How did you develop your signature style? Who/what were some of your influences?
When I moved to Manhattan at 19, I lived with my friend Jean Luc, a hairstylist. He has a love for old movie stars and photography, and his passion was contagious. He introduced me to old hollywood glamour, stars like Ava Gardner, Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor. He especially loved Marilyn Monroe. We’d stay up doing impromptu photoshoots, which is when I perfected my eyeliner skills, and that glamorous 50’s look… winged eyes, lashes for days and bold sultry lips.
(Elisa as Marilyn Monroe; from the impromptu apartment photoshoot with Jean Luc Bercót)
We didn’t even have furniture, or beds yet… our first sign of decor were three photos of Marilyn Monroe that hung in our apartment. They were prints signed by the photographer Bert Stern. It was also Marilyn’s last photoshoot before she passed away. When I turned 21, Jean Luc gave me one of the photos, titled “Here’s To You”. That photo is priceless to me I will treasure it always…Through good times and bad times, no matter what, Marilyn has always been there to say “Here’s To You”, and she always will be.
(Jean Luc’s birthday card to Elisa, with the Certificate of Authenticity for the Marilyn print.)
(Elisa’s Marilyn Monroe print.)
What was a defining moment in your career?
In 2000 Betsy Reyes started at MTV. Before her one artist would do both hair and makeup at MTV. Betsy was so talented with hair that once she arrived, that standard changed. When we were partnered together the looks came together so easily. I was happy that I went to get my cosmetology license, it gave me the opportunity to take more freelance work, given that many producers would prefer to hire just one person that will do both. But when I concentrated on what I loved, which was makeup, it made all the difference in the world. And it created a better result overall, for both hair and makeup.
In 2004, Betsy and I began heading the hair/makeup department at MTV studio, which is what we do today. Our makeup room is filled with everything we’ve accumulated over the years, and I even took part of designing the space when it was built. Although we both freelance on other jobs/networks, MTV is our home.
(Photos from Top to Bottom: Suchin Pak at MTV VMA’s, Vanessa Lachey hosting MTV NYE, MTV Makeup Room; Photo Credit: Getty Images, Makeup by Elisa Tallerico, Hair by Betsy Reyes)
What was your “full-circle” moment? A moment of success for you?
In the last blog, I mentioned how seeing Kevyn Aucoin’s work inspired me to begin this journey. I actually got to meet Kevyn Aucoin many years later. MTV did a news interview with Cher and Kevyn was her personal make up artist. Over the span of my career I had met every Rock star, rapper, singer, songwriter but to me meeting Kevyn was a full circle moment. I was living what I had dreamed of, and for me that’s success.
What is some advice you have for anyone looking to enter your field?
My advice for new artists in this business is, if you have passion for this, and you go for it, the jobs will come. It can be scary for some to not have the stability of a steady paycheck. Every job is new, and every job becomes an opportunity to learn and grow and I love that. But with that said, I’ve also been aware of the sacrifices in my personal life for my career.
Looking from the outside in it seems like a glamorous job, and it is at times. I’ve had magical moments, like watching the Foo Fighters live at MTV’s New Year’s Eve 2002, as the ball dropped in Times Square. When those moments happen, I get a sense of awe and surprise that this is my life, and I take a deep breath and thank the universe for it.
But for every experience like that one, there are a thousand more that aren’t so glamorous. Moments like traveling with my 70lb kit through the subways, and then having to hike it up my 4 flights of stairs to my apartment on a daily basis. Moments like shooting outdoors; in the extreme elements of winter, wondering if you will ever get the feeling back in your toes. Or in the summer, when you feel like you may faint from the sun. And of course, working really long hours. Sometimes weekends don’t exist. You have to make hard choices, like leaving your loved ones to shoot on location for months at a time, or making the decision to miss a holiday because you chose to work, and the guilt that comes with that.
This career I chose has been a wild and wonderful ride…at times not easy, but so worth every second. I’ve created not only a career, but friendships that will last a lifetime. I feel blessed to go to work everyday and do what I love with people I adore. There’s a quote from Estée Lauder that I feel speaks to my own life experience, which is, “I never dreamed about success, I worked for it”. But I’ve learned that working really hard doing something you love, feels like not working at all. And I’m very grateful for that.
This concludes our two part blog series on Elisa Tallerico! Feel free to comment and share with fellow freelancing artists! Follow Elisa’s work on our instagram @betsyelisabeauty!