Make-up guru who’s making millions telling women they need less
- Connolly’s Scuplted by Aimee is a pared-back range of easy-to-use products
- READ MORE: The make-up rules I love to break – and so can you
Of all the ways in which the Kardashian clan have affected the female psyche and persuaded us to part with our cash, it’s the concept of ‘contouring’ that might have had the most impact.
It was Kim who introduced us to the technique, circa 2008, of slimming or sculpting the face using layers of artfully painted and blended colour — and, ever since, beauty counters have bowed under the weight of myriad products it spawned.
Beauty entrepreneur Aimee Connolly was just 16 at the time and starting an after-school job on one of those very make-up counters — Urban Decay in a department store in Dublin.
‘I thought it was the coolest job ever,’ she says. ‘But it was also a real eye-opener.
‘Women would come up to me and I’d ask them what they were looking for, and they’d say: “I haven’t a clue!” They were overwhelmed by all this choice: sponges, foundations, brushes, concealers, blushers, colours. It all seemed so complicated.’
Aimee Connolly, 30, is the founder of Sculpted by Aimee, a pared-down range of easy-to-use products designed to give women the ‘five-minute face’
And it was. Many had a caked face as a result of the Kardashian regime, which was really designed for the smartphone camera and could look clownish in real life. Not to mention the time it took to slap it on.
The only child of a single mum, Aimee filed away this first-hand knowledge of the baffled woman-on-the-street and, after university, became a professional make-up artist, eventually winning a high-profile slot on Ireland’s equivalent of This Morning and a whole new mainstream audience.
In 2017, she was finally ready to launch her solution to Kardashian levels of complexity with her cosmetics and skincare brand, Sculpted By Aimee, a pared-back range of easy-to-use products designed to give women the ‘five-minute face’.
Today, she’s in 500 stores, including Boots, and this month opened her first London store, off Carnaby Street, in the heart of the capital.
‘Women can’t spend an hour in front of the mirror every morning,’ she says. ‘And if you’ve got the right brush and the right product, you don’t need to.
‘There’s all this social pressure to look perfect, but our approach has always been less is more.’
A finalist at next month’s Everywoman Entrepreneur Awards, Aimee increasingly draws comparisons with make-up juggernaut Charlotte Tilbury, and has a similar steely focus beneath the (lightly applied) foundation.
Six years in, she employs 65 people, expects a turnover of £17.5 million in 2023 and talks of ‘becoming a global brand’, with products that ‘deserve to be in every woman’s make-up bag’.
Connolly became a professional make-up artist after university, eventually winning a high-profile slot on Ireland’s equivalent of This Morning and a whole new mainstream audience
Refreshingly, she didn’t launch her own business to gain flexibility in juggling work and the school gate, as so many female entrepreneurs tend to. At 30, Aimee is newly married to John, 36, who runs a restaurant franchise in Ireland, but it’s from her mum, Clare, that she gets her ambition.
‘I have big expectations of myself — and that’s Mum’s influence,’ she says. ‘She has never been afraid to take risks, which is a trait she definitely passed on to me. She’s obsessed with make-up, too: she only uses the same five products, but she won’t leave the house without them.
‘I was always the little girl who played with make-up, and the more glitter, the better. Later, I was the one who did my teenage friends’ faces, and I loved making them look and feel good.’
It’s not a trivial point. While Aimee acknowledges ‘none of us in the beauty industry is solving the world’s problems’, she also knows ‘we have one of the most powerful tools to build confidence and make women feel good’.
Some elements of the beauty industry take it too far, she thinks.
‘Filler terrifies me. I’ve made up thousands of women’s faces, and the biggest thing I’ve found is that women think they need more and more. It’s “doing” your face for the camera.’
However, tweakments that look good on-screen can often be a bit of a shock in real life, she warns. ‘I’m all for people doing whatever makes them feel good, but sometimes we need a reality check when it comes to overdoing things like filler.’
Sculpted doesn’t Photoshop or filter models’ faces. ‘What’s the point?’ Aimee says. ‘You can’t see the make-up! We show filler-free faces with real skin — pores, spots and blemishes included.’
Today, Sculpted by Aimee is in 500 stores, including Boots. This month Connolly opened her first London store, off Carnaby Street, in the heart of the capital
Before the Instagram selfie became the chief measure of a woman’s self-worth, the only occasion when we’d need make-up to look good both on camera and in real life was at our wedding.
Before launching her brand, Aimee made up many hundreds of brides, and learned the knack of how to make a face ‘work’ for the wedding pictures without scaring the vicar.
‘I’ve known about that fine balance for years,’ she says. ‘With hindsight, I was learning valuable lessons for the business well before I ever imagined I’d have one.’
One of her top tips for women starting a business is to demand that others take you as seriously as you do yourself.
‘I’ve been lucky not to encounter much prejudice, but women shouldn’t assume that everyone has your back. When I started, I used a factory in the UK, but I didn’t think the level of attention matched my expectations.
‘I rocked up to a meeting and there was definitely an element of them thinking, “This 22-year-old blonde doesn’t have a notion”. I told them I’d walk away if they couldn’t match what I wanted, and they rolled their eyes. So I did.’
She took a trip to South Korea, ‘where they’re honestly much better at making skincare and beauty products’ than the UK, or Ireland, and found a ‘fantastic’ factory there. ‘It was one of the best things that happened to the business,’ she says.
Aimee doesn’t believe in rules for the over-50s when it comes to make-up. ‘Throw the rulebook out,’ she says.
‘I happen to believe softer make-up looks good on all ages — and I’d do the same sort of thing on my mum’s face as I do on a 21-year-old. If you want a kitten flick at 80, then go for it.’
PARTY MAKE-UP LIKE A PRO
With the party season fast approaching, here are Aimee’s tips for make-up that works in real life and for selfies . . .
1 Avoid too many layers of product on the skin. Lots of primer, concealer, fake tan or foundation may look good on camera, but can appear dull and textured in real life.
Make sure to use matte foundation and avoid anything that has a shimmery glow built into it. The reverse is true here: those products may look good in real life, but they will make your face look shiny or greasy in pictures. Opt for as light and natural a base as you can.
2 Choose your concealer colour carefully. I’m all for a brighter under eye, but too bright and the flash of the camera will make it look harsh or ashy. For a lifted complexion, go just one or two shades brighter — and stop there.
3 Be cautious with your lip lining. Lots of us can be too generous with it (including me!) because we think we need a more defined lip for the camera. But there is a fine line, literally, between a subtly larger lip shape and overdoing it, so that the line looks too obvious.
4 Don’t be afraid of a bit more blush! For your face colour to live nicely on camera, you need to add a dab more blush than you usually would. I’m a huge blusher fan, so I think a little more works perfectly in real life, too. For parties, match the colour with your lipstick.
5 Set — but don’t over-set, as lighting on camera can be stronger than it is in real life. The temptation is to add an extra mist of powder to regulate excess shine. Don’t. You still want to look vibrant in real life rather than it all feeling flat.
- Aimee is a finalist in the Scale Up category of the Everywoman Awards, the winners of which will be announced on December 6 (everywoman.com). See sculptedbyaimee.com.
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