Marianna Elias. Her name might be very familiar to some of us, she’s one of the most successful makeup artists in the industry. Living in Los Angeles, she’s the makeup department head in one of the most seen tv series ever: House M.D. She has designed the starfleet makeup for Star Trek with her team that got an Oscar for it. Marianna also has a variety of celebrities that she has worked with on projects and as a personal, like Slash, Linda Evans, Courtney Love, Candice Bergen, Olivia Wilde and many more. Bottom line: her career is huge. Fortunately we had the pleasure to interview her.
How did your background influenced you to become a makeup artist? How did it all started? Was it your first choice? Why?
It all started at around 5 years old when my uncle Elias started teaching me his craft, sketching and oil painting on canvas. He was an amazing artist and I owe him my career and my inspiration.
He was a great painter and makeup artist in Greece, he worked with some of the most known Greek celebrities of the time designing their makeup and creating their overall looks that added to their success.
Was it my first choice? No, only because I didn’t think I was talented enough to pursue this kind of career and in Greece at the time it wasn’t even considered a career. The income my uncle was making was very inconsistent but he was so devoted that he never gave up and was willing to live with less just so he can continue doing it. I didn’t think I was strong enough to do the same so I stayed in school to go into psychotherapy. (obviously that wasn’t my path!)
Your name sounds like you have latin origins, where are you from?
I am Greek, born in a small city named Corinth and raised between a small village named Assos in Greece and parts of Austria and Germany since my family had to travel abroad for work.
My name is made up by me! I changed it when I came to the US, mainly because my Greek last name was hard for people to spell and because I wanted to honor my uncle Elias that was my mentor and never had children of his own.
So I added to my given name which was Maria, my mothers name which was Anna and my uncles first name became my last name.
Marianna Elias! This name really felt like ME.
As a successful professional from Greece living in America, how do you see this european global crisis? What should people do to get out of it? Is it a matter of a whole system or each one of us can really make the difference?
It saddens me to see what is happening in Europe and Greece with the economy. Greeks have had a good system that worked for them. They owned their homes and worked just enough to live happily and within their means. They did not believe in debt and i admired that way of life.
A lot took place to come to this economic disaster and a lot of it was bad government management and corruption.
Same way that americans are slowly getting back on their feet By working and saving, i think that Greeks can slowly do the same. It takes time but its happened before, countries go in debt and then they get out of it, its like a computer reboot only it is an economic one.
Being a professional makeup artist requires a lot more than just imagination and technical skills, do you draw/sketch/paint often?
I certainly continue to draw and paint to this day and when my schedule allows, which is not as often as I would like to.
However being a professional makeup artist now is more than just imagination, we have to research a lot and we have to have a sense of business especially when we work with major production companies. There is definitely more to it than just the art.
Being your own CEO makes your logical side and business sense more effective, how do you evaluate the business proposals: you go for the team and the joy around the job itself, the real profits within, or a mix of these two?
I certainly have to like the team, the job and know that i am gonna have fun and enjoy creating. After all that is established then i negotiate the rate that will make both parties happy and get the job done with the highest quality of products and craft.
I am very happy to have gotten to a point of my career that i get to make some choices and be able to pick my jobs and the people to work with.
As a team player it is very important that i am working with people that enjoy the same work ethics. So, its a mixture of both but with my priority being the project itself and the team i am working with.
Where and in what kind of things you search for inspiration?
My inspiration comes from the person I have in my chair at the time. He/she is my main focus and We create the appropriate look whether it’s a character or just enhancing their beautiful features, together.
It’s a custom look every time, I engage in a light conversation about their character and how they see themselves. I take their words seriously and focus on their emotions.
My main concern is to keep the person in my chair comfortable, happy and relaxed and create with them instead of them being just a canvas with no opinion.
It always works! Everybody is happy at the end and feel like they were part of the process.
Lets rehearsal a fashion photoshoot casting: the creative director is looking for something edgy and classy, retro but at the same time avant-garde. You have to choose a male and a female model. What kind of models are you looking for? What about their bone structures?
A good makeup artist creates any look on any face structure. There is many ways that you can create higher cheekbones, thinner noses etc. It’s all an illusion while playing with shadows and colors.
What were the most important battles you won to become successful as you are? What were the projects and/or moments that worked as a turning point to your career?
Creating a network with other artists and getting into the makeup artist/hair stylist union was a big challenge. It took a lot of determination and hard work on my end.
There was moments that I was disappointed and didn’t think anything will come out of it but I kept going. My biggest strength came from my husband and my newborn son.
My husband was very supportive and patient and has sacrificed his time with me so I can follow my dream. That alone gave me the fuel to keep going. I wanted to make them both proud and to offer something to my family.
My breakthrough came when I did a movie that turned into union and I was able to join Local 706 here in Los Angeles however I entered a brand new world that I knew no one in it so it was like starting from the beginning. After volunteering to union events and getting to know other artists, I end up building a network and got to where I am today, slowly but surely.
What is the coolest part of designing a character? In a long season, do you ever felt you could design in other way some character but, because of the plot, you aren’t able to change it anymore?
The coolest part about designing a character is the research and the collaboration with the actor and the director.
It takes a team, you are never really alone in the designing process and that is what is great about it.
Somebody else adds something that you have not thought off and with everyone together and your research you come to the perfect result.
It is a misconception that makeup artists just come up with designs all on their own, that is only when they do creative stuff for their books however any other look especially on TV and movies takes a team effort and you can only survive in it if you are a team player.
You have to always be willing to listen, willing to learn and willing to be a team player, success follows effortlessly.
What is your advice to someone who’s wondering to became a makeup artist?
My advice to someone that wants to be a makeup artist is: keep up with products, have basic knowledge of colors and the color wheel, it is important to be able to cancel out imperfections instead of just covering them. Stay focused like with any other career and don’t let people discourage you. It might be a cliche but hard work does pays off.
Be social, be a team player and be kind and patient. Don’t take things personally and always take the high road. Good luck!
Getting into our daily life, what kind of items of makeup should no woman leave home without?
Makeup is optional. I am not a woman that wears much makeup at all myself so I have to say it is a personal preference of what characteristics a woman wants to enhance in her daily life.
Skin is more important than anything, having a good moisturizer and eye cream is a must especially after mid twenties. Sunblock is a good tool to prevent sun damage however it can be irritating so a hat and a good pair of sunglasses is always a good alternative.
A lip balm with sunblock is very important as well.
What are your plans for the future, personal and professionally?
My plans for my professional future it to continue to gain experience in my craft, have fun with it and continue working with talented people.
My personal plans are to enjoy more time with my family and travel more.
Thank you so much for your words Marianna. We were pleased to have you in Van Der Love Magazine. Keep your amazing and inspiring work.
(all photos are copyrighted and belong to Marianna Elias’ personal archive) Marianna Elias