Happily squeezed in between two friends, head crowned in sunglasses and limbs bared to the mounting heat of a hot summer’s day, Caitlyn Dixon seems your average twenty-two year old headed to the beach. Her words come bright and sweet, and her radiant spirit seems to carry the sun into the room.
Yet Caitlyn has far more spectacular reasons than a cloudless day off behind her smile. This young power wonder has just swept through the world stage in a cyclonic few months training with Beauty industry Big Leagues, stepping the red carpets at Cannes, and painting the faces of mega stars as a contestant of L’Oreal’s prestigious new international competition, THE BRUSH.
“It’s been a whirlwind! Every single moment has been mindblowing. There are so many highlights that I can’t even pick one!” (Though, painting the face of SUPER strutter Soo Joo, group hugs with Eva Longoria, and three brilliant rounds of wins are some that may be worth mentioning.)
“I had no idea that it would come to this. It’s the greatest gift. It’s been life-changing.”
A journey that culminated spectacularly in a star-studded Paris production, seeing Caitlyn placing in the international Top 3 candidates for L’Oreal Paris’ new Makeup Designer, began in the humble town of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Since graduating from Blanche Macdonald’s Makeup program, Caitlyn has been busy championing the freelance beauty game back in her hometown, but when the call came for video submissions to the first The Brush contest, Caitlyn responded.
Through a mind-boggling deluge of support on social media, which saw over 5,000 members joining a Facebook campaign to help vote her into the semi-finals, Caitlyn took a top slot and moved on to nationals.
“It was a total craze in Toronto with the competition and the engagement and everything – I was on cloud nine!” Caitlyn enthuses, recalling the daze of taking the title of Canadian Finalist and being popped THE question over the roar of the Niagara Falls, all within a few days.
“And sometimes life turns into a giant fairytale,” read her bleary-eyed Insta-announcement. Fairytale indeed. Caitlyn had secured her ticket to the French Riviera.
The next few weeks before the big flight went by in a flurry with Caitlyn sent jetsetting across the country, hopping between Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto for interviews, glossy events, and trainings, including an incredible mentorship with Canadian Makeup Designer Eddie Malter. L’Oreal Canada’s Communications and Digital Director Hugo Thibault gave her the star treatment, introducing her to the Media, PR, Marketing and Product Expert teams with flourish, and taking her out for her very first Salmon Tartare (it was delicious).
She arrived on the French Riviera in high style, stepping from the runway to the crimson cush of the Cannes Film Festival red carpet, brushing elbows with pop culture royalty like Parker Posey, Robin Thicke and Aishwarya Rai (“To me, she is the most beautiful woman in the world… I can’t describe how exciting that was. It was almost like an out-of-body experience!”)
And, still shimmering in the glitz of her luxurious arrival, she arose victorious once again in the semi-final round, which saw her smoke out Pro artists from Spain, Australia and China.
“The big finale was the day after the first round, where we found out who the top three was. We showed up in the morning and were shown the set, all sleek and white with seating for the audience, and a station for each of us in the centre. There were cameras everywhere. Eva was in her Louboutins and her gorgeous white dress. It was all pretty special.
Later that evening the space, commandeered by host Eva Longoria, would be milling with a dizzying list of star names: models Karlie Kloss, Doutzen Kroes, Lara Stone, Barbara Palvin and Soo Joo Park, as well as heavy-hitting L’Oreal Paris pros Karim Rahman, Yann Joffredo, Michael Angel, and social media celebrity Kristina Bazan on the panel. It was enough to make anyone keel over in anticipation and pressure, but Caitlyn kept cool-headed and focused throughout – with a little help from some musically-inclined friends.
“We had quite a bit of time to wait while they were setting up, and I had two songs that I had been playing over and over in my headphones: Shania Twain’s ‘Today is Your Day’ and Carrie Underwood’s ‘Crazy Dreams,’” Caitlyn admits with a smile. “Both of those songs really speak to me and they kept me focused and calm. I always do some breathing exercises as well!”
Shania and Carrie seem to have done Caitlyn good, as she confidently slicked on a graphic take on Soo Joo’s blue ‘colour obsession’ that had models and panel members in collective coos of awe.
“When we were pulling up to Cannes on the train, I was looking at the ocean and admiring the French Riviera – how it faded, the further you looked, into that deeper and deeper blue. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. I was thinking to myself, ‘I need to use the ocean as my inspiration at some point in this competition if I can.’ So when Soo Joo said that we should use water as our inspiration, I thought, ‘OK, let’s do this.’”
“I would have been a lot more nervous two and a half years ago! All the the freelancing and assisting that I did really helped in that moment for me to feel calm and feel prepared. It was just like I was doing a regular Makeup application – that’s how I treated it."
It all began in the Makeup studios of the Blanche Macdonald Centre. Looking back on the mad rush of the practical exams and photo shoots that ignited her year in the Makeup program – at the research, prep and creative charge of each time-capped challenge – it is clear to Caitlyn that her ability to push herself under pressure was discovered and found strength then. A mini beauty bootcamp leading up to Paris with BMC Fashion Makeup Director Jon Hennessey – whose globe-trotting credits include working with big Fashion and Celebrity names (Coco Rocha, Alicia Keys, Alexander McQueen, Valentino), as well as dolling up the elite for the Cannes Red Carpet – brought her back to the halls where her taste and talent for challenge first took flight.
“Jon and I really focused on perfecting the skin - making it look flawless and complete. We worked on technique and perfecting the little things because that’s what makes a look polished and sets it apart. On my own I did a lot of researching of trends. Getting yourself in the know with that sort of stuff is so important.
“The opportunity to work with Jon was in itself a total dream come true. A lot of the artists that I learned from at Blanche Macdonald are doing amazing things and are a huge inspiration because I’ve met them and have seen what they can do, and this makes it seem more attainable.”
Between televised slots with CTV and ETalk, being invited to the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, and meeting the Editor-in-Chief of Elle Quebec (watch for her feature in the September issue, hitting newsstands August 11th!), Caitlyn somehow managed to keep her more personal publicity of social media running on a pace as engaging and breathtaking as her realtime experience. And thousands were keeping up.
“I wanted to include everyone in my journey, especially given all of the support I received from everybody in my hometown, and from Blanche Macdonald. It’s so important to be present. Now I can’t go anywhere in my hometown without somebody congratulating me!
“It’s been incredible – I don’t even have words for it. I wish that I could send every single person a thank-you card! It’s been so humbling to have that support. I feel so lucky and really am grateful.”
Even without the title she set out on this journey to achieve, Caitlyn has gained an invaluable array of industry insights, connections, confidence, and fabulous memories that she will never forget.
“I’ve met people from around the world! These competitors from Spain, Italy, Thailand are huge in their Fashion industries back home. They do Vogues, and all of these amazing things that I’ve never done before, and it was so incredible to be able to connect with them here. Meeting everybody at L’Oreal was so great. I’m connected to everyone in Montreal now and they’re fantastic to work with. Even doing the London Drugs Beauty Event in Vancouver, I was able to meet all of the biggest bloggers on the West Coast, so there’s been a lot of opportunity for networking.”
It was five months filled with once-in-a-lifetime experiences but Caitlyn, fiercely driven that she is, is not one to sit back and reminisce. She’s already working on creating new fabulous opportunities for herself in artistry and career.
“My passion for Makeup, what I’m doing and where I want to get to drives me. It’s all a journey – through the good and bad steps, it will take you to where you want to if you try hard enough.
“I would really like to work with an agency and do more editorial. I’m building my portfolio to be more specific to where I want to go with it now, and just really focussing on building my brand.”
But for today at least, it’s just sunshine, friends, and basking in the excitement of what is still to come.