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Lana del Rey Dazed
Dazed Spring-Summer 2017 issuePhotography Charlotte Wales, styling Robbie Spencer

Pamela Cochrane is behind Lana del Rey’s dreamy Hollywood starlet look

TextAlex Peters

We catch up with the make-up artist to talk inspirations growing up, red carpet make-up and what beauty means to her

From digital artists to photographers, body sculptors and hair stylists to make-up and nail artists, in our Spotlight series, we profile the creatives tearing up the rulebook in their respective industries.

If you’ve ever found yourself admiring Lana del Rey’s retro cat eyes, flawless creamy complexion, or pouty nude lips, then it’s more than likely you’ve been appreciating the work of Pamela Cochrane

Del Rey’s make-up artist since 2011, when the singer was just a fresh-faced, newly-signed artist, Cochrane is responsible for cultivating del Rey’s signature retro-Americana look that has had us all weak at the knees since “Video Games”. Together with hairstylist Anna Cafone, Cochrane helped build the mythology that surrounds del Rey and her timeless, dreamy, glamorously-kitschy-in-that-classic-Hollywood-way beauty. 

Obsessed with beauty since a teen growing up in Scotland in the 90s, when make-up came as free gifts with magazines and eyebrows were plucked within an inch of their lives, Cochrane cut her teeth assisting make-up legends Alex Box and Charlotte Tilbury before breaking out on her own. Today, she has countless covers (including Dazed), album art, music videos – most recently double-feature “Fuck it I Love You” and “The Greatest” – and red carpet looks under her belt. We caught up with the make-up artist to find out more...

Tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up.

Pamela Cochrane: I grew up in small towns all over Scotland, born in Glasgow, then moved to Pitlochry, Thurso, then down to a little town called Biggar until I left home at 17, first through to Edinburgh then on to London a year later.

I do think moving around a lot as a kid has made it easier for me to adapt to places, people and situations, which helps with the nature of my job. In my adult life, I’ve mainly lived in London since the year 2000 as well as a three-year stint in New York which was a dream I’d always had and was one of the best character-building things I have ever done. 

Do you remember the first time you were conscious of your appearance?

Pamela Cochrane: I remember my mum would always do me and my sister’s hair and I used to make her spend so much time on me trying to get as high and sleek a ponytail as possible. It always had to be perfect and super high on top of my head, with a scrunchie of course! 

Growing up, what informed your understanding of beauty and identity and the way you presented yourself visually?

Pamela Cochrane: In my early teens I was definitely into the 90s teen mags like Mizz, Bliss, and Sugar which always came with free gifts of sparkly make-up at the time. I was also very inspired by my friends, we were all quite into beauty and obsessed with make-up, self-tanning and over-plucking our eyebrows, which is something I think we should have all learnt about at school in the 90s! In my later teens/early 20s, Dazed and Vogue were my go-to magazines and my style icon was 60s actress Anna Karina.

Why are you a make-up artist? 

Pamela Cochrane: When I was in high school around the age of 13/14, my friend’s auntie was a make-up artist and gave me the opportunity to be on a children’s TV show called Skoosh! I remember sitting in the make-up room having my hair and make-up done and feeling quite in awe of her and her job, so I guess that’s when I first thought about it. 

How did you actually get into it?

Pamela Cochrane: I was always into art at school so when I left I did an Art Foundation course in Edinburgh, before embarking on a two-year specialist make-up course at the London College of Fashion in 2000. After graduating I started freelancing on the Bobbi Brown make-up counters which was a valuable experience working on all different skin tones and types, and also funded me to continue to stay in London. 

I went on to do a bit of teaching at Jemma Kids make-up school then started assisting various make-up artists on shoots and the shows during fashion weeks in London, Paris, Milan and New York, mainly assisting Alex Box and Charlotte Tilbury. This is where I really learnt new skills and very important shoot and industry etiquette. 

Can you tell us a bit about your creative process, from initial idea to final image? 

Pamela Cochrane: For me, the most important thing is being fully prepared with my kit so I can take on whatever the look/mood may be and adapt accordingly if things change throughout the day, which often they do. Occasionally I’ll have notice beforehand and can prep with ideas but quite often it’s instinctual and working in the moment. The process is definitely a collaboration between everyone on set. 

Is beauty something you try to capture in your work or something that you reject? What is your relationship to ‘beauty’?

Pamela Cochrane: Beauty in my work is creating a striking image at the same time as bringing out a person’s natural beauty that can, at times, be hidden.

Beauty for me is how you feel from the inside as it radiates on the outside, which is why I find it important to have a healthy balance in life between work, social life, exercise/self-care, time in nature. 

How would you describe your aesthetic? Would you say you have a signature look or technique that people come to you for?

Pamela Cochrane: My signature style with Lana has definitely leaned more towards cat eyes with a 60s vibe and I do love glossy skin and creamy products but overall, I find as a makeup artist you have to be versatile and be able to produce different looks depending on who/what you're doing. 

What are the projects that you’re most proud of? 

Pamela Cochrane: Working with Lana Del Rey since 2011, just as she got signed to her record label, has been a really special journey and I feel proud to have been a part of it with her. There are also some editorials where I’ve been on location with some great teams when we all collaborate together well and are all excited about what we have shot, those feel like proud moments.

What’s the most significant thing you’ve learnt over the course of your career? 

Pamela Cochrane: I’ve learnt to be myself and trust my intuition.

How do you use make-up to tell a story or convey emotion?

Pamela Cochrane: It all depends on the character/person I am working on and my instinct in the moment.

Does your technique change depending on if the look you are doing is for red carpet/editorial/runway? 

Pamela Cochrane: I would say the main thing I find with red carpet is controlling shine a little more and maybe a slightly heavier base, with more classic make-up. Whereas on editorials skin can be lighter and glossier and the make-up can be pushed more in an artistic way.

What are your desert island products?

Pamela Cochrane: Egyptian Magic, Dr Barbara Sturm Sun Drops, Shu Uemura eyelash curlers, Illamasqua gel eyeliner, Anastasia Beverley Hills brow wiz and Stila Peach Blossom lip and cheek cream.

How do you think our understanding of beauty has shifted with the evolution of technology?

Pamela Cochrane: I think digital media has made us more aware and obsessed with the image that we present to the world. It has made it more accessible and there are more voices telling us there are different types of beauty, which is why it’s even more important to stay true to ourselves and our own aesthetics that make us individuals.

What advice would you give to young artists hoping to get into the industry? 

Pamela Cochrane: Always say yes to opportunities especially when starting out, as you never know where it might lead to and take any opportunity to assist established make-up artists as I found that to be the most valuable form of learning.

What is the future of beauty?

Pamela Cochrane: The future of beauty I feel will be even more sustainable and ethical products, people are already more conscious of what chemicals they are putting on their skin and the packaging products come in.

What are you currently working on?

Pamela Cochrane: I’m planning some make-up tutorials in between shoots and flying back and forth to LA at the moment for some promo work with Lana for her new album.

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