Photos: Courtesy of Charlotte Tilbury.
Growing up on the sands of luminous, beautiful Ibiza sounds like a dream for most of us. But, when you're a fair-skinned, redheaded teenager, there's something almost torturous about being constantly surrounded by bronzed skin and exposed, sun-kissed limbs. "I felt like an outlier," explains renowned makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury. "It was like I was practically invisible."
So, she must have felt some solace when she was sent away to boarding school — a drastic change of scenery from life on the beach. It was there that magic happened: "I noticed that the girls I was hanging out with were wearing black on their eyes, and I was mesmerized," she says. "I thought it made them look so beautiful, so, naturally, I wanted to have it, too!"
That's when teen Tilbury took a trip to her local pharmacy. "The first mascara I ever used was Maybelline's iconic Great Lash," she recalls. After coating her lashes in it, she looked in the mirror and, pleased with her reflection, went to class. "I couldn't believe it, but it was an overnight sensation. People reacted to me in a whole new way, and I was even expressing myself differently. Without it, I felt more Boris Becker than Jessica Rabbit!"
When she returned home to Ibiza, the reactions were even more dramatic: "People noticed me!" she says with a laugh. "And, they were interested, too — they wanted to know my story. That's when I realized that makeup can be a powerful thing."
Charlotte's tiny transformation ended up birthing a profound love for all things beauty, which prompted her foray into makeup artistry. "I remember meeting Mary Greenwell while in Ibiza, which led to me assisting her during the iconic '90s supermodel era of Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, and Cindy Crawford. It was incredible," she recalls. And, funnily enough, her time growing up on the beach came in handy big-time: "One of my earlier shoots with British Vogue had a castaway theme, with Kate Moss as its star. I had to make her look like the ultimate bronze goddess. That was at the forefront of the tanning trend," she says.
From there, Charlotte's career exploded: Kate Moss became her gal pal — along with iconic designer Stella McCartney, and she was being flown all over the world for shoots and runway shows. Her go-to celebrities became A-listers like Penelope Cruz and Gwyneth Paltrow. Wherever she went, she would hand out little jars of her Magic Cream, a custom moisturizer she mixed to create the perfect canvas for foundation.
Photo: Courtesy of Charlotte Tilbury.
But, one thing was missing: "I could never find The One," she says. "I would carry four to five different mascaras with me everywhere, so I could get the perfect look. I remember, one time, I lost my makeup bag, and some guy brought it to me and said, 'Is this just a mascara bag?'"
That's why, after helping to conceptualize collections for Tom Ford, Giorgio Armani, MAC, and myface, launching a Charlotte Tilbury makeup line was a no-brainer — if she could only provide what she calls "the holy grail of mascaras." That, however, turned out to be quite the adventure.
"I think our product developer wanted to chuck herself out the window," Charlotte says with a laugh. "We went through 500 different brush heads before we finally decided that they would need to develop a custom, laser-cut brush just for us. It has a five-star groove, so it deposits product at the base of your lashes for what I call a 'Hollywood flutter.' That way, you won't get a clumpy or spindly finish, but something that's lifted, with loads of volume."
But then, once she had the brush, she decided she didn't like "the goop." So, she went to another manufacturer, in an entirely different country, to get the actual product formula. "I wanted to secure something exclusive that [wasn't] on the market," she explains. "And, I'm really happy with the finished product, Full Fat Lashes 5 Star Mascara. It's a push-up bra...for your eyes!"
As for her tricks of the trade? "Before you begin your application, take a liner brush and remove the excess from the wand. Then, wiggle that directly into the roots of your lashes to ensure each one is perfectly coated." Next, swipe your wand over the top — you should now have enough coverage to save you from adding an extra coat, which guarantees a more weightless, separated finish. "When you're shopping for a mascara, you should always be looking for a one-coat impact," Charlotte insists.
When Charlotte Tilbury Makeup, a collection consisting of over 100 items, launched in the U.K., multiple products sold out in a flash. The same thing happened earlier this month, when it launched here in the U.S. And, watching Charlotte at work backstage — after having given birth to both this baby and a human baby (named Valentine!) — it's easy to see that she's a woman whose dreams have come true.
Or, rather, are coming true. "Just wait until you see what we have coming," she says, with a squeeze of my arm. "I really think you're going to love it."