« Take a break with… » Franck Guyton – Makeup artist – New York
Gansevoort Meatpacking, Manhattan – June 28th 2013, on the rooftop of the hotel offering breathtaking view on the Hudson River. Our reward is an afternoon of brilliant sunshine and warm. There is no better place to meet the sublime Frank Guyton, one of Manhattan’s most sought after makeup artists. He has been privileged to work amongst some extraordinary women. His work has been showcased in magazines such as Essence, Harper’s Bazaar Lebanon, The Oprah Winfrey Magazine and other widely known publications, alternating between editorial, film, television work with segments seen on Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN and many others. We’re meeting him at the bar, Frank at his most divine physical appearance…PARDON MY FRENCH!
Sophie: You first started as a model, how did you get into it?
Frank: It’s really interesting because I have litterally been in the fashion industry since I was 16 and I started as a model. My story is so cliché because I was in the mall with my mother who was making me go get a suit for a family wedding but I didn’t want to. So I walked in and there were some local talent agent who was actually happened to be in that store at the same time I was. So, he walked over to my mother while I was in the dressing room and said: ‘I would like to talk to you with your son, perhaps getting him into modelling. I was only 16, I was a baby, crazy! I was chubby cheeks and didn’t go into my look yet but I guess he had seen something and saw the potential. My mother was all about it and thought it could be great for my self-esteem and could be fun for me. I was thinking of going to law school, but at 16 you really don’t know what you’re gonna do.
Next thing I know, I had a meeting with the agent who had a small modeling agency and he had asked me to do some fashion shows.
So, I came to NY and I had several agencies interested in me. Then I eventually moved to NY by the time I was 19/20 and I had my first agency here. It was really hard though because you’re in the pool of all these really good-looking people who were much more established and had those opportunities that I hadn’t had yet or maybe not the priviledge to have. I had a group of friends who were male models. I went to castings and I was just so excited for everybody else because my friends had many connections. Everyone was booking work but I wasn’t and told me what’s going on?!
Sophie: Since you were in a competitive industry, how did you cope with rejection?
Frank: My mother always told me not to be jealous or envious at other people because what is for you is for you and what is for others is for others. She kept saying to me things would happen in due time, you’re there for a reason, experience it and just absorb everything that you can, you’re already living a dream right now. I was really patient, very happy for my friends and I knew it may not be my time right now. This was in the late 90’s.
I had a look that was really hard to mark at that time, very light skin and I had long hair so they couldn’t tell if I was Latin, Brazilian or Middle Estearn or black so when I was going to castings they told me ‘we don’t know what you are so it is hard for us to put you in something’… It’s either you’re black or you’re white. I could be anything but they were looking for specific, there were no in between at that time.
Sophie: How did you succeed in standing out from competition?
Frank: I went to the tanning bed and I got darker and I said I’m gonna mark it myself as a black man because this is what I have found easier, I had to think about what a casting editor was looking for. At that time, people who were mulato, who were mixed were coming to the fore-front a lot more.
So, I cut my hair, went to the tanning bed more than I should have, I got darker as much as I could and then I went back to the industry. I did differents shoots and I came back, did the rounds again.
I got hired with Boss agency, as soon as I came there, they loved my look, they loved the book and sent me to Europe. They sent me to Milan and I worked almost every single day. Being a man of color ang being in a demographic like Milan was rare at that moment, everyone else was european mixed. So, I stood out and that’s why I was booking a lot of work.
Other agencies from around the world were interested in having me for European and African markets. So I started travelling the globe that way and then after about 4 years I realised I was so done with this, I’ve lived out that dream. I needed to get back to what my passion was, advertising. I had to move on with the next chapter of my life.
Sophie: Your modelling career was at its peak, what prompted you to choose another path?
Frank: I left NY after about a year and a half of modelling to go to college. I was struggling, I had 2 roomates, I was working at night time.
Something clicked one day, I understood demographics, I understood the fashion industry a lot more because I was so concentrated in NY, I wanted to make it in NY .
I remember one day, I had a conversation or I overheard something and realised I had to open myself globally because it’s not just about NY, there are other markets.
After school, I pursued it again, so I kind of reinvented myself. I have found out what I wanted to do in my life though, I’ve chosen to go to a school of advertising and I knew at some point I would be a creative director or an art director or some sort because I understood that aspect of it.
Sophie: How did you end up being a makeup artist?
Frank: I moved from South Africa back to Milan and I met a gentleman who was a celebrity make-up artist Scott Barnes, I knew nothing about make up.
He was on world tour with Lucy Liu at the time for Charlie’s Angels 2. He was building his cosmetic line and I had an advertising and marketing background. We shared the same aesthetic to luxury good and we understood each others. He wanted me to be part of his team, his cosmetic line was being built in Milan and wanted me to come with him and watch him, I was so happy.
I went back to the states where I moved to California. I started assisting him and it was amazing because I got to meet every celebrity in hollywood and work with them. I was more the observer and I just watched them, I didn’t talk, I knew how to be in the background, I wanted to learn. I needed to learn while watching him so I understood about cosmetics. I didn’t want to learn how to be a makeup artist. He had in his mind that I could learn and be a great makeup artist.
So, it took me one time, I was assisting him with Jennifer Lopez, he picked up the brush and he started painting. I litterally watched him transform someone and then when I also watched, I watched her transform.
There is something very amazing in how you can help individuals look good about themself, in their everyday life. I realised I had to learn what he was doing, I was hooked on this!
Then I had so much exposure when it came to the artistry of makeup with doing in front of the camera, film, editorial, red carpet.
The lines went really well then we had a recession in the USA, in 2005, it was really bad, so bad. Everything that we had worked for litterally went away. I was wondering how I could do. I learnt make up and still had my background in advertizing. I moved from LA back to NY and I was going to get back into modelling and Ford had asked me to come to Miami but I needed to put my feet down underground, got a career going and avoid modelling.
Sophie: How did you manage to overcome this economic crisis?
Frank: I stayed in NY and tried to hit every advertizing agency that I possibly could but it was difficult.
When there’s a recession, the first thing that companies do is cutting their advertizing, so there was no need for hiring new people. I couldn’t get a job anywhere.
One day I just had the overwhelming feeling to pick up my brushes and start doing make up. One thing led to another, I got my first celebrity client which was Martha Stewart. What happens in that business is when you reach this kind of clientele, they start referring you to other people and next thing, I was building my work and my portfolio. I had done the work so much on my own that I hadn’t needed an agent at that point. After dealing with my own business for several years, I got an agent with Ford, they also have an artist department where they represent photographers, makeup artists, stylists and art directors. So they kind of moulded my carreer. They helped me build my book then I started working with Oprah Magazine. From Oprah Magazine led to Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities.
Now I have landed in a position where I never thought I would be which is an artistic director for a global cosmetic company. I kind of created the look and the image, I revamped the whole image and the line globally and from internally to the advertising. So, it’s been a really great journey, it’s been 2 years, I’m on my 2nd year now with them, we just shot the 2014 campaign about a month ago which was insane. So, we shot 25 looks in 2 days, it’s unheard of!
Sophie: Now you are the Artistic Director of a global cosmetic company, have you reached your goal?
Frank: I’m happy with my position, I’m happy with having a place where I can transmit my passion for beauty. Especially with women of color who can be from your complexion all the way to the darkest women and try to get them understand about color, about cosmetics, about beauty and just with exposing them to what their possibilities are and my whole plus is if I can just help every woman feels good about herself then I feel as if my mission is accomplished. If you touch one person in your day, that’s amazing, you just feel better about yourself!
Sophie: How do you feel about working with celebrities?
Frank: They are my queens, every woman is my queen, like my chair I treat them this way. I think women are so precious and so beautiful they need to be elevated. Being with celebrities, I feel this whole thing of getting the opportunity to get them ready for their big event.
Sophie: What has been the best memory of your career?
Frank: One of my biggest recent work I have done was working with Madonna for the Super Bowl. So I came in and set the look for all the dancers. It was really a divine adventure. Working on the superbowl with her and her team to bring this amazing performance to a massive people was awesome. It was 6 weeks of brewing 15-hour day but she is the kind of person you want to do your best. Anything that we do, we need to do to the best or you don’t do it at all.
Sophie: You are definitely meant to be in beauty industry, how do you find this energy and inspiration to work for your passion?
Frank: As human beings, it’s a love attraction, if you put out good then you get back. I’m sure your life is been a many testimonies of the same thing. You put out great and you get great or you get what you want because you believe in it. You have to believe in yourself, I think we’re just as good as people that we surround ourselves with. I think that’s important, we’re very responsible for our own energy. It’s so easy to get off this craziness, especially in New York, it’s a vortex, it can really suck you in and it’s an amazing energy but sometimes it can be suffocating.
Sophie: You’ve accomplished such beautiful work, where do you see yourself in the future?
Frank: I’ve met a lot of amazing people, I had amazing blessings to work with some wonderful people, what’s next? What should I keep doing? Where am I supposed to go? When I get to that point, I can go crazy with thinking… So I try to stay in the present moment and whatever the present moment is, whatever I’m doing now, this is what I’m trying to focus on.
I would love to continue encouraging and uplifting people as much as I can.
I can tell you I do like being in front of the camera, I do like to educate people, it has to be something in that aspect.
I would like to keep having celebrity clientele, I really want to go towards that direction and really work with them on their projects, help them be and look the best as they can, whatever projects they are working on.
Sophie: It must be really challenging to work with celebrities, they must be very demanding, how do they treat you?
Frank: I have some of my celebrity clients for 4 or 5 years. Once they find someone that they connect with and that’s good for them, they stick with you, they really do and that’s really what I love about it because you take so much time and energy to put into them, it’s litterally as I said ‘here’s my arm, take my blood, what can help you with? » to create a new look, to do a reinvention or to have that kind of process with them. I had a great experience with the most of them but I want more, if I could work and travel more with them, then I would be great because one thing builds upon another, magazines will talk to you because of who you work with and what you’re creating in the world of fashion. I want to put beauty into the world, I really do.
Sophie: Any tips on how busy women could achieve a good summer look?
Frank: The first thing about makeup really has to do with the dressing skin, it’s so important for cleaning, exfoliation and hydration. If you create a clean and good canvas for make up to go on, it will be the better. Sometimes, when your skin is dry, makeup will look really bad, cracked, your skin is not showcased in the best way. If it’s too oily or too shiny, then it looks a little bit too greasy. So, it’s really important to know the texture of your skin, your combination, if it’s oily or dry, especially with skin tone.
Powder foundation during summer months gives a little bit of coverage. Concealer for underneath the eye is every girl best friend.
Give a luminescence to your skin with highlighter on bones and even underneath the eyebrows.
My big thing as a make up artist are brushes. To all women: you have to clean your brushes! brushes not cleaned can irritate skin. At least once a week, get a brush cleanser then wash them additionaly with hair conditionner then set it out to dry, never with detergent, too harsh on the brush hair, it will strip the oil from hair and then start falling apart.
Interview of Sophie You for OOBMAG
Credits photos : Silvia Forni