'I was born in Toronto, but I grew up in Vancouver, Canada. I was always attracted to the world of beauty, so when I was 19 or 20 I went to London and started hanging out with the guys from Toni & Guy, Vidal Sassoon—people like that. A model friend of mine was in New York, and she was very persistent and persuaded me to come here. When I first got here, it was a little dirty and didn’t seem that appealing to me, but it became almost like this computer game—like can you survive in New York? It gets addictive.
I ended up staying in the city, getting a job at a hair salon, and working really hard until they advanced me. It was through hairstylists there that I learned about the freelance world. Then I started working at Oribe's salon part-time—I showed up with wet hair under a baseball cap and he told me point-blank that anyone who had the balls to show up to an interview with him like that was hired. I started at his front desk answering phones and eventually went full time because it was the '90s and he was blowing up. I was doing everything from handling his supermodel and celebrity client appointment to handling his business affairs. It was the best education I could have received.
At the time, Katie Ford—from Ford Models—was a client of Oribe's and started asking me if I would come and work for her. Really, she stalked me until I couldn’t say no anymore. So I started a beauty division with Ford, but it was difficult to convince people to go to that agency for those kind of services. It seemed at the time that hair and makeup, styling, and set design were secondary within agencies. Six months after working there, John Frieda approached me to start a new agency—so with Eileen [Ford] and Katie's blessing, the The Wall Group was born in '99-2000, and here we are.
When I started representing artists, the first question was always what shows have they done. Then it transitioned into what celebrities have they worked with, and now, it’s about how many followers they have. It’s like looking for the popular person at the party. You want to hang out with them. Personality is such a big part of success of the industry as well as the raw talent. Reputation is everything in this business, so we’ll have meetings about it. We'll talk about what we can do for them, why we want to represent them, what the vision is, and what the first-year plan is—and second year, third year…That’s a lot of different ingredients, like a recipe for a great meal. You need to have a lot of elements to make it outstanding. Now we represent more than 150 hairstylists, makeup artists, manicurists, set design people, stylists, and anyone behind the scenes from coast to coast. Award season in particularly is big for us—I think our talent really knocked it out of the park for the 2015 Oscars. One moment I especially enjoyed was stylist Elizabeth Stewart’s genius decision to pair that gorgeous turquoise Tiffany & Co. statement necklace with that black velvet dress by John Galliano for Maison Martin Margiela on Cate Blanchett.
Yoga and meditation keep me grounded throughout everything that I do. I’ve been practicing for about 15 years now—John actually introduced me to it. I try to meditate for 30 minutes twice a day—when I wake up and right before I go to sleep, so I have a more restful night. It’s all pretty good fundamental life stuff. Even in the craziest of times, it can keep you centered and balanced, but it takes work to get there. You think about meditation and think, ‘OK. I sit down, cross my legs, and I’m going to think of nothing. It’s going to be the easiest thing in the world.’ But it's not! Virtually, the mind is a muscle, and the mind is trained to grab onto your next thoughts. You have to learn let go, so you just have to train the mind to reverse its natural process, which is to hold and connect. Adding in the physical practice helps create clarity for me, but I also think it’s misunderstood by so many people. It’s not really meant for exercise. It's just an extension of what the mind is doing. It's also just important to stretch out the body if you've been still in one position for a long period of time. That's what yoga is to me.
I’m a bit spoiled in the beauty sector. I feel like I’ve become the shoemaker’s wife—I witness and watch and know a lot about the business side of things, but as far as buying products or thinking about beauty for myself, I know what I go for, and it’s pretty straightforward. I know what feels better on my body as a whole. No matter what I use, I have to get that moisturizer on within two minutes of getting out of the shower or it’s useless. The best thing I’ve learned is how to maximize the performance of a product, but I’m much more relaxed about it and not chasing the holy grail of beauty anymore the way I was 10 years ago. The health of my skin is my focus now, and I use brands that keep it that way.
Epicuren products in particular really deliver. The founder is a doctor and a scientist, and he developed really high-performing products. You can only get it at spas or straight from the brand. I use the Evening Emulsion Enzyme Moisturizer—which is technically for your face—all over my body. At night, I’ll mix it with the Enzyme Concentrate Vitamin Protein Complex, which is a little bit oily but has a healing ingredient where it was designed for burns, so it's really good to the skin. Then I have the Skin Conditioner Enzyme Toner, which is a little exfoliating but also soothing. I don’t do a lot of masks but I’m into Ash and Clay lately. He’s very concentrated on what is organic. There's no parabens—anything that’s bad is eliminated. I like the La Prairie stuff, too. Particularly the Anti-Aging Eye and Lip Perfection à Porter—I use it all the time. Every single woman I know has gone and bought this. They’re obsessed. It feels like velvet on your skin. My favorite sunscreen is DDF Weightless Defense Oil-Free Hydrator with SPF 45. I stole this off someone’s boat. [Laughs] OK, not really, but it’s kind light and super easy.
I use a fair amount of products from health food stores. I like buying propolis, which is amazing. It’s what you get inside a beehive. You know you can perform a surgery in a beehive because it’s so clean? It’s so germ-free, so it’s great for the skin. Olive oil makes for a good moisturizer too sometimes.
Fragrance has always been a big passion of mine. For the last year or so Kilian Straight to Heaven is my favorite. It can be really light, or you can put it on a little heavier at night. Coqui Coqui Rosas Frescas and Tabaco are both great.…I love the smell of tobacco. Santa Maria Novella Tabacco Toscano Cologne is wonderful and made by nuns. I like things that are very concentrated like that.
My general makeup philosophy is less-is-more. I tend to do just mascara, a little cheek color, and very rarely, I'll do lips—just because it’s not my thing anymore. I’ll wear the By Terry Baume de Rose Lip and Nail Balm, and I like this Beaute lip color in Medusa. That’s as much color as I’ll put on.
Right now I’m using this Chanel Le Volume de Chanel Mascara. It's not lengthening, but gives you more volume. Then I’m using Bobbi Brown Blush in Nude Pink. Shu Uemura discontinued my favorite shade, which sent me on a search for a blush that didn’t have sparkle. It was really hard to find, but it was important because my skin is so pale that the minute you hit the face with any kind of color, you see it. You have to be really careful because you want it to look like a natural glow, not a forced glow.
If I’m going out at night, I like to put a tiny dab of translucent Dr.Hauschka's Translucent Bronzing Tint in my moisturizer—a little goes a long way, but it brings out the glow. For foundations, I love the Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation in 3.5, and I also like Shiseido The Makeup Stick Foundation in Natural Light Ivory. If I’m covering something like a little red vein or zit, then I’ll use the Giorgio Armani High Precision Retouch. Then if I have a bruise or something bigger, Kryolan Micro Silk Powder. It’s what a lot of the LA makeup artists use for red carpet, because it’s so fine. I think it’s more designed for theater and prosthetics.
In terms of eyeshadow, I have a palette from Nars that has every color, and it’s great. Their Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base is also amazing—it makes whatever you’re wearing stay in place for 12 hours, no matter what. It’s good for night, especially if I’m going for a sultry look. Then I’ll do something like Clé de Peau Beauté Satin Eye Color in 106. It’s definitely not for day. For a while I went through every single brown that Bobbi Brown has— Hot Stone, Cement, Saddle…You change and go through different types of makeup looks as you age. This is just where I am now.”
—as told to ITG
Brooke Wall photographed by Tom Newton. To read more of The Top Shelf, click here.