It all comes back to the theatre for M.A.C. Pro Team Senior Artist Beno Lim. He’s been working in the make-up industry for 22 years now, but he still remembers fondly getting his first taste of applying make-up for a friend in a school performance when he was fourteen years old. “I still remember the not so well-blended blue eye shadow and red lips! Back then, I didn’t even own any make-up. My tools were two brushes and my ten fingers!”
When he got out of the army in 1991, he snagged a role in stage musical I Have A Date With Spring. Beno volunteered to do the make-up for his cast-mates, and bought his first make-up kit for that production. Since then, he hasn’t looked back – he has done magazine shoots (Her World, Female, Elle), keyed for huge fashion events (Singapore Men’s Fashion Week), and helped celebrities (Lady Gaga, Isabelle Huppert, Sophie Marceau) get red-carpet ready.
Of course, Beno has also worked extensively with W!LD RICE – 2013 marks his tenth year collaborating with us, a decade that has seen him do outstanding work for the likes of La Cage Aux Folles and Hansel & Gretel. He’ll also be designing the make-up for all three productions in W!LD RICE’s upcoming In The Spotlight season.
We spoke to Beno about how he got into the industry and the particular challenges of designing make-up for the theatre.
Tell us a little about your background – how did you get into the make-up design line?
Right after my NS ended in 1991, I joined make-up brand Prescriptives as the first male beauty analyst in Singapore. At that time, it was not common to see a guy promoting make-up! When I told my mom that I was joining the beauty industry, she was sceptical and thought that I would only stay for three months. Ten years later, in 2001, I joined M.A.C. Cosmetics. I have been with MAC for 12 beautiful years. Time flies – through Prescriptives and M.A.C., I have already been with Estée Lauder for 22 years. Ivan Heng was so kind; he even appeared in the long-service award video commemorating my 20th anniversary in the company!
Have you always known that this was the career for you?
I have always enjoyed reading fashion magazines and looking at the beautiful images, styling and transformations that happen in their pages. I happened to read an article about an old Japanese make-up artist who was very passionate about his craft. It was interesting for me to know that a guy can actually have a long career in the make-up industry. That inspired me, as I wanted a career that I can grow old with. Moreover, as a child, I always enjoyed art classes and colour always intrigued me. I don’t like desk-bound jobs either; I find it boring to wear long-sleeved shirts and ties to work.
Tell us a little bit about the day-to-day work of a make-up artist.
As a makeup artist, no two days are alike. I get to meet and work with different kinds of people. I could be doing a shoot for a magazine cover or designing looks for a upcoming play. I might be keying a fashion show, or answering make-up questions from magazines and newspapers. I also find time to be in the M.A.C. store to keep touch with the customers. My work also requires me to travel to other regions – for example, during International Fashion Week.
Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?
I draw my inspiration from everyday life – movies, music, nature, books, travelling and the quirks of experience. To me, make-up tells a story, be it for a fashion shoot or for a play. That’s why actors or models need make-up to help them to play their roles. Even the make-up that ordinary women wear tells you a lot about that person.
Tell us about some of your more memorable jobs with W!LD RICE.
One of the memorable jobs would be my first play with W!LD RICE, which was Animal Farm in 2003. I had to mix a jar of black paint for the actors to use, and I had to use a big paint brush to paint big strokes on their bodies.
The other memorable moment would be working for Cinderel-Lah! in 2003, at the Jubilee Hall. Sheikh Haikel played the ugly sister Treasure. During one of the performances, he suffered really severe pain in his back and had difficulty walking. He only managed to perform the first act of the show; after that, I helped carry him down to the hotel lobby where his family was waiting to drive him to the hospital.
Are there any particular considerations to designing make-up for the theatre rather than for other mediums?
The challenge in designing looks for the theatre is that the make-up tends to be larger than life. The make-up needs to be able to be seen by the audience members sitting on the last row. So it’s important to have a sense of the kind of lighting used, because certain colours tend to look washed-out under certain kinds of lighting. I also work closely with the director, hair designer and wardrobe designer in designing the look for each character in the play.
Do you have any advice for students who are thinking about becoming make-up artists in the future?
There is nothing glamourous about doing make-up. It requires long hours and hard work. My make-up bag weighs 25kg! You need to have the right attitude and work ethic. Simply doing a make-up course does not make you a designer; it takes years of experience. Be patient and never stop developing your skills.