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Blanche Macdonald

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Makeup Instructor Leah Elliston Brings Fashion Week Fabulousness to the Classroom

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Blanche Macdonald students in Leah Elliston’s Fashion Makeup classes receive more than insider tips and techniques from an Artist regularly creating magic backstage at Fashion Weeks around the world. They’re also getting daily shots of inspiration from a Makeup Artist whose passion for fashion continues to swell.

“Working at a big show is amazing,” insists Leah. “It’s hectic and there’s pressure, but it’s always exciting. When I see the models in the clothes, makeup and hair, that’s everything to me. If it’s a collection or a designer I love, I’ll still get goose bumps. I worked on a Mary Katrantzou show in London two years ago that was absolutely stunning. The intricacy of design was so beautiful. The talent you’re working with across the board at a Fashion Week in London, Paris, Milan or New York, from the designer to the Makeup team, is ridiculous. It’s so cool to be a part of that.”

Leah’s awe-inspiring résumé is a reflection of a life that regularly takes her away from her Vancouver home. Among its many highlights are her stints working at various Fashion Weeks for names and brands like Roberto Cavalli, Vivienne Westwood, Giambattista Valli, Salvatore Ferragamo, Simone Rocha, Balmain, Temperley London and Chloé. Away from the runway she’s brought her artistry to the Juno and Leo Awards, the Canadian Country Music Awards and the Toronto International Film Festival (where she groomed stars included Forest Whitaker, Kevin Spacey, Josh Groban and James Taylor). Somehow she finds the time to document her work and her views on today’s trends at her blog, Smudge Style. All of which make clear that Canada's Top Makeup School students are in the presence of Makeup royalty.

There was an artist dwelling inside Leah from an early age. She’ll cheekily remind anyone asking that the proof of that latent talent arrived when she was a six year old growing up in Nottingham, England.

“I won an award!” she laughs. “When Prince Charles and Princess Diana got married my school held a painting competition. From the entire school, I was the winner! My prize was a cup sent directly from Buckingham Palace!”


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BMC QUEEN SUPREMES - MEET OUR DRAG STARS!

Synonymous with empowerment, infused with uniqueness, and brimming with vibrancy – it’s the magical weekend of Vancouver Pride!

With the city streets steeped in cascades of colour and glitter, laughter and hoorahs, those from near and far are welcomed with open arms to participate and celebrate all that encompasses this brilliant and diverse community.  

Celebrating our collective uniqueness in sexual orientation, gender, and gender choice, we feel honoured to be a part of this tremendous community! Our creative classrooms are built upon this foundation of fierce independence and powerful self-expression.

We’ve seen and met some truly unique individuals who have honed their voices and nurtured their spirits within our halls. The Pride parade is strutting up fast and fabulous, and to celebrate we reached out to a FIERCE few from our Blanche family who have been taking the local drag scene by storm.

Of course, we must leave some of the introduction up to our resident Drag Queen Supreme, Canada's Top Makeup School graduate and CurliQue Beauty Q Talent Leader Jaylene Tyme! The always exhilarating and utterly talented Jaylene has made an indelible mark on the LGBTQ+ community; her words about it and the art she contributes to it never cease to inspire and ignite those lucky enough to be exposed to it. Jaylene’s realm of experience in both self discovery and transformative artistry has made her a powerful role model in our family, and a maternal icon out on the Drag Queen scene of Vancouver – we simply cannot think of anyone better to kick off this dazzling week!

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“Blanche Macdonald has always created a safe space for people to explore and reveal their magical side. Here is a showcase of artists that hone their craft with different mediums, but all with the same focus in mind: to follow their dreams, to share their passions, and to experience a world they never thought possible.  My heart has been so full being able to witness both artistry and the human spirit take flight in these halls.

Pride is an opportunity to express the celebration of freedom. It encourages people to come together and support one another. It also allows artists to express themselves through their craft with wild abandon; sharing what makes them unique and special.

I'm so proud to be a part of such an amazingly diverse artist collective. I have witnessed over the years the growth of expression, but also the confidence in people to explore beyond what they thought their limitations may have been. Pride is a celebration yes, but it also a responsibility to be aware that in order to be truly free, we need to stand tall in the face of any challenge and realize together we can continue to break down the barriers and allow the world, and our children, however they identify, to find their own personal freedom.

Check out these fabulous artists! HAPPY PRIDE!!”


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BMC QUEEN SUPREMES - MEET OUR DRAG STARS!

Synonymous with empowerment, infused with uniqueness, and brimming with vibrancy – it’s the magical weekend of Vancouver Pride!

With the city streets steeped in cascades of colour and glitter, laughter and hoorahs, those from near and far are welcomed with open arms to participate and celebrate all that encompasses this brilliant and diverse community.  

Celebrating our collective uniqueness in sexual orientation, gender, and gender choice, we feel honoured to be a part of this tremendous community! Our creative classrooms at Canada's #1 Makeup School are built upon this foundation of fierce independence and powerful self-expression.

We’ve seen and met some truly unique individuals who have honed their voices and nurtured their spirits within our halls. The Pride parade is strutting up fast and fabulous, and to celebrate we reached out to a FIERCE few from our Blanche family who have been taking the local drag scene by storm.

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"My drag character Raye Sunshine is known for her signature makeup skills and creative looks. Although when she is off the stage, she likes to wear gym clothes or all black (hunny, I'm a makeup artist it's all we own) while doing her favourite activity, which is the gym or being in her home studio creating art. All her friends think she is TOO BUUUUSSSAAAYYYY!” 

Blanche Macdonald Centre: What does the LGBTQ community mean to you?

Raye Sunshine: The community to me, is something that is about embracing things that others may find interesting. Say for someone who wants to feel like they belong in a group but doesn't know how to approach it, the LGBTQ+ community is the kind that would walk up to a person and invite them.

BMC: How did Blanche Macdonald help bring out your artistry?

RS: For me Blanche Macdonald brought out an artistry I was doing in the privacy of my home but it never had a name. It helped me grow my skills that I used to express myself and in an environment that was extremely nurturing - in particular, was Jill Wyness who took me under her wing and went above and beyond in even the smallest things.

BMC: How did you envision yourself giving to the community with your art?

RS: Now this is something I learned over time and it wasn't something I even knew I was doing until a friend pointed it out. But my art has given new, aspiring queens the push to do more and express themselves through makeup that they weren't doing before. So I always blush when someone comes up to me after a show and tells me how my art connected with them and made them want to do more.


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BACKSTAGE WITH PAT MCGRATH WINNER FROM GUADALAJARA - BLANCHE MACDONALD MAKEUP STUDENT ANDREA PALOMEC URREA

With thousands of artists, stylists and designers soaring into our halls from around the world each year, our  classrooms have become dynamic global communities under the unitedly diverse banner of our Blanche World – a United Nations of creativity! In a glorious celebration of culture, our International students import a vibrant collection of new customs, insights and inspiration that colour our world in exciting new ways. The leap from their home countries to our corner of Canada comes with big change, courage and incredible journeys. Speaking in the international language of passion, we sit down with our global talent to talk the dreams that brought them here, the challenges they overcame, and all about the power of being an artistic representative in a new country. Meet the burgeoning stars that have joined us from around the globe in our UN storytelling!

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Fresh faced and humbly confident, Andrea offers a huge smile from her red-slicked lips immediately upon meeting me. Her rolled ‘r’s and charming Spanish accent make every word so melodious, it’s hard not to be hypnotized once she begins speaking of her native Guadalajara, Mexico and her passion for her artistry. Only half-way through Blanche Macdonald's Global Makeup program, she’s already achieved some incredible milestones - being one of 10 chosen winners of the Backstage with Pat McGrath Instagram contest and a spread in Harper’s Bazaar Mexico and Vogue Italia. Despite this, it’s clear her gratitude for everything she’s done serves only as a fire that fuels her desire to do and learn even more. With a penchant for ‘pretty’, a style that is ‘natural but with light touches’ and an aim to delve deep into the Fashion / Editorial Makeup world, this driven soon-to-be powerhouse has her sights set on fashion capitals New York, Milan, Paris, London and beyond. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before she gets there!

Blanche Macdonald Centre: Let’s get straight to juicy details. Tell us about your time with Pat McGrath and the contest you won!

Andrea Palomec Urrea: It was so good! I stayed in The Mondrian which was so nice and she left little handwritten notes in our rooms saying that she would see us all for breakfast the next morning, there were about ten other artists there. Suddenly, we were backstage at the Tommy Hilfiger RTW spring 2017 show! We got to do makeup on the models and got direction and feedback from her team! Her team really is amazing, they work so differently from anything I’d ever seen. Even the way they put moisturizer on models, it’s so specific. They do everything with their hands and they’re always so, so clean with everything. I even met Jenna Kuchera (Blanche Macdonald graduate)! She made a point to find me and say ‘Hi’ - she was so sweet. Pat McGrath is super nice, just the best person. I felt so lucky the entire time.

BMC: That’s SO amazing! And how did it all come about?

APU: It started with a photographer friend I have in Mexico. When we were working together, he started helping me with my social media. He started tagging artists and brands in our photos and of course, Pat McGrath on our best images. One day she liked a photo and so I started tagging her in more and more on my own. When she messaged me telling me I’d won the Backstage with Pat McGrath contest and I almost started to cry! I actually didn’t hear anything for months. So I reached out and asked if it was still happening and she got back to me and said it absolutely was so I waited some more. Randomly in the gym one day I checked my email, I’m really bad with my email, and there was a message from her saying I needed to be in LA for this certain date and it was like two weeks away! But I got my ticket and made the arrangements to go.


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Sci-Fi and Special Makeup Effects: Twin Passions for Instructor Rachel Griffin

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From a Vancouver basement to the sets and FX shops behind global hits like The X-Files, Millennium, Stargate, Supernatural, Fringe, Once Upon A Time, Battlestar Galactica, Falling Skies, iZombie, Lone Gunman, Harsh Realm and countless others, Makeup superstar Rachel Griffin has proved that passion and practice can turn a fan into an industry insider.

“I blame it on my father,” laughs Rachel, relaxing in a classroom at Canada's #1 Makeup School, her home base for inspiring the next generation of makeup magicians. “I grew up on a steady diet of cheesy sci-fi. We’d watch things together like Star Trek, Lost in Space, Land of the Giants, Time Tunnel and Dr Who. When I was 16 or 17 Dad took me to see Star Wars. After that I knew I wanted to do something in film.”

Rachel’s done more than “something.” She’s become a fixture in the Vancouver Film and TV industry, starring in the city’s most creative FX shops and continuing to be producers’ favourites when they need an experienced hand on set. It’s more than a job to Rachel. She’s doing what she’s always loved.

“I’d watch sci-fi shows and think, how do they make these things? So I started buying special makeup effects books like Tom Savini’s Grand Illusions; that’s a bible for makeup effects people. I had a lab in my Mom’s basement! I made a little Star Wars movie in my bedroom with the toy figures and a Super 8 camera. I basically learned what not to do.”


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Vanessa Giles Brings Movie Makeup Secrets to Blanche Macdonald

Top Makeup School Graduate Instructor Vanessa Giles

If you find yourself in one of Vanessa Giles’ classes at Blanche Macdonald, pay attention to every word. You never know when you’re going to be treated to a magical story from the daily adventure that is the TV and film industry.

“On Once Upon A Time I was working with Ginnifer Goodwin, who plays Snow White. In a horseback scene Ginnifer was knocked to the ground by a horse. Our lead lady literally flew face first into the ground as hooves landed all around her! Ginnifer, being the trooper that she is, got up with her face covered in blood and the crew tentatively applauded her as she walked off to get treated. She asked me to accompany her to the hospital for stitches on her brow. It was up to me to calm her nerves about the prospect of scarring. I promised I’d do everything I could for her to continue shooting. We returned to the makeup trailer where I counter-shaded her swelling, covered her bruising, reshaped her eyebrow and camouflaged her bandage as best I could. She was able to return to set that same afternoon and I received flowers from production the next day for allowing them to keep shooting as planned.”

Vanessa’s always ready to save the day. The Blanche Macdonald Makeup graduate-turned-instructor has a dazzling résumé, working on blockbusters including The Chronicles of Riddick, Watchmen, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, War of the Planet of the Apes, 50 Shades of Grey, Sucker Punch, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Night at the Museum 2 (which narrowly missed an Oscar nomination for Makeup), The Assignment with Sigourney Weaver, and the forthcoming Tully, where she was the personal Makeup Artist for the legendary Charlize Theron. Pretty impressive for someone who didn’t even consider herself an artist until towards the end of her high school career.

“I really wasn’t the best artist until I had an art teacher, Mr. Sandvoss, who showed me Georgia O’Keeffe’s work,” she recalls. “I’d never seen anything like that before. A switch went off in my head, and all of a sudden I could draw and paint.”

From that moment Vanessa knew she was going to be an artist. She just didn’t know what kind.


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"Blanche Macdonald is the Harvard of Makeup." - Eve Pearl, five-time Emmy Award winning Makeup Artist

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We’re so excited to introduce you to the pillars of our Global Makeup Artistry program, the creative forces that drive it and the graduates who are continuing to gain world-wide recognition for their unmatched Makeup skills. Our commitment to the global artistry community has only strengthened our dedication and reputation for excellence. Throughout the years, we have been fortunate to have forged incredible relationships with some of the top artists in their field who contribute to the successes of our programs and our graduates even now.

We are so humbled to be recognized as the “Harvard of Makeup” by someone of Eve Pearl’s stature. As a five-time Emmy Award winning Makeup Artist and one of the leading authorities on beauty, Eve Pearl is also a highly successful entrepreneur behind the international cosmetics brand Eve Pearl with over two decades of experience in TV, film, print and theatre.


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BLANCHE MACDONALD FREELANCE MAKEUP GRADUATE AJ WOODWORTH BRINGS SOPHISTICATION TO YALETOWN WITH THE GLAMOURY

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Makeup is different for everyone. For some, it’s designated to special occasions; for others, it’s an essential daily routine. For Blanche Macdonald Freelance graduate AJ Woodworth, it’s a sacred ritual, deserving of respect in an appropriate space and environment. Upon graduating from Canada’s #1 Makeup School, that’s exactly what she set out to create. AJ’s dreams of a private and comfortable makeup studio have come to fruition in The Glamoury – Yaletown’s newest luxury styling salon.

“Before I did anything in makeup, I was a musician and there were always TV segments, performances or rehearsals that I had to be done up for, usually super early in the morning. I do not go out without my makeup on so the idea of going out to a store to get my makeup done, if they were even open that early, was horrifying. I always wanted something that was really private and that gave the clients an experience, which didn’t exist. So that’s when this idea started to take hold in me.”

With the idea firmly planted, AJ took the plunge and began searching for the perfect location to create her makeup heaven.

“Yaletown was a natural place to be in my mind. I was putting my business plan together and I contacted a leasing agent. I told him what I wanted and he basically told me it would be impossible! Weirdly enough, he called me a few weeks later and was like ‘I found your space!’”

Armed with a business plan and now a place to set it all up, it was time for AJ to decide exactly what aesthetic and feel she wanted her dream studio to take on.

“I can’t take credit for the beauty in here! The one thing I can take credit for is the fact that I knew I wanted something different, something that would make a statement and feel luxurious when you were in it. I knew I wanted lights around the mirrors, lots of privacy – hence the partitions – and an old Hollywood vibe but without the sparkly chandeliers. So I started working with the team at Ste Marie [design studio] and they presented me with this colour palette of reds, eggplant, brass and wallpaper and I just fell in love. They basically took everything I wanted, combined it all and bumped it up 1 million percent! We also worked with Glasfurd & Walker [branding and identity design studio] who did all of our branding and signage.”


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BLANCHE MACDONALD MAKEUP GRADUATES BRUSH UP IN IMATS NEW YORK

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Amidst the sprawling metropolis of New York City, film fanatics and beauty aficionados flocked to Pier 94 New York, New York this past month to take in everything Makeup at the prestigious International Make-up Artist Trade Show (IMATS). Held annually in only six mega makeup hubs across the globe (LA, New York, Vancouver, London, Toronto and Sydney) IMATS is a cosmetic wonderland and an opportunity to rub shoulders with the best of the best: from tip-top Makeup industry veterans and innovators, to Award-Winning Artists and YouTube/Vlogger sensations. This year, two superstar Blanche Macdonald Makeup prodigies – recent Global Makeup graduate and first time competitor from Ottawa, Ontario Aurezo Sanari as well as Global Makeup Co-op graduate and two-time competitor from Monroe, Michigan, Erin Geer – were selected to compete in the hotly contested Battle of the Brushes competition at this renowned event. With thousands milling about and Facebook live feeds streaming away, these two took to the stage with a carefully selected group of outrageous new makeup artists to battle it out for those coveted podium spots.

Blanche Macdonald: How did you prepare for this event?

Erin Geer: With the Battle of the Brushes Prosthetics category you aren't told how many pieces  or even what exact pieces you will be getting. Because of this, there is only so much prep you can do. I practiced at home for the last two months, making sure I knew my layers and the order I would do things in so that I didn't get lost. This helped a lot in my time management.

Aurezo Sanari: I received the news that I was a finalist seven weeks before the show, which is exactly when the preparations began! In terms of preparing for the day itself, I packed doubles of every product I used just in case something didn't work!


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JEWEL FROM JAPAN - MAYUKO TSUJI SPARKLES IN THE CLASSROOM AND ON THE BIG SCREEN

With thousands of artists soaring into our halls from around the world each year, our classrooms have become dynamic global communities under the unitedly diverse banner of our Blanche World – a United Nations of creativity! In a glorious culture clash, our International students import a vibrant collection of new customs, insights and inspiration that colour our world in exciting new ways. The leap from their home countries to our corner of Canada comes with big change, courage and incredible journeys. Speaking in the international language of passion, we sit down with our global talent to talk the dreams that brought them here, the challenges they overcame, and all about the power of being an artistic representative in a new country. Meet the burgeoning stars that have joined us from around the globe in our UN storytelling!

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Global Makeup Graduate Mayuko Tsuji has quietly captivated her audience since day one at Blanche Macdonald. Her charming demeanour, enthusiasm to challenge herself and commitment to learning have been nothing short of inspiring. Quietly brave and fearlessly bold, it's hard to believe this Osaka-native moved all the way to Vancouver on her own - despite speaking very little English.

Mayuko wasted no time getting comfortable, eagerly immersing herself in a new culture and navigating her way through a foreign city. She then settled into her studies at Canada's Top Makeup School where she continued to demonstrate gratitude and benevolence to anyone that crossed her path. Her soft spoken words are articulated with profound sincerity as she recounts her experiences of coming to Canada.

"I am originally from Osaka, Japan. Japan is an incredible country for so many reasons, however, it is a difficult place for an aspiring Makeup Artist. When I was growing up I was very interested in Makeup and I was always reading fashion magazines and watching video tutorials about makeup. I remember this time a friend asked me to do her Makeup. I was surprisingly pleased with the outcome and it was after that experience that I said to myself, 'This job is amazing. I could make people really happy'."


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