Originally from Leeds, Nirvana moved to London to study BA (Hons) Hair, Make-up and Prosthetics for Performance at LCF. After finishing in 2018, she's been working across multiple platforms, gaining experience in opera, film, TV and theatre. In this interview, she shares a few anecdotes from the projects she's worked on and explains how studying at LCF has helped her to further her career in the performance arts.
What are you currently working on?
I have just finished up on a new WWI based feature film and now I'm taking a few weeks off to recoup before what I hope will be a busy summer!
Any exciting upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Lots of potential jobs are in the pipeline! But the film and TV industries are very last minute, so I often don't find out if I've got a job until a couple of days before I start it.
Which of the projects you've worked on have been the most challenging for you?
I think the most challenging project I worked on was an ITV drama called A Confession, which will be airing on TV this year. I was booked as a trainee on this job, but from the offset I was told by the designer I would have far more responsibility and the position would be more like junior level, which was an amazing opportunity for me. Of course, I had to do this on top of doing usual trainee tasks: time sheets, continuity, budgets and general organising of everything and anything! It was a real challenge to juggle the two roles, but I wouldn't have changed that job for the world — I was so incredibly grateful for the responsibility and trust that was put on me and I enjoyed every second!
And which one are you most proud of?
I think it would have to be how I started my career at Opera North on the European Kiss Me Kate tour. I agreed with LCF that I could leave my studies a month early to take this job, so I handed in early, did my final presentation and within the next 48 hours I was back in Leeds doing backstage rehearsals.
Hair and wigs was never something I was naturally good at, so it took a lot of hard work and persistence to get my skills up. I was incredibly nervous because it was my first long term job within the industry. It was a real leap of faith as, although I knew deep down I could do it, I wasn't sure if I had the talent, speed and stamina needed for a 3-month tour. I was really proud of how I pushed myself past my concerns to get everything done in time and to a good enough standard for it to be show worthy.
What is the biggest highlight of your career so far?
I've had so many incredible days on set or backstage where I have had to really pinch myself about how much I love my job.
One of the biggest moments for me was working with a principal singer at the English National Opera, who told me I was the best wiggy she had ever had working there, mainly because of my nature and attitude around her. Being a makeup artist is so much more than putting makeup on someone's face, it's also about being personable, so it was really special to have that feeling from her.
You've done projects for film, TV, theatre, events... Where do you enjoy working the most?
I will always hold opera close to my heart, but for me nothing beats filming. I've always been a perfectionist and I love how delicate you have to be with hair and makeup for screen. You can see every imperfection and every stroke if something is wrong, so there is no better feeling than doing a makeup and it reading perfectly in front of the camera.
What's the best thing about your profession?
The variety — one day you could be dirtying and bloodying down a WW1 soldier in trenches, and the next you can be making someone red carpet ready!
What are your plans for the next few years? Where would you like to see yourself professionally?
I hope to continue working frequently within the industry, progressing to more junior level jobs and most definitely do some more training along the way, like an in-depth barbering course. Long term, I hope to be lucky enough to become a Hair and Makeup Designer for Film and TV, maybe with some award nominations...but I think that's quite a while off just yet!
Let's talk a bit about your time at LCF. Why did you choose to study here?
My goal had always been to study at UAL and I came across my course whilst looking at one of the other performance courses at LCF. I thought I wanted to go more down the sculpting and prop route, but after coming to an open day for the Hair, Makeup and Prosthetics course I fell totally in love with it and the college — I did not want to go anywhere else. So much so, I didn't actually apply to any other makeup degrees as I had decided if I didn't get in to LCF that year I would reapply again the year after.
Did you know from the beginning what you wanted for your career?
To some degree. As soon as I started the course I knew I wanted to be working in film and TV. However, I quickly realised that (sadly) it is a heavily male dominated side to the industry, which is tough to break into. I also learned that having good hair and wig skills was a very good way to become a sought-after artist — after pursuing this, I ended up falling in love with wigs and makeup, dedicating more time refining those skills!
Do you think that studying at LCF helped you to launch your career in any way?
The LCF course is still very well respected within the industry. I get many senior artists saying to me that they think it's far better training than many of the other short private courses on offer, as it gives you more time to develop as an artist. I've also had designers specifically hiring me because of my training at LCF.
What was the best piece of advice you received from a lecturer?
To treat people nicely no matter what your position within the industry. I have been lucky enough to work for amazing, generous and kind designers, but sometimes people can forget what it was like to be lower down the ranks when they become successful. But I'll always remember to treat people as I would like to be treated, and I was grateful for that reminder.
According to your experiences along your career, what piece of advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in the performance arts?
Do work placements and say yes to everything! I know people say that to you all the time when you're studying but, honestly, that gave me such a good grounding for working full time when I left college.
Sometimes you have to say yes to things that aren't quite in the line of work you want to be in, but it's so important to use everything as a learning experience and stepping stone to where you want to get to. Also, you really do never know who you're going to meet whilst you're there — I can vouch for that.
- BA (Hons) Hair, Make-up and Prosthetics for Performance
- Follow Nirvana on Instagram (@makeupbynirvana)