Charlotte Tilbury jetted into Cork this week. Vickie Maye was granted an audience with the make up queen.
Those kohl eyes, the thick luscious fiery mane that sashays with her every movement before falling smack bang into place, the sultry, figure hugging wardrobe, the towering heels (she is said to own 500 of them).
Like every celebrity, it goes beyond appearance — it’s right down to the way she talks, every sentence peppered with a multitude of ‘dahlings’.
She’s magnificently, outrageously, beautifully over the top. This is a woman who applies make up, just for bed (she insists her husband has never seen her bare faced).
Charlotte Tilbury is the rock chick of the beauty industry.
Posing in a multitude of photos with every A-lister —Aniston, Amal, Kim — she looks every inch the celebrity herself, part of the set.
And she is. Where usually the make up artist hides in the wings, Charlotte Tilbury has become as famous as the faces she paints.
She is the go-to for every celeb. And it goes beyond the red carpet. Amal — she is on first name terms with all of these women — secured her for her wedding day.
They want her for her talent of course. But it is also because they trust her.
With Charlotte Tilbury what you see is what you get. Her flamboyance, her screaming confidence, none of it is an act.
She’s genuine, and at her core, you sense a kindness, not a trace of bitchiness in a cut throat business so associated with such a trait.
It’s why so many celebrities have their given their names to Tilbury make up lines — her lipsticks include Kidman’s Kiss and Super Cindy (watch this space, she tells me — more celeb launches are coming in 2020).
But it goes beyond business — Kate Moss is godmother to her two sons.
Her PAs hang on her every word, finishing her sentences, racing to meet every off the cuff request. Many of them have been working with her more than a decade, and they respect this powerhouse of the beauty industry.
But also, plain and simply, they just seem to like her.
And she is one of the most likeable people I’ve ever interviewed. The minute we meet she recalls a telephone interview we had two years ago.
“You told me to come to Cork,” she says, as she gives me a welcome hug, “and you’d put me on the cover. And here I am.”
She laughs her deep, infectious laugh. Equally she’s one of the sharpest people I’ve ever encountered.
Sitting in Brown Thomas Cork, she’s utterly focused on this conversation— but you can just feel her mind ticking behind those almond-shaped eyes.
And what else would you expect from a woman who has created one of the most successful make up brands in the world.
Launched in 2013 there were queues around the block in London when her eponymous label made its debut at Selfridges.
Her celebrity connections lured women in but the quality and accessibility (the application is foolproof) keeps them coming back.
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Tilbury made the red carpet look attainable, her look book simple to replicate with 10 key trends, from Rock Star to Golden Goddess.
Each comes with a line of products to eye palettes right down to lip gloss and Tilbury’s online YouTube tutorial to show you how its done.
Even her eye palettes are laid out in the order you use them. And then there’s her Magic Cream, named by the supermodels who would beg for the make up artist’s self made concoction at Fashion Week.
Today it’s one of the best selling moisturisers on the market— one pot is sold every hour in Ireland.
She marries a creative vision with a sharp business savvy. Even when she was working on shoots for Vogue, Tilbury always knew deep down she would launch her own make up line.
She knew, she tells me, at age 13.
A woman who firmly believes in the power of visualisation, she was never destined for a normal, humdrum life. Her flamboyance is only to be expected of a woman raised in a bohemian home in Ibiza.
Born in London, her parents — her father was an artist, her mother a production manager — relocated to the island when she was baby.
She describes it as a “creative melting pot”, late night pool parties, populated by actors, writers, musicians. It was a 70s paradise.
When she left to she attend boarding school in London at 13, she discovered mascara. And she says it changed her life.
Returning to Ibiza, her pale lashes now dark and defined, she noticed people reacted to her differently. She became popular overnight. She realised the power of make up.
“My eyes weren’t framed,” she says of that magic tube of mascara.
“I realised, in a way we all judge, we judge ourselves. We are visual people.”
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What a MAGICAL moment 💫💫💫 celebrating my launch at @spacenk with the forever FLAWLESS @joancollinsdbe and my gorgeous nieces @sofiaschwarzkopftilbury and @bellabroekmantilbury... #FLAWLESSISAFEELING!!! #charlottetilburyxspacenk 💫💫💫I am wearing @temperleylondon and @sofiaschwarzkopftilbury is wearing @delavali_official💫💫💫
It’s the reason why still today she wears make up 24/7 - only her sister has seen has seen her barefaced, she admits. On her most tired days if she has glowing skin, if dark circles are painted over, she looks in the mirror and just feels better.
“It might just be a placebo effect,” she says. “But it works.”
In her teens she met Mary Greenwell and the pro make up artist who counted Princess Diana as a client, took her under her wing.
Tilbury assisted her on shoots, and Greenwell urged her to attend the prestigious Glauca Rossi School of Make Up.
Before long she was working on Vogue shoots, topping designers’ runway lists, working with the likes of Tom Ford in the creation of make up lines.
Until in 2013 she started her own. Irish women have snapped up each and every Tilbury launch and she was always determined to come to Cork.
A room full of women wait outside to experience her masterclass and her eyes well up in front of me as she describes the gratitude she felt walking down the red carpet, seeing her counter, glimpsing the waiting crowd.
“When you grow something this intense, this amazing... I walked through and had to hold back tears. There was just...” she pauses to find the right word. “Gratitude.”
You realise this is more than just a business for Charlotte Tilbury. Ireland is important to her too — her father is part Irish.
“How else so you explain this hair?” she laughs. And she loves the women she encounters here.
I ask her about meeting the ‘real women’ waiting for her on the shop floor of Brown Thomas, how they compare with painting the faces of A-listers. She looks at me blankly, confused.”Why, they are all the same,” she says.
“Everyone wakes up with a pimple one morning.”
That bohemian upbringing saw her surrounded by famous people - so she was never starstruck by celebrities. It’s part of the reason the most famous faces in the world count her a friend, and how she became as famous as them. Though she’s savvy enough to understand the power of the red carpet connection.
“Of course I love it when Jennifer [Aniston] says she loves my product. But when I thank her she just says, ‘Charlotte, I really do’.”
Her schedule is crazy - sometimes she refuses to look a day ahead as it’s too overwhelming but she’s learning to say no. “I have two children, a husband,” she says.
But she’ll still find time to work on her favourite celebs. ‘Cindy’ was in town last week, ‘Nicole’ the week before.
The A-listers roll off the tongue. The only celeb she hasn’t worked on? “The Queen of England,” she says, and there’s that laugh again.
Next for the line is a show-stopping Christmas collection — and then she hints skincare will be a big part of 2020.
“There are ideas that I bank,” she says of her inspiration. “The product we have now, four years ago the innovation wasn’t there yet. So we just had to wait.”
An interviewer once described Tilbury as a walking exclamation point — and there is no better description.
Larger than life, another flick of the hair, one last embrace, a kiss, a final ‘dah-ling’ and she’s ready to face the waiting Cork crowd. They won’t be disappointed.