In our ongoing column Deep Focus, TrunkSpace is going behind the camera to talk with the directors, writers and producers who infuse our world with that perennial pop culture goodness that we can’t get enough of.
This time out we’re chatting with makeup artist Allison Giroday about her career origin story, the role makeup plays in personal branding, and why she never spends as much time with her own face as she does with those of her clients.
TrunkSpace: What first drew you to pursue a career as a makeup artist and did you always anticipate having an entertainment industry spin to your approach?
Giroday: It’s funny, I always dreamed of becoming a makeup artist. When I was a young kid, I was always doing makeup on anyone willing and I’d imagine my older self as a makeup artist. I remember sitting in my room listening to Kylie Minogue and picturing myself traveling and being backstage with artists. It’s kind of crazy to look back on that but I remember it so clearly. Reasons like that are what make me a firm believer in manifestation. I’d also look for signals at the time from the universe. For example, one time when I was about 10 years old, a flyer came in the mail and it was from Blanche Macdonald Makeup School in Vancouver, BC, and I thought “Oh my God, how do they know?! It’s a sign!” I didn’t realize at the time they were mailing them to every single house on the entire block in every neighborhood. (Laughter) But I like to think that it isn’t just a sheer coincidence that my career in many ways, mirrors those early childhood dreams. I never let go of that vision.
TrunkSpace: Was there a particular project or style of makeup that inspired you and put you on this path?
Giroday: I grew up in the ‘90s, which I’m so grateful for because it’s legendary in many ways, especially in terms of style. It was the supermodel era, and I was mesmerized by those beauties. They were on every magazine cover and featured on the show “Fashion File,” which I would watch religiously. The show featured the top designers and stars of the beauty world including one of the world’s most influential makeup artists to this day, the late Kevyn Aucoin. That’s what inspired me initially. Glamour was a focal point and makeup was on the heavier side; matte foundation, quite a bit of contouring, lots of lip liner and eyeshadow, but it was often done with earthy tones. I think that’s where the term “natural glam” comes from, a common term in the makeup world today. It’s a concept I still love and it’s popular with a lot of my clients. However, I now like to create a modern version with a dewier, fresher skin texture and with a lighter hand in general.
TrunkSpace: Actors and writers can often point to a “big break” that altered the trajectory of their careers. Have you had a defining moment like that in your career thus far and how did it change things for you moving forward?
Giroday: I wouldn’t say that there was one single thing that changed my career. It really was a steady progression. Success is like an iceberg. The tip of it is visible but you don’t see the mass of what’s under the surface. All the work that’s been put in over the years, many people don’t get to see. In the beginning, you have to “pay your dues.” By that I mean, you may have to work for free just to make yourself seen and to get your name out there. You have to first build a great reputation for yourself, and then over time, connect with the right people.
Aside from talent, it’s just as important to be personable, genuine and professional. There isn’t much room for ego. Of course, there have been some moments in my career that I’m very proud of and it’s because I’ve put a lot of time, as well as passion and heart into what I do. Every big job I’ve done has felt like a stepping stone and has helped put me on the map. But I know how important it is to not ever get too comfortable so that I always continue to grow. I’m always fueled by those exciting moments and they have me thinking about what my next move might be.
TrunkSpace: For those casual pop culture fans who may not notice how makeup impacts the various visual stimuli they’re absorbing, what would you say to them? How do the tools of your trade directly affect how people see things in the finished product?
Giroday: Most people in the public eye have a signature look or a particular image they like to project. The importance of stylistic image and branding has a major impact on their careers. I’d love to point out some great examples such as Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Lopez, David Bowie, and Kim Kardashian. The commonality between these people is they’ve all used makeup to create a very particular look, and although each artist’s style is so different, the average fan could easily describe it. It’s a major player in what makes them iconic and whichever the case, their success has so much to do with how they’re visually perceived by their fans and it goes far beyond talent alone.
TrunkSpace: What type of work most excites you and why? Is it editorial? Commercial? What jobs do you look forward to the most?
Giroday: There’s such a wide variety in the work I do and in the types of jobs I’m on because makeup is required for many reasons. I love meeting new people and going to different locations all the time because it keeps things interesting but I also love my repeat clients. One of my favorite things to do is house calls. I have some regular clients that often need glam before an event. I love making a woman look and feel the best she’s ever looked. You get to know their face very well and that way, you get to experiment with many different looks. I just love when someone puts their full trust in me and they themselves are makeup enthusiasts. It’s so fun. We’ll usually get ready at their house or their hotel. It’s a relaxed environment and it almost feels like you’re helping a girlfriend get ready for a night out. Building great relationships is definitely one of my favorite parts of the job. I’ve gotten to know some fantastic people.
TrunkSpace: As you look back over your career thus far, what are you most proud to have been a part of and why?
Giroday: I’m especially proud to be working with such highly creative people who inspire me every day. I really look up to a lot of the people I get to work with and knowing that I am a chosen piece of the puzzle is so rewarding. Especially when it comes to working with performing artists. I think we all admire and value each other’s work equally and the synergy in those situations feels electric. Being the makeup artist for someone who is putting their face in front of thousands, even millions, is an honor and makes me not only proud of my work but proud of that person as well. Watching them perform, I feel almost as a parent would watching their child. (Laughs) It’s just so exciting. I really care about my work but I also really care about people and how they feel. I want people to look and feel their best. I’m proud but also humbled that my work is being recognized by big players but I’ll never stop striving to out-do myself each time. Taking risks and going outside of your comfort zone is a must in this business. You can never let yourself get too comfortable in one place. A few years back I made a move across the country to Toronto to expand my network and it was so beneficial, not only to my career but for my own personal evolution as an artist. It was scary at first because I didn’t know anybody but it led me to great new contacts and fueled my confidence. There were challenges I had to overcome which resulted in major benefits.
TrunkSpace: As you look ahead, where do you hope your career takes you? If you could write your own future, what would it look like?
Giroday: I’d really love to travel to places I haven’t been before. I’d also love to be an ambassador for great makeup brands, and teach more master classes. Knowledge should be shared, and I’m not afraid to give away some of my best tips and tricks because no two people will ever do makeup exactly the same way. everyone’s skill and technique is unique to them and no two hands are the same. I’ve always enjoyed teaching and I like to pay it forward. As for future clients, there are so many faces that I would absolutely love to get my hands on! The inspiration is endless.
TrunkSpace: As a makeup artist, does that put you in a position where you feel like you always have to be on your game with your own makeup? In a way, does your makeup act as a business card or billboard for your work?
Giroday: You would think so, although that’s hardly ever the case. I tend to work such crazy hours that I don’t usually do all that much with my own makeup before work unless I know I’ll have to be on camera or if I have an event. In those cases, I do consider myself as a walking business card. But my clients are my top priority and I think my work speaks for itself.
TrunkSpace: Is it easier or more difficult to work on yourself than it is to be face to face with someone else and working on them directly?
Giroday: I’m so familiar with my own face I could do it with my eyes closed. I tend to put more focus and passion into other people’s faces because I’m inspired by all of the different types of beauty out there. I wouldn’t say that one is more difficult than the other, it’s just a very different experience and a different process. For example, on someone else, you can stand back and look at them from all different angles and on my own face I don’t need to be as gentle. It’s very different.
TrunkSpace: Has technology changed the landscape at all for makeup artists? With everything becoming even more and more high resolution, does that force a different approach to how makeup is applied and blended on camera?
Giroday: I would say yes, although I have always done makeup in a way that is 100 percent flawless under a microscope, no matter what the lighting is like, whether it’s a closeup or a full body shot, in person, for photos, and on any type of camera. That’s always been my approach. Everything must be perfect at all times!
Here are a few samples of Giroday’s work.