Katie Reedman: Founder of Honest Makeup
Katie Reedman is lucky to be here.
A year ago she was involved in a riding accident, which left her with a head injury. That she is sitting in front of me today and able to tell her story in her own words is nothing short of a miracle.
“Concussion is a very disabling brain condition. Even more frightening is how little we know about it. Had I not met a cranial osteopath four months after my accident, goodness knows where I would be now.”
Head injuries are not something many understand and Katie is determined to use the experience she and her family went through in a positive way. She openly admits that nothing has scared her more than her brain not being able to work again.
“Following the accident, my life ground to a halt. I had no short term memory, I slept for twenty hours a day, and though I was technically ‘there’ I don’t remember events such as my birthday or – heartbreakingly – my son learning to walk.
“Ultimately I was just trying to survive.”
It is a story of both desperation and triumph. For months, Katie battled with her cognitive functions and movement and, on bad days, would beg her partner to take her to Switzerland so she could end it all. Thankfully, she stopped short of this threat after meeting Michael Skipwith, a cranial osteopath who was amazed at how she was clinging on: “Meeting Michael was like waking up from the longest nightmare ever,” sighs Katie. “Finally someone understood my injury. He was the only person who could explain what had happened to my brain and body, as he unravelled the trauma of the impact to my skull and neck.”
Katie also credits much of her recovery to her two year old son: “Not only did my maternal instinct and the need to protect him kick in hard, even in my most vulnerable moments, but also I was on his level. I was learning to roll a ball back and forwards, and play with building blocks, at the same time as he was.”
Today, Katie is a bubbly, bright, independent woman who is full of life and ambition. Her recovery is not quite complete – probably about 80% there – but the unknowing observer would not realise that this vivacious individual was, a year ago, so seriously unwell. In fact, ever the optimist, Katie says her near death experience has changed her life for the better: “I know what is important now, I have a new perspective. Life is too short to waste on things – and people – which sap energy out of you. You soon realise what you have and what really matters when you go through something like this. I feel blessed with this understanding and am determined to live a full and happy life.”
It is this new perspective, this second chance, which spurred Katie to carry on developing Honest Makeup, a brand dedicated to honesty in a dishonest industry. Having worked as a professional make-up artist for eight years, Katie feels women are being short changed when it comes to beauty.
“Through no fault of our own, most of us are wearing the wrong make-up.”
“Some beauty brands are sharks; they stick staff on their counters to sell, sell, sell. They’re rarely trained artists and, more often than not, don’t know if a product suits you. I have seen foundation tested on the inside of wrists, under chins and on hands, yet no-one’s face is the same colour as these areas. It’s a total con.”
In a world where we’re bombarded with images of airbrushed celebrities and under increasing pressure to look our best at all times, Katie aims to educate women so we can make informed choices about the way we look, as well as finding more effective ways to use our make-up: “I know I can’t change the world, but I can at least help real women feel better about themselves. It is like the blind leading the blind out there at the counters; I love to spend time observing, it is fascinating. If shoes don’t fit, you don’t buy them. But with make-up, it is remarkable how vulnerable women are. They are easy prey for big brands because they lack the basic artistry knowledge and hope to walk away looking like the nineteen year old advertising the mascara they just bought.”
This mantra – and morality – is something which sets Katie apart. Make-up means more to her than a simple mask: it is as much about female empowerment, acceptance and confidence building as it is about aesthetics. Inspired, we questioned Katie further to find out more about the woman taking on the beauty business…
MyLBB: Katie, you’ve been a professional make-up artist for eight years. What was it that first attracted you to the industry?
Katie Reedman: I was always into make-up. I am artistic and it was my plan B after working as a graphic designer. In the back of my mind I felt I was always destined to be a make-up artist. Ironically, my teacher was convinced I had done some sort of training before my course, but I had not. I am so thrilled I can make my living from something I genuinely love, something that comes naturally to me.
MyLBB: Honest Makeup was born out of disillusionment with the big beauty brands. Tell us more about your company and ethos.
KR: I have always been a non-conformist, that is part of who I am. Hence naming my company Honest Makeup. There are so many brands out there, and a lot of confused women, and so my aim is to simplify this. Certain brands are great for certain products – each has a ‘hero product’ if you like – and every make-up artist has their own individual techniques and favourite tools; the clue is in the title, really! Personally, I like to blend and mix make-up, creating my own base colours and textures.
My starting point with Honest Makeup was the application. In other words, brushes. Without good brushes, one cannot apply make-up effectively. One needs to train the eye to a certain level so one can understand the basic artistry.
The ‘no make-up’ make-up look always makes me laugh. After all, great make-up does not look like make-up, it looks natural. It’s make-up, not change up! Renee Zellweger has recently been grilled for wearing no make-up when, in fact, she has a lot on; the trained eye can see how much she is wearing. Plus the speculation on work she has had on her face! The poor woman. Actually, all I noticed is that her eyebrows are fairer than they were ten years ago and she has aged. And so what if she has had cosmetic work? Frankly, it is a sad reflection of the pressure women feel in Hollywood to keep their looks. It is so normalised to have work done. What I find more frightening is that this is deemed worthy of headline news.
MyLBB: As a woman, what does make-up mean to you?
KR: It is a way to make the most of what we have. Embracing our faces, our skin, what we are born with and accentuating our natural beauty. My goal is to always make someone look the very best version of herself, working with colours which complement her skin, eyes and hair. Beautiful, but not heavily made up. I strive to make women feel conformable and confident, and that is a wonderful part of the job, seeing how great people feel as a result.
MyLBB: The #nomakeupselfie campaign – which encouraged women to snap themselves barefaced for Cancer Research UK – was hugely successful, and proved that many women find it abhorrent to be seen sans slap. For those of us who fall into this category, what advice would you give us to change our relationship with make-up?
KR: Honestly, learn to love what you have. Wasting energy and time not being happy about what you were born with is such a disservice to life. Frankly, if the biggest worry you have is that you wish you had bigger lips or a smaller nose, then be grateful. There is always someone much worse off.
As for the no make-up selfie campaign, I find it somewhat scary that snapping ourselves without slap is seen as some kind of grand gesture for supporting cancer research. I am sure people who are battling cancer could not give a f*** about what they look like and would trade that in for having their health in a heartbeat. However, unfortunately the pressure to look good is around us constantly in magazines, advertising campaigns and on TV, and of course I don’t begrudge the money raised for the charity.
MyLBB: At its heart, the beauty industry is quintessentially female, but have you ever encountered any prejudice or obstacles because of your age or gender?
KR: I always thought that had I been a gay guy doing make-up, it would have been a lot easier! It is a very tough business. Gay men are so unthreatening to women and also hilarious to be around.
I love doing shoots, with a great team. It makes all the difference working with people who are as passionate as you are. Models are fabulous for indulging one’s creative flair and a blank canvas to go wild on.
But the kind of make-up you can do on an eighteen year old model just won’t work on the mass market, and I enjoy making real women feel great about themselves, too.
MyLBB: Where do you see Honest Makeup in three years’ time?
KR: I live in the present so, for now, I just plan to make it a huge success. My Honest Makeup brushes are out in 2015; I had hoped it to be earlier, but my health put things on hold. I plan to move on to bespoke products after.
I am also keen to build on the Honest Makeup brand philosophy and the artistry. I would love an Honest Makeup shop which is consumer driven and totally unbiased. With the Internet, there are endless e-commerce possibilities too.
One thing I really care about, though, is being able to see people and look them in the eye. The way we communicate now is very frightening, I think. My head injury certainly opened my eyes to the detrimental effect technology has had on us all. Part of my rehab included cognitive rest – so no television, Internet, phone etc – which was very hard at first but, after a week, I was remarkably peaceful without it! Technology stops us using our brains and I find it sad how we have no time just to be. Technology is so normalised, but it actually makes life remarkably stressful.