Blanche Macdonald Centre News from Blanche Macdonald Centre Bringing Makeup Magic to Vancouver, Emmy Winning Makeup Artist Holland Miller, Blanche Macdonald Instructor and Graduate Top-Makeup-Graduate-Instructor-Holland-Miller

Making monsters comes naturally to Holland Miller. They’re part of his psyche already. So why not bring them to the big screen?

“I’ve suffered from sleep paralysis and intense nightmares my whole life. In eighth grade I decided to face my fears and went to the opening night of Nightmare on Elm Street. I didn’t sleep for the next two nights, but at the same time, I couldn’t get enough of it.”

The Blanche Macdonald Makeup School graduate-turned-instructor had caught the bug that would lead him to become an internationally renowned Makeup Effects magician. Now he’s inspiring the next generation, on screen and in the classroom. You’ve seen his work in Deadpool, Death Note, Star Trek Beyond, Supergirl, The Magicians, Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, The Cabin in the Woods, Elysium, Sucker Punch, Underworld Awakening, A Haunting In Connecticut, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Underworld: Evolution, The Chronicles of Riddick, Twilight: New Moon, The X-Files, Fringe, Supernatural, Once Upon A Time, Almost Human, Falling Skies, Stargate and (to the excitement of his current crop of students) Riverdale. It’s an incredible résumé, considering his makeup career’s unlikely beginnings.

“By facing my fears I thought that when I did have these nightmares, I wouldn’t be scared. I wanted to know everything, so I bought all the Fangoria magazines and sci-fi and horror fanzines I could get my hands on. I went to community college when I was 17 and did some art courses. In a commercial illustration class I drew a coffin with a corpse coming out of it for a funeral home. I thought it was funny as hell. My instructors rejected it without even looking at it.”

With an artistic career looking unlikely, Holland enlisted in the US Navy. On duty in the Persian Gulf during the First Gulf War, the opportunity to reignite his creative tinderbox arrived unexpectedly.

"We’d run emergency first aid simulation operations. They were looking for someone to simulate wounds. I told them I was into horror movies. I had cotton, latex, rubber and little bits of plastic. I made a broken femur and tibia from what I remembered from Fangoria. People were blown away with how graphic it looked. Seeing how shocked people were with how gross and realistic they thought it was, I knew I could do this.”


Holland left the Navy and moved to Victoria, BC. Now in his early 20s, the time was right to chase his dream career.

“My friend Brandy McQueen had studied Makeup at Blanche Macdonald. She told me they taught kit effects. I took a look at the portfolio of work coming out of the school and started the program.”

The military man with a taste for the macabre threw himself into the less gruesome side of makeup artistry.

“I learned so much every day. I’d never done a beauty makeup before I came to Blanche. When I got to the makeup effects part of the program it was like instinct. It came so naturally to me. I knew the business was hard to get into, but it was what I wanted to do. When I had free time, I’d do my own effects projects.”

After graduation, word of Holland’s abilities quickly spread around Vancouver. The phone call from fellow Blanche grad Toby Lindala of Lindala Schminken FX soon followed.

“He was working on Millennium, The X Files, a feature and was swamped. I went in, did an interview and was hired on the spot. Working in the lab was fun, and when I started knowing crews and directors it became really fun. I was teaching myself and learning from my co-workers.”

Holland worked in the Lindala Schminken Lab for two years before being called to set. It’s a day he can still recall vividly.

“It was a horrible,” he laughs, “a 6am call in February for The X Files. I was all by myself for nine hours in the cold and damp. As I got out of the car I stepped into a puddle. My feet were wet the entire time. I think Toby did it purpose to see how tough I was.”

Holland could handle the adversity, and after several happy years working with Toby, another effects superstar sought out his talents. Looking for help on Stargate, Todd Masters of MastersFX asked if Holland was available for five days of work. He’s been part of the team ever since. He’s won a Daytime Emmy (for R.L. Stine's Monsterville: The Cabinet of Souls), a Leo (for Sanctuary), a Gemini Award (for Stargate: Atlantis) and was the lead on-set Prosthetics Artist on Underworld Awakening. But some of his very favourite creations took life during his multi-series run as on-set effects artist for cult sci-fi series Fringe.

“Fringe was so much fun because it was basically a variety show every week. There was always something different. Many makeups were challenging because we’d never done anything like that before. The scripts were bizarre, but we’d make it work. There was an entire team hard at work at the MastersFX shop sending me stuff on set, where I’d glue them on and refine them.

“I had to do a reverse aging on John Noble, making him look over twenty years younger. We went back to basics and used pulls and tethers that we glued to the skin that pulled it back, like a facelift. My colleague Mike Fields came up with a design for a rig that we could hide in his hair. My assignment was to come up with pulls that were going to be strong enough and tabs that could stay down for 16 hours a day, yet couldn’t be seen. Reverse aging had been done before, but not to the extremes Mike and I took it without digital enhancement.


“In another episode two universes collided and one character’s two bodies fused. So he had his own upside down head fused onto his real head. The team at MastersFX made a beautiful silicon mask for me to put on the actor. I glued the mask on, blended it so it was seamless, put the hair on, and integrated all the paint so you couldn’t see where his skin started and the mask began. It had a mechanical eye and jaw that could move.”

Fringe ended and Holland moved onto the sets of Almost Human, Falling Skies and, a particular favourite, RL Stine’s Monsterville: Cabinet of Souls.

“Monsterville had a lot of cool prosthetics. Kids would get their souls taken away and transformed into monsters. We were doing witches, demons, gargoyles, werewolves and trolls. It was different every day.”

The on-set prosthetics specialist faced a new set of demands when he was invited onto the Makeup Team for A-list blockbuster, Star Trek Beyond. Challenge accepted.

“Joel Harlow’s shop needed painters to prepaint the prosthetic appliances. I warned them that I hadn’t worked in a prosthetics shop since 1999, but they were happy to see what happened.

“Getting back into that environment was awesome. When you’re applying Makeup on set you’re always hounded for how long it’s going to take. You rarely get the time you want to finesse everything. Prepainting in the shop, finessing everything was more than encouraged. It was expected. Your work might appear on an 80-foot Imax screen, so it needs to be perfect.

“Any time you’re challenged to do something difficult you’ve never done before is only going to make you better. Plus I was surrounded by insanely talented Academy Award-winning artists from LA who’d worked on some of the greatest films ever made. Working with people with different processes is always going to make you more creative. It was awesome just to be involved in that process.”


That process becomes even more entertaining when you end up recreating a story you’ve loved for years. Bringing manga classic Death Note to the screen with Lindala Schminken FX was one of those opportunities.

“I loved being able to pay homage to something I that influenced me. I worked on the Ryuk demon and all the deaths on the series. The Ryuk suit was made in the shop and on set we put gloves on him, pull the mask over the top, blended the colours and took care of keeping him cool. I’m proud that I got to be part of something I loved growing up.”

Now Holland is inspiring tomorrow’s great Monster Makers; explaining the processes of Hollywood’s Makeup elite at Blanche Macdonald and seeing students make their mark on TV and film sets across Vancouver and beyond.

“I see Blanche Macdonald students in the industry everywhere. That’s a reflection of the teachers that are teaching here. The students are hungry to learn, so there’s an energy here that I really enjoy.”

Holland does more than deliver Makeup Effects techniques direct from the world’s biggest productions. He’s also a voice of encouragement.

“Makeup effects as a career is totally doable,” he insists. “You just have to be better than the people you’re competing against. You have to have something the person who’s hiring you will notice, whether it’s your personality, charm or artistic merit.”

Holland continues to grab people’s attention, while mining daily inspiration from the darkest corners of his subconscious.

“I’m still scared when these nightmares happen but I’ve learned to embrace it. Let’s take the things that scare me, and scare other people!”



Mon, 11 Sep 2017 00:00:00 PST

Dedicated, determined and fierce Blanche Macdonald graduate Jena Hirsch took one step out our doors after graduating from our Fashion Marketing program and was swept away by the alluring tide of the fashion world across the pond. But to where exactly? Paris! For what? A dream internship in the illustrious atelier of Maison Margiela as their Artisanal (couture) press intern. Despite speaking basically no French, Jena has immersed herself in a new, beautiful dream world filled with couture, baguettes, endless Uber trips and of course, their show in Paris Fashion Week. And yes, she met John Galliano!

Blanche Macdonald Centre: First things first - we heard you met John Galliano! Tell us everything.

Jena Hirsch: I did! It’s such a small company that all the teams work together often.  The one time we had a conversation, it was about one of the looks coming back from a shoot damaged so it was both terrifying and exciting that he knew my name! My main interactions with him and his team were when they would hand select things for a shoot.  They would need different pieces and I would bring the looks to them because it was my responsibility to know who had them and where the items were.  

BMC: So amazing! And what was it like working their fashion show?

JH: That’s when things got super busy! There were days I was there for 12 hours and I worked a couple weekends as well. This year was particularly hectic because the show was held at the Margiela headquarters. It was a fairly last minute change of plans so pretty much overnight the headquarters needed to be turned into a runway. It was so beautiful! They recreated John Galliano’s office and had such a gorgeous white space.  My job at the show was to sign in guests as they arrived and show them to their seats.  This meant I got to greet a lot of celebrities and bloggers that I admire and even have an extended chat with people when they had questions.


BMC: So once the show was done - where did that leave you?

JH: After the show was when the real hard work for me began.  What happens in the press department after the show is all the major magazines want looks to shoot for their upcoming issues.  That means that press has to organize who gets what, and when.  Magazines all want similar looks and all these shoots happen within a few days after the show. My job was to take all the looks and make sure they got everywhere on time and intact.  It was probably one of the most stressful weeks of my life. There was one day where one particular look needed to be at four different shoots in one day.  My job for the day was to take it around to the different shoots in an Uber.  It was super fun to hang out on set and see how the process worked! The locations ranged from an apartment, a studio, or a fancy hotel - you never know where! It was fun to see the industry from that side of things, especially when the looks were being sent to celebrities or their stylists!

BMC: That’s a lot of responsibility! OK so special events aside, tell us what a typical day was like for you in the Margiela offices!

JH: There was no typical day, and I mean that in the best way possible! My official main job and the reason I was hired was to be the Artisanal press intern.  So once I was finished with archiving, there wasn’t a lot of activity in the Artisanal department until the fashion show.  So for the next few weeks I worked with the other interns to return samples from photoshoots for the men’s department and MM6 (their diffusion line). My first day working there I had to organize and account for all the pieces in the SS17 Artisanal (couture) collection so that they could be archived and the showroom could be readied for the next Artisanal show’s looks. I was super excited to see all these pieces in person - it was definitely surreal!

BMC: That sounds like a dream! How did you find this opportunity?

JH: I first saw the internship in a post on [Blanche Macdonald’s Fashion Career Director] Mel [Watts]’s Facebook Career page.  After that I made an appointment with her and she set me up with the Paris internship program director, Stefan. He called me and answered all my questions.  Stefan was really helpful but Mel reassured me as well. I fully trusted that Mel understood where I wanted to go in my career. Contacts and references are so important when getting a job or internship in fashion so having her help, plus my schooling at Blanche was super helpful!

BMC: Mel does have some amazing connections! Was there any class knowledge that helped you during your internship?

JH: It was super helpful to know about brands and designer history, all things I learned in [Fashion Program Director] Peggy [Morrison]’s Fashion Awareness classes!  Having done a project on Margiela and John Galliano just a month before my internship really helped me feel like I was educated and knew the brand, as well as the looks I essentially had to be responsible for.


BMC: Peggy’s classes are the best! Did you have a favourite instructor or class at Blanche Macdonald?

JH: I honestly loved all of the instructors at Blanche! They all had such different experiences to bring to the table so it was super helpful. I definitely loved the styling photoshoot in [instructor] Lyndi [Barrett]’s class though. To be honest, I don’t think I could pick a favourite because they have all kind of merged together for me. Everything is so linked and really helps you understand the fashion industry.

BMC: So now that you have your education and some work experience in the fashion industry, did you get some insight as to the career path you’d like to follow after your internship at Margiela?

JH: 100% yes.  It was unimaginably helpful.  I felt like before Margiela the fashion world was just this mythical land that existed externally from my life.  I admired it as an art form and a business but didn’t feel I would ever be a part of it in the way I wanted to.  Working at Margiela allowed me to take an industry I had only learned about and actually be part of it. It allowed me to see how all the different departments of fashion work together and who does what.  

BMC: That’s amazing! So now that you’ve spent some serious time in Paris, what does it mean to you?

JH: Diversity.  Almost everyone I have met here is international and they are all so open to new experiences.  I love it.

BMC: Can you share some of your favourite Parisian spots?

JH: Of course! 1) Bakeries. I swear there are at least three “boulangerie” signs just on my two minute walk to the metro. Who doesn’t love pastries?!

2) Any terrace ever.  There is nothing more Parisian than coffee on a terrace.

3) McDonald’s.  I am ashamed to admit it because I have never been a McDonald’s person, but it is such a thing here!  It’s one of the only places you can get a coffee to go, and I need my java on the metro!

4) Drinks by the Seine (or on a rooftop bar or boat). You can drink anywhere in France, meaning you can grab a 3 dollar bottle of wine, head to the river and hang out and watch the sunset!

5) Picnics.  You can grab cheese and bread from a local carrefour and spend a lazy Saturday in the Luxembourg Gardens or under the Eiffel Tower.  There is nothing more French than people walking around with a baguette in their bag.  They wear carbs like an accessory here, I swear!

So yeah, all my answers involved food … Shocker!


BMC: Well, who doesn’t love food!? Did you have an inner motto that you worked / lived by when you were in Paris?

JH: I had two because I really had to stay motivated and focused. One was “Make the most of this experience and be grateful you are here.”

My other motto in general was “Don’t get comfortable.”  It’s easy to get used to things and settle into a routine.  I really decided that the second things started to feel normal or comfortable it was time to change it up and try something new again.  That was how I was going to make the most of my experiences, by pushing myself out of my comfort zone.  It worked great and is definitely a life motto for me now!

BMC: On a scale of one to ten, what was your French when you left and what is it now?

JH: Literally 0 out of 10 when I arrived -  I didn’t know a word! I’m still a beginner but I can understand WAY more than when I first got here.

BMC: What was the first French phrase you learned?

JH: “Can I have…. (Insert delicious French food here)?”


BMC: But, of course! Your internship is done but you’re still in Europe! What’s up next for you?

JH: Currently, I am learning French! It’s fairly necessary to have multiple languages if you want to work in fashion in Europe.  Most people can speak English, but French is just such an asset especially for your social and everyday life in France.  I would love to stay in Paris or Europe in general but I’m really not sure where I’ll be next - I’m keeping my options open.  I do get homesick sometimes!

BMC: Well that’s only natural! Is there one glittering moment that stands out to you from your time in Paris so far as the definitive moment?

JH: There wasn’t just one moment that stood out! There were so many amazing moments in and outside of work. Some huge ones for me were my first day walking up to the Margiela offices, going to music festivals with my friends, spending days out and about in the city, fashion week and so many more. Experiencing Paris in general has been a dream!

Fri, 08 Sep 2017 00:00:00 PST
One to Watch: Fashion Marketing Grad and Stylist Ghazal Elhaei leads Vancouver-based Agency Capital G Creatives Top-Fashion-Graduate-Ghazal-Elhaei

Ghazal Elhaei is a creative force to be reckoned with. Between running her self-started digital marketing and events agency, Capital G Creatives, styling as part of her core creative team, and working on visual art while developing related side projects, I marvel aloud at the enormity of her typical workday when she stops by the Blanche Macdonald Atelier campus in the morning on her way to her studio. But a full calendar isn’t daunting to this Global Fashion Marketing grad: “If you want to make time, you make time,” she assures me, and laughs.

Warm, charismatic, and brimming with ambitious energy, Ghazal is an astonishing do-all fashion industry insider unlike anyone you’ve met before. But don’t just take my word for it: Here she is, in her own words, on being fearless in fashion, building a dynamic business from the ground up, and what it’s like to be an integral part of Vancouver’s vibrant creative community.

Blanche Macdonald Centre: How did you know you wanted to pursue a career in fashion, and what made you choose to study Fashion Marketing at Blanche Macdonald?

Ghazal Elhaei: Fashion has always been very relevant to my life, but I’m not one of those people where, growing up, I had a passion for fashion. I wanted to be a writer like Diane Sawyer and to work for Vanity Fair or The New York Times.

I spent a couple years pursuing music before I went to Blanche Macdonald. I was a singer. A big part of my music career was creating my brand, my image, and the different outfits onstage. When I was making the transition from music to the next phase of my life, fashion made the most sense. It’s more behind-the-scenes than music; it’s about design, not about what’s happening in front. That’s something I’ve always enjoyed: Seeing how everything gets put together.

While putting on big shows and photoshoots for myself, I developed this—intrigue, I guess you could say, for the fashion world. I met with [Blanche Macdonald Admissions Associate] Pam [Chong] and it seemed like a good fit.

Going into any situation, you have to do your research. Blanche Macdonald had the energy that I liked. Right off the bat when I walked in and met everybody, I saw the teachers running around, and the students, and I thought, “This is totally my kind of vibe!” When there’s someplace that makes me feel that way, I jump right in. I started about a month after I applied.


BMC: What thrills you about the marketing, merchandising, and styling side of the fashion industry?

GE: I get bored very easily—but marketing is a continual evolution, almost like a rebirth every single season. You’re redeveloping your plan every four months; sometimes it’s every month or day. You’re doing something different to push your brand or your client’s brand forward. I like that. It keeps me on my toes and it’s a continual challenge.

As for styling: As much as I loved [Blanche Macdonald Fashion Director] Tyler Udall’s class, I still wondered, “How can people do this all the time? Pulling clothes, taping shoes?” I would volunteer at a bunch of shows to get the experience, but I thought I was going to be a fashion editor. I was going to write.

I fell in love with styling when I did the Thrift Chic Challenge through Eco-Fashion Week. I was forced to apply for it by another grad from Blanche Macdonald. I didn’t think I was going to get picked. But I did, and I didn’t know what to do! I thought – and this was my cheeky side – “I’m just going to do menswear.” I ended up falling in love with the whole process of suiting and tailoring. That was where, all of a sudden, I felt like I had an “aha!” moment. That’s always the case: It’s when you stop thinking about it that you start finding things you love to do.


BMC: You’re the founder of the incredibly cool, Vancouver-based digital marketing and event agency Capital G Creatives. Tell us about its inception! How did you turn your vision into reality?

GE: First, I founded and ran a magazine called ONE1ONE with my friends in my last month at Blanche, and it took off for a year. It was great! One of the things I didn’t understand about the magazine was how to make money, but what happened was that even though we had some great interviews and opportunities, I was also getting contacted to be asked, “Do you know a photographer?” Or, “Do you know a makeup artist?” So, it came to me; I started getting all these requests: Can you organize this shoot, can you come help us with this pop-up shop.

Capital G came about from ONE1ONE. I noticed we were making money doing [those requests], and I was meeting so many people. That’s where the birth happened. Again, it was just something I fell into. From there, I developed it.

The company’s been running for over two years and we’ve been really lucky. We’ve done pop-ups with incredible brands; we’ve done photoshoots, catalogues, and e-commerce. We’ve travelled to LA and Toronto. It’s been fun! Now, Capital G is slowly transitioning into an agency. We’re pushing styling and production, but consultancy is also a big part. I find I spend more time working with brands on guidance for social media content.


BMC: What goes on “behind the scenes” at Capital G Creatives? How do you manage your own company while working as a stylist at the same time?

GE: My core team is three people, but Capital G is network-powered. It’s not about having a big staff, but about finding the best person for the job. In our immediate family, we have about 20 people that we’ll call depending on what’s going on. There’s a huge variety of skillsets. I’ve even had girls from Blanche come work with us as interns or volunteers—and they still do work for us on gigs, even when they’re in the next phases of their careers.

For me, it’s important that everyone builds their own businesses. I believe in the power of small and local businesses. If fewer people are starting their own, where’s the community going to go? I’d rather encourage people to push themselves and we collaborate when it makes sense.

BMC: What are some important skills you learned while studying Fashion Marketing at Blanche Macdonald that you now use on a regular basis in service of your fashion career?

GE: When I was in school, I was still working full-time, as well as interning and trying to get as many volunteer hours in as I could. The biggest takeaway was learning how to multi-task and manage my time, and how to prioritize what needs to be done.

Also, knowing how to work with different types of people. I’ve now worked and collaborated with people who were my teachers, and I learned how to work with my classmates, who had a variety of skillsets, backgrounds, first languages, and were in different stages of their lives. Now I feel like a mini-teacher: I’ve saved notes about how Lyndi used to showcase stuff, or Tyler, and I use that as input for how I deal with my [Capital G] team, to better work with them.


BMC: What advice would you give to a new Global Fashion Marketing student at Blanche Macdonald about to start their own career journey?

GE: My advice would be to be open-minded and stay humble. If your job is to clean up trash at the fashion show all day, do it and do it well. Anything you end up doing, take ownership of it. I believe in taking initiative, and I live by this motto: I ask for forgiveness, I don’t ask for permission. I do it, and if something goes wrong I say, “I’m sorry, my bad!”

And do everything. Do everything! Take advantage of people like [Fashion Career Director] Mel [Watts] and her team, who are posting opportunities every day. I still volunteer for stuff just so I can learn it.

Tue, 29 Aug 2017 00:00:00 PST
From the faces of Katy Perry to Chrissy Teigen, Star Makeup Artist Jordy Poon shares his talents at Blanche Macdonald top-makeup-school-instructor-jordy-poon

Jordy Poon commands an energetic, discerning and fiercely intelligent presence. Whether in the classroom, behind the camera at a fashion shoot, or touching up the face of an A-lister as she’s about to step out onto live TV, the instantly-recognizable celebrity Beauty Expert and Blanche Macdonald Faculty member can produce a pithy mantra for his students to remember for each and every industry situation.

“We’re just as good as our products allow us to be—and just as good as our clients allow us to be, too.”

Yet another: “One day, you’re going to not care about the wrong person so it's good practice to treat every subject who comes to your chair like royalty right away.”

This last one is of both personal and professional importance to the industry star. He’s a steadfast believer in the importance of meticulous conduct, and emphasizes this to aspiring Makeup Artists under his mentorship at Canada's Top Makeup School.

It’s obvious that Jordy eschews “traditional” methods of teaching in favor of cutting-edge ones: His classes intersperse artistic technique with practical tips on how to be. He shares and enacts valuable information at the same speed he learns it, and always keeps one artistic eye trained on the ever-evolving worlds of beauty and fashion outside the classroom. It’s no wonder he chose to teach at the Makeup School with an international reputation for its industry-forward programs and award-winning graduates.


“Self-promotion and PR and protocol are what I’m really big on,” he explains. “I took a lot of training classes in etiquette, both in London and in Switzerland. North America discredits charm school, but it’s nothing like that at all. It’s about protocol, and it helps a lot with what we do.”

Etiquette—alongside prodigious talent, an insatiable desire to become ever better, and a rigorous eye for fine detail—is both the “Once upon a time” and the moral takeaway of Jordy’s past-paced, self-made success story. It’s a narrative that has taken him from humble beginnings as a hair assistant at a local Vancouver salon to an agented Makeup Artist: the very first to be represented by the Canadian makeup and model mecca Lizbell Agency when they opened their artist division.

Not to mention, of course, a glamorous, 14-year-long professional career in New York, doing makeup for covers and editorials by VOGUE, Vanity Fair, ELLE, Cosmopolitan, NYLON, and more. He’s luminized the faces of stars like Katy Perry, Lily Allen, Sienna Miller, Chrissy Teigen, and Devon Aoki. Many of those among Jordy’s A-list roster maintain extended relationships with him, requesting that he make use of his talent across varying magazine editorials, brand campaigns, fashion shows, and media tours for which they appear in front of a camera.

His secret to earning such fervent celebrity loyalty? “I don’t treat them any differently [than my other clients],” he says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a housewife client or a celebrity client; I just like their company.”


After all, even beauties populating the pages of our favorite magazines aren’t so very different from the ambitious makeup industry up-and-comers found in the hallways at Blanche Macdonald. “People ask me about celebrity horror stories,” he says, and laughs. “But they’re not there to torture you! Nobody has the time. They’re there to get the job done. They want you to do a good job, because then they look good.”

Meticulously courteous and genuinely invested, Jordy remembers personal details about every star he crosses paths with: Chrissy Teigen, for example, whom he knew back “when she was just a model who lived just a block away. We used to shoot catalogues in studios next to each other.” Leaning in, he whispers, “We used to hide in the stairwell to smoke!”

Then there’s singer Lily Allen, who he reveals “will write thank-you cards…to everyone who is nice to her. I’ll get them in the mail.” And Katy Perry, too, whom he admires for her bold aesthetic and classic look, which can transform into anything from candy-covered “California Gurl” to iconic Dita Von Teese with a touch of the brush. When Jordy first met the superstar, she “had very colorful-looking makeup and a spray tan. That girl can go in many directions,” he says, nodding.  

And though Jordy claims it’s too hard to choose a favorite client or job—“all of the good stuff you just remember as a whole,” he qualifies—it’s Devon Aoki whom the star Makeup Artist waited a decade to doll up. “Ten years before I met her,” he explains, “a photographer asked me who the model was that I wanted to work with most. I said her.” He ended up doing her makeup for the cover of a magazine. “I never thought I’d see her again. Then, one day, my agent calls and said that Devon asked for me. After that, I was working with her continuously.”

Jordy has found that under the right circumstances and with vigilant professionalism, one fantastic gig tends to lead to another. He remains grateful to actress Sienna Miller for helping him acquire Lancôme as a client. “Because everything looks good on her, I was trying out a new mascara that Lancôme sent to me on her. It was [for] Fashion Night Out,” he says, “the first time they did it in New York. There’s a photo of her there looking up—her lashes were just boom—and that ended up being a great photo for Lancôme to promote.”


Naturally, if the Makeup Faculty member’s success is any indicator, there are lessons abound to be had in all this for the aspiring Makeup Artists studying under him at Blanche Macdonald.

First: The way you treat your clients—and let’s not forget the rest of the production team around you—is just as important as the talent you foster. “A lot of times, you get these jobs not because you’re talented—that’s only one part of it—but because it’s word-of-mouth in this industry,” Jordy says. “You get referred by agents, by publicists, by hairdressers. And you get that referral by being nice to people on set.

“I got most of [my star clients] when they were up-and-comers,” he adds. “As you work together and grow with them, they build into A-listers.”

The second lesson is that technical and retail product knowledge aren’t just for artists who work on the sales floor. “I tell my students: People give you stuff for your makeup kits. There’s no free lunch in this world; they send it to you because they understand you can sell it. When someone sends you something nice, you try to see—without compromising your own integrity—what works and what doesn’t, so you can know how to help them.”

And there’s plenty more where that came from. Study with Jordy Poon and you’ll find yourself in a Blanche Macdonald classroom transcended: Under the guidance of this industry-elite Makeup Artist, the space becomes a studio, a runway, a backstage dressing room, and the off-camera waiting-wings of a live TV session. Not only will you learn and refine your technical hand, but you’ll be soaking up invaluable insider tips that no textbook or Youtube video could ever hope to cover.  

To students of Makeup Artistry both current and prospective, Jordy has this advice to offer: “You do your best with everybody, no matter the situation, and you cherish every opportunity. It’s like Kate the Great [said],” he adds, evoking the legendary British model Kate Moss: “Never complain, never explain.”

Jordy is always game to talk makeup, so it’s no surprise that he’s an endless fountain of teachable, noteworthy quote-isms. As he rushes off to lead a Masterclass at Blanche Macdonald’s CurliQue Beauty Boutique—an appropriate appointment, considering that he approaches his craft with both extraordinary technique and rigorously-learned product knowledge—his parting remark is, of course, both eye-opening and on-point.

“People often compare makeup to paint,” he says. “I like to think of makeup is more like collage: You have to find the right piece of product for that face.”

Jordy Poon's Top 3 Makeup Kit Essentials

Wed, 23 Aug 2017 00:00:00 PST
Makeup Instructor Leah Elliston Brings Fashion Week Fabulousness to the Classroom top-makeup-school-graduate-instructor-leah-elliston

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!”


Despite this royal endorsement Leah had no plans to become an artist. After her family immigrated to Canada, Leah’s primary aim was to return to the UK and work at an art gallery. Thankfully, fate had other plans.

“I wasn’t interested in makeup at all,” she explains. “But while I was taking an art history diploma program I started working at The Bay Downtown handing out fragrance samples. There was a MAC counter there, and the girls there would always compliment me on my outfits. This was the 1990s, when there were only two MAC counters in Vancouver. Which meant that the Makeup Artists there were beyond busy. They suggested I applied for the job as cashier. I told them I didn’t know anything about Makeup but they didn’t seem to mind. It was only once I’d started working that I could see that MAC was a pro line with a direct connection to the fashion industry, along with incredible artistry involved. That made me want to stick around and learn more.

“I started going to all the training seminars that the rest of the team attended. It was like having a paid internship. Two years later I started working as a Makeup Artist for MAC at The Bay in Metrotown.”

Leah would be the first to admit that the transition from Cashier to Artist wasn’t easy, and that these days the leap would be impossible without formal training at Makeup School. But there’s no secret to how she overcame her initial nervousness.


“How did I get good? I practiced, practiced and practiced. That’s what makes you learn. The experience you get in a retail position is completely different than if you go straight from Makeup School to working on actors or models. I loved the artistry and the challenge of working with all skin tones and ages. And after three years of practice I became the Resident Trainer for MAC at Metrotown in Burnaby!”

Leah had lodged her foot in the door of the Makeup business. One more opportunity was all that was needed to kick that door down.

“A Senior Artist position at MAC became available for a year as someone was going on maternity leave. I applied and got it! That changed my career. When Aerosmith came to Vancouver my job was to put on black eyeliner on Steven Tyler. He was very flirty! I was suddenly doing high profile events like the Juno’s, Canadian Country Music Awards, and the Toronto International Film Festival, where we would go from hotel to hotel before the stars would do their media appearances for shows like Extra and Entertainment Tonight. Kevin Spacey has a very dry sense of humour. It’s hard to tell if he’s actually upset or just playing.

"I started going to collections in Paris and Milan. That first year I did Salvatore Ferragamo and Roberto Cavalli in Milan. It was amazing! I was working with the biggest artists in the industry, assisting and learning with people like Val Garland, Wendy Rowe, Aaron de Mey, Tom Pecheux and Charlotte Tilbury. I kept going back to these Fashion Weeks and since then I’ve had models like Jessica Stam and Freja Beha Erichsen in my chair. Freja was for a Balmain show in Paris. She appeared in that night’s newspaper wearing my Makeup. I still have a copy!”

The yearlong job covering maternity leave ended, but Leah continued to travel from Vancouver to London, Paris, New York and Milan, freelancing alongside her new position as MAC’s Trainer for Western Canada. Looking for a role that would give her the flexibility to continue working at the major Fashion Weeks and inspire a new generation of Artists, Leah approached BC’s top Makeup School.


“I would go to makeup schools in Vancouver with MAC, giving seminars and showing the trends for the upcoming season. Blanche Macdonald always seemed the most well rounded. The criteria to be an instructor here was at the highest level. All the instructors were working Makeup Artists in the film or fashion industry. They were all my peers. So naturally, Blanche Macdonald was the first place I called.”

Students in Leah’s Makeup for Fashion classes have been reaping the benefits ever since, getting first hand looks at the face charts she’s used for some of the world’s most prestigious runways and having a ringside seat for the backstage tales she’s always excited to share.

“I’m the storyteller! Like the time I was in London at a Giles show, passing beads to a seamstress who was finishing embellishing a dress as the show was beginning, or when I spent the day working with Ellis Faas and ended up hanging out with Giambattista Valli’s Mamma at his atelier in Paris!”

Those stories keep coming as Leah continues to journey to the pulsating heart of the Fashion World.

“I work a lot with Grace Lee now. We met at MAC and we’ve been great friends ever since. When she was hired as Lead Makeup Artist for Maybelline Canada she asked me to come join her as her First Assistant. We’ve done a lot of shows together in New York and Toronto.  


“Grace and I have both been working a lot with Public School recently. That’s a cool label. We’ve done their New York show for the past three seasons. They used to be designers for DKNY so there’s always a lot of media at their show and a ton of models – around 45 or 50. As First Assistant my job is to make sure everything gets done. It seems like an organisational job but I need to know the Makeup look as well as the Key Artist knows it. If Grace is busy, and she usually is, I’m there to make a decision about what’s right and what’s isn’t. When you’re a First Assistant you’re the Key Artist’s right hand. You must be able to predict what they might need at any given time without being asked. You need to know when to take initiative and when to step back.  

“This year we did their show and a cover shoot for Fashion Magazine with Jourdan Dunn the very next day. She’s such a pro! You get the shots so quickly with her. It looks easy, until you take 20 selfies trying to get a good one!”

It’s an honour to learn from an Artist with Leah’s global experience and expertise. But she’ll be the first to point out that she’s enjoying her time in the classroom as much as her students.

“Seeing these new Makeup Artists grow creatively is inspiring. At first they’re copying what I’ve done. Then three weeks into the module I can see them creating their own looks. I love it when I can see that they’re interested and inspired by something, understanding what fashion is actually about. My first love was and still is fashion. My students will still tell me they love my outfit as much as they comment on my Makeup!” 

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 00:00:00 PST