Yelena Perunov
Makeup Artist


How did you get your start in the industry?

It was by accident, really. While in University, like all students, I was looking for part time work. I happened to walk in to a Shoppers Drug Mart near my house and they needed a cosmetician. I said “why not? I’ll give it a shot,” and the rest is history! I realized how much I loved makeup and different colours and formulas, and how makeup can really transform a face. It grew into a real passion I wanted to explore. From there, I went on to work as a Lancome Makeup artist, later on managing the Lancome counter at The Bay. I am very familiar with different brands from working with so many other lines including Smashbox, Benefit, Clarins and others.

As much as I loved working at the different counters and learning about so many products, I did not feel fully free to be very creative, so that was my trigger to start freelancing about 8 years ago. I wanted to go more “outside the box”, some really fashion-forward, avante-garde stuff, and exploring that outside of my job allowed for that.

I always had these (sometimes crazy) ideas for makeup in my head and was in much of a need of a canvas! I was bugging a lot of my friends in the beginning to try out different looks on them so that allowed me to practice a lot. About a year later, I met an amazing team – photographer Stephen Thorne and hairstylist Ilona Bohlmann-Garson and together we worked on building our portfolios and getting better. I work with both of them to this day, but now I can also call them friends, which is the best part.

Did you have an artistic background growing up?

Yes and no. I was ok at painting and drawing, so I never thought I could be good at makeup. But growing up in Belarus (Eastern Europe), I was always surrounded by music, theater, paintings and dance. My dad and I used to collect stamps of different artists so I learned a lot about different painters all over the world. I was always surrounded by art. I guess I didn’t truly discover my artistic side until way into my 20’s , which just proves – it’s never too late to pick up something you’re passionate about and nurture that!

Do you have formal makeup training?

No, actually I’m self taught. When it comes to makeup, my motto is TFP – Try it, Feel it, Play with it. You learn so much by taking the time to play with makeup, learn about textures, what tools to use best for application, what colours look good combined etc. Practice does make it perfect and it is really the key to perfecting your craft and getting really creative. I encourage all women to experiment and try out what works for them and what doesn’t, and the worst that can happen is that you don’t like it and remove it. Best thing about makeup is that it’s removable. So don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

When did your freelance makeup artist career begin?

About 8 years ago actually, time really flies! I was always doing little things on a side, but it really took off for me when I did my first bridal makeup, and little did I know at the time that all the bride’s friends and women at her wedding would be contacting me as well! Word of mouth is everything and I’m so grateful for all the support and recommendations I’ve received over the years!

You have an impressive portfolio, I love the “Winter Whites” editorial you did for Fave Magazine. When you are booked for a job, do you collaborate with the photographer and/or designers etc. to find out what kind of look they want?

Thank you! I always need to go into any shoot prepared and knowing what is expected of me and how much freedom I have so I always ask a lot of questions and probably annoy some people with that…If I feel something doesn’t feel right and might not work well with all the other elements, I discuss with the team. You get great results by communicating to ensure everyone is on the same page, and hopefully reaching the same goal.

Do you ever have full creative freedom when working on commercial, film or video projects?

Those are usually predetermined by the group (commercial shoots especially), but for video/film I often collaborate with the whole team and give feedback and ideas.

What is a typical day like when you are on a photo shoot?

Lots of coffee, a bag full of makeup, my iPod with fun music, and long but fun hours. After the looks are done, I like to stay for touch ups and just seeing what direction the shoot takes, as much as possible. Also, I often don’t plan the looks ahead of time. I like to have an idea of what I’m doing but I find it all comes together and I get into my creative flow once I get to the location, see the wardrobe, the hair styles, and let those inspire me.

After looking on your website, I see you do a lot of bridal work. What does a typical bridal consultation involve?

When I meet a future bride, we discuss how much makeup she normally wears, and what types of colours and looks she gravitates towards. We then build it from there and discuss her wedding look based on all of that, plus any colours that are in her wedding dress or even flowers and decorations etc. There is always a lot that goes into consideration. I also observe her skin condition and if need be, recommend what skincare products will help her skin improve and therefore help the makeup to look flawless and stay on longer.

I ask what skin type she has, how she looks after it, so that we can choose the right products that will not only look but feel great as well. Knowing what if any allergies she has is a must. I often have to use latex-free products due to some allergies.

Do you recommend that potential clients bring photos of looks they like, when they meet with you?

Absolutely, especially for brides! I may recommend what will work best with their features and eye colour as a professional, but it is their face so I need to hear what they like and feel comfortable with. I work together with the client to achieve the desired look so I like to collaborate with them to make them happy and confident.

If we took a look in your makeup kit what would we see?

Too much makeup! ha-ha I have so many products sometimes I can’t keep track. You’ll definitely see a variety of brands because I look for quality and don’t go after one particular brand, and you’ll also see a lot of colours, especially anything bright and neon, for both eyeshadows and lipsticks!

Finding the perfect makeup brush can be challenging with so many brands and types. Which 2-3 makeup brushes should every women have in their makeup bag?

A good all over eyeshadow brush for applying colour and blending, a Blush brush because you can also use it for a highlighter or powder, and a slanted eyeliner brush because it can be used for both lining your eyes (with cream or powder) as well filling in your brows. Those 3 types of brushes are an absolute must! I really like Make Up Forever brand for their consistent quality and highly recommend their brushes, they have lasted me for years!

Do you have any beauty tips to share with our readers?

Absolutely! Always go to bed with a cleansed face by removing all makeup.

I can’t stress enough how important moisturizing is! Your makeup won’t ever go on smoothly and look flawless if you don’t take care of what’s underneath the makeup first. You need to start with your skin first. Everyone needs to moisturize, even if you have oily skin – your skin still needs hydration.

Always wear sunscreen (find a moisturizer or foundation that has a built-in one) because sun damage is the #1 aging concern.

Eyebrows are your most important feature because they shape your eyes and therefore your face. Shaping unruly brows or filling them in if they’re a little sparse is very important. You’ll see just how different you’ll look after!

And last but not least – I believe everyone is truly beautiful, so don’t be afraid to try out different looks to find what enhances your features best and makes you feel most confident! I think women often easily find time to help and look after others, but we don’t leave enough time for ourselves. Take time to do just that sometimes, you deserve it!

How do you keep up with all the new makeup trends and styles?

Honestly, it’s hard to keep up with everything, it changes so often. Ultimately I think it’s a cycle – we always come back to the look we’ve seen before. Just like with fashion where we constantly see the influence of the 60s, 70s and 80s coming back, makeup looks get recycled as well, so I try to keep that in mind. I probably get most of my information and inspiration through social media. I don’t have time to pick up several magazines and browse through them all, but I check out a lot of blogs and different websites, as well as what’s hot on the runway. I am also a big believer that we create our own trends and I am all for someone taking a risk and being themselves with their own uniqueness. That’s how trends take off! I love anything and anyone daring!

What is the most exciting opportunity you have had as a makeup artist?

There have been a few. When I was just getting into makeup about 8 years ago, I was asked to do makeup for a music video for one of my favourite local artists, the HiloTrons band. That was an honour because I’m such a fan of their music!

Continuing to get noticed and published in International magazines always blows my mind! Considering this is something I don’t do on a full time basis, every little bit of success is so important to me.

What is the best part about your job.

Best part of my job is walking away knowing that I created something beautiful to leave behind that hopefully others will like. Whether it’s making a woman feel absolutely beautiful on her wedding day by enhancing what she already has, or transforming a model into someone else for the day, it’s all about beauty and expression of character!

Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share with us?

Well, I was just published in Elléments Magazine, based in California, I was ecstatic when they picked up my work! I will be soon working on a photoshoot with one of my favourite local jewelry lines for a local magazine in print – I don’t know if I can say any more at this point.

It is the start of a very busy wedding season for me so that would take up majority of my free time. But I also have a few published series coming out this month that will be featured in print in a UK fashion magazine, so look out for that!

When I started out, I never would have imagined people all the way in the UK or California would get to see my work, what I’m passionate about. So, that in itself is the best part of this job – doing something I love that doesn’t feel like work just because I want to create, and having other people love it. It’s an amazing feeling to reach out to so many! I am excited to share so much more with everyone, stay tuned!

Since we are a fashion and beauty blog, would you mind answering some personal questions?

Do you have a daily beauty routine?

I work in an office by day, so my makeup routine in the morning is pretty simple when I’m in a rush – foundation, eyeliner, mascara, blush and gloss. I cleanse every night and take off all my makeup. I use a good hydrating serum (currently using Skinn’s Hydro Surge) followed by a moisturizer (the one currently on my shelf is an amazing Argan oil moisturizer which I picked up on my trip in Morocco) and Clarins Extra-firming eye cream.

I love to exfoliate twice a week – it’s so important to remove dead skin cells, which also helps to smooth your skin in preparation for applying foundation.

In winter time I like to use a hydrating face mask once a week.

What are five beauty products you can’t live without?

1) A great mascara (If I splurge, it has to be Lancome’s Hypnose)
2) A good concealer to cover up dark circles any blemishes on your face is also a must! Sometimes you can get away not wearing foundation but just touching up with concealer where needed. (I really like Smashbox and MAC)
3) Bronzing powder to give a nice glow and a bit of a tan (Lise Watier and MAC have nice ones)
4) I must always have a really nice nude/peachy lipstick in my purse to go with a smokey eye look
5) And a classic red or a bright pink lipstick when I need to change from a day to night look.

How would you describe your style?

It all depends on my mood and occasion, honestly. I think a lot of women are probably like that. Some days I feel very classy and love wearing a high waisted skirt or a sexy dress, other days I’m more casual in a good pair of jeans and a bf-shirt. Other days I’m more inspired to wear something bohemian. The summers for me are all about flowy dresses, cool hats and fun leggings paired up with funky tops. I am also obsessed with accessories, they really make the outfit!