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Profile: “Under The Sun’ lips escape London

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: Lisa Allen emerged from the fantastical set of the Blue Peter garden, where she and a fellow BBC information technology employee had settled in for lunch. That was the day, or at least she thinks it was, in 1996 when she met the makeup artists for Celine Dion and the Bee Gees in the BBC Lottery Studio.

“I decided I needed to make a career change to feed my creative urges. That day changed my life,” Lisa bubbled as she continued to drink her latte at the Gallery Cafe in Chalong.

Lisa has since garnered more than 100,000 followers to her business Facebook page, ‘Lisa Allen Make Up Artist’, and done the makeup for more than 1,000 weddings, carefully calming bridezillas with her quintessential hair-salon small talk, an impressive designer makeup kit and some serious experience under her belt. She has worked with big stars shooting in Phuket – applying makeup for Rita Ora and anti-shine to the face of Snoop Dog. However, it all really started with her mum, a hairdresser in London.

Now, all little girls and a fair share of little boys in Thailand find themselves at one time or another experimenting with their mum’s makeup: base, powder, eyeliner, eye shadow, mascara, blush, primer, concealer, lip liner, lipstick… and the list goes on.

Though Lisa now packs more than 100 shades of red lipstick, it was the warm golden-orange glisten of her mother’s Boots No. 7 ‘Under The Sun’ lips that first enticed her into the makeup world. She was hooked, and spent her teen years fawning over high-fashion magazines and dreaming of being a makeup artist. She even applied to the beauty therapy program at Kingston College back in England. She was accepted and promptly turned it down to work as a travel agent.

“I have no idea why I did that,” she said with a laugh.

Eventually, travel agent led to IT – hard to say exactly how – and then Lisa found herself full circle after meeting the makeup artists for the stars. She enrolled in a program for makeup and hair for media and television.

“We learned everything from straight makeup to period makeup, hair and styling,” Lisa said.

“During the course, they would put you up for work experience and things, so you were on the set with people, which was great.

“Then it was like, ‘Goodbye! This how you do your CV and see you later.’ You were out in the great big world and you just had to get in there and do it for yourself.”

The first four or five years was a bag of cats with Lisa doing hair and makeup, even dipping back into IT when there was a drought in makeup artist and television work.

“I went from having money to having no money, it was a nightmare. I struggled at first. You’d have to just push yourself to get out there. Then, you’d just get in with the right people.

“So I worked in TV and film and ended up working for a few bits and bobs. I worked for a really old television series called ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ for the BBC,” Lisa recalled.

“There are some cult figures in there, such as Nora Batty: she was well known for her hair being set in rollers. People are like, ‘Wow, you’ve done NORA Batty’s rollers!’ They always seemed to find that amusing.

“Whilst working for a well-known TV series, they booked me for an extra set and cancelled on me at the last minute. I had enough. I needed to get away.

“Unfortunately, that’s the reality of working in a cliquey TV and film environment; it can be more about who you know than your merits.”

She escaped dreary England with a friend to the jungles of Bangkok, quickly escaping further to Koh Tao to sort out her PADI Divemaster.

After a botched experience as an underwater videographer that ended with her getting stiffed by her employer in Australia, she came back to Thailand to do her PADI Instructor Development Course, but decided to go to Phuket this time.

“I got into Kata. Got up the next morning. Went in to Calypso Divers and met Mark; we fell in love.

“I proposed to him two weeks later after a night out in Patong. Molly Malone’s – I remember it well.

“And he said yes, poor guy. We got married two months later. That was about 13 years ago.”

Eventually, word got out that Lisa did makeup, and did it well. Using her IT skills she built a website and registered Lisa Allen Make Up Artist in Thailand.

“My friend has a wedding company, so she set me up with my first job,” Lisa said.

“Each year it’s gotten bigger and bigger and bigger. And I’m trying to stay up to date with my skills.

“You’ve got to keep pushing yourself to learn. Not only does technology change for IT, so does makeup.”

The most dramatic change in the makeup industry was not a new shade of red lipstick, or in fact in any other product – it was high-definition (and here comes 4k) television.

“In 1989, HD didn’t exist, it just didn’t exist at all. Now, it’s much harder for makeup artists, as you can clearly see everything.

“Obviously, people brought out HD foundations and things, which I think is a sales pitch really. I think it really is about your talent and how to apply the base and correct the base and how to get it right.

“Airbrushed applied silicone base is the way to go for heavily gowned brides smiling through the Phuket humidity for that picture perfect moment on the beach,” assures Lisa.

In fact, weddings are the foundation for the recent boom in makeup artists on the island.

“The market has changed now that Phuket has become the destination for weddings in the region,” Lisa says. “I’ve seen an influx of wedding planners and photographers. And with that comes the makeup artists.”

To cater to the growth, Lisa is considering opening her own makeup artist school in Phuket. However, she has yet to see what legal hoops she’ll have to jump through to realize such a plan. For the moment, she continues to tame brides for photo shoots and occasionally sneaks off for creative projects with PGTV and Adriano Trapani… stay tuned.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli


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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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