Tips from Celebrity Makeup Stylist Fiona Stiles
From keeping Jennifer Garner glowing in skin care campaigns to recreating David Bowie's iconic makeup moments for a French mineral water commercial, Fiona Stiles is a makeup artist with major range. A self-described "makeup obsesser, beauty hunter and product hoarder," she has 25 years of on-set experience, meaning that she has it pretty much all dialed in, but is always searching for the next groundbreaking formula and newly intriguing shades.
Her connection to products is visceral and intimate. Head to her Instagram to see a story highlight detailing her extensive collection of black eye pencils, extolling their specific virtues in a way that makes total sense to fellow makeup lovers.
Read on to hear more smart advice and to learn how she helps her celebrity clients stay glam from red carpet to after-party.
You are making the awards season rounds! Do you send your clients away with any secret weapons to keep them looking good all night?
Those purses are really small, so I can only get away with giving them so much. I usually give them a few individually wrapped cotton buds. I'll give them a little lip brush and a little pot of custom-blended lipstick. I like the blotting powder from MAC because it comes in a range of shades and it doesn't affect the quality of the makeup. If they've got a spot, I'll give them a separate lip brush loaded with concealer.
You recently posted about watching Funny Face with your daughter Ladybird. Are there any other films that you go back to for inspiration?
My main source of inspiration is books. I can read them at any time of day, I love the smell of paper, I love the tactile surprise. However, I will say I love the film How to Steal a Million, with Audrey Hepburn wearing the most amazing glitter eye makeup in the whole world.
Every time I bring up glitter, people say, "You're way too old to be thinking about glitter!"
No way. You're never too old for glitter!
Is there a pro product or technique that you feel should be more common in the mainstream?
If I had to pass along one piece of advice for the general population, it'd be to use a brush to apply your foundation. You can really get a beautiful, seamless finish—I have larger pores and textured skin and I can get such better coverage using a fluffy, synthetic brush than I can using my fingers.
What style of brush would you recommend for foundation?
I like sort of a small blush brush, but it's better if it's synthetic versus animal-hair brush. Foundation doesn't absorb into the hairs as much, so it's easier to clean. You can buff and add more where you need it, and it really does give you the most flawless finish.
Foundation is always one of our most popular items.
Everyone is always, always looking for their perfect foundation. It's the most elusive product for people, and it's the biggest mistake I see on people out on the street: poorly applied, the wrong color, the wrong finish …
Any favorite formulas?
Charlotte Tilbury Magic Foundation is beautiful. Tom Ford Traceless Perfecting Foundation, Armani Luminous Silk Foundation is a perennial favorite. Estée Lauder has really good foundations, really good fair, neutral colors. I've always gone to her for foundations that have a solidly neutral tone. It's as hard as it is to find really good pale foundations as it is to find good dark ones. In both cases, you're talking about undertones.
When you have someone who's very fair and you put on the wrong undertone, it's like putting the wrong cream color on a white piece of paper: all of the undertones show up, and if they're wrong, it shows instantly. I think that pale people have been catered to a lot longer, but it is a very similar need. The undertones are right at the surface when you're fair.
How much does the dress inform what you do for red carpet moments?
More than the dress, it's the person in the chair. I'm not going to glue things to Jennifer Garner's face, but I will take that chance with Katherine Langford, who is more experimental, and the same thing with Lily Collins. But Lily is always very refined, as opposed to someone like Sasha Lane, who maybe wants to try something a little grittier. You're definitely weighing the person's personality while they're in your chair, and you want to be within the boundaries of their comfort zone and what they're willing to do.
For the Critics' Choice Awards 2016, Lily sent me this picture of a white, long-sleeved, high-neck dress and all I saw was "Little Goth on the Prairie," and she was like, "Great, let's go for that!" There are people who will send me the dress a week ahead of time, and there are people who will show it to me when I get there, if I'm lucky! Sometimes the dress isn't even there.
You mentioned you're pretty clean with your kit. What's your star sign?
Aries, but everybody I've talked to is like, "There's some solid Virgo in there somewhere!" It's born from the fact that we have to make decisions very quickly. We have two hours, but that's setup, that's someone having a cigarette, talking to their kid or manager. If I'm spending time scrambling through my kit looking for a specific lip color, I'm taking time away from my client and time away from myself and my job. Time is precious!
How do you stay calm and comfortable on set?
I have two cups of black tea in the morning and then hot water the rest of the day, no caffeine. I'm touching people's eyes, so shaky hands are not cool. When I used to work fashion, I'd wear cool heels and a dress, but the truth of the matter is, I'm going into people's houses carrying a 60-pound bag of makeup and a 25-pound bag of brushes and lashes and stuff, and I can't be teetering around in heels. My favorite thing to wear is Vans and a jumpsuit because I'm on the ground putting body makeup on someone's feet, making sure their heels aren't ashy. It's a physical job that requires a lot of mobility. My job is ultimately to facilitate someone's dream, and if I'm held back by what I'm wearing, I'm distracted and uncomfortable. After 25 years of doing this, I've become very pragmatic!
How do you keep your body ready to deal with all that?
I get up very early and go to the gym at 5am, three days a week. I'm deep into running my business by 9am every day, so if I do it that early, I almost never have to cancel.
I recently started doing that too—you almost don't even realize you're awake until you're halfway through the workout. It's amazing.
It's so much better! You're done, your day is finished, you've accomplished a lot, you feel good. I've had trainers who will work me until I can't bend my legs, and that's not what I'm interested in. I do a lot of Pilates, I do bodyweight strength training so I'm strong and I can lift all my stuff, but I'm also not debilitated the next day.
We love a high/low mix at Nordstrom. Are there any products that you'll always spend the money on?
I like a fancy foundation, but I love a drugstore mascara. I'm not mad at a drugstore lipstick, either. I prefer to go high end for skin care, but I will try anything because I love products. In the last 10 years, the baseline of quality has really improved, so even inexpensive lines can perform phenomenally.
Last question: who is the biggest makeup junkie that you work with?
Kate Beckinsale is always excited to share a great product, and she knows her stuff.
For more fierce looks, celebrity cameos and in-depth product reviews, follow @fionastiles on Instagram.