All those years ago, she saw something in me. She always used to say to me, "When I have a makeup line, I’d like you to work with me." When I used to see Petra’s work as a makeup artist, she was one of the people where I loved everything she did. She had this ability to work with skin so the makeup looked like a second skin. It had an almost barely-there finish; very Swedish, very fresh. It completely went against the looks that were current at that time. I remember thinking, "Wow, I really love her style of makeup artistry." It was a great fit for my personal style as well.
Besides working with Pixi, I am also a freelance makeup artist in London, so I work on videos, fashion films, editorial, some celebrities and some red carpet. It's a bit of everything.
What do you love about the Pixi brand?
One of the things which I can say has not changed from very first selection of products developed at Pixi is that there’s an approach to beauty which is very fresh. You can get excellent coverage, but the whole idea is that you look like the best version of yourself. If you are someone who likes a base that looks imperceptible, but your skin looks flawless, then that is very much the ethos of Pixi.
For a brand that's at a not-too-expensive price point and has quite a large distribution, the ingredients are great. Everything is hypoallergenic and vegan or vegetarian. Petra also works on adding lots of botanical extracts and vitamins so that everything has a skincare benefit as well.
The colours are beautifully blended. And if you want to layer products, everything blends beautifully together. There are so many different colour combinations, and ways you can alter it and customize it to create a bespoke look.
How would you describe your approach to makeup?
It's really looking at the individual—I’m absolutely fascinated by each different face. The day when I’m not fascinated is the day I’ll be handing my brushes back in. I honestly don’t ever see that happening. I see me like an old granny, saying to people, "Darling, have you thought about using magenta?" Like some bizarre old granny, with long hair and vampish lips and maybe a liquid liner on my old, crepey lids.
If I'm working on a model, I’ll obviously look at their comp card, their whole portfolio; I’ll really drink in their features. If it’s an actor or actress, then I’ll look at them in lots of different situations. Also if there are moving images of them as well. I love to see the face animated, because people’s expressions can change way they look. People in repose can look stern, but the minute they are talking, their face comes to life and a different kind of beauty comes out. So I like doing my research.
What is your favourite look to create?
My favourite makeup look is very fresh, very much based around the skin tone. I look at the skin and create a look that really compliments the tone. If it’s a story with a pop of colour, then I can definitely interject that. But I am literally the most fastidious person about skin. As a makeup artist, I believe what really makes work stand out is the approach to skin, and creating a flawless—either delicately matte or glowing—base. It has become my signature.
I love a nude lip and I love a nude cheek, but I'm just as in love with hot pink and coral. I love colour clashes to look a little bit different. Say, teal liner on the eyes with a gorgeous coral on the lips and cheeks. That looks phenomenal. Try choosing that one colour that you've maybe never tried. I love that idea of something that takes you ever so slightly out of your comfort zone. Because my goodness, it can really look gorgeous.
Which products do you always use and recommend?
Pixi H2O SkinTint: This is a new product that I'm obsessed with. It's just such a beautiful base and it works on all ages, and on men and women. It just looks so seamless. [Editor's note: Agreed; see my review here!]
The SkinTints are a bit more adaptive than foundation because the pigments are sheerer; they let your natural skin tone show through underneath. So if you're a number two [Nude], you can sometimes blend it on a friend who is half a shade lighter or darker, and it’s still going to work. Our tones are definitely adaptive and buildable. If you want to go in with a second layer for a slightly more perfected effect, you can do that.