We chat to the make-up artist about “The Well of Loneliness,” what beauty products she would take to the moon and why she is optimistic about the future
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For make-up artist Bea Sweet, doing someone’s make-up is an exercise in trust. “It’s an honour to be trusted with another human’s image,” she says, “ a privilege to be trusted with their face.” After studying Prosthetics at The London College of Fashion, Bea moved into fashion when she realised she didn’t want her life to be “full of Orc sculptures and silicone.” Since then she has worked with photographers such as Nick Knight and Daniel Sannwald, and done the make-up for everyone from Paris Hilton to Erykah Badu.
Describing her beauty aesthetic as “deliberate, feminine and intelligent,” Bea’s signature looks use intentionally placed colours and textures: think powdery, pastel eyes, paint-stroke liner, bold-metallic pigments, glossy highlights, all of which are underpinned with effortless skin.
Looking past her career, Bea is hopeful for the future where she fantasises that “there is no glass ceiling for women and the gender pay gap is eradicated, all races are equal and no one would even think to place themselves above another due to the colour of skin or their hair or their features, there is no shame in a man hugging a man and he won’t be called “gay” for it because there is nothing wrong with loving the same sex in the first place.”
We spoke to Bea about her career highlights, must-have products and why she is optimistic about the future.
How did you get into make-up?
Bea Sweet: I went to The London College of Fashion and took a BA(Hons) in Prosthetics where I graduated with a first. I ended up working in fashion the second I realised I didn't want my life to be full of Orc sculptures and silicone. But I still love prosthetics, just in a fashion context.
What’s your career highlight?
Bea Sweet: I love working with Nick Knight especially with Simon Foxton. We used to be neighbours and I love him so much. I also love working with Daniel Sannwald, our latest Numero cover with Adesuwa is one of my favourite things we’ve done. Working with Kelly Rowland was a biggie for me also because she's iconic and the day Erykah Badu DM’d me on Instagram to do her makeup was also so exciting!
What 3 beauty products are in your bag right this second?
Bea Sweet: Tony Moly CatsWink Compact, YSL Volupte Liquid Colour Balm in 11 Hook Me Berry, Fenty Beauty Invisimatte Blotting Paper.
What’s your favourite smell and why?
Bea Sweet: Bella Freud 1970 candle that smells of black musk and patchouli. There are other notes in the candle such as Oakmoss, Myrrh & Sandalwood and when burnt it's meant to smell like the era, heavy with a luxurious intensity.
What’s your earliest beauty related memory?
Bea Sweet: When I was 14/15 I started a “business” called “HairOrgy” where I backcombed hair pieces and tried to sell them. It lasted about a week mainly because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
Which fictional character do you most relate to and why?
Bea Sweet: Stephen Gordon from The Well of Loneliness by Radcliffe Hall. Stephen, an only child, coming to terms with sexuality and self-image. I can relate to that.
Who is your beauty icon?
Bea Sweet: The female protagonist from The Adventures of the Black Girl In Her Search For God by George Bernard Shaw. Her intellectual powers soar, her ability to question and apply logic far outweighing her counterparts is an attractive trait. We can only judge her by the illustrations of John Farleigh from 1932 where she has short, natural afro hair and dark skin and by all intents and purposes she’s the epitome of a beauty icon.
What does beauty mean to you?
Bea Sweet: Make-up is an exercise in trust. It’s an honour to be trusted with another humans image, it’s a privilege to be trusted with their face. Beauty to me is in the diversity of the human image.
When do you feel most beautiful?
Bea Sweet: After a manicure. I keep my nails very short (I hate seeing the whites of my nails) so a Cadillac red shellac brings back my joy.
What beauty product would you take with you to the moon?
Bea Sweet: EgoEra DIY Natural Fruit Vegetable Beauty Automatic Multifunction Facial Mask Maker. Just so I’ve got something to do while I’m up there really. I’ll make a mask with moon dust.
Finish this sentence: the future of beauty looks like....
Bea Sweet: A reflection on the skill of the artists, physically and philosophically
Are you optimistic about the future?
Bea Sweet: I’m very hopeful for our youth. My girlfriend’s little sister is 15 and she’s so woke. She understands what left and right wing politics are, she understands racial tension, she understands what feminism is, she will talk about current affairs and has interests far above what her age usually dictates and her peers are just the same. This is so exciting, it means we have a whole generation of Millennials who are able to discuss politics openly and utilise social media to come together to create a giant voice and fight for what’s right and not just what’s easy. I am very optimistic for them and optimistic of them.
What is your fantasy future?
Bea Sweet: I’d love for people to have a greater awareness of their own privileges, how their actions really can make differences and how a single voice can matter. My fantasy future would be one where there is no glass ceiling for women and the gender pay gap is eradicated, all races are equal and no one would even think to place themselves above another due to the colour of skin or their hair or their features. There will be no shame in a man hugging a man and he won’t be called “gay” for it because there is nothing wrong with loving the same sex in the first place. Little boys can play with dolls, little girls can play with trucks and wear trousers to school. TERFS [trans-exclusionary radical feminists] are eradicated. Unpaid internships are a thing of the past and magazines pay us properly. Women will be believed and victims won’t be blamed. My fantasy future is one of unity and celebrating difference.
What do you think the world will look like in 100 years?
Bea Sweet: Hopefully we will look back on 2018 and think how backwards we all were
A friend once exclaimed that when he dies he wants 'Weeping virgins carved from marble to be placed in a circle around his grave'. What would your ideal tombstone look like?
Bea Sweet: Polished concrete.
If not your body then, is there anything you would want to leave behind? An artwork you haven't done yet, a book, a bloodline?
Bea Sweet: I will be survived by imagery and possibly reputation (depending on how strong the latter gets).
It's the year 2080 and the two sexes have become obsolete in favour of one single type of human. Describe your perfect evening in.
Bea Sweet: A beautiful view from somewhere high up but no higher than a mountain via a cable car to the mountain lodge. Floor to ceiling windows folded wide open, a little breeze. It’s a summer night, it’s been warm but it’s cooling off. Animals, furry and feathered. Some of my favourite books via audio, and a Jackfruit and Butternut Squash Sri Lankan Curry with brown rice. Any film or series screen written or directed by Céline Sciamma. Or just a night in watching a re-imagining of The Little Mermaid on TV in which Ariel doesn't have to sacrifice her tail, the aspect of her that makes her special, and she doesn't have to prioritise the needs of the male ego above her own needs (water) and remove herself away from friends, family and loved ones. She can stay exactly as she is
You have to replace your body with that of an animal or a mythological creature. What do you go for and why?
Bea Sweet: A cat. It’s always been a cat. Probably rather large, terribly furry, not altogether mild-tempered and tabby.
You encounter a hostile alien race with an inability to see colour, while sound is their only mechanism for communication. What would you play to them to inspire them to spare you and the rest of the human race?
Bea Sweet: Kittie - Brackish.