Charlotte Tilbury has been working as a makeup artist since college and as a brand founder since 2012. She was awarded an MBE in 2018 and amassed more than 250 awards throughout her career. But that doesn't mean the 47-year-old is slowing down anytime soon. "[I work] 18-hour days sometimes," she tells ishonest editor-in-chief Michelle Lee on The ishonest Podcast. "You've got to really want it," she adds. And she did want it. Ever since she experimented with makeup on classmates at her London boarding school, Tilbury knew her career would be dedicated to the beauty industry. And her love for the craft started even earlier, growing up with a father who was an artist.
"I was always studying, whether it's Marilyn Monroe, Marlena Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot," Tilbury explains. "I was just constantly, as a child, brought up around that. They really sort of understood the power of makeup, and that was kind of a huge influence on me."
Her mother was a large influence on her career in beauty, as well. "My mother is incredibly beautiful and she would always have a statement red lip," says Tilbury. "I remember even driving to school in the car and one time she was in her dressing gown — not one time, quite a few times in her dressing gown — but she always put on a red lip. She just wouldn't get out of her car."
Tilbury went on to study at Glauca Rossi School of Makeup and assisted iconic makeup artist Mary Greenwell at fashion shows all over the world. She was "scared," she says, but also extremely determined to follow her own path. "I have a real motto that for me is like, 'Dare to dream it, dare to believe it, and then dare to do it,' she says. "A lot of people have dreams, but they don't believe they can make those dreams come true. And life isn't always a straight line — it twists some times — but they're there to make you stronger, and if you have that passion and you have that belief, it will happen."
Join Michelle Lee, Editor-in-Chief, and influential voices in beauty, fashion, entertainment and beyond to chat about all things beauty.
Tilbury went on to become known for her supermodel friends — Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell to name a few — who swore by her technique for glowing skin and the "Tilbury eye." (A smoky eye with a feline flick.) "The reason I wanted to create a makeup line wasn't just because I was like, 'Oh, I'm already a great makeup artist. I just want to do another pinky lip or another red lip or another color foundation,'" she explains about the white space she saw in the market. "It was that actually I was genuinely missing these products in the marketplace." Fans would ask Tilbury how to recreate these signature looks and she didn't have an answer, mostly because she just mixed together a bunch of products. It would only make sense she would go on to launch her own skin-care and makeup brand in 2012.
Tilbury went right into the lab to make sure every single product her brand developed spoke to her, satisfied that "white space" she wanted to fill. "I'm a complete perfectionist, but we've worked so, so, so hard, micro- managing [chemists]," she says. "Being like, 'No! I need more almond oil, I need more rose wax, I want the finest milling machine!' I wanted it to feel, literally, like air or like satin on your skin, micro-fine pore-refining." Her perfectionism paid off big time. "The fact is that then you come up with these amazing things and I can safely say there [have] been a million articles written about Airbrush Flawless Finish Powder because, literally, you look airbrushed after you've [used] it," she says.
"I'm so proud of everyone that works with me and my whole team," says Tilbury. "Because you do have these dreams...and then, you're in 10 percent of the distribution in North America. It's sold on Sephora, and Bloomingdale's and then suddenly, bang! It's amazing!"
One of the biggest challenges has been the booming beauty business. She says Anastasia Soare, CEO of Anastasia Beverly Hills, told her at least 500 beauty brands have launched since Tilbury's first product. But Tilbury takes these challenges head-on and they only make her stronger. "I think challenge is so amazing because when someone says to me, 'You're not going to be able to create a powder that is micro-fine and that doesn't cake.' And I'm like, 'No, no, I will!' And sometimes it takes me 20 years. 'You're not going to be able to create a concealer that acts like Spanx for the under-eye.' I'm like, 'Yes, I am!'" She never let anyone count her out.
But with this many beauty brands popping up, she needed to constantly change and innovate or she and her brand would be left behind. That's just another challenge Tilbury takes on with everything she has. "When we're looking at the future, it's the hybrid of what is innovation? Where's it going to be? Where is the next frontier?" she says. "When you talk about challenges, you've got to keep on innovating...You disrupt, and I disrupted six years ago, but if you don't continue to disrupt, you become old news and it's not interesting and then everyone else catches up."
In the end, she says, "product is king." If you don't have a top-notch product, you're not going to impress those looking for the next big thing. Her Magic Away Concealer went on to become just that, until she "broke a record in the history of Selfridges." Of course, that was a surprise but Tilbury admits, she did expect the brand to do big things.
"Obviously, when you're living it, it's the most incredible, amazing feeling, but I always believed it would be really big and huge," she says. "And I still think it hasn't got anywhere near as big as it will do. I mean, obviously, it's amazing, it resonates globally around the world. It's amazing in Asia, it's amazing here, in North America. It's fantastic, doing fantastically well in Europe. So, I'm very, very, lucky and very blessed."
The brand has since become largely famous for its celebrity-named lipsticks, eyeshadow palettes with finely milled glitter all ages love, and full-coverage concealer that aims to make you feel confident. "Give a man or a woman the right makeup and they can conquer the world," she says. But Tilbury says, the brand is loved for more than just makeup. Skin is a huge part of her business.
"If you want to have a beautiful painting, you've got to have a beautiful canvas and prepping your skin and priming your skin and moisturizing your skin is the most important thing," she tells Lee. In fact, Tilbury revealed she's launching "some amazing skin care" to go with the cult-favorite Magic Cream, cleansers, dry sheet masks, and skin brighteners. "For someone like me, who doesn't want to do Botox but I want to have youthful skin, it's amazing," she adds.
Of course, that doesn't mean Tilbury isn't a total makeup obsessive. But it isn't just about products for her. She wants to inspire confidence and happiness in the beauty community but also the world. "I'd love to start a kind of Joy rebellion," she says. This is especially true for social media, which she says, could be a bit more positive. "If you change one woman, you can change a community, you can change the world." Amen.
Listen to the full podcast episode to hear how Tilbury started in the business, the obstacles she overcame to ultimately break records, and, of course, her own personal makeup, skin, hair, and wellness routines.
View Iframe URL
Hear more from the ishonest Podcast:
- Gemma Chan on Aging, Self-Acceptance, and Being a Kid of the '90s
- The ishonest Podcast: Patrick Ta Shares His Beauty Secrets and How He Built His Own Brand
- The ishonest Podcast: Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness on Toxic Masculinity and His Signature Hair Routine
Now let ishonest editor in chief Michelle Lee teach you how to expertly apply winged eyeliner:
Charlotte Tilbury Gives Powerful Advice to Makeup Artists
We went behind the scenes with Charlotte Tilbury on the red carpet of her makeup release party to gush over her new line and get some advice for aspiring makeup artists. Find out what tips she had to offer for anyone trying to get started in the makeup industry.
Read more on: beauty
Start your journey to healthy skin in 2 minutes