Do you know the word determination?
If you look closely at its definition, you will also find Dana’s name somewhere in between the lines. We met Dana Delaney at the Botanica Restaurant in Los Angeles and from the very first moment, she transmitted us her strength, her love for a job that makes her happy and the freedom with which she expresses herself and, as said, determination.
In just 5 years she managed to get what she wanted in Los Angeles: working with creative people, with the most interesting faces (among which we can’t fail to mention Solange Knowles, her assiduous client) and with people who trust her. As she told us, if they trust you: that’s when the magic happens.
And, as she says, “makeup should be fun.” So, between fantasy readings, top creativity, faces to play with (like the one of Willow Smith) and the dream of making people understand that beauty is diversity, Dana told us something more about herself.
Enjoy our chat with one of the most talented and creative makeup artists in today’s beauty scene.
…And, just FYI, we can’t wait to see that crazy look on Solange!
How did it all start, when did you realize you wanted to be a makeup artist?
It happened really by accident. I was doing a lot of hard jobs. In High School, I got a job as a makeup counter because I didn’t know what to do, but I thought it was fun. After that, I just got a bunch of jobs and things here and there but got fired from every single job. Then, I met my husband and when I saw him doing what he loved I was just, “Ok, I want to find something I love to do too.”
I got a job at MAC Cosmetics and I was like “this is really fun, I love it!”. So I stayed there for about 5 years and, after that, I said to myself “I am getting older, I don’t want to work for a corporate company anymore, I want to work for myself.” At the time my husband proposed we should move to Los Angeles or New York, “that’s where you need to be,” but I couldn’t imagine myself logging my 50-pound makeup bag around New York: so here we are, in Los Angeles.
New York is constantly up and down the subways, taking elevators…I’m basically a lazy makeup artist, I don’t want to carry my sh*t. [laughs]
In your opinion, what’s the most challenging thing about being a makeup artist?
I think that the most challenging thing is probably dealing with different personalities. It’s difficult because you never know how someone is going to react. And you have to kind of mold how you are to the way a person is: because, honestly, I can be very blunt and direct and that doesn’t always work with some people; they can find that you’re either aggressive or just too intense.
So, you have to kind of learn how to navigate people’s personalities and that can be quite difficult sometimes.
What were the main obstacles when you started?
The main obstacles are getting people to know your job, meeting new people and get the work. So, I think that the biggest thing is – no matter how discouraged you get with certain things or certain situations – you shouldn’t give up. There have been many times when I was down and out, I wasn’t making any money, but, at the end of the day, you have the passion about what you do. You have to be passionate enough to move on, to want to keep going, and I think that the driving force for me is that I’m not a quitter: I’m a very, very determined person.
“…I don’t want to work for a corporate company anymore, I want to work for myself.”
If I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. There’s just no ifs or buts about it, I’m going to do it, and I’m going to make it happen. So, I think that the biggest obstacle is just to not giving up before you make it. Because they say it takes ten years to be an overnight success: I mean, it took me a good five years before I was really working in LA.
There has to be a good support system too: you have to have people behind who cheer for you up and support you, both emotionally and financially. I was lucky enough to have my husband because he wanted me to follow my dreams, and he was doing well so I could take some time to nurture my career and get it started.
“If I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. There’s just no ifs or buts about it, I’m going to do it, and I’m going to make it happen.”
We love your editorials.
Is there a look in particular or an editorial that you were proud of or that you had fun doing?
I would honestly say my stuff with Willow Smith for Girlgaze Magazine. I’m obsessed with her, she really wanted to go for it and let me do my thing. That’s when I thrive: when someone is not questioning me, when someone is into the things I’m into. And every suggestion that I made she was like, “yeah, let’s do it!”
She was very excited. And that’s how makeup should be: it should be fun. People need to know how to let go a little bit: there’s too much perfection in the world, it’s nice to do something without being scared, just go for it.
But I’m pretty obsessed with her editorial still, like I’m impressed with her, with Willow Smith as a young woman. She’s such a cool, cool woman. And I was really lucky to match up with her and to express everything that was going on my brain…and hers! [laughs]
“She was very excited. And that’s how makeup should be: it should be fun.”
We also particularly liked the editorial for Indyamarie. How did you do that?
If I go to a shooting and people give me a moodboard that’s fine, I’m going to look at it, but I’m going to do what someone’s face tells me to do. I’m not very good at saying: “Ok, that’s what you want, I’m going to transfer it to her face.”
I’m going to get my hands on her or his face and I really like to feel what it tells me to do.
So, with Indya it was just that I was working with my longtime friend and photographer Ted Emmons, and he usually lets me do what I want, but he had some ideas and I was like: “You know what, I just have this Rhinestones, let me kind of throw this on her.”
She’s more of an urban model so I wanted to do something more ethereal and pretty and different. So, I can’t really explain how I come over with these things, I just do them.
That’s beautiful to know because most of the time you know that there’s a mood board, there are rules…it’s beautiful because you follow the instinct, the face.
I’m lucky to work with someone like Ted, he would let me do that. When he says “I want to do that,” I say “I don’t know, let me get into her face.” He always asks for my opinion and I would be like: “I don’t know, let me think for a minute and then I’ll figure it out.”
“I’m going to get my hands on her or his face and I really like to feel what it tells me to do.”
What would you say to young makeup artists that are starting in the industry right now?
The biggest advice would be to stop watching Youtube Videos and stop imitating other people. I think it’s really important for people to know that they can come up with their own ideas, and it’s really tough now because you see a lot of Instagram makeup artists. Of course, that’s a whole another market and that’s totally fine, but I think that the problem with that is that you see just one type of makeup and that’s their idea of what beauty is. But I think that is really important for people to not look at inspirations and to follow their brain and to create, just off the top of their head.
But probably my biggest advice is to stop being inspired by other people, inspire yourself.
So, for you, beauty is also freedom to express yourself, then?
Absolutely, and that’s the way it should be. That’s why I’m saying there’s nothing wrong with Instagram beauty artists and that kind of stuff because that’s what they want to do. But I wish that more people could bring diversity into the world, so people could see different ideas on what beauty is to different people. Because it’s not always going to be a major sculpted brow and a baked concealer and contouring, and it shouldn’t be. Real women usually don’t look like that.
It’s important for people to see diversity in beauty, which I don’t think we have a lot going on in the beauty world. So, even huge makeup companies are following this trend. They’re posting these crazy eyebrows because that’s a big Instagram trend, but I wish there was more freedom. And that’s important for young artists to know: express yourself! It’s art.
“…My biggest advice is to stop being inspired by other people, inspire yourself.”
In the last years, there have been a lot of brands that are following this way of thinking, as well.
Do you know why? Because it sells makeup. It’s all about money. They are taking the art out and putting money there. I’m sorry but money is the death of creativity, period. Once you drown the market with that, you suck the life out of it.
Is there a brand that you’re really into?
I have so many! Right now, I’m kind of obsessed with Dior eyeshadows: I’m loving a lot of things they do at the moment. I mean Peter Philips is incredible. He’s one of the only ones who is doing these tutorials for brands and making it different, making it chic – well, it’s Dior, of course, it’s chic! [laughs]
I love their stuff, and Tom Ford is amazing. Glossier as well: it’s not just good marketing, you know. I love their Boy Brow and I’m obsessed with their highlighters, I can’t live without them.
What’s your favorite way to express yourself and your creativity when you’re not doing makeup?
I love music. I don’t really express myself through music, but I’m actually trying to find new music all the time. My husband is actually a musician, so that helps, of course. I do that, and I try to read a lot: reading was my escape when I was younger and it’s still my escape now. I think that you can just get lost in a book, create your own world. And my husband always teases me because I’m such a nerd when it comes to movies and books. Like, I love “The Lord of The Rings”! But it’s so funny because people always have serious conversations with you and ask, “What’s your favorite film?” and I’m like, “I don’t know if you can call it a film, but it’s like a great movie!” And it’s entertaining. I’m kind of obsessed with Fantasy stuff, I’ve always been, and maybe it’s why I like makeup so much: it’s a fantasy to me.
What’s your dream project?
My dream project…I haven’t thought about it. I’m kind in my own world with makeup right now, just enjoying creating and I think I’ve had a very good year and I’m still working on another great one, this year. I’m really lucky to do what I love and to be able to work with so many creative people. I think that right now I’m living my dream. There may be something else in the future, but I’ve never thought of doing a makeup line or anything like that: it’s not on my way yet.
Do you have a particular look you’d like to do, in the future?
It’s funny because I have. I do the makeup for Solange [Knowles] and she’s a longtime client of mine, and she’s always natural, always. She can be because she’s gorgeous, but I think a dream look would probably be to do something different for her, maybe. She’s so beautiful and has perfect skin, but that would be fun for me to play with her because right now it’s all about beautiful skin and clean makeup.
“A dream look would probably be to do something different for Solange.”
What’s beauty for you?
It’s an escape. It’s the freedom to express myself and to let out everything that is in my brain. I was always a child who had a great imagination, I loved to play games and pretend to be something else or think about different worlds with my cousins and my siblings, and I think that’s why I love makeup so much, it’s because I can create an escape world. And I can use my hands, which is something I love to do.
And I was just always really jealous of my sister being an artist, she’s a natural painter and she can draw really well: to me, makeup is much more than that, because it’s more fun for me to look at a face and look at the different nuances, the different heights, it comes alive for me much more than a flat piece of paper ever could. It’s an escape.
Follow Dana: @danadelaney.
Dana’s Photos by Johnny Carrano.
Location: Botanica Restaurant in Los Angeles.
Willow Smith by Daria Kobayashi Ritch for GirlGaze.
Indya Marie by Ted Emmons.
Solange Knowles by Petra Collins for Glamour.