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Nick Barose Interview: “I always do my homework.”

Thai-born makeup artist, Nick Barose began his formal training assisting icon Kevyn Aucoin. He has since risen to the top of his field and his client roster is a veritable who’s who in Hollywood including Lupita Nyong’o, Rachel Weisz, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Winona Ryder, Amandla Stenberg, Angela Bassett, Willow Smith, Holly Hunter, and can now add Lily Gladstone, who stars in Martin Scorsese’s latest film Killers of the Flower Moon opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. 

Meeting Barose at the Golden Globe lounge at the Majestic Beach, Cannes, where the movie had its world premiere, he spoke about his career, ageism in the beauty industry, and the latest Hollywood sensation, Lily Gladstone.


How did you get into the business?

I grew up in Thailand, where drag culture is very big. I went to an all-boys Catholic school, and in the 80s me and my friends were in our early teens.  We began experimenting with makeup, putting it on ourselves and we’d go to the clubs and try to look like the icons, like Grace Jones. That’s pretty much how I learned how to do makeup.

So initially, it was just for fun?

Yes. I never really thought of it as a job, and it wasn’t just about the makeup, it was just more about the total look. So, I would style myself and I would do my own makeup and it would be inspired by Grace Jones or David Bowie or whoever I was into at the time. Then I would start doing it on other people. I had a lot of girl cousins in Thailand that I lived with, so they would let me do their makeup. I would take a Polaroid and pretend that I was doing a Vogue shoot.

Then you left Thailand?

When I was 16, 17 I went to school in New York and then I ended up studying environmental design. And with Asian parents, my parents were like, “Oh, this looks like it’s a serious job.”  They didn’t want me to study fashion. So, I went to Parsons to study environmental design, but then I met a new group of friends in New York in the fashion department. I’d do their makeup and they’d use me for their photo shoots. My friend helped me write a letter to the great Kevyn Aucoin, and I got lucky. It was around New York Fashion Week. He needed more assistants, so he called me to come help him. 

And that obviously changed everything for you.  When you started out who were you doing makeup for?

My claim to fame was a lot of the 2000s, year 2000 starlets, like Lindsay Lohan or Mischa Barton, Tara Reid in the year 2000. So, it was a lot of the teen queens and that’s how I got my foot in the door in the celebrity world.

And now you are here in Cannes with Lily Gladstone.

Yeah, this is my sixth time being here in the past 10 years. The first time I came here was with Lupita Nyong’o, right after she won the Oscar (Twelve Years a Slave). I’ve been here with Alicia Vikander, I’ve been here with Zoë Kravitz. So, it’s been great. I love Cannes because it’s global.  I saw Gong Li here and then she’s my icon from my continent, and I love seeing Indian actresses on the red carpet, like Aishwarya. In Cannes you get to see all of that, the diversity of the world, not just Hollywood.


I imagine Lily Gladstone must have been very excited to be here.

What I love about Lily is that she’s very grounded. We had so much fun, and her aesthetic is very natural. And it’s my first time working together with her. She saw my Instagram, so she understood what my aesthetic is too. And then before I started working with her, I studied her work as well so when I met her I knew that she liked to look like herself, but because we’re in Cannes we have to pump it up a little bit for the red carpet.

I’m always respectful to whoever I work with, but I always do my homework. I come in with some pictures. I saw the dress that her manager sent me, and I just pitched it to her, but the overall aesthetic is very natural because that’s who she is. I think when people think natural, they think it’s just tone, but it’s not true. Natural can also be the color of the flowers.

She wore this Valentino couture dress that has flowers on it, so I wanted the lips to look like flower petals. I mean it’s dry, it’s not lipsticky, because I don’t think that that’s what she would want either but it’s sheer and like a flower petal.

Is it easier for you when someone knows exactly how they want to look or when they say just do whatever you want?

I think both can be difficult.  I’m always respectful to who I work with, but that’s why I prefer working with new people. When I met Lupita, she was new. It was big, the first time. And then we experimented together until we found the look. So, I feel like with Lily it’s very similar too, because it’s her first big red carpet and she’s very open, but she knows what she wants. So, I respect that.  If somebody wants to look like themselves, I’m not going to do the fake lashes and do all of that, because in a way, makeup is almost like a pair of shoes.  When you see people wearing high heels that they can’t walk in, so it’s the same with makeup. If you have somebody who’s natural and then all of a sudden, they have big lashes and you can tell they’re not comfortable. Even though it might look beautiful, but they’re not going to carry themselves. So, the whole thing has to work together.

You know a lot about women.

I grew up with a lot of women. So, I feel like from my mom to my two sisters, I’m the only son, and then I have a lot of aunties, I have a lot of girl cousins. So, I feel like I have that sixth sense if they’re not comfortable.  You have to be comfortable with makeup or what you’re wearing because that’s when you look the most beautiful.

When you are doing makeup, somewhere like Cannes, where people go over the top, does that change the way you would normally work?


Yeah, totally.  I’m very diverse that way because my training come from the drag background, which is total transformation. I can turn my face into something else … I can contour it, I can add lashes, I can tape.  I think the thing with makeup is that there’s no right or wrong. You can wear a lot if that’s who you are. I mean, Grace Jones wear a lot.  She’s my icon.

Do you get starstruck?

Not really. I feel like I would get starstruck if I met Grace Jones, who I haven’t met. I think I would definitely get starstruck. And then Rossy de Palma, I would get starstruck, but I got a selfie with her at the after show party event the first year I came. And we follow each other on Instagram now. So that’s what I love about social media. I can’t believe I’m friends with Rossy de Palma on my Instagram.  It’s great.

Do you think the beauty industry is getting less or more ageist?

I think it’s less, but it could be better.  I feel like now you still see brands using the term anti-aging. I feel like we tend to get stuck in thinking that youth is the only thing that sells for movies or for beauty products, but it’s proven otherwise. I mean, Michelle Yeoh, in Everything Everywhere All at Once the number one movie that A24 ever had.  I feel like the beauty industry is still a little bit behind.

Because they still use a 15-year old’s face to promote wrinkles.

You’re right. Or if they use somebody who’s in the age group, they retouch them to death. I hope that we get there soon.  I feel like Hollywood and the beauty industry is related.  In the past few years there’s been a lot of Asian representation, but we are always underrepresented. For example, in the past they would sign Asian stars, but they would only use their pictures in Asia, so what’s the point? But for the past three or four years, I definitely see a change, because you see a lot of Asian stars coming up, like Michelle Yeoh winning the Oscar.  You see Gong Li as the face of different brands and it all sells out. So yeah, things are definitely moving,