A Modern Makeup Artist

Photography by Jamie Isaia


Francelle’s view of transformative beauty

It’s almost too easy to paint Francelle as a next-gen superstar makeup artist. At 33, she’s already climbed to the top of her profession, shooting with talents like Karl Lagerfeld, Terry Richardson, Ellen von Unwerth, Jean-Baptiste Mondino, and Ryan McGinley for the likes of Purple, V, Tar, i-D, Self-Service and Vogue. But it’s her unpretentious approach and ability to treat subjects as individuals that marks her perspective as special.

Even as she professes admiration for the style icons that she’s worked with (Milla Jovovich, Victoria Beckham, Mandy Coon and Angela Lindvall), her inspiration actually comes from so-called regular people and the pursuit of transformative beauty. She uses descriptions like “gorgeous” and “beautiful” to describe something physical. But her personal view is a holistic take on healthfulness and nutrition.

Francelle’s style speaks to distancing one’s self from preconceived expectations of beauty or fashion. Yet she connects the accepted—say, interpreting a specific pop culture reference like Tina Turner—with the unique and personal. The result is a beauty theory for the individual rather than a vision for the collective.

Like many woman who work in fashion, Francelle was first inclined toward beauty by her mother and grandma. Her mom even ran her own natural skincare company until the Hurricane Katrina tragedy. Francelle remembers trips to the beauty counter during her childhood outside New Orleans as the first time when makeup offered a mystique. And film legends like Greta Garbo inspired her to explore the techniques of makeup application. She recalls her first palette was a classic box of Crayola crayons with the pencil sharpener built into the back.

The technique of makeup application is highly specialized, requiring the fine and firm lines of a fine artist or painter, as well as the people skills of a corporate deal-maker. Setting technique aside for the moment, the communication skills and curiosity for her clients has to be genuine, she admits. One day, a 15-year-old fresh face might require a bit of confidence building. The next day, a model’s supersized ego could require nurturing. In fact, it’s easy to argue makeup artists are often taken for granted until the artist has their name on a bottle of shampoo or cosmetic item.

Francelle’s approach is to enter each set with an openness to translate any intended composition into physical form. Words like smoky or natural might describe a feeling. Then Francelle needs to put her proverbial pen to paper. To that effect, she totes around several makeup kits with an A–Z of hyper-specialized cosmetics, unconventional things, as well as many of the familiar drug store items. Ultimately, her success is maybe a post-Warhol Superstar, refusing to be beautiful for only 15 minutes.

– Michael Cohen