Australia's own Rae Morris is a world renowned makeup artist, best selling author and the creator of the world's first magnetic makeup brush range with point technology. X Files sits down with Rae to discuss her life, unbelievable career journey and what's next for the makeup mogul.
From the beginning, where did it all begin for you?
I fell into makeup… well not literally, although I have done that too! I was born and raised in Brisbane, Australia, and actually started out as a hairdresser, running my own salon at 19 years of age, and it was through that profession that I found myself at the ‘Model of the World’ pageant in Istanbul in 1993.
I was attending to a model’s hair whilst on the other side of the room, Naomi Campbell (one of the judges), was having her makeup done. Suddenly, there was a flurry of angry voices and her makeup artist headed for the door… in the stunned silence that followed, Naomi glared around the room and as fate would have it her gaze fell on me. ‘Fix my lips’ she said. I looked at her mouth, then at the lip gloss on the bench and with a wave of unwarranted confidence thought ‘how hard can it be?!’
I picked up the lip gloss and got to work, and as I did the door burst open and whole room erupted in a blaze of flashlights… the paparazzi had arrived. Next thing I knew, my picture was plastered all over the tabloids and my makeup career had officially begun.
Since then a LOT has happened… I returned to Australia and was fortunate enough to be trained by the legendary makeup artist Richard Sharah… with his encouragement I packed my bags and moved to Sydney and since then I have had the privilege of travelling the world and working with some of the biggest names not only in fashion but on the planet! From fashion magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Marie-Claire, to global superstars like Pink, Cate Blanchett, Jessica Biel, Kylie Minogue, Kelly Roland, and Hugh Jackman… and supermodels such as Miranda Kerr and Catherine McNeil.
Makeup is my world, and I know that a little thing… the right technique, colour or brush… can make all the difference. The fashion world is the Formula 1 of makeup, but just as with cars, the technology and tricks are just as applicable to the real world and there are secrets you can use everyday to highlight your radiance and beauty regardless of your age. My goal is to bring you completely into my world, for you to see the potential in you that I as a professional makeup artist do, and in doing so change not just the way you look, but also the way you feel everyday.
Please give us a brief rundown of your career journey.
I started my career in beauty early. I had just turned 14 when I began my hairdressing apprenticeship and was fully qualified by the age of 17, and a salon owner by 19.
My makeup career began after that incredible sliding doors moment with Naomi. Once I was back home in Australia I sought out the late Richard Sharah for some intensive training. He was one of the best and most creative makeup artists on the planet (and David Bowie’s makeup artist at that time). He asked me to become his assistant and I flew to Sydney to assist the best in the industry. In those days, very few makeup artists produced their own photoshoots. I would collaborate with amazing photographers and models and then submit the stories to different magazines. I think this way of working and creating my own content (before that was a thing) in a sense the short cut the process for me. I started doing jobs for teen magazine Dolly, and then jumped very swiftly to Harpers Bazaar.
Pictured: Rae's home studio.
What does a normal day look like for you?
A normal day for me is when there is no plan. I only look 24 hours ahead because in our industry our timetables are forever changing. I can go from directing a show for fashion week with 60 bare faces waiting to be glammed up with 30 assistants, to designing more makeup brushes with my team in Japan, and to shooting creative editorial images in my own studio, AKA “My happy creative place” which is in Bondi Beach. Last but not least, spending time with my daughter. This is where I turn the world off and try to be as present as I can with her. I know I won’t get this time back so the one thing I’m grateful for during Covid was the extra time I got to spend with my family. ‘Normality’ for me is something that is forever changing.
You’ve achieved so much in your career, having won Australian Makeup Artist of the Year 4 times, becoming a bestselling author and you were the longest serving Global Makeup Director for L’Oreal Paris. What achievement are you most proud of?
I have two. Firstly, having my books go onto the “Best Sellers List” multiple times. I’m dyslexic, so after failing school the word ‘author’ being attached to me… I still pinch myself. Secondly, winning the good design award for my makeup brush range. …and also having them made by the last living “Master of Craft” left in the world who is based in Japan. My relationship with my brush maker and team in Japan is something that I hold so dear to my heart and are people I can now call family.
What inspired you to start your own business?
It happened accidentally. I believe the best businesses start when you're inspired to create and not being attached to the money or the outcome. Calligraphy shaped brushes work so much more efficiently than most makeup brushes because the shape cuts down blending time more than half. In the early days, I found a brush maker who personally made brushes only for me to use. Makeup artists and models then started requesting brushes for them to buy.
Backstage in Milan, I noticed Guido Palau (Iconic hairdresser) was using makeup brushes to smooth away fly aways. So I thought, “I’m going to make a brush for hairdressers” (which was my first brush, #26 Radiance brush). He used it at the Alexander McQueen show which brought me amazing press. I then tried it as a foundation brush and at that moment I knew I had done something special. I had never seen foundation look so flawless and airbrushed and since that day I rarely use my hands or a sponge to apply foundation. This is how my business began to grow.
Before becoming a world renowned makeup artist you were formerly a hairdresser. What inspired your career change?
I had carpal tunnels in my wrist which made hairdressing really difficult. I couldn’t hold a pair of scissors for too long or blow dry. I had to think of another way of earning income since I had my own hair salon. So I thought I’d give makeup a go, I would do mini makeup overs on clients but I never thought I could make a career out of it.
Who have you enjoyed working with the most?
P!nk is one of my favourites. Her nickname to me is Yoda because everything that comes out of her mouth is like a spiritual experience. Her presence and knowledge as a strong female is incredible. Another is Jessica Mauboy- hand on heart, she makes me want to be a better human. No matter how down I’m feeling or how much negative talk is in my head, there’s something about being with her that is life changing. Last but not least, my brush maker in Japan. The relationship we’ve built now has come to a point that we call each other family.
Pictured: Rae's home studio.
How have the challenges of the coronavirus and subsequent lockdowns changed your professional life?
It’s probably been the hardest time in my life. Even when lockdown restrictions eased, the makeup industry still had the strictest rules because our models couldn’t wear masks. Business wise, it was great because it forced me to work on the things I’ve been putting aside such as designing my makeup range (which I have been putting aside for 10 years).
Personally, the positive has been that I’ve had more time to be with my daughter who’s at a vulnerable age. It has taken away that guilt of working long hours. It’s also made me realise how much time I waste distracting myself (e.g. scrolling through my phone). It was a time to check and take care of myself more. Anxiety and depression has always been a part of my life so work has always been a distraction. Taking that distraction away has been the hardest but probably the most important moment because I’ve had to sit in my anxiety and really start loving and looking after myself, especially as I have a daughter. Coming out of the other side, things that would usually bother or upset me don’t anymore because I can now see the bigger picture.
What role does social media play in your business?
If you asked me 5 years ago, I used it purely because I had to, not because I wanted to. But now, I love social media. It’s like you’re the curator of your own magazine. I also get very inspired by the amazing creatives I find through it. I was the type of person that would buy so many Italian Vogues and now I have that and more at my fingertips. But you have to learn to turn it off. Yes, there’s lots of negativity attached to social media but I use the Marie Kondo saying ‘does it spark joy?’ when I follow accounts. The only problem I have with it is that as a creative, I overthink my content too much. Hence why I’m currently expanding my team to help me with this.
The make up & fashion world so often collide. How does fashion influence your style & execution?
As a makeup artist, sometimes it’s the number one driving decision for me when designing a look especially if I’m shooting with Harpers Bazaar or a show for Fashion Week. When shooting with a fashion magazine, it’s very important to work alongside the fashion editors because we all want an incredible outcome.
Please describe your personal style? (fashion)
My style is very much inspired by androgynous, clean lined and mostly black items. I also love Japanese designers such as Comme Des Garçons. I like to personally stay in my lane and don’t usually follow every trend but if there’s a trend that I’d suit, I’d absolutely go for it.
Pictured: Rae's home studio.
What are you favourite brands from Parlour X?
Are there any Parlour X pieces you currently have your eye on?
What is next for you?
I’m very excited to travel again. The second we are able to, I’ll be going to Japan as we’re developing something very exciting for my makeup brushes. We’ll also be travelling to Korea, Germany and Switzerland as I’m currently designing a makeup brand. On top of that, I’ve been wanting to make up for lost time and get back into being creative and shooting again as I’m very passionate about education within the makeup industry.