For the past two decades, Ohio native Erin Parsons has been honing her craft as a makeup artist, working at department-store beauty counters, assisting Pat McGrath during Fashion Week and climbing the beauty totem pole to ascend to her current role as global makeup ambassador for Maybelline New York. During the spring/summer 2018 season, Parsons was responsible for the beauty direction at seven shows. “It’s one of my favourite define a new trend or be a part of a collection that can change the spectrum of fashion.”
Here, Gigi Hadid’s right-hand woman, makeup artist Erin Parsons, explains how she creates the looks that inspire a million tutorials.
What was the first show you designed the beauty look for?
“The first show I led was Jonathan Simkhai’s fall/winter 2016 ready-to-wear. We put little snowflakes in the lashes to simulate coming inside from a snowy winter day. I loved the subtlety.”
How much time do you have to come up with a look, and how has that process changed since you started out?
“When I was assisting [the main makeup artist], we’d have a few days to come up with the looks, which is probably why the collections would become so powerful. Now I have much less time—maybe only two hours. That can make one a bit anxious, but when you see the collection and hear the story behind it, you get the inspiration you need.”
How many models does each makeup artist work on backstage?
They are always moving quickly. “ On average, there are 30 girls at a show, but I’ve worked on shows in the past where there were 80 or more! The best attribute a makeup artist can have is confidence, which is how one can do makeup quickly and assuredly; that takes years of practice for most to attain.”
What beauty moment stands out for you the most from spring/summer 2018?
“At Self-Portrait, I used my fingertips to apply violet eyeshadow on the inner corners of the eye and yellow shadow on the outer corners for a watercolour effect. I blended them over moisturizer, which created a creamy-sheer balm. I’m noticing that this is popping up in a lot of mood boards for beauty editorials. Bright colours applied in unique ways will definitely be another trend we’ll be seeing soon.”
Is thinking of beauty looks as “trends” still a good way to categorize them?
“I definitely think it’s still relevant. I often see trends spill over from the season before, like the burgundy eyes and lips I’m seeing all over Instagram [right now] that I initially did at the fall/winter 2017 La Perla show.”
What are your go-to products backstage?
“I keep it very simple with skincare in case there are any sensitive skin types. I use Bioderma Créaline to cleanse and Embryolisse to moisturize, which is pretty standard among most makeup artists. I sheer out Superstay Full Coverage Foundation ($15) using a damp Facestudio Blender. The combination makes skin look flawless. The Matte Ink formula is so incredible! It lasts until you take it off with its own special remover, Superstay Eraser [launching in April]. “The Total Temptation Eyeshadow + Highlighter Palette ($18) blends like butter, and the Eyebrow Definer Pencil ($12) is so quick and easy to use! Love and beyond!”
This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of ELLE Canada.
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's bi-weekly newsletter