When you’re approached by a six-foot-two bearded man with a perfectly blended smokey eye and piercing grey contacts, you can’t help but be startled by his unorthodox beauty. At first glance, some may believe that Thomas Saint Noir is cold and too cool to be a friendly guy. However, he is very humble about the fact his make-up skills landed him a place in a nationwide competition, almost passing it off as not a big deal. But when Illamasqua select you to compete in their Distinction in Make-Up Artistry Awards, it is quite the opposite.
The 21-year-old from South Hetton is currently studying Fashion Styling with Make-Up at Southampton Solent, but his experience with make-up started in his bedroom at sixteen. “I suppose I started with YouTube tutorials,” he said, thinking back to his younger years. “But really watching RuPaul’s Drag Race made me realise it was something I wanted to pursue. I was fascinated by this whole new world of becoming someone else for a while through the power of make-up, and then being able to take it off at the end of the day. Now, I apply that mantra to other people.”
Last Saturday, Thomas headed down to London with his model Charlie to create a make-up look based around the theme, Textiles v.s. Art in the Student category of the Distinction in Make-Up Artistry Awards. Illamasqua are renowned for their incredibly creative approach to beauty and often produce conceptual, complicated make-up looks for their campaign imagery. The four competitors, including Thomas, were given an hour to create their response to the brief and then had five minutes to explain their concept to the four judges, one of which was Illamasqua’s creative director Alex Box.
“I was absolutely terrified when I arrived,” Thomas says, laughing a little at himself. “We had ten minutes without anyone else in the room to start our project, but when people came to have a look I was sweating and my hair just refused to get out of my face!”
At first, Thomas was unsure whether to enter the competition as he wasn’t certain he was ready. However, after his first year on Fashion Styling with Make-up at university, he had gathered a good portfolio and he visited the Illamasqua website one day and saw the application instructions.
“We had to submit one beauty look and one fantasy look without any post-production editing on Photoshop, and I had previously created a fantasy look that really represented me as a person, so I thought I would have a go. I entered at the start of July and was sure I hadn’t got in, but I received an email at the start of September saying congratulations and I was so shocked.”
During the competition, the contestants had to show their skills in make-up artistry, but also deliver a well-thought concept that explained their beauty choices. Thomas spent weeks coming up with face charts and researching into his chosen theme.
“I had to create something that incorporated both texture and art, so I began by looking at Hindu culture as it’s something that inspires my style generally. My textile of choice was snakeskin, as in Hindu culture serpent gods are worshiped whereas in most UK cultures we regard snakeskin as a fabric for bags, shoes and such.
“I used real shredded snakeskin in my beauty look because I wanted to emphasise the fact it is a renewable source. I regard fashion as art. I don’t believe we should sacrifice animals for our art.”
On the day, Thomas said he became more relaxed as time went on. He finished his beauty look and was asked to go backstage and present his concept and mood board to four highly-esteemed judges. “I was weirdly relaxed during this stage,” he said. “I think the judges understood where I was coming from, and Alex Box asked me what I thought of the brief. I’m amazed I didn’t lose my words, as she is one of my favourite make-up artists ever.”
Now all that is left is waiting. Thomas’ final image is on the Illamasqua Facebook page and 10 per cent of the final vote goes down to the publics choice. To vote for Thomas, you have to like his picture and at the moment he has 851 people backing him. However, he needs more votes to take the lead.
“I think I need to be more confident in myself,” Thomas says on reflection. “I need to believe in my own skills.”
The lesson to be learned here? Don’t judge a book by its cover. Although Thomas Saint Noir sounds to be an Amazonian beauty reeking of self-confidence, he is humble, sweet and friendly to boot. The boy is damn talented, and we’re sure he’s going to be one to watch.