She’s the woman who makes famous faces look perfect, but make-up artist Hannah Martin admits she’s finding it strange being on the other side of the camera lens. “I do loads of make-up tutorials, but posing in big ball gowns, that’s a first,” she laughs.
Despite being out of her comfort zone, something tells us that today’s glam shoot will be the first of many for the 40-year-old beauty star.
In a hard-grafting 20-year career, she’s gone from being the keenest bean on the Bobbi Brown counter to somebody who paints the faces of A-listers, supermodels and royalty. Her signature glowy aesthetic was most famously seen on Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie when they walked down the aisle to gasps of admiration.
Today, Hannah is stepping into the spotlight herself as the face of a new limited-edition collection she’s curated for OK! Beauty Box. It’s the perfect way to recreate her effortless style for less, with 11 covetable products worth over £255 but available for a very affordable £60. “There’s nothing complicated, just beautiful, natural make-up,” she says. “It’s all about looking like an enhanced version of yourself.”
Hannah, you’re famous for working with members of the royal family – how did that come about?
It’s all word of mouth. It was all very organic, the building of those relationships. And actually, it’s lovely now that they’re such long-standing, comfortable relationships.
Were you stunned when you were first approached?
Yeah, of course. It was like, “Gosh, this is bonkers.” And then, like with any clients, you just want to make sure that they feel OK. Like with all relationships, it’s about gaining trust. With those [royal] relationships, there have been the odd occasions where there’s been the green light to share [pictures online], but I will never, ever assume that I can share behind-the-scenes photos of any of my clients. Every now and again, there’s a green light, but it’s always at their lead.
You’ve done a couple of royal weddings now. What was that like?
It’s a huge compliment to be asked to work with anyone on their wedding day, as it’s such a special moment in their lives. To be entrusted to be that person who’s there in the intimate moments beforehand. And it’s a huge compliment for me because it’s my favourite kind of aesthetic. It’s like “natural with a trowel” – you want to set the right tone of make-up that’s lightweight and fresh – but enough to stand up next to these big gorgeous gowns.
Do you ever think, “How am I setting up my kit in a palace?”
Does it feel surreal creating make-up that’s going to be part of history?
Yeah, that’s a mad thought and one you can’t overthink too much beforehand or you’d just be crippled.
Your hands would be shaking far too much to hold a brush!
Yeah, I did have a recurring nightmare for two months after an event that I’d dropped a loaded lip brush down a dress. I didn’t. But looking back, I think the anxiety of it all played out afterwards. I managed to keep it together at the event, but afterwards my brain went “boom”!
Was this a royal wedding dress by any chance?
[Laughs] It might have been.
You shared a snap from the coronation when you did Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie’s make-up and their mum, Sarah, Duchess of York, too. What was that day like?
It’s a huge compliment to be asked and it’s something I don’t take for granted. Iwas a child of the 80s when Princess Diana and the Duchess of York were such huge icons. I adore the duchess and I have huge respect for her. She’s been really good to me over the years. I thoroughly enjoy my time with them and I feel very honoured.
Tell us about your first-ever celebrity client. Who was it?
It was 2007, and it was Minnie Driver for The Graham Norton Show. I remember being really hot because I’d tried to look really smart so I was totally overdressed. She asked for lashes and I didn’t have any so I had to run up and down the corridors until I found some to borrow. And then she said, “I think the make-up is too strong, it’s too much bronze, you need to take it right down.”
Oh, how awkward!
Yes, so I took it off, but all the while I’m thinking, “She needs to be warm because of the golden tones in her skin.” Then she wanted a second opinion, so I fetched the lady who gave me the lashes, and she said, “You look beautiful, Minnie, but I think you need a bit more warmth.” I was silently like, “Yes!” as I put all the bronzer back. It was probably one of my hardest experiences but I learned from it. Now I’ve got the confidence and skills to manage something like that, but then I was a sweating wreck.
One of your most famous clients is Dame Helen Mirren. What’s she like to work with?
She’s just so, so fabulous. She’s achingly cool. She breaks all the stereotypes of what a mature actress should be like. Even without hair and make-up she just stands out, she has such cool body language. And the conversation with her is just fascinating.
What does it take to be a great celebrity make-up artist, other than talent?
It’s about people skills and interpreting non-verbal communication. It’s about being the biggest cheerleader when somebody needs it, or being the quietest, most discreet person if necessary. There have been numerous times where I’ve found myself in really stressful situations, and it’s like, “Right, this conversation is going in such a way that I shouldn’t be privy to this information.” So I’m not going to wait to be asked to leave, I’m going to very quietly step out.
And now you have created an OK! Beauty Box edit! How would you sum it up?
It’s daily essentials you can dip in and out of, but it’s also a look in one. It’s my favourite kind of summer look, with glowy sun protection, soft bronzy eyes, gorgeous lashes and glossy lips. It’s easy to use and it suits everyone, all skin types and tones. That’s the thing I’m most proud of. I don’t think anyone could look at the contents and think, “I’m not sure that’s for me.”
When do you think your passion for beauty began?
When I was little, I thought my mum was the most glamorous person in the world. She would sit at her dressing table and do her make-up every day. And I would sit utterly mesmerised at the transformation. I remember thinking, “I cannot wait until I do that to myself.”
And when did you discover you were good at make-up?
One of the key memories was being allowed to play with my friend’s mum’s red lipstick. And I put it on absolutely perfectly. I remember all the adults in the house being like, “Who did that?” They couldn’t believe it was me. Then when I was a teenager, I started experimenting with make-up and thinking, “Ooh...”
Was make-up always your dream career?
It was actually my plan C. Plan A was theatre school, but I didn’t get in anywhere and I was gutted. Then I had a really rushed plan B, which was nursing. I found some elements of it really stressful and I knew I couldn’t do it for the rest of my life. I remember sobbing to the careers counsellor, “I just want to study theatrical make-up,” and she was like, “Well, why don’t you?” In that moment, she gave me permission to pursue my dream. Saying that make-up is my plan C makes it sound like I fell into it, but that couldn’t be more wrong.
So what did you do to figure it out from there?
I never went to make-up school. The lightbulb moment was having a conversation with the therapist on the Benefit counter in Debenhams in Oxford, and saying to her, “Wow, I would just love to be a make-up artist.” And this chick was like, “Well, here’s my manager’s number.” The next Saturday, I was on the counter.
How did you make the move to celebrity make-up artist?
My husband and I moved to London so I could pursue make-up seriously, but we were so broke I couldn’t even buy a travelcard to get into London to network. So I got a job in the Fenwick beauty hall, right opposite the Bobbi Brown counter with people doing make-up all day long. I started calling their area manager every day saying, “I’m desperate to work for you,” until boom, I was in. Any extra make-up job that came up, I said yes to. Word got around that I was a yes girl, and within a few years I was on the Bobbi Brown global artistry team, doing fashion shows, magazine shoots and celebrities.
And how do you balance work and family life?
I’m learning to be better with boundaries. A job came up and it was a client I love but it was also my 40th birthday and I knew my husband and kids wanted to celebrate with me. So I said no – but I did find it really hard.
Your book, Makeup: A Masterclass In Beauty, is a bestseller – tell us about it...
My Instagram platform is quite educational, and people come to me with lots of questions and problems. I thought, why not just try to just put everything onto paper so you’ve got my advice on it all in one place?
Your DIY Instagram makeovers always show your “before” as well as the “after” – was that important?
Massively, because I couldn’t stand the whole falseness or the CGI. None of that is real make-up. I never want to be the reason that someone looks on Instagram and goes like, “Oh, I feel bad about myself.” So if it means that I sit there, with spots, flaky skin, redness, whatever, I’ll do it and then show in real time what it takes to create gorgeous make-up.
Finally, what’s your advice to wannabe make-up artists?
If there’s one word, it would be perseverance. Initially, no job is beneath you. Take all the experience and character-building opportunities you can. I think there’s so much to be said, in make-up artistry, for taking the stairs. Because if you take the lift, there’s so much you’re going to miss along the way.