Some makeup artists see the face as a blank canvas where they can test their wildest ideas, other makeup artists simply want to make their subjects look gorgeous. Makeup artist Mary Wiles falls into the second category. Which is why actress Naomi Watts has her on speed dial. Wiles is known for giving her clients glowing skin. And who doesn’t want that? TFI caught up with Wiles the night before the London shows; the next day promised a 16-hour haul that would begin with an early morning session working on Lauren Santo Domingo and end with a Marc Jacobs event.
Please introduce yourself and describe what you do: I’ve been a makeup artist for about 25 years. I started in London in fashion, then moved to Paris where I started doing celebrities. From there I moved to New York and now I go back and forth between NYC and London. In the US I’ve been concentrating on celebrities, but I still like to do fashion because it keeps you fresh and up-to-date with everything. I love keeping it varied.
When I first started I assisted a lot of different makeup artists, I assisted Mary Greenwell, Pat McGrath, Francois Nars, Dick Paige, and some amazing French makeup artists who were creative technical geniuses. I picked up a lot of different tricks and qualities from them. Six years ago I helped launch Burberry beauty as a US ambassador and did a lot of front-row celebrities for them, helped backstage and with training events across the US.
Naomi Watts is one of the celebrities I work with, I’ve worked with her for four years now. It came about in London when Naomi was asked to step in to present at the Glamour Awards. I got booked the day before to do her makeup. Someone that night told her ‘your makeup looks great.’ Naomi booked me again for Elton John’s party two weeks later; then she started to book me a lot. Then I started doing a lot at Cannes and it started to snowball.
What do you like about working with celebrities or personalities? I love keeping it varied and working with all people of all works of life. I find it exciting and inspiring to work with people who’ve worked really hard for their own career. We just went and worked at the Toronto and Venice film festivals for the film “The Bleeder“ that both Naomi and Liev [Schreiber, Watt’s partner] are in. It’s about a boxer who fought Ali in 1975. The boxer, Chuck Wepner and his wife who Naomi played, attended the premiere. I love to find out about people’s lives. I’m really lucky in the people I work with, they ‘re just the nicest and they work incredibly hard. It’s inspiring to be around people like that.
Being a makeup artist is a lot like being a hairdresser, you become a client’s confidante. Do they tell you a lot of secrets? I think that you have to respect people’s privacy. You’re around people and they’re discussing certain things and that’s private. Because you touch someone’s face and you’re in front of them, you have a connection with people. You go on people’s energies and try to fit into that and make everything smooth. Part of my job is making people feel comfortable before they go out and do something that is demanding of them. Working with comedians and people that have to perform and be funny, they want to be in a nice calm environment beforehand.
Three words that describe your work: I get booked for doing glowing skin and making people look beautiful rather than masked or over-the-top. Polished and enhanced.
One of your attributes that helps you succeed: I think I try and find the best way to fit into a situation. I want my clients to be happy. I respect them and their thoughts on how they look. They’ve lived with their face their whole life and they know what looks good on them.
Your advice to someone starting out in your field: You’ve really got to want to do it. It’s an amazing career and you get a lot of opportunities to travel to places you’d never go. But at the same time there is a sacrifice. Traveling is hard on relationships and you can’t ever plan anything. It’s not an easy job. Occasionally I go back to teach at the college where I trained in London. I can tell who’s going to get on and who’s not, because it’s down to their attitude. I mean there’s talent, but mainly it’s people’s attitude to the job.
How do you deal with all the travel? I’ve been going a lot from LA to London and working the next day and that’s tough. But I’m not too bad with jet lag. I always have Sisley Black Rose Cream masks, I have also just started using RMS beauty oil which I love. I drink lots of water. Usually I can sleep on the plane. The first thing I do when I get off the flight is exercise. I think it’s really important because it’s relaxing, keeps you strong so you can carry all your (makeup) bags and keeps you balanced. I run and try to do spinning and barre classes. When I was in LA for January and February I started going to Pop Physique consistently. It made me really strong very quickly and I love it. I try to do it in when I’m in New York and L.A.—the studio in Venice on Abbot Kinney is really good.
Do you have a bag packed at all times? Are you really organized that way? I try to be. I have a lot of makeup. If I know who I’m working with I try to pack accordingly. But for instance tomorrow I am doing celebrities for Marc Jacobs and will be working with Marc Jacobs beauty which I love. What happens is you keep putting new makeup in your kit, but because you love all your old products it’s always a growing kit!
As far as clothing, when I’m with celebrities I always try to look smart. I like wearing dresses and jumpsuits because they’re really easy and you don’t have to think about putting anything together.
Always in your personal makeup bag: New York makeup artist Kelley Quan designed a pocket spa atomizer and you can fill it up with any kind of distilled water. It hydrates the skin better than a spray. That is always in my kit. And a Shu Uemura eye lash curler.
Biggest beauty mistake women make? Choosing the wrong color foundation, and wearing too much of it. Choosing a color for yourself shouldn’t be done under artificial light. When choosing a foundation, you should try to take a sample home and test it in the daylight. Match it your collarbone not your face.
Beauty trend you wish would go away? I think contouring has gotten a little out of hand. Most people don’t need much contouring and if you do it, you want to do it so that it’s very subtle. The whole idea of makeup is to enhance what you have and not mask. Play down things you want to play down and play up things you want to play up. Say you have small lips and amazing eyes, play up your eyes and put lipgloss on your lips to make them look bigger. A dark lip will make them look smaller.
The whole thing about makeup is dark and light. Light makes things look bigger; dark makes things look smaller. Ultimately I don’t want to see the makeup on people, I want to see someone’s face looking polished, enhanced and glowing.
Life goals: Just to be present. To continue to be happy in what I do. And to have a good balance.
Daily goals: The same, to be present. I’m always trying to get done more than I can and that will always be the way, but to be present and enjoy what I do and the people around me.
Favorite inspirational/motivational read: I would say it’s not a book but people who inspire me. The people I work with, people who have an amazing work ethic, and still manage to balance their lives.
Daily rituals: I drink quite a bit of tea although I try to not to have too much caffeine. I love rose tea. In the East Village there is a really good Indian shop with teas, tumeric teas and such.
How do you unplug: By doing sport. I grew up on a farm and was lucky enough to have a horse and I rode and competed in dressage. When I go spinning it’s almost like meditation because you can’t think of anything else. That’s my relaxation.
Hidden talent/hobby: I make jewelry. It started as a hobby, now I sell it in a shop in London and a lot of models and editors buy it. www.marywilesjewelelry.com.
Do you collect anything? Shoes. I particularly love sandals and have some Sigerson Morrison ones I recently bought.
Morning/Night: I’m more of a night person, but I have to get up early.
Cats/Dogs: Oh, I love both!
Click here to read Mary’s tips and products for glowing skin.