As a young girl growing up on a farm in Hororata, Kristen Stewart wanted to become a magician. But after struggling with dyslexia, she became interested in photography as a career option. “I always loved photography. I got my first camera when I was about eight,” she says.
It wasn’t until she had studied photography at tertiary level that Kristen realised makeup artists even existed. “I thought that was a way cooler job than being a photographer.”
Luckily for Kristen, her photography work had taken her to Exposure Model Management, enabling her to practise makeup artistry. Being self-taught and knowing the basics weren’t enough for Kristen though and she soon found herself heading to London to study at the Glauca Rossi School of Make Up.
This was where she learned the importance of proper training, telling her mum on the phone after her first day how much she had learned and asking: “What the hell have I been doing?”
The school opened up an entirely new world for Kristen and she consequently landed some of the most amazing jobs in the United Kingdom and Europe. Working on a Nokia commercial at Pinewood Studios in London is one of her favourite memories. Kristen recalls: “There were over 100 extras… it was like a big fantasy. It was amazing.”
Other exciting jobs included working on the Good Charlotte music video, along with many other famous people. Working as a freelance makeup artist, the travel opportunities were unlimited as well. “You can pack up your kit and travel the world and it’s something you can do anywhere,” says Kristen.
Nowadays, she runs her own makeup artistry school, the Kristen Stewart School of Make Up, which opened in 2008. She runs several different courses, including full-time and part-time diplomas.
“Starting up the school was a big, exciting leap,” says Kristen. “My days now consist of coming in and getting everyone ready, then beginning the day with teaching them something new and watching them create.”
The Kristen Stewart School of Make Up is unique in its field as it is the only school in Australasia that focuses on fashion photographic makeup, rather than special effects or stage makeup, so her students, she says, leave with a much higher level of specialist knowledge.
Kristen emphasises that to consider becoming a makeup artist, you must not only have a good eye for colour and be creative, but you must also be personable.
“You need to be able to speak to clients and have the confidence to walk in to a job and know what you’re doing.”
While there’s also the expectation to always appear glamorous and perfectly made up, Kristen says she doesn’t fit that mould. “I’ve never worn makeup,” she shrugs, “but I do know about the artistry involved.”
Being in a dynamic and constantly changing industry means there’s always something new to learn. Twenty years since she began, Kristen still trains with M.A.C Cosmetics from time to time and she loves it.
She is adamant she wouldn’t have got where she is today without the strong women in her life, including her mum (Dame Pieter Stewart, founder and managing director of New Zealand Fashion Week), who inspired her to be who she wanted to be. From these women she learned one of the most important lessons: “You just have to have faith in yourself.”