She’s the woman who gave Kate Moss her trademark feline eye, who bottled the golden glow of supermodel Gisele Bündchen and has transformed A-listers and ordinary folk alike.
And now flame-haired make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury is on course to become richer than many of her Hollywood clients.
After a year of talks, the 47-year-old make-up artist is said to be approaching a deal for the sale of her eponymous beauty brand.
With rumours that it could go for as much as £1 billion, and interested parties reportedly including Unilever and a prestige beauty brand, a deal could put Charlotte — who is listed as a ‘person with significant control’ of the brand’s parent company, Islestarr Holdings — on track for a pay day of as much as £500million.
Make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury was the woman who gave Kate Moss her trademark feline eye
It would be quite a coup for the woman who calls herself a ‘hippy in killer heels’, and models herself as a British Estee Lauder (a brand once rumoured to be interested in buying Charlotte Tilbury).
From Hollywood friends and a penchant for the supernatural, to an unconventional upbringing and very strong views about cosmetics, BETH HALE looks behind Charlotte Tilbury’s perfectly painted exterior . . .
A MOST BOHEMIAN UPBRINGING
You could say that Charlotte was born into the world of celebrity.
Her parents, Lance and Patsy, were the original posh hippies: he an artist, she a producer, who met at a full-moon party on the Balearic island of Formentera, and later decided to make their home on the neighbouring isle Ibiza.
Charlotte was born in the UK, but moved to the White Isle aged just nine months. There was no telephone and intermittent electricity, but glamour-a-plenty.
She recalls hanging out in the pool at the Ku Club — described as the wildest club in the world at the time — with her little sister, Leah, while their parents boogied the night away as Grace Jones or James Brown performed.
Charlotte Tilbury’s parents, Lance and Patsy, were the original posh hippies: he an artist, she a producer
When it got too late, the girls would simply go to sleep in the car.
‘We were brought up around a lot of creative people in the film, fashion and music industry. I didn’t really know who they were half the time,’ she has said.
‘I remember running around with Freddie Mercury; Laurence Olivier was always in the bar. ‘
The young Charlotte went to a local school, where she was apparently taught astrophysics by a man called Ra and did homework on telepathy.
At 13, boarding school in the UK beckoned, but in the holidays the teenager’s world view was shaped by pool parties with the Rolling Stones and drinks with supermodels, artists and hippies.
No wonder she says of her childhood: ‘I still miss it — wild with complete freedom.’
BRUSH WITH MASCARA THAT STARTED IT ALL
Mum Patsy taught Charlotte that ‘lipstick is instant glamour’. But it was a brush with a mascara wand that really got the ball rolling.
Until she went to boarding school, Charlotte had never worn make-up, and for a fair-skinned, pale-lashed teenager, mascara was a revelation.
‘I suddenly became more popular overnight. Everyone from 17 to 70 on the island reacted to me in such a different way. I realised make-up was my secret weapon.’
Never short on self-belief, she says she knew she would have her own brand even then.
Her first job was assisting Princess Diana’s make-up artist Mary Greenwell, a family friend whom Charlotte had first met on the beach in Ibiza, aged 11.
After training at London’s Glauca Rossi School of Make-Up, she joined Greenwell behind the scenes at Nineties fashion shows.
It was a jet-set start. ‘I remember being backstage at a runway show for the first time, and every single supermodel was in a room: Claudia, Christy, Naomi, Cindy, Stephanie, Linda and Helena,’ she said. ‘It was intimidating, but it was also just sort of breathtaking.’
After doing hard graft for a photographic agency, Charlotte’s ascent was stratospheric, working for Vogue, Vanity Fair, billboard campaigns and red-carpet events.
Eventually, she gave up covering Paris Fashion Week because it conflicted with the Oscars, for which her dazzling client list includes Naomi Watts, Penelope Cruz and Nicole Kidman.
The make-up artist had to turn down Paris Fashion Week because it conflicted with the Oscars,for which her client list includes Naomi Watts, Penelope Cruz and Nicole Kidman
She went on to become creative director for beauty brand Helena Rubinstein, created lipstick lines for Armani and Alexander McQueen and the first cosmetics line for Tom Ford.
Finally, she started her own brand, Charlotte Tilbury, in 2013. Guests at her launch event at Selfridges included Helena Bonham Carter, Jasmine Guinness and Cara Delevingne, and there were women queuing around the block to get their hands on her products.
There were similar scenes when she launched in the U.S. and Amsterdam, and the brand is now available in 76 countries.
In 2017, U.S. venture capital firm Sequoia bought a minority stake in the business, while other backers include the photo- grapher Mario Testino and model Stella Tennant.
Sales rose to £145 million in 2018, according to the most recent accounts filed at Companies House, although it made a pre-tax loss of £2.1 million.
However, the accounts made clear that since then the company has launched in Space NK and Sephora stores in Europe, and begun trading on Tmall, China’s equivalent of Amazon.
Never backwards in coming forwards, Charlotte’s career has been marked by her utter conviction in her own ability.
‘I’ve always been driven, so I knew I would be successful,’ she said. ‘I’m the only make-up artist I know to have had the September issue cover of U.S. Vogue, UK Vogue and French Vogue in the same year.’
THE £18.5m HOME
A long-time resident of exclusive Notting Hill in West London, Charlotte lives with her film producer husband George Waud, 53, and sons Flynn, ten, and five-year-old Valentine.
The couple wed in 2014, the same year her divorce from actor Charles Forbes was finalised, after eight years of marriage. Charlotte has since said they realised they were better friends than lovers.
The secret cream the stars love
If there’s one Charlotte Tilbury product that gets women excited, it’s her best-selling Magic Cream (£75 for 50ml).
Inspired by her artist father’s focus on priming a canvas, she first whipped up the moisturiser to use on models’ skin for fashion shows in the Nineties. The backstage cry to ‘get me the secret cream’ soon spread.
So when it came to setting up her own brand, Magic Cream — containing camellia oil, rosehip oil, bionymph peptides and hyaluronic acid — was the first product developed.
During its North American launch, it sold out in six minutes and according to the brand, a jar sells every two minutes.
Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Cream costs £75 for 50ml
It was something of a whirlwind; in a single year she got divorced, remarried, had her second child and launched Charlotte Tilbury in America.
In fact, her schedule was so busy that her wedding — which ended at 1am at trendy London restaurant Chiltern Firehouse — was only four days before her due date.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a woman who considers midnight to be an early night, she was back at work — baby in tow — a couple of weeks after giving birth.
Last year, she splashed out £18.5 million on a five-storey period property in Notting Hill, and a neighbouring £3.8 million flat, and has lodged plans to join the two properties to create a mega-townhouse with wine cellar, five bedrooms, three dressing rooms, a yoga studio and a separate annexe for her staff.
Staff are necessary when you work and play as hard as Charlotte, who still spends summers on Ibiza. Dubbed her ‘dream team’, they include an executive assistant and a personal assistant — one of whom usually wakes her up — a nanny and a housekeeper.
Keeping things in the family, her sister, Leah, is Charlotte Tilbury’s director of brand creative, while her niece, Sofia, is a brand ambassador, make-up artist and product and content creator.
By her own admission, Charlotte is no domestic goddess, but she prides herself on her cocktails.
Her favourites are a raspberry rascal (champagne, crushed raspberries and vodka) or a ‘skinny bitch’ (vodka, soda, lemon). ‘I’m a bit of a 24-hour girl. There’s never a dull moment with me.’
THE A-LISTER LIPGLOSSY POSSE
Charlotte — who calls everyone ‘darling’ — is possibly more A-List than some of her clients.
She has been one of Kate Moss’s besties ever since they met more than 20 years ago on a shoot, and the model is godmother to both of Charlotte’s sons. Kate was a guest at Charlotte’s first wedding, on Ibiza in 2006, where guests included Jade Jagger. And no prizes for guessing who did Kate’s make-up for her 2011 wedding to rocker Jamie Hince.
Charlotte has also worked with Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow and Victoria Beckham, to name a few, and did Amal Clooney’s make-up when she married George in 2014. J.K. Rowling is another client and, in recent years, seems to have taken inspiration from Charlotte’s own look, dyeing her hair a similar shade of red.
J.K. Rowling is another client and, in recent years, seems to have taken inspiration from Charlotte’s own look, dyeing her hair a similar shade of red
Charlotte’s Hot Lips lipstick shades are named after the women who inspire her — including Amal (Amazing Amal), Rowling (JK Magic), Kylie Minogue (Dancefloor Princess) and Susan Sarandon (Red Hot Susan). It’s not hard to imagine that there’s a discreet battle among stars hoping to win such an honour.
However, one actress was less than impressed to discover a product had been given her name. Last year, Brooke Shields took legal action against the company when she discovered a brow pencil had been named BrookeS. The company denied any wrongdoing, a judge dismissed part of the case and it was later settled.
NEVER SEEN WITHOUT MAKE-UP
Titian-haired Charlotte always takes looking your best to the extreme; she wore full make-up and a black negligee to give birth, and her motto is ‘smoky eyes ’til you die’.
It’s no wonder she gets through two kohl pencils and a wand-and-a-half of mascara a month.
Contrary to beauty convention, she even wears make-up to bed (which must play havoc with the satin pillowcases she swears by for stopping wrinkles).
She claims that, on her mother’s advice to ‘keep the mystery alive’, no man has seen ever seen her without cosmetics. She locks her bathroom door every night while she removes her make-up, then re-applies her eyeliner and mascara before re-entering the bedroom.
She once unapologetically declared that after the birth of her first-born, she didn’t want to look at him (‘too squeamish’) until she’d had a shower, washed her face and re-applied her make-up.
A devotee of the little black dress, Charlotte has 250 in her wardrobe, but does dabble in colour occasionally. She owns 300-odd pairs of heels and says the only flats she owns are a pair of Wellington boots to wear to festivals. Claiming to find exercise ‘boring’, she asserts that high heels ‘give you the best bum’.
However, she has other ways of keeping healthy.
She once climbed Machu Picchu in Peru — wearing full make-up, of course — to have her crystals blessed, and consults clairvoyants and follows astrology and tarot.
She also takes homeopathic drops and Vitamin C, and uses acupuncture and a healer when in LA — although she says she still loves a full English breakfast.
Blessed with a veritable bucket-load of self-confidence, she insists she never feels insecure around the beautiful women with whom she works.
‘I’m crazy about beautiful women and crazy about women who make the most of themselves,’ she said.
‘Like Helena Rubinstein said: “There are no ugly women — only lazy ones”.’
HER WINNING FORMULA
What is Charlotte’s formula for business success? To quite literally give her customers a formula.
From the start, the brand’s selling point has been giving women a look to aspire to and the instructions on how to achieve it.
There is a library of ten looks. Want to bring out your inner Kate Moss? Try the Rock Chick.
Prefer something more glossy? Try the Golden Goddess or The Vintage Vamp.
For £165 you can buy all the products to complete the look, each with step-by-step instructions.
The cosmetics guru has enhanced her brand by harnessing the power of social media to tell her fans how they can look like her Hollywood clients.
She has 3.5 million Instagram followers, and her ‘feline flick’ tutorial on YouTube has been viewed 5.7 million times.
She famously said 50 per cent of women in the UK don’t engage with make-up. ‘It’s crazy — they have this weapon in their arsenal and they don’t use it.’