How I Got My Job: Head of Glam For The MTV EMAs
Meet Debbie Dannell, who's worked with the likes of Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.
Ever wondered what it's like to be a celebrity make up artist? Meet Debbie Dannell, head of glam for our very own MTV EMAs, who just so happens to have let us in on a few insider secrets on how she got her job.
She's worked with Taylor Swift, Beyonce and loads more of your favourite artists, and the 2018 show marked her 23rd MTV EMAs, where she's responsible for taking care of all the hair and makeup for presenters, artists and dancers alike.
How did you get to be working as Head of Makeup on the MTV EMAs?
I started out in the industry, firstly in fashion, doing editorial shoots for all the fashion magazines. I was also working in a salon called Antenna, which was a controversial salon in the 1980s and my clients were a mix from the worlds of fashion, music, and film. From here I got into working on looks for artists' album covers and music videos, which I loved and which inspired me most.
From there I started touring with musicians including Dusty Springfield, Morrissey, and Elton John, so my roots have been firmly stuck in rock and roll for the past 35 years!
After 15 years touring I got my first TV job from a former production manager I'd met on tour. Then I was invited to joing the MTV EMA glam team by a former employer based off of my knowledge of understanding artists, and my love of music. And I’m still here now. This is by far our favourite event of the year!
What's the very best thing about your job?
I'd have to say getting to work with creative people, so that I’m still inspired and still learning from them. I love being part of the huge creative team on the MTV EMAs.
And what's the hardest part of the job?
The reality of being a makeup artist is that people think it’s very glamorous, the truth being it's long hours and you're on your feet all day.
Some days I’m up by 4am for a 5.30am call on set, with a 14 hour day in front of you, in all weathers. It’s not always a studio environment and being away from home a lot can be hard. We all suffer from bad backs, knees and ankles - it's part of the job!
Do you have any advice for aspiring makeup artists?
My advice for any wannabe makeup artist is practice and also don’t shoehorn yourself into a particular genre - be open. Do your research on fashion, music and films. They all go hand in hand.
See who's done what and get your CV out there. And ask to assist to get experience, you'll learn so much from being in the environment.
Are you ever starstruck by your famous clients?
I can remember on a few occasions being starstruck, but in our job you can’t show it! I was terrified the first time I worked with Dusty Springfield: I was a 22 year old kid and Dusty was an icon and music royalty. I found out later she choose me so she could train me...I learnt so much from Dusty and so many tricks of the trade.
Working on the MTV EMAs over the years, we have had some of the most talented artists, and some of our favourite people to work with has been Beyoncé's team. There are so many but another that sticks out is Katy Perry. One tour we used 40 kilos of red glitter to cover her cherry chapstick girls...We left trails of it around the arena.
Robin Thicke's dancers for Blurred Lines, who were silver, were a challenge. They were naked but with gems strategically covering their body parts so that we were within compliance rules. Marilyn Mason on a crucifix on fire in Dublin was another...the team were on the sidelines with water just in case! Taylor Swift is always great fun, we loved her circus theme.
What was it like working backstage at this year’s EMAs?
This year was challenging on the EMAs as we had so many dancers. Bebe Rexha had 100, which were turning around to Jack and Jack...Bebe's look was very extreme, so a lot of water wipes and extra hands were needed.
We had our challenges, and the very long hours, but the creativity level was very high and the team were very supportive of each other, and they all wanted to do the best they possible could, so the long hours don’t get a second thought.
What do you think are the key ingredients for a good awards show makeup look?
The key ingredients for a good awards show glam look, are the products. And the creative team of makeup and hairdressers.
What do you look for in your makeup products?
In makeup products we look for what is current on the catwalks and magazines. It’s very much pared back, with great skin, with a fresh feel. These are the main factors we take into consideration for the red carpet and guest presenters.
What were the most popular Carron Cosmetics products you saw artists wanting to use in their looks?
The most popular products are the skin shimmers and a good brow, and either a nude lip or a red carpet lip.
This year the makeup supplier for the EMAs was Carron Cosmetics - can you tell us why you chose this brand and how it was developed?
Carron Enwright Richardson was a Senior Makeup Artist within our team from 2002-2011, then she left to live in Panama and Columbia. Two years ago Carron decided to launch her own brand, Carron Cosmetics. It’s been a labour of love for her, trying to get a brand that is cruelty free, paraben free and using natural ingredients, which ticks all the boxes for what people are asking for.
Carron was always searching for the right foundation shades to complement all tones of skin, from caucasian, black, asian and olive tones. She wanted them to exist within her one brand, because as a makeup artist, we do often find we have to go to certain brands for certain skin tones as they do better shade ranges. Carron's dream and vision all came out of Columbia, with her team at the cosmetic labs and her own manufacturing team.
Sadly Carron was diagnosed with cancer at the start of launching Carron Cosmetics, and never got to see her brand at this year's MTV EMAs, which was a dream of hers. It was our only thought this year for Carron Cosmetics to give us our backstage support, and her hand picked must-haves for the goody bags.
Carron passed in May and by early June she was named as our makeup brand for this year's awards. We had the full support of our press office Polly Stevens and Andy Derbyshire in helping Carron’s wish happen.
Do you have any favourite Carron Cosmetics products you would recommend for the Christmas party season?
We all need the shimmer powders on a Christmas wish list from Carron Cosmetics - my personal faves are Light and Gold. The moisture lipsticks for a berry look; pomegranate, deep wine, red too.