Thursday, 1 September 2011

An interview with Donna Mee, international beauty expert: Part 1 - the science of makeup

Through the Australian Beauty Bloggers Weekend (ABBW) and Polkadot PR who are promoting the International Makeup Artist Trade Show (IMATS), I was given the opportunity to interview a few of the presenters who are running classes at IMATS. One such presenter was Donna Mee, a professional makeup artist and beauty expert with over 29 years of experience. I was initially unsure as to whether I should interview Donna, as makeup is not my forté and I was worried that I would come across as clueless. However, upon doing some research I found that teaching the art and science of makeup and skin care has been her longtime passion. As soon as I saw the word science I knew that we would have a lot to talk about!

We conducted the interview via an online video call and ended up chatting for about 20 minutes before instant messaging for a further 30 minutes. So, as not to bombard you with an über long post, I have decided to break the interview up into two parts: this is Part 1 - the science of makeup. I will then follow up with Part 2 - makeup tips.

You are often described as an educator of the art and science of makeup and skin care. The science of beauty is a passion of mine, and the crux of my blog. I would love to know how you describe the science of makeup.

Donna: I have zero natural ability or skill as an artist. People think that I am being hard on myself but it is true. I am the youngest of three - my siblings are both amazing artists who can take a pencil and paper and in five minutes draw an image from a photo. They have amazing perception of shadow and depth of field and bone structure while I can barely draw a hangman or a Mr Potato Head. Whilst I wasn't good at art, I worked out that if I could understand it scientifically then I could replicate it.

Everything I teach is based on science. For example, corrective makeup is based on the epitome of beauty. Of course, what the American Society says is beautiful is what the world considers as beautiful. So, corrective makeup is creating the illusion of an oval shaped face regardless of what shape they have - you can't make everyone look completely oval but you can make them look less of what they are. You can give them higher sculpted cheek bones, almond up tilt eyes and it really is based on science - the way the mind perceives things.

Donna then went on to explain that in lectures she will present an optical illusion of spinning circles. I think I have found the one that she might use, if not, it would be quite similar. Donna will ask the audience to stare at the image and tell her which way the circles are spinning - left or right. She will often get a mixed response with a portion of the audience thinking that its left, the rest calling out right. The truth is the images are not spinning at all. It is a still image and it is just the way the brain processes the image that gives the appearance that it is moving.

Courtesy of Painted River

Donna: If you can understand how the mind perceives colour and placement and shapes and objects and the line where your eye follows, you can better interpret makeup. So, the way I teach is very scientific. People are often really blown away when attend my course as they think that they will be playing in eyeshadow all day, when it is so not about that at all. My makeup is all based on science and how the mind perceives images and colour theory - playing in colour. Most makeup artists think that they know colour because they know that green cancels red but that's as far as they go with colour theory. Most of those people are then the ones who walk around with a green zit instead of a red zit because they don't know how to apply colour correctly. So, their experience with colour theory is that it doesn't really work. But that is only because they don't fully understand all the rules. It comes back to the eye - once you understand the rules of how the mind perceives images then colour theory works.

I have selected the following two before and after images from Donna's website to illustrate the above points. However, there are many more that you can view. With both of the images below, when I stare at the made up after shot on the right, it really appears as though both women have completely different shaped faces compared with the before shot on the left. The eyes of the women in the first set look completely different - without makeup they point downwards but with makeup they appear up turned. I find both of these sets of images to be excellent examples of the optical illusion that makeup can create and the power to completely change the appearance of a face or eye shape by understanding how the mind perceives images and then by tricking it with the use and placement of colour.

If you would like to delve further into the amazing mind of Donna Mee then stay tuned for Part 2 of my interview.

If you would like to learn more about about colour theory or makeup application, Donna is hosting a 30 day educational tour of Australia. She will be teaching classes in Sydney, Terrigal, Kingscliff, Gold Coast and Brisbane. Here is the list of Sydney and Terrigal classes. If you would like to know the dates of the other classes, email Donna ( If you, like me, are fascinated with the science of makeup and how the mind perceives colour and images the ideal class to attend is Mastering Contours and Highlights. These classes are appropriate for anyone who would like to improve their makeup skills, not just makeup artists.
 Alternative, Donna will be speaking at IMATS from 2.30-3.30pm on Saturday 24th September or 1.45-2.45pm on Sunday 25th. Tickets to IMATS are $40 for a one day pass or $65 for both days and can be purchased here.

Unless other otherwise stated, all images in the post were taken, with permission, from Donna's website: