I can’t hold it in anymore. My name is Lucy Gibson, I’m 32 years of age, and I am totally in love with the new Little Mix single. “Black Magic”. It’s just makes me feel so… happy. And the video is amazing. Pure pop magic.
Since their X Factor win in 2011 the girls have, unlike many other winners, gone from strength to strength, maturing into fully fledged pop stars flying the Brit pop flag all over the world, and looking seriously glam while doing so. We have Adam Burrell to thank for that. Name any Brit girl band of the last ten years and Adam has been there painting those pretty faces; Girls Aloud, The Saturdays… And believe me, having worked with a few girl bands in my time that’s no mean feat, four or five times the work is too much for many a makeup artist!
Lovely Adam is a Sunderland lad, who moved to London in 2005 to study makeup at the prestigious London College of Fashion. After learning the ropes assisting, testing and working with many of the colourful faces on London’s vibrant club scene, Adam began a three year stint on the X Factor’s makeup team and hasn’t looked back since. He has gone on to travel the world working with many of the UK’s biggest music artists from Charli XCX to One Direction, as well as bringing his bold and immaculate style to his role as brand ambassador for Barry M. Busy man! But he allowed us to rope him in for a quick chat about his work, his style… and a certain girl band.
Hey Adam! So I first came to know you through your work with Little Mix and you’ve been with them since the very start of their career, which is a real rarity in the music biz! What would you say is the secret to such a long collaboration?
It’s really just down to us getting along and them liking how I make them look. When you work with someone for a long period of time I think it’s so important to keep your enthusiasm up, keep your work fresh, flawless and constantly evolving and to just continue to be nice, easy and enjoyable to be around.
Simple! The girls’ style has definitely matured over time, which I’m sure is partly part of just growing up, but would you say the decision to slightly strip back and mature their makeup was yours or theirs?
It definitely is the girls themselves growing up but also just a sign of the times. When they first started out there was a bit of a wacky movement going on with lots of pop stars doing big, bold and colourful looks with hair, makeup and styling. It was obvious that soon this trend would do a 360 and start stripping back to minimal and glossy, so together with the girls I refined their looks and started playing around with more nude and muted tones giving an overall more polished and sophisticated look.
I remember seeing them with more stripped back makeup on the red carpet for the One Direction film a while back now, and thinking how grown up and gorgeous they looked, it’s a great look for them! Are there any makeup references the girls like, or anyone’s makeup they often show you?
We take inspiration from all over the place, from all different iconic eras. The girls will show me makeups that they’ve seen in magazines or on Instagram or Tumblr that they like the vibe of, or they’ll have an idea for hair or an outfit then we go from there. I love the collaborative process when working with artists who have a voice, ideas and opinions too and, together with the hairdresser and stylist, bringing the whole thing to life.
I also loved the tribal looks you did for the girls on tour, where did you take inspiration from there?
That was a fun day. I knew they wanted tribal looks for the opening of their Salute tour screens so I looked at colours and markings used across lots of cultures from past and present to create these new age warrior Queens. The shoots where they get to really dress up and play characters are always their favourites, and mine too.
Do you ever find it stressful getting all four ready?! How long would you say it takes these days?
It’s absolute chaos, but I love it. In an ideal world I’d have four hours or more even, I could happily paint their faces all day, but usually it’s around three hours. I’ve even done it in an hour before with 15 minutes per girl, that wasn’t so fun but as a makeup artist you have to get the job done whatever the circumstance because things like live TV just won’t wait. After working with Little Mix, and before them The Saturdays, and before them Girls Aloud, whenever I work with one artist or just one model it feels like such a breeze and I definitely appreciate the calm but I do enjoy the energy and buzz of working with a girl band.
When I’ve worked with girl bands in the past I always used to find the set bag a nightmare! I’d make up little palettes etc for each girl to try and cut down on the product I was carrying, are there any on-set solutions you’ve found?
My set bag for Little Mix is massive, it’s more of a hold-all! There’s often a few products that I use across all of them to tie their look together as a band but for everything else there’s a different compartment for the products each of them are wearing that day. Organisation is definitely key. A lot of products I carry for Little Mix are multiplied by four, like skincare, base and concealer as they all have different skin tones and very different skin types. For hygiene I also have separate face brushes and mascara that are all marked with a different colour to represent each girl.
Adam’s Little Mix Kit Essentials!
And how about outside of your work with the girls, what have been some career highlights?
The first thing that comes to mind was the time I flew out to Los Angeles to do a cover shoot with Pamela Anderson, who to me is a huge beauty icon and I’ve loved her since I was a kid so it was very surreal, and I’m so glad she was lovely. The magazine wanted a completely different look for her so despite me secretly wanting to do a full on bombshell look I stripped it all back, made her eyebrows fuller and went for a minimal and modern 60s look.
Then there was the first time I worked with Mel B. Going to Scary Spice’s house in the Hollywood Hills was like a childhood dream come true. Some of my favourite working days have been in LA actually, I think it’s just being there that makes everything feel even more special. But to be honest, just to be making a living doing a job that I love makes every working day a highlight.
In all your work, you have a very strong, glamorous aesthetic but at the same time very modern, which works for both celebrity and editorial, how would you describe your own style?
My approach is always to empower women and try to make them look and feel the most beautiful they’ve ever looked and felt. I’ve grown up admiring the beauty of strong, iconic women from across the decades and that is always an inspiration at the front of my mind whenever I’m making somebody up. No matter how minimal or bold a look is that I create I like it to look elegant, striking and flawless, and I think women really like that. The epitome of beauty for me were sirens like Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot and I think you can learn so much by looking at how these stars of the silver screen were made up, and studying the tricks and illusions they had down to a T. These makeup looks are reinvented time and time again and continue to stand the test of time.
You’ve also been a brand ambassador for Barry M for the past couple of years and have helped to change the image of the brand, how do you see the Barry M girl when you’re creating their visuals?
To me the Barry M look is fresh and fearless so I like to play on that when it comes to the looks for the shoots, and the models always naturally embody that vibe. It also helps that I’m a big fan of and genuinely excited by the brand so on campaign shoots I get to play with and be inspired by all the new products we’ve created to create fun, wearable looks.
I always direct young artists building their kits to Barry M, the quality and the price are fantastic, I have a few favourites in my own kit, what would you say are your Barry M kit essentials?
Some of my hero Barry M products are the Gel Waterproof Eyeliner, the Bold Waterproof Eyeliners and Eyeshadow Pencils. Chisel Cheeks Contour Kit is a great colour for sculpting and Russet Lip Liner is the perfect nude lip pencil. From the Summer collection I’ve been getting a lot of use out of the Radiant Rod and the Make Me Blush Cream Blushers, I’ve been loving those.
And finally, what do you have coming up in the next couple of months?
Speaking of LA, I’ll be heading back over there next month with Little Mix for some TVs, shoots and red carpets so I’m very happy about that. As for the rest, who knows!
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