Interview: Rebecca Bryson, MUA

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Rebecca Bryson is a talented and experienced make-up artist.

Trained at the prestigious Samala Robinson Academy in Auckland, New Zealand, the breadth of her work stretches from bridal makeup, to editorial, to film and television. The MUA now lives in Belfast with her fiancé , Colum and her dog, Holly and in 2016, Rebecca was hand-picked by world-renowned makeup artist, Pat McGrath, to join her team at Paris Fashion Week AW17. 

From her studio in East Belfast, Rebecca speaks exclusively to The Style Edit’s Freddie Perrins about Paris Fashion Week, her top beauty picks and managing two businesses whilst also planning a wedding. 

Rebecca, when did you first realise that being a make-up artist was your calling?

Originally, I went to university to study music and when I finished my degree I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my life,  but I knew I didn’t want to be a struggling musician or a teacher. So I went to Australia to visit a friend and I ended up staying. I got a job locally, just to earn some money whilst I was in Sydney, and I ended up working for a stylist. So I’d go out on photoshoots with her, assisting on set, do steaming, and what not. I’d always been into make-up but I didn’t really realise it could be a job, so when I saw people creating these really beautiful avant-garde and editorial make-up looks I was like “ok this is what I want to do. How do I do this?” I ended up speaking to a guy called Napoleon Perdis (he has his own brand now) and he told me to ‘go to school and just do it’. So I did!

So I know that you grew up in New Zealand. How different, if at all, is the MUA scene there compared to the UK?

It’s hugely different. New Zealand is very much a country on its own whereas the UK is part of a much wider European scene. So New Zealand MUAs would be a lot more focused on one category so, in that sense, there would very much be a separation between editorial make-up artists, film and television and bridal make-up artists. You would have gone into one sector as opposed to here where you can do a bit of all three because the same level of work just isn’t available here like it would be in New Zealand. So it is quite different and also I find people in the UK, in general, tend to get their make-up done a lot more for events and parties whereas in New Zealand more people would tend to do their own unless it was a big occasion like a formal, a wedding or something like that.  

So obviously you’ve had lots of exciting moments in your career but what for you would be your breakthrough moment where you thought “Wow, I’ve made it!”

I would have to say last year when I got an email from Pat McGrath herself inviting me to assist at Paris Fashion Week. Well actually, I suppose when she started liking my work on Instagram, which was about 6 months before the invite came. I was like ‘Oh my goodness. Is this real? Somebody who is so iconic and amazing actually thinks my work is good! That was just insane to me! Probably then was when I started to think ‘ok maybe I’m not half bad at this and that I could really make a wee go of it’.

I was hoping you would bring up Paris Fashion Week. As you said, the legendary Pat McGrath invited you personally to assist her at Paris Fashion Week. Just explain, if you can, what it was like receiving that email. 

That was one of the craziest weeks of my life because I’d actually got engaged the day before! So one night I was engaged and the next morning I woke up to an email from her. She had actually messaged my previously on Instagram asking for my email address and then I woke up to that email asking if I wanted to join her in Paris. She said to let her know within the next couple of weeks but within 3 minutes of receiving the email I was like ‘yes, yes yes!’ I don’t think I took it all in for a long time. I felt like it wasn’t happening to me because those sorts of things just don’t happen to someone who lives in Belfast. They happen to big make-up artists that work in London and New York. The whole thing was just really overwhelming!

Editorial Work: Rebecca Bryson MUA
Editorial Work: Rebecca Bryson MUA
Editorial Work: Rebecca Bryson MUA

So just try and give us an insight, if you can, of what it was like rubbing shoulders with the likes of Kendall Jenner and Rihanna, to name just a couple.

It was really strange actually because when I first meant Kendall Jenner I was standing at a sandwich table. People always think models don’t eat, but they do. They eat a lot! There’s always jars of sweets sitting around, full fat coke, everything, and the models are just wolfing it into them. I was just standing at the sandwich table, it was about 9am in the morning and over walks Kendall Jenner and starts getting sandwiches next to me and said “Oh excuse me” as she reached across and I was like ‘Could you pass me that one please?’ and I remember thinking ‘Hmm I know you from somewhere’ and then, just as she walked away, it clicked and I was like ‘Omg, that’s Kendall Jenner!’ [laughs]  So, it’s odd! It was the same with Rihanna. She just strolled out in her pyjamas like it was any old day and she was super lovely and nice to everybody. Obviously, because that’s just their everyday life, I kept thinking ‘just act normal’.  Especially considering the circumstances that brought me there. In my case, to work under someone so iconic you’re just thinking ‘keep your cool, keep it together, don’t lose it’!

We could easily sit here all day and talk about Paris Fashion Week but if you had to pick one highlight from your time there, what would it be?

Umm… one highlight? I don’t think I can!  Obviously there were celebrities everywhere and it was crazy and I remember thinking ‘Is this real? Is this actually happening? Is this my life? Or have a transported into someone else’s?’ But probably the best bit for me was after I’d done one show, the Valentino show, Pat asked me if I would like to stay and do four more shows with her so that was pretty amazing! That was a huge, huge thing for me. Firstly being asked to come to Paris, but then being asked to stay and do more shows was just amazing!

Rebecca at Paris Fashion Week AW17
Rebecca's work at Paris Fashion Week AW17
Rebecca at Paris Fashion Week AW17

So you’re soon to be married to your lovely finance Colum, congratulations! But the question I’m dying to ask you is who will be doing your make up on the big day?

I’m doing my own make up. I just think it would be a little bit stressful and uncomfortable for me if someone else were to do it. I have another fabulous make-up artist, Heather Allen, who is coming to do my bridal party and she is amazing but I just think for my own peace of mind I would feel more comfortable doing my own. 

Rebecca and her fiancé, Colum.
Bridal Makeup : Rebecca Bryson MUA
Bridal Makeup : Rebecca Bryson MUA
Bridal Makeup : Rebecca Bryson MUA

So on the topic of weddings, your make-up business isn’t your only business and you also own Curvy Chic Bridal Boutique so just tell us a little bit about how that came about?

Well, I have been working now for nearly 13 years as a make-up artist and have done hundreds of weddings and the one thing that came up so often was how difficult it was for brides of size 14+ to get a dress. I was shocked by some of the horrible stories I would hear from brides about being looked up and down in shops or being told, ‘we have nothing to fit you here’  and I also realised, when I get married, what am I going to wear? Because I’m plus size myself.  So I started to look into it more in Northern Ireland and Ireland and found that there was so little available to plus size women so we opened Curvy Chic Bridal nearly two years ago and it’s going from strength to strength. We now have designers contacting us asking us to take them on so soon we are taking on the new Pronovias plus size range which is of course a very well known bridal brand so that’s very exciting. We were also recently approached by Callista so we are also taking them on this year. We have brides travelling from all over. We have had brides from Germany and recently a bride from America. We had another lady fly in from Iceland for the weekend to come and try on dresses so it’s been amazing. It’s been a great experience and I’m lucky that I get to work in an industry where both my businesses are making women feel good!

Available at Curvy Chic Bridal
Available at Curvy Chic Bridal
Available at Curvy Chic Bridal

So, two businesses and you’re planning a wedding. How on earth do you cope? What are your top tips for coping with such a busy life?

I’ve just stopped sleeping really. [laughs] I don’t know really. I’m a very active person. My mind is always going and I get bored if i’m sitting still for too long so for me it kind of feels natural to constantly be doing something. I’m also very, very lucky that I love what I do. Sadly a lot of people hate their jobs and therefore can’t wait to get home and do nothing and rest whereas I love what I do so I just want to keep going. I do try to take some time off on a Sunday to spend with Colum because that’s the only day we have off together. But, otherwise, I just like to be busy. Lists are also great, I make lots of lists, it’s important to list everything. And also rely on other people. If there are other people who can help you then let them. Don’t try and do it all yourself if its too much. Theres nothing wrong with saying to a bridesmaid ‘could you help me with this?’ Or ‘could you ring around and ask about this?’ There have been times where I might have been writing something for Curvy Chic and have realised I’m not going to have time to do this so I might ask my sister-in-law to help me. It takes her five minutes but frees up that precious five minutes for me. So yes, accept help, make lists and work hard.

My last question that I have been dying to ask you is; if you could only use five make up products for the rest of the year. What would they be and why? 

Ok, I had to think about this but I’m going to go with the Anastasia Soft Glow Eyeshadow Palette. It’s a really good colour range. It has so many brown tones, some pinky tones and some fun sparkly tones. The reason I’ve chosen this is because of the range of colours. You could achieve a lot of different looks with the palette and there are also colours which would be suitable for highlighter, blush and bronzer so to me it’s like a 3 in 1. The next item would be the Benefit Roller Lash Mascara in the colour black. I find this is one of the very few mascaras I’ve come across which is actually waterproof and smudge-proof. It gives you a great curl and lift and really coats the lashes whereas with some mascaras you feel like you have to keep going and going just to get some definition. Also, because I have fair lashes, I want something that is going to be black straight away. For brows I’m going to choose the Glossier Boy Brow in the tinted shade light brown. It has more of a pomade texture rather than a watery mascara feel so it actually thickens the hairs which really helps with sparse areas and it also tints the hairs so it’ll make them look a lot fuller. My last two products would be Mac Strobe Cream and the Nars Soft Matte Complete Concealer. I love strobe cream because it makes your skin look really glowing and fresh all year round but the really good thing about it is you can mix it with a bit of the concealer and you’ll get a nice coverage foundation. Then you can also use the concealer for any little blemishes and under the eye. Even though it’s a matte formula it’s still creamy so it’s not too dry for under the eyes. So yes that’s my ultimate five.

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