project corona... emilie louizides

Project Corona:
Emilie Louizides
talks freelancing, makeup as
an art form and the importance
of putting mental health first

Photo credit: Niall Lea

27th April, 2020

If we are all entitled to use the NHS then we should all be entitled to financial support, especially during a time like this. Freelancers cannot survive solely on Universal Credit so we'll need to be treated equally to our full-time working counterparts

Emilie Louizides is a Makeup Artist. Originally from the States, Emilie studied fashion in the US before jumping ship to London College of Fashion to study their BA Fashion and Makeup course. Emilie now works professionally - her work spans editorial, e-commerce, music and celebrity. She has most notably worked with the cast of Netflix’s ‘Queer Eye’ (Antoni Porowski, Tan France) as well as songwriter and poet Arlo Parks.

Emilie talks freelancing during such uncertain times, her relationship with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), makeup as a serious art form and why she thinks we should put mental health first during Covid-19.

How did you get into makeup?

I was studying fashion at an art college in the US, and I just couldn’t get into my school work. I was already interested in makeup from doing high school theater and watching makeup tutorials on YouTube. During my first year of college I would offer to do makeup in my free time for photography, film, dance and acting students who needed it for their projects. During my second year I started skipping classes, and I found myself doing even more makeup than the year before. When the year finished I knew I didn’t want to continue with my fashion degree, and was much more interested in pursuing a degree in makeup.

Within six weeks, I learned about and applied to London College of Fashion’s Hair and Makeup for Fashion BA program with the makeup portfolio I’d created. I got in, and after a trip to London and LCF, I accepted the offer, and made the move over here. That was five and a half years ago, I’m still in London and I work as a professional makeup artist. My work spans across editorial, e-commerce, music and celebrity. Some of my career highlights have been working with the cast of Netflix’s ‘Queer Eye’ and songwriter and poet, Arlo Parks.

Makeup is often underestimated and forgotten about. Could you tell me the importance of makeup on a shoot?

I spent the past year completing an MA at Central Saint Martins where I investigated this very issue. I’ve always been bothered by how some people can fail to recognise the substance, meaning and credibility behind makeup as a medium and art form. Makeup is supported by centuries of culture and history, and decades of academia. That unfortunately isn’t always represented so I suppose I can’t blame some people for their ignorance but it still hurts when I’m asked how my “makeup thing” is going, as if it’s a hobby or something that I don’t support myself with. This is how I experience others underestimating or forgetting about makeup.

However, when I’m working I feel extremely valued. The importance of makeup on a shoot is the intimacy it creates between the artist and model. Within a couple of minutes of meeting the person whose makeup I’m doing, I’m standing close to them, massaging their face and getting to know them in a much deeper way that I’d get to know an ordinary stranger. An intimacy coach I spoke with for my masters research emphasised the importance of feeling seen, heard and loved. I’m able to provide and also benefit from this by doing someone’s makeup and creating that instant intimacy. To me, that is one of the most substantive things that can occur in an industry that is far too often deemed as superficial.

You’ve suffered from generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) since you were four years old, and were officially diagnosed at age 12. What were your experiences with it?

Early on, around ages four and five, I began experiencing extreme separation anxiety. I still have memories of being the only kid standing outside of my school building, not wanting to go inside because I didn’t want to be without my parents. The years between then and being an early teenager are a bit fuzzy anxiety-wise but when I was about twelve or thirteen my anxiety would manifest in physical ways. I would become so anxious and experience such intense nausea that I often wouldn’t be able to eat or I would throw up after meals. It was a challenging time because I really struggle to attribute the root cause of my anxiety to something specific, especially because it wasn’t actually body or weight related.

Talk therapy helped a lot and I gradually got better. Over the past ten years I’ve been really good about seeking therapy, especially when I forgot what therapists have taught me in the past and I know I won’t be able to help myself on my own. I recently completed a course of cognitive behavioral therapy, which was hands down the best therapy I’ve ever received.

Emilie with Arlo Parks, Photo credit: Milly Cope

Has your perception of mental health changed over the years?

When I was first diagnosed with GAD, I thought that meant my anxiety wasn’t linked to anything and that I was just an anxious person or anxious for no reason. CBT taught me that that isn’t true at all. I learned that anxiety always stems from something. There’s always a root cause. Getting my head around that drastically changed my perception of my own mental health and I’m grateful for that.

You’ve mentioned how you got your mental health in check, switched to a new UK visa and hit a stride with your freelance work, all before Covid-19 took hold. How has it affected you?

Transitioning from visa to visa during my time in the UK and working as a freelancer has taught me that life is going to be unpredictable no matter what. With the life I live, I'm used to not having structure or a routine and I've always been okay with that but Covid-19 has taken the uncertainty of life to a whole new level. I felt really proud of myself and accomplished for committing to getting mentally healthy, switching to a visa that was not easy or inexpensive to obtain, and booking more and more jobs each month. In a way, I feel prepared and able to get through the ways that coronavirus is changing my life.

“Ordinarily, being productive might mean that I wake up at 7am, have a healthy breakfast and work hard all day. When there's a global pandemic going on, taking its toll in so many ways, I think being productive should mean that we're looking after ourselves”

I've successfully tackled one challenge after another over the last six months so why can't I find a way to personally and successfully tackle this? I can stay home for the safety of myself and others, pick up old and new hobbies, and plan out and practice makeup ideas for future shoots. On the flip side, and I'm sure others, particularly other freelancers can relate, Covid-19 feels like a slap in the face. This virus has affected me and is continuing to affect me in so many ways, and I'm not even experiencing symptoms. I really feel for the people who are and I'm heartbroken over the amount of deaths that have come from this virus. Reflecting on that specifically makes me angry and that's probably the biggest way I've been affected by this.

I'm angry that I can't continue working, that I can't visit my family in the US, that some people aren't taking this virus seriously, and because of that, people are unnecessarily dying. I'm also deeply affected by the fact that life may never go back to what we considered to be normal a few weeks ago. I really do feel like I've hit such a stride with my job and it's sad to think that doing it could put people at risk. I'm glad I've gone through recent experiences of falling down and getting back up because I know how good it feels to overcome obstacles. Covid-19 is the most major obstacle I’ll personally overcome so I really hope there will be some kind of light at the end of this very dark tunnel.

The UK government is said to help employed individuals during Covid-19, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month. However, this is not the same guarantee for millions of self-employed people in the UK. How do you feel about this, do you think the government will come to a solution?

I, of course, am infuriated by the way the UK government is handling this pandemic. I find it horrifying that only a few days ago (today is the 22nd of March) Boris Johnson was encouraging UK citizens and residents to stay away from bars, pubs, and restaurants, and yet he wasn't closing them. This was a tactical move. With small and independent businesses, particularly those in hospitality, unable to claim insurance, they would have been forced to lose or close their businesses permanently. This just goes to show that a Tory government truly does care more about big insurance companies than small businesses. They care more about money than people. If they didn't, they would have closed pubs and restaurants days ago, which  would likely have saved lives.

Emilie with actor Robert Sheehan, Photo credit: DWGH Photography

I completely relate to these small and independent businesses. I myself am a small business and I have been put in a financially compromised position. Freelancers make up 15% of the UK's workforce. The self-employed freelance community contributed £271 billion to the UK economy in 2017 which I learned recently is enough to fund the NHS twice over. Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his plan to protect people's jobs and incomes claiming that, "we want to look back on this time and remember how, in the face of a generation defining moment, we undertook a collective national effort - and stood together." I'm confused by how he believes we're working collectively and standing together when he is excluding a major percentage of his country's workforce. Saying that, I do believe the government will come to a solution. If we are all entitled to use the NHS then we should all be entitled to financial support, especially during a time like this. Freelancers cannot survive solely on Universal Credit so we'll need to be treated equally to our full-time working counterparts. Looking ahead, I just hope that the way the UK government has handled this will change the way that people vote in the future. This situation is a prime example of how a Tory government is for the few and not the many.

*This article was written before UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a government plan for self-employment during Covid-19

Whilst it’s important to keep busy and productive in such downtime, do you think that we should be using this time to look inwards, in order to reflect, and work on ourselves?

It's hard to keep busy and be productive when we're so worried about the health of the world's population. That's why I think it's so important that with this downtime, we address our mental health before doing anything else. If I force myself into a work-like mentality before asking myself how all of this is making me feel I know I won't create good work, I'll most likely burn out and then I'll just be doing myself a disservice. I also think we need to take an extra good look at what it means to be productive. Ordinarily, being productive might mean that I wake up at 7am, have a healthy breakfast and work hard all day. When there's a global pandemic going on, taking its toll in so many ways, I think being productive should mean that we're looking after ourselves. Today I stayed in bed until noon, ate a sandwich, sat on my roof terrace in the sun and answered these questions and it's felt like a very productive day.

How are you keeping calm and creative during Covid-19?

I'm still figuring this out, it really has been a huge adjustment but when I have had the energy to be creative I really have felt calm as a result. I've gotten back into making collages, an old hobby that I've neglected for years. I've started to journal, something I didn't think I would enjoy since writing has never felt like a fun activity but it's helped me clear my head and understand my feelings. Yesterday I did yoga on my roof terrace; it was the most beautiful sunny day and I couldn't believe I had never used my roof for exercising before - this is something I'll be doing from now on, pandemic or not. The most consistent thing I've been doing to maintain some sort of normalcy is wake up around the same time every day, even if I don't get out of bed for another few hours, and when I do get up, I make sure to make my bed even if I get back in it soon after for a nap.

View, collaborate and learn more about Emilie Louizides below: / @emilielouizides


words: patrick taylor / images courtesy of emilie louizides 

uoh 2020 — @uok.hun