“I’m Not Making Everybody Beautiful”

An interview with makeup artist Heba Thorisdottir

Heba Thorisdottir, the forty-something makeup artist, has one of those enviable peaches-and-cream complexions generally associated with prepubescent girls, or the backsides of babies and women who get crooned about in R&B songs. It’s no surprise, really, as Heba’s trade is skin. You’ve most likely seen her work, artfully inconspicuous, though omnipresent in the faces of Kill Bill: Vol. 1’s anime-eyed teenage villain, Gogo Yubari, the relaxed natural beauty of Cate Blanchett in The Life Aquatic, the spy superhero femme fatale Scarlett Johansson in The Avengers, and various characters in Bridesmaids, Hanna, Inglourious Basterds (Heba is Tarantino’s go-to brush master), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and We Bought a Zoo. Her red-carpet and print portfolios are also nearly endless. She works most regularly with Blanchett and Johansson as their personal makeup artist.

Heba and I spoke for more than two hours at her home in Los Angeles. Before I left, she offered me a bag of fresh lemons from her tree and a free makeup consultation, during which she swished and poked a few of my own makeup products onto my face with smooth, expert fingers. Two and a half minutes later, she pointed toward the mirror behind my head. When I turned to inspect my face, it seemed as though it was bare, yet I’d never looked better.

—Kathryn Borel

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THE BELIEVER: Do you think a person is born with a steady hand, or can you learn it?

HEBA THORISDOTTIR: I think you can learn certain techniques, but I think you’re born with it.

BLVR: Maybe it would be difficult for an indecisive person to be a makeup artist.

HT: Yes, it would be a hard job for an indecisive person. Especially when you’re working with actors. You need to be clear on your intentions, because you’re not always doing what the actor wants. You’re doing what’s right for the movie, and what the director wants, regardless of who hires you. You have to provide a middle ground—of course you want to please the person and make them comfortable, but you might be doing something that’s making the person uncomfortable.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please purchase a copy of the magazine from The McSweeney’s Store.

Kathryn Borel is a journalist and the author of the book Corked, which was nominated in 2010 for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, a prize that is important only in Canada. She lives in LA.

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