Words Miranda Wilkinson
James Kaliardos is a creative maverick – he is a make-up maestro who has worked on the faces of everyone from Madonna to Miley Cyrus, shot with all the greats from Avedon to Testino via Lindbergh; he is a magazine mogul, co-founding Visionaire and a director, writer and actor. He launched his own collection for MAC and consulted for L’Oréal for several years as their international make-up artist, where I was lucky enough to work with him and meet our editor Natasha Lakic who was assisting him. More than a decade on, when I was asked to write the beauty pages for OVERDUE I knew he had to be my first interview, who could be a more perfect subject than someone who understands beauty and publishing.
“I try to challenge my perception of beauty daily…”
“I’m always looking to bring out the best of what a
woman wants from her beauty…”
How do you think the beauty aesthetic has evolved during your career?
When I started in the 90s either I had editors who would flip out if they could detect any make up on the model, or I’d be encouraged to do something more abstract and arty. Glam was seen as quite tacky and unfashionable on the runway and for magazines. There was a big divide between Hollywood and the fashion industry. Today there is still a divide between the type of beauty people obsess over on Instagram and how fashion sees beauty. It’s definitely more of an open playing field, and the ability to promote one’s own photos and work has made stars out of people that would have earlier never been seen.
How do you define beauty?
Firstly it transcends skin colour and types, I try to challenge my perception of beauty daily, my connection to the arts helps open up my imagination so I don’t get stuck in believing only one type of beauty is the right kind of beauty. Beauty is a mask that we wear, but it can also reveal something hidden inside of us. Beauty is that touch of magic and it can also be a shield against the outside world.
What are your go to/must-have products?
Nars Dragon Girl red pencil, MAC pearl cream highlighter, Clé De Peau pressed powder, Nars radiant creamy concealer, Japanese sourced super thin black liquid liners.
What is or what are your standout career moment(s)?
Talking politics while doing Hillary Clinton’s makeup. Playing a part encouraging designers and photographers to use all kinds of diverse models. Working on SpiderMan with Marisa Tomei, Madonna teaching me yoga. Shooting for 60 hours with Gaga on her music video, laughing with Miley and collaborating on her perfect makeup approach, watching Irving Penn discover a photograph as he shot it. Editing Cindy Crawford and Stephanie Seymour photos with Richard Avedon. Getting fed an oyster out of Helmut Newton’s hand in Monte Carlo shooting for Vogue. Working with Francois Nars as he photographed his campaigns. Steven Meisel’s encouragement. Launching my MAC cosmetics line at the Acropolis in Athens. Being kissed by Michelle Obama in The White House.
What defines your personal makeup artistry?
I’m always looking to bring out the best of what a woman wants from her beauty based on her situation, her mood, how confident she feels, what her desires are. I like a dialogue between us, I’m not into forcing a women to look a certain way. I love the way women look without makeup so every step to me is a well-considered choice, an act with thought. I try to get a look down to its essential products and placements. I work quite intuitively, and I don’t like to plan everything but I see in my mind’s eye where I want to go. Often when I see online tutorials I write a comment asking “Why so many steps?”
What is next for JK?
Hopefully one night with 8 hours of sleep!
Read the full interview in our debut issue, available here.