Former Kingsdown pupil mixing with the stars
A MAKE-UP artist to stars began her career by practicing on friends and playing ‘Casualty’ as a child.
Former Kingsdown School pupil Kelly Willis works as a freelance make-up artist to film and television stars including Matt Le Blanc in the third series of hit comedy Episodes.
At 29 Kelly has already collected a large number of film and television credits, including BBC dramas Merlin, the Hour and Spooks, and even big-budget Hollywood blockbusters like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
She also worked with Anna Chancellor, Romola Garai and Anton Lesser for 1950s show The Hour, Max Beesley, Zoe Tapper and Christopher Fulford for BBC series Survivors, and Keeley Hawes, Philip Glenister and Montserrat Lombard for 1980s-set Ashes to Ashes.
Her success follows a journey of dedication and perseverance for the Swindon College graduate, who realised early she had artistic flair.
“At school I used to do my friends’ make-up and we used to have little girly nights,” she said.
“I would always play around with casualty make-up and find ways to make my own little potions. I always wanted to do something with art because I loved it at school, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it.
“Then I saw the media make-up course and thought that sounded interesting.”
Kelly, of Stratton, took the esteemed media make-up course at the college before going on to do a Higher National Diploma in the same subject.
“I enjoyed the course at Swindon College and had a great teacher,” she said. “It really gave me a good understanding of what it would be like to work in the industry as my teacher, Kathleen Harris, had trained with the BBC. From there I studied for a HND in Taunton.
“It’s all gone on from there really. It took quite a while to get my first job but I managed to get work experience on a film called Kinky Boots. I had to put myself up in a hotel in London but it was great fun because it was working with drag queens.
“Then I did a two-year freelance apprenticeship which found us jobs and work experience so we could make the contacts, which I didn’t really have.”
Since then Kelly has worked with stars such as David Walliams and James Corden as well as Matt Le Blanc, best known as Joey in Friends.
“Matt is great to work for,” she said.
“He is really professional and very funny – I would say he is the most famous actor I’ve worked with. I’m excited because I get to go to Los Angeles soon as Episodes will be doing some filming over there for the third series.
“James Corden was very funny too, and that was for a show called The Wrong Mans which will be aired on BBC soon. Merlin was also one of the most fun shows I’ve worked on as we were filming in nice locations, like a castle over in France.”
Although the job can mean working long hours, often with 5am starts and 14-hour working days on big productions, Kelly said anyone thinking of becoming a make-up artist should show their dedication and passion by practicing as much as possible.
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