Charlotte Tilbury is glowing.
No, really—there’s something charmed about her presence, the way her luminous skin catches the light. It might be the shiny Wonderglow primer from her eponymous makeup label, or maybe she’s born with it. Tilbury is one of the most sought-after makeup artists in the world (she was named Makeup Artist of the Year at the 2015 InStyle Awards), having brushed up the most famous of faces, from Kate Moss to Penelope Cruz. She’s worked with photographers including Mario Testino, designers such as Stella McCartney and Tom Ford, and magazines including Vogue and Vanity Fair.
Tilbury is naturally glamorous, and it is literally her job to make others feel that way, but today she is sitting casually at the end of a long table at Holt Renfrew in Vancouver, highlighting some of her favourite products. She calls everyone “darling”, but somehow her chipper British accent makes you feel as though she really means it, and she smells like a dream, with long, flowing red hair cascading around her. Tilbury feels immediately trustworthy, which helps explain how she is able to spend her days staring deep into people’s eyes, getting up close and intimate in ways generally reserved for a romantic partner.
“I just try to be very respectful of their space and delicate when putting on their makeup,” she says of her clients, the words tumbling out fast and quick—not like she’s in a hurry, but just as if she has so much to say, she can’t get it out soon enough. “Somebody said to me the other day, ‘What, are you running a cult?’ And I said, ‘Well, if it’s a cult of positivity and happiness, then you can call it whatever you want!’ Ultimately it’s about: you look good, you feel better. It’s all about empowerment and making people feel fantastic and confident and beautiful. It’s all about making people feel like the most beautiful versions of themselves.” Makeup is certainly a kind of mask, but that doesn’t mean it’s a façade.
While some say that cosmetics present a sort of placebo effect, Tilbury argues that it’s actually “a reality. Some people even have more energy after you’ve done their makeup. They sparkle more, they sit up straighter, they walk into a room and have more confidence, they have more power. Because they know they look good. And if they look good, they’re going to feel better. And then the world reacts to them in a very different way.” To help people achieve this on their own, she created a collection of 10 makeup “looks”—10 packages of curated lipstick, eyeshadow, eyeliner, and everything else needed to create “The Rock Chick” or “The Glamour Muse”. Every product has a playful name—“Love is the Drug” is blush, “Candy Darling” is a lip gloss—and they are all high-quality and luxurious. There’s a line of skincare, too, including moisturizers and cleansers.
It is all about putting a woman’s best foot forward, not to make them feel as though they have to cover up, but rather to give them the tools to feel their most confident self. It’s a cosmetic comfort. “When they put on makeup and walk out the door, they feel totally empowered,” Tilbury declares. “Because it’s not somebody else—it’s just the best version of them.” Minutes later she’s off, to catch a plane for the next appearance or red carpet, like a fairy godmother whose work is done. Cinderella can take it from here.
Read more Beauty stories.