Nikoletta Skarlatos, The Artisan Of Makeup Mastery

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Nikoletta Skarlatos, an acclaimed makeup artist, has captivated the beauty industry with her exceptional talent and creative vision. Her journey into the world of makeup artistry began in her early childhood in Greece, where she developed a fascination for the transformative power of makeup. Nikoletta's artistic flair blossomed during her years as a dedicated ballet dancer, where she not only designed her costumes but also meticulously crafted makeup looks for each character she portrayed.

In the United States, Nikoletta's passion for makeup led her to a serendipitous encounter with the Regional Director of Chanel Cosmetics, which marked the beginning of her remarkable career. Her dedication and hard work quickly propelled her to become the West Coast Makeup Artist for Chanel, showcasing her talent in makeup techniques, skincare formulations, and product development. Nikoletta's journey continued to flourish as she transitioned to work with the Lauder corporation, expanding her expertise in designing signature makeup looks for their brand.

Nikoletta's artistic prowess extended beyond the realm of cosmetics into the realms of commercial advertising, high fashion editorial, and music videos. Her exceptional skills caught the attention of renowned figures like Johnny Depp, leading her to delve into prosthetic and special effects makeup artistry under the guidance of industry experts. Notably, her role as the designer and department head for films like "Immortals" and "Flight" earned her a nomination for a Saturn Award, showcasing her versatility and creativity in conceptualising unique looks for different characters.

Throughout her career, Nikoletta Skarlatos has not only left an indelible mark in the beauty and entertainment industries but has also dedicated her time to holistic healing and lectures about health and wellness all over the world and has a skincare line, that is 100% organic using many if not most ingredients from Greece. Her artistic brilliance, coupled with her philanthropic endeavours, truly exemplifies Nikoletta as a multifaceted and inspiring makeup designer.

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How did you first become interested in makeup and what led you to pursue a career in it?

I first became involved with makeup as a ballet dancer, as it was necessary for me to design and execute my makeup for each performance and each character that I portrayed for each particular ballet; starting quite young at the age of 9. In my early twenties, after having pursued academics both as a journalist and political scientist abroad and in Mexico,  I found myself in need of a job upon returning to Seattle. I subsequently met by chance, the regional head of the Chanel corporation. I was encouraged to approach her by a friend from the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Seattle. To make a long story short: by the end of the day, she had hired me within the company. By the end of the year, I was in charge of the States of Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Northern California for Chanel as a makeup artist, involved with all aspects of the business. My career started there and has encompassed every medium since editorial, opera, film, television, music video, red carpet appearances, makeup effects, teaching, lecturing, many videos, commercials, and tutorials.

Can you share some of the most memorable collaborations you have worked on and what made them special?

Memorable collaborations. There are too many to count! I would say the creative challenges of doing the film Solace with Anthony Hopkins and Colin Farrell as Makeup Designer, Makeup Department Head, and Prosthetic Makeup Designer were both challenging and rewarding. I had limited resources and had to be extremely creative and thus resourceful to execute the many makeups required for the film. I had to deal with beauty, open brain surgery on Sir Anthony Hopkins, matching scarification on several characters; scars on Colin; deterioration of Tony’s character as his health fails. The Hunger Games…Complete creative freedom to create and design the characters. Every type of makeup imaginable. Fantasy, futuristic, prosthetic, that we created from scratch,  having full license to do so from the producers and the writer herself:  Suzanne Collins.  This is very rare and an artist’s dream.  Those four movies were a dream job for sure! Pirates of the Caribbean for the same reasons…fabulous, wonderfully creative, and joyful experiences. Immortals for which I was nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Makeup. This film was one of the best and most creatively fulfilling that I have ever done. We created our own ancient Greek world, with various symbols and letters; working with the director Tarsem Singh and the great Costume Designer Eiko Ishioka was a dream come true. The Free State of Jones, a film about the American Civil War with Matthew McConaughey and Mahershala Ali, is very creatively challenging and rewarding.   Much research about those specific time periods. Everything had and has to be period correct in period piece films or the film will fail.

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What is the most challenging part of your job as a makeup artist, and how do you overcome it?

The most challenging part of a film is most probably effective time management!  As the Designer and Department Head, not only am I responsible for creating the look and design, but there is a huge collaboration with the Director, the Actors, The Production Designer, The Cinematographer, The Costume designer, and so on. I am responsible for hiring the department and its subcategories;  The Main “ core” makeup department and the Prosthetic makeup department, if the script calls for special effects makeup. Hair design, the background makeup department, and breaking down and determining the budget for each therein, the team. It’s generally a huge undertaking and therefore one has to be extraordinarily well organised and have budgeted their time!

How do you approach creating makeup looks for major motion pictures, and what goes into running a makeup department?

Depending upon the film project, time period, subject matter, and characters, I approach each film having done massive research, profound interaction with the Director, and then meeting and working intimately with each actor to create the character makeup that will facilitate and enhance their performances. Running a makeup department is an exigent undertaking. I always hire the very best talent to be on my team and by my side, the most excellent in our crafts. I also seek and will hire if necessary, specialists per each category of makeup so that the filming goes seamlessly throughout the entire filming process as well as during pre and post-production. When on a film, I work anywhere from 14 to 18 hours a day sometimes non-stop for many months. Organisation and preparation are keys to allowing me to apply my entire creative focus to my art. My team can be as small as 4 people and upwards of plus 50 makeup and hair artists at any given time depending upon the project.

Can you discuss some of the trends you have observed in the makeup industry and how they have influenced your work?

In terms of film, I do not necessarily follow trends. Trends that one might see on Instagram, for example. I usually draw from artistic references, nature, sculpture, history, photographs, and what the Director has in his imagination and palette.  If the project whatever it may be, involves a trend for that period or the present, I will research it, it has to work within and for the script and vision of the Director and the character that the actor is portraying. However, the current trends in the industry have to do with inclusion, streaming platforms, diversity, increased opportunities for women, and people of colour, use of technology in every form. As I have always embraced all of the above since the beginning of my career, incorporating these “trends” is a part of my normal way of operating in all aspects of my industry.

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest makeup techniques and products, and what resources do you rely on?

Firstly, It is extremely important to be 100% up-to-date on all of the latest technologies regarding each medium. The type of cameras being used, from digital, to IMAX, to high resolution as some examples.  As far as makeup techniques, I am constantly educating myself and seeing from the very best as I always have, to learn the newest methods for refining makeup application from tattoos, to facial hair, to scarification, to prosthetics, to beauty. I rely on musical artists, creative artists, current movements in fashion, and cultural norms of beauty from around the Globe to keep up with the very latest products and techniques. I am constantly trying and experimenting with all manner of products. However, I feel that makeup artists at the highest level of the profession must be capable and able to do at any given moment on set  Out Of Kit makeup:  that means, being able to create and execute anything, on the spot, by hand from scratch!

What is one of the most rewarding aspects of your career, and what moment or project are you most proud of?

I feel very fortunate to have the career that I have.  I have flown all over the world filming. It has allowed me to learn languages, all about other cultures, and to see many incredible things that one may never get the opportunity to experience. To learn about art, history, and the political world…in fact, the further advanced education that I have received as a result of my career has totally enriched my life! I am constantly learning with a lot of freedom. Making a living as a creative artist is a joy that is hard to describe but I am extremely grateful to have this life.  Interacting with great actors and fabulously creative people: visionaries with great minds is incredibly fulfilling also, and I have been very fortunate to have worked with the very best. I am probably most proud of the film Immortals for every reason imaginable! Although I have never done a project that I did not want to do nor a project that didn’t have meaning for me and some purpose for the greater good.

How do you maintain a balance between your work as a makeup artist and your personal life?

Tough one! I feel that it is extremely important to have both and balance the two. This is NEVER apparent for creatives like myself, be it a Director, Actor, or makeup artist. A very common saying in Hollywood is that "You are only as good as your last project". Many people then get anxious even before the project that they are currently working on is over, about whether there will ever be another project….Crazy but true! I try to take that time to stay healthy, and work on my other projects rather than living in a constant state of anxiety. Also having a relationship, marriage or family is EXTREMELY difficult for people like us unless the partner really understands the business. It is definitely feasible but takes a lot of work. Whenever I finish a project, I usually take the time needed to decompress and go into nature. I have a full life outside of the film business which I also feel is very important if you have a creative mind. The film business is much like being a circus performer as we are always gone, on location, and moving from place to place. Balance means having an equal sense of stability in life. I strive for this through music, nature, my other businesses, personal life, philanthropy, dance, exercise and enjoying life!!!!

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Can you share any advice you would give to aspiring makeup artists who want to reach the top of their industry?

I have many many aspiring makeup artists who contact me all the time from all over the globe. My advice is always the following: There is ENOUGH to go around, even if the market seems saturated. Learn EVERYTHING. Learn and seek out the BEST to teach you. Do everything to your very best ability and with passion. One never knows who is watching and believe me, someone is always watching and observing. Do NOT compare yourself to others. Be optimistic. Be well-appointed. Mind your business. Listen. Be professional. Try everything. And most importantly: NEVER GIVE UP! Learn from your mistakes, focus on your art at all times.

What are some of your favourite makeup looks or styles, and how do you achieve them?

It’s funny Vassilios because I rarely wear makeup! Except on my eyebrows because I shaved them off when I was ten years old for a ballet performance, and of course, they never grew back. However, I love to paint other people and I love to help both women and men understand their own beauty and how to enhance it. I lecture around the world on this subject and wellness. I like to teach women how to use makeup. Most buy so much and don't really know how to use it, or how to match the colour. Going into a department store can be intimidating for the consumer, and they do not always receive this kind of education. I love the natural look with the skin absolutely glowing, and I love to see eyes enhanced and lips and just a great, healthy look! So, a beautiful, glowing hydrated skin is a must!  Enhance your OWN beauty!  Everyone has their own beauty. I definitely do not encourage men or women to try to look like someone else. Just the most fabulous version of themselves!

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