Ellis Atlantis‘ big break came when he became the first reigning winner of hit BBC TB show Glow Up. He’s a UK based drag queen and has since kept his 520k – and counting – Instagram followers transfixed with his out-of-this-world creative make-up transformations. He counts renowned make-up artist Val Garland as both a mentor and friend – Ellis assisted has assisted her at the Cannes Film Festival – and has also worked with the likes of Rankin, Hunger Magazine, Kinky Boots and famous drag queens from Ru Pauls Drag Race. How did Ellis discover drag himself? The make-up pro discusses all this and more exclusively.
On His First Memories Of Make-Up
‘When I was 16 we had fancy dress day at school. Growing up anything that involved make-up and men wasn’t allowed in the household, but this was a fancy dress party. My uncle’s girlfriend at the time was a make-up artist, so she came over and filled my eyebrows in, painted a leopard print pattern on my face. That was the first time that I wore make-up, the first time that I experienced make-up. From then on I’d sneak my mum’s mascara, her gel eyeshadows. Then, when I was 19 I moved to London to study fashion and design. I remember realising that I wasn’t really clicking with my subject, but I loved the environment of the industry, so I gave make-up a go. I started doing make-up backstage at the student shows, and it was a revelation. I loved doing it. It all snowballed from there.’
On His Biggest Beauty Icon
‘Val Garland. Working with her on Glow Up was like a dream come true. Now, being able to say that I have her number on my phone and that we text each other about stupid things, knowing that we have a real life friendship, it’s unbelievable. She’s such an icon. I learned more from my first ever job with her than anything else I’ve ever done, and I was with her for two weeks. She’s a stickler for fine details, whether that relates to artistry, prep or hygiene. She’s the reason why I’m such a clean freak on jobs now. She taught me that hygiene and cleanliness are part of the bigger picture, part of how you come across as a professional. It’s about the way you put your make-up together, the way you arrange your station, how you clean your brushes. Your client has to leave with a very positive experience.’
On Beauty Hygiene
‘Hygiene is something that has been drilled into me as a make-up artist and consequently I’m a stickler for it. Working with Beauty Hygiene Plus – Ellis is currently collaborating with the brand – really complements that side of me. A lot of brands out there offer you a brush cleaner, but there aren’t many that serve up an entire collection of tools for the job. When you think about it, as a professional make-up artist, I don’t just need a brush cleaner. I need a surface cleaner, I need a sponge and brush wash, and these can’t be any old solutions. They have to protect the hairs on any brushes, they have to ensure the metal parts of any of my tools don’t rust. There’s a lot to think about.’
I can’t describe to you how amazing drag is, it gives you so much power
On His First Drag Experience
‘I went to a night called Room Service, which was run by Jodie Marsh. And the first drag queen I bumped into was called Fifi la True, and that’s Jamie Campbell – the inspiration behind the film and musical Everyone’s Talking About Jamie. I saw Fifi in the club and was transfixed. Then, things came full circle because I got to work on the launch of Jamie’s film. I was actually supposed to be in the film but there were some schedule clashes, and I couldn’t make the filming days unfortunately. But that was what really inspired me to take hold of drag and run with it. I can’t describe to you how amazing drag is, it gives you so much power. You can be whoever you want to be, and everyone wants to see you have as much fun as possible.’
On His Biggest Career Highlight To Date
‘Working with Disney on the launch of Maleficent. I got to meet Angelina Jolie on the red carpet. She’s one of the most beautiful women in the world.