It’s not all gloss and glamour for make-up artist Cat Smith

Cat Smith on location

Cat (left) with Strike Back actress Michelle Lukes, on set in Budapest, Hungary

Strike Back actress Michelle Lukes given a bloody look by Cat Smith

Cat on location at a township in South Africa

Cat (left) on set in South Africa

International make-up artist Cat Smith of Catherine Elizabeth, in her studio in Haxby.

International make-up artist Cat Smith of Catherine Elizabeth, in her studio in Haxby. Pic by Jo Hughes

First published in Features
Last updated
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MAXINE GORDON meets the York woman making a name for herself as an international hair and make-up artist.

CAT Smith is a bit of a time traveller. As a make-up artist working in film, theatre and television, one job might require her to recreate a look from the 18th century, another ask for the 1980s.

Cat has taken her make-up box back to the 1700s for hit US TV show Knifeman about an 18th-century surgeon, and also set the dial for the 1940s for the film Girls' Night Out set on VE Day in 1945, to be released next year.

She also worked on the set of upcoming BBC First World War drama, Testament of Youth, and the TV adaptation of PD James' Death Comes to Pemberley, set in 1803, which was filmed in York.

Last year, she was hired by the West Yorkshire Playhouse for the play My Generation and charged with creating looks from the Seventies, through to the modern day.

Her job takes her far afield too. She has spent months in Hungary and South Africa for the US action drama Strike Back, where she worked with actors Robson Green, Dougray Scott and Michelle Lukes.

For Girls' Night Out, she was despatched to Belgium to work on creating the wigs for the drama that tells the story of teenage princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, out on the town as Victory in Europe was declared. In the film, Hull doubles as London during wartime.

Cat does her own research before each assignment – both online and from reference books – and some of her discoveries are surprising.

"Eyeliner didn't come in until the 1950s and during the war, it was only working class women that wore lipstick," explains Cat.

She had to put this into practice when creating the correct looks for Girls' Night Out. "The princesses had a no make-up look; Princess Margaret may have had a little bit of lipstick but then she was a bit of a rebel."

Instead, the emphasis was on hair and much of Cat's time was spent re-creating Forties waves and curls on natural hair and wigs.

"During the war, women would have their hair in rollers all week. There are lots of pictures showing women in factories with their headscarves on over their rollers."

Working in film and TV may sound glamorous, but the reality is long hours and hard work, with 14 to 16 hour days the norm. One day on the set of Strike Back, Cat had to shadow the actors who were in a boat going down river. "I was in a rubber dingy at the side, with my kit at the ready in case the water smudged their fake tattoos."

When this happened, Cat often had to restore them freehand.

Cat says one huge benefit is getting to work with some great people. "Robson Green was very nice and I really liked Dougray Scott."

Travel is another plus, with long spells working in South Africa a particular highlight. She said: "We worked in loads of townships which was really humbling. These people were living in sheds that we would have on an allotment."

Cat, 33, has worked behind the scenes on some of our favourite home-grown TV shows, including Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Hollyoaks. She trained at York College in beauty therapy and does hairstyling too. She balances her TV work with running her own hair and make-up studio from her home in Haxby, offering bespoke bridal services as well as make-overs for anyone requiring a glamorous look for a big occasion.

Not surprisingly, Cat is an expert on the latest beauty fashions and upcoming trends.

She said: "This autumn, it is all about bold eye makeup. Have fun with colour and metallics and create bold lines or a slept-in smoky eye.

"Full lashes are a huge trend too. To get this look, apply lashings of mascara to both top and bottom lashes. False lashes are also back in a huge way."

Cat says glowing, natural skin, can be maintained through winter too, by use of careful shading, contouring and illuminating to emphasise natural light. She adds: "Pair with a well conditioned lip, groomed brows and a hint of warmth to the cheeks. Less is more with this make-up look."

Cat's five make-up bag musts:

Bobbi Brown Gel Liners

L’Oreal HIP Shocking Shadow Pigments

Clarins BB Skin Correcting Cream

Mac Something Special Cream Blush

Lancome Hypnose Mascara

Find out more at catherine-elizabeth.co.uk

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