An Interview With Movie and TV Show Makeup Artist Etzel Ecleston

By Lauren - February 07, 2022

I had the chance to speak to Etzel Ecleston, a bilingual, Panamanian-born, New York-raised Make Up Artist. She brings an abundance of energy, talent, and professionalism to every project she works on. For over fifteen years in the industry, she has collaborated with numerous photographers and designers to discover a new model talent for editorial work. Her beauty and editorial collaborations have graced such magazines as Nylon, Essence, and GQ. This passion lead her backstage to the coveted New York Fashion Week, on shows such as Project Runway, Venexiana, and Serena Williams to name a few. Her other credits include Joker, West Side Story, Gotham and more. . . Read below to find out her favorite makeup tips and products, some of her favorite projects she's worked on, as well as her biggest career inspiration.

Tell us a little about yourself! How did you get your start in the entertainment industry, specifically as a makeup artist? 

 I first got started as a makeup artist working in the retail field at the MAC cosmetics counter at Macy’s Herald Square.  After a couple of years of working behind the counter, I assisted a fellow co-worker in a national bank commercial and a few other Indie movie projects. These projects were my official start in the entertainment industry. I fell in love with seeing how a full production came together and the joy of seeing one’s name in the credits. 

How long have you worked as a makeup artist? Who was your biggest inspiration when you first started your career?

Along with retail, teaching makeup techniques in aesthetician schools, and working in the film industry, I have been a makeup artist for over 15 years. At the beginning of my makeup career, I was inspired by one of the great makeup gurus, Kevyn Aucoin.  His style of applying makeup to transform his models into another iconic person using beautiful contouring techniques was one of the reasons I wanted to be a makeup artist. 

What was your favorite project you’ve worked on so far in your career? Can you share any fun stories with my audience about celebrities you’ve worked with?

One of my favorite industry projects that I have been blessed to work on was the Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix. As a comic book lover, fulfilling a career goal of working on a DC Film and being able to paint multiple psychotic clowns through the design of makeup department head Nicki Ledermann, was an absolute thrill. 
While filming an intense court scene on Curtis 50 cent Jackson’s ‘For Life TV series, where the main character played by Nicholas Pinnock was about to be incarcerated after a guilty verdict, his castmates that were supposed to be sad, played a prank on him. Instead of being upset, they changed the lines by belting “YES!” and ‘WHOO HOO!”.  They laughed so hard as he was being carried much to his surprise by the actor played by the bailiff. It definitely broke the tension in the room for the next take for the cast and crew.What are some of your favorite makeup brands you use on a day-to-day basis? 
Some of my favorite makeup brands I like to use on my actors are NARS cosmetics, Giorgio Armani, MAC cosmetics, and Rihanna’s FENTY Cosmetics. For special effects makeup I enjoy using Australian brands Bluebird FX, Kryolan, and Skin Illustrator. 
What was something you wished you knew before starting out as a makeup artist? Do you have any advice for women aspiring to be in the field? 

Before becoming a full-fledged working makeup artist, I wish I knew that there were different fields of work. I was unaware of the makeup union, which helped me get into the film industry. After knowing this part of the business, it was full speed ahead!
For women aspiring to get into the tv and film industry, I advise having their method of keeping things organized. On Archive 81, filming different time periods out of order, sometimes in one day, could have been confusing if there was no organization prior to getting the actors ready.  Whether it be keeping their looks in order, or how their makeup kit is organized in the trailer, I advise anyone eager to be in the entertainment industry to have an organizing system. Do you have any fun makeup tips and tricks you want to share with my readers that aren’t common knowledge? 

A makeup tip that may be useful to those that wear faux lashes is to mix black liquid eyeliner and lash glue on the back of one’s hand before applying it to the lash line. Making this mix prior to applying the lashes, minimizes the worry of applying eyeliner if you do not have a steady hand. It’s a helpful trick I learned early on in my career.

To see more of Etzel's work you can check out her website here.

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