Beauty and the Business

Southside professional makeup artists say their work goes more than skin deep

Whether you’re getting married, prepping for a photo session or hosting a special event, don’t you want to look your best? Pro makeup artists are experts at accenting your best features and preparing a flawless look with the right skin prep, lighting and cosmetics.

The Southside professionals we spoke with all love what they do and agree that their No. 1 goal is not perfect mascara, but to make clients feel terrific.

Lights, camera … makeup

Airbrush in hand, Ella Rollins knows the tools of the pro makeup artist’s trade, including high-definition products, airbrush primer and light-diffusing powder.

Rollins now is a licensed medical aesthetician with Chernoff Cosmetic Surgeons in Indianapolis. She also continues to work as a freelance makeup artist, as she has since 1989. The Greenwood resident is an experienced production makeup artist, working on professional photo shoots, film and television projects.

But when she talks about her role, it’s less about technique and more about heart.

“I count my blessings that I am able to do this, to inspire a woman to feel good about herself,” says Rollins, who also does makeup for weddings, proms and special events. “I just want women to feel pretty and to feel good in their own skin. My role is to bring the inside out for a client. Their heart, their personality, their beautiful features.”

Rollins’ career includes work at salons and department store makeup counters, and a stint at Glamour Shots. (“It helped me get my speed up.”)

It was there that she met a producer who was impressed with her work. That led to her career in television makeup. “I started the TV commercials around 1990,” she says, working with Fort Wayne filmmaker Mark Archer. She also did makeup for the award-winning 2009 Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” TV ad (“Free Doritos,” by Hoosier brothers Joe and Dave Herbert).

“It’s a whole different ballgame when you’re talking about television makeup,” says Rollins, and she can bring her production savvy to freelance makeup assignments when needed. For example, brides who’ve arranged for a videographer to capture their wedding day can rest assured that when Rollins does their makeup, they’re camera-ready.

“High-definition makeup – it’s undetectable on screen. It blows me away, how awesome it is,” she says, “I use that for my bridal and special occasion work, any time anyone’s going to be photographed or on video.”

With all her experience, Rollins still brings a sense of freshness to each new assignment.

“Every day’s a new beginning,” she says. “Every time I do makeup on someone, it’s almost like you start over. It’s a blank slate.

“It is an honor, having someone trust you,” Rollins says. “I don’t take it for granted.”

Have eyeliner, will travel

Julie Koch travels the Midwest, making women feel pampered and beautiful as a makeup artist for Lancôme cosmetics’ pro team. You’ll often find her working with one of the cosmetic giant’s national artists, Alex Sanchez, during special appearances at Macy’s, Saks and other department stores. Her motto: “Don’t be afraid to enhance what you’ve naturally been given, because there is beauty in every woman,” she says.

She’s gotten a lot of mileage from her career. “I’ve been, just in the last couple of weeks, to Ohio, Kentucky, Chicago, just all around,” she says.

Koch got her start working at a department store makeup counter back when she was in college in 1990. “I just fell in love with it,” she says.

She’s seeing a shift in how members of a new generation of makeup artists are learning the craft. “I think [there are] a lot of young women who are coming up who don’t work at department stores and learn it from the line they work for,” Koch says. Instead, they’re going online.

“They use a lot of YouTube tutorials, a lot of beauty blogs,” she says. “I feel that’s where a lot of millennial women are learning how to do makeup.”

In addition to her work with Lancôme, Koch also does freelance assignments. She did the makeup for Miss Indiana’s official portraits before the contestant headed off for the Miss America finals this year; she also did makeup for Miss Indiana’s Outstanding Teen contestant.

That assignment was more than just makeup. “I give them each a makeup lesson,” she says. “They have many, many outfit changes and lots of makeup looks to consider, so I help coach and train them how to do that for themselves. It’s a lot of fun.”

Koch acknowledges that it’s easier to do someone’s makeup than to show them how to do it. But when it comes to teaching, “I honestly feel that’s what I’m best at,” she says.

Her words to women? “Most of my career, I hired and trained new beauty advisers for Lancôme who worked in department stores, and part of that training is getting them comfortable doing someone else’s makeup,” she says. “And so I think that’s really where I shine.”

Koch says Lancôme’s mission is one she’s taken on as her own. “Women come to me to feel more beautiful, and I want them to leave feeling happier.”

An aesthetic oasis

Ashley Neu has a husband, a 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old twin boys. So perhaps it’s no surprise that she’s made her ReNeu Beauty studio in Greenwood feel like a place to get away from it all. With separate rooms for consultation, makeup and aesthetics services, the décor includes touches of girly pink and soothing white.

“I do a lot of bridal makeup, so I was really excited to have a bridal suite,” she says of the room where she can consult with brides about the look they want for their wedding day. On the big day, the studio can accommodate an entire bridal party, with Neu and sister Sky Radtke, both licensed aestheticians, working to get everybody gorgeous before the ceremony.        

“I’ve done, I think last year was about 45 to 50 weddings,” Neu says. And the bridal parties “are just getting bigger and bigger. We’re talking 12 bridesmaids.”

That can mean starting a makeup session at 6:15 a.m., to get everyone ready for an early-afternoon wedding. “People ask, ‘Do you have Bridezillas?’ Never!” Neu says. “It’s their wedding day, they have a vision, they’ve been dreaming about this day. They’re excited, they come with pictures, and I love that. It helps me create the look that they’re going for.”

And, Neu adds, “It’s the most rewarding job, because you’re making somebody feel so beautiful on such a special day. There’s nothing better than handing someone the mirror and the tears just well up, because they’re so excited. I just love that.”

After a career in mental health, Neu began working for dermatologists in 2008 before switching to makeup work, first at a salon and then on her own. She opened her studio earlier this year to offer additional services, such as eyebrow microblading.

“I was really excited to have this space to offer more than just the makeup,” she says. “We love it.”

Her daughter is seeing the beauty business firsthand as she grows up. (“Halloween is a really fun time,” Neu says. “I love doing Halloween makeup!”)

But Mom has stressed what really matters. “If you were to ask her what makes someone beautiful, she’ll answer, ‘Being nice.’  I love that. … I want her to know what is important.”

Neu says she sees her role as enhancing her clients’ natural beauty. “Everyone, I feel, is beautiful,” she says. “Everyone has some trait that we can play up or intensify. I love making people feel renewed.”

— By Carolyn Doyle
Photo submitted: Ashley Neu applies makeup.