Paula’s happy mak­ing it up as she goes along

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - R14EVIEW -

Ire­land’s top make-up artist, Paula Cal­lan, talks to Li­adan Hynes about find­ing love af­ter di­vorce, sur­viv­ing an­te­na­tal de­pres­sion and keep­ing calm in the world of fash­ion ‘He was star­ing at me, and I thought “weirdo”... we just got on re­ally well’

NOWA­DAYS, any­one with an In­sta­gram ac­count and a YouTube chan­nel can call them­selves a MUA ( a make- up artist, it’s pro­nounced Moo-aaah). It’s a ti­tle that wannabes throw about with aban­don.

But truth be told, there are only a hand­ful of peo­ple de­serv­ing of such an ac­co­lade, and Paula Cal­lan — Ire­land’s top celebrity make-up artist is — is un­ques­tion­ably one.

Founder of not just one but two of Dublin’s top sa­lons (Brown Sugar, with her ex-hus­band Mark O’ke­effe, and her new Balls­bridge sa­lon Cal­lan & Co), Paula has worked in the fash­ion in­dus­try for 30 years — and in that time has painted the faces of ev­ery celebrity you could care to men­tion, from Si­enna Miller to He­lena Chris­tensen, Rosie Hunt­ing­ton-white­ley, Ni­cole Scherzinger, Ch­eryl Cole, Elle Macpher­son, Erin O’con­nor, and Joanna Lum­ley. She has worked at all the in­ter­na­tional fash­ion weeks, and is cur­rently both lead make-up artist for the pre­sen­ters and judges on RTE’S Danc­ing with the Stars and make-up artist to Denise van Outen on Ire­land’s Got Ta­lent.

Now, with stylist Sarah Rickard Lantry, Paula, who did Amy Hu­ber­man’s wed­ding make-up, is us­ing her wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence to stage her first wed­ding event. Next week­end, the pair host Ev­ery­thing BUT the dress.

They’re ev­ery­where now, but when Paula, who is self-taught, be­gan work­ing in the in­dus­try, be­ing a make-up artist wasn’t an ob­vi­ous ca­reer op­tion. She was 16, hang­ing out in town with her best friend, when she was spot­ted by a make-up artist.

“She came up to me and said ‘Have you ever thought about mod­el­ling? I was like ‘Me?’ I was the shyest child in the whole world,” the mother of four says now, con­fess­ing that she is still an in­tro­vert who dreads a crowd, much pre­fer­ring one-to one. Her first mod­el­ling job was tak­ing part in a com­pe­ti­tion; it was here she first met long-time close friend Amanda Byram. “It was ter­ri­fy­ing,” Paula, who grew up in Air­side in North Dublin, with two sis­ters and three brothers, re­calls now. “I knew quite quickly mod­el­ling wasn’t for me. I’m re­ally sen­si­tive. And it was like be­ing in com­pe­ti­tion with your best friends.”

What she did en­joy though, was do­ing make-up on her fel­low mod­els. From an early age she had loved art. “I al­ways knew about light and shade, colour the­ory. It just felt nat­u­ral.” Paula, who now leads cour­ses in make-up artistry, had planned to be­come an art teacher. “But I loved get­ting into this world of fash­ion. I just didn’t love me be­ing the model.”

Af­ter a year, she had had enough. “By the end I was kind of get­ting low self-es­teem from the whole thing. I went into Re­becca Morgan my agent, and said ‘I don’t re­ally want to do this any more’.”

Re­becca sug­gested she be­come a make-up artist. De­spite scep­ti­cism from some quar­ters at a model mak­ing the ca­reer leap, she soon built a free­lance ca­reer, com­bin­ing ad­ver­tis­ing and ed­i­to­rial work. Five years in, her sis­ter Olive, 13 months older, rang one day, all ex­cite­ment. “She said ‘I saw an ad in the pa­per, MAC are com­ing to Dublin. I’ve sent your CV in. I knew you wouldn’t do it’.”

She was prob­a­bly right, Paula ac­knowl­edges; she would have been too ner­vous. In fact, the call from MAC came be­fore she had even reached home af­ter her in­ter­view. “I burst into tears,” Paula re­calls now.

Within a year, she had been pro­moted to MAC’S se­nior artist for Ire­land and the UK, and for the next six years trav­elled con­stantly.

Her first fash­ion show was in Lon­don, work­ing un­der the leg­endary make-up artist Val Gar­land at Alexan­der Mc­queen’s show.

Mc­queen, who com­mit­ted sui­cide in 2010, was there she re­called. “He was so lovely, just back­stage, wan­der­ing around.” Back­stage at a show is in­tense, she ad­mits. “I am calm when I’m do­ing make-up. I know what I’m ca­pa­ble of. If you don’t get it right; I’ve seen peo­ple be­ing ripped apart.”

The Mc­queen show ranks as one of her most mem­o­rable, the other was an Os­car de la Renta show in New York, no­table for very dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

“It was the morn­ing of the Twin Tow­ers,” she says. “I was only mar­ried about a month; I was 27. We were in Bryant Park. Me and one of the oth­ers went on a cof­fee run, com­ing up to a quar­ter to nine. We were leav­ing the tents, all giddy, as you are be­fore a show. We walked up to­wards Fifth Av­enue and there were peo­ple ev­ery­where, stand­ing in the mid­dle of the street. It had just hap­pened. Taxis had stopped in the mid­dle of the road with their doors open. I went up to a guy stand­ing in the mid­dle of the road and said ‘What’s go­ing on here?’ He didn’t say any­thing, he just pointed. I looked up and I could see the thick black smoke com­ing out of the World Trade Cen­tre.” The sound of sirens was ev­ery­where, Paula re­calls now. At this point ev­ery­one still thought it was a fire.

“We still went and got the cof­fees. As we were cross­ing the road we saw the sec­ond plane. You couldn’t see what it was; we just saw the ex­plo­sion. There was no sound un­til af­ter­wards. It kind of came thun­der­ing down Fifth Av­enue. I felt this big hand grab me from be­hind; one of the se­cu­rity guards from the tent. He was shout­ing ‘Get the f **k back to the tents, we’re be­ing at­tacked. There’s a f *****g war’.

On our way back to our ho­tel, some­one screamed bomb, and there was a stam­pede. It was hor­rific. I kept think­ing this isn’t hap­pen­ing; it was like a movie.”

Back at the ho­tel, mo­biles were down. The ho­tel re­cep­tion­ists fran­ti­cally worked the desk phones, try­ing to find out what was go­ing on. Sud­denly, a call got through, and the en­tire place froze in si­lence. “It was re­ally fright­en­ing by that stage,” Paula says. “The guy picks up the phone, and then says ‘Is there a Paula Cal­lan here?” It was her mother, call­ing from Ire­land. “I bawled cry­ing. My mom was amaz­ing,” Paula re­calls. “She got on the phone and said ‘Don’t worry, I’m go­ing to get you home’. And I just be­lieved her, be­cause she was so calm. She said to me af­ter­wards ‘I don’t know how I did it, be­cause we hon­estly thought we were go­ing to lose you’.”

She was in New York for the next week, fi­nally get­ting on the sec­ond flight to Dublin and home to a huge “wel­com­ing com­mit­tee” at the air­port, she re­mem­bers with a smile. Among them was her now ex-hus­band, hair­dresser Mark O’ke­effe. The two had orig­i­nally been set up by mu­tual friend and hair­dresser Michael Doyle. Soon af­ter mar­ry­ing, they opened Brown Sugar, Dublin’s first hair and make-up sa­lon, now with nu­mer­ous branches, which Mark cur­rently runs.

At first, the idea of set­ting up their own place was “a pipe dream. Ev­ery­where we went peo­ple would say ‘oh look, it’s hair and make-up. Like salt and pep­per. And then I said ’you know what, we should do that”. Now it’s a given that ev­ery hair sa­lon has make-up.

“Mark is an amaz­ing busi­ness­man,” Paula says of her ex-hus­band. The cou­ple, now di­vorced, co-par­ent their three chil­dren.

There will never be a per­fect time to have a child, Paula, who went back to work within weeks of hav­ing her first child, daugh­ter Char­lotte, now 12, re­flects.

She’s quick to point out that she had huge sup­port from her mother,

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