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Meet West Hollywood Makeup Artist: Joanna Berdzinska

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joanna Berdzinska.

Joanna was academically gifted, but her passion for all things artistic led her to depart from a cushy traditional path.  She’s already achieved a lot and we can’t wait to see what’s next for her.  Below you’ll find edited excerpts of our interview with Joanna. 

Joanna, please share your story with us.  How did you get to where you are today?

Ever since I remember I was fascinated with the world of fashion, music and cinema. As young as 4 years old I was influenced with Madonna’s outfits, I loved dressing up as a performer to go to preschool with clothes stolen from my mother’s closet only to reveal the full ensemble in front of kids and teacher while giving them a little concert as well. I sang, acted, styled, made my own clothes so early, everyone thought I would be a singer or an actress when I grow up. As years passed by my interests were more and more focused on the creative things like painting, drawing and styling.

When I was 11 I had a fun club of David Lynch, every week me and couple of other girlfriends would gather to talk about Twin Peaks and other works of this legendary director.(It was pretty amazing to meet him and work multiple times with his muse Chrysta Bell during years of my work in Hollywood). High school was all about fashion. I was always one of these people that made a huge impression and was remembered for what i was wearing. I was absolutely lots in the world of creating an image through clothes, makeup and hairstyling and the impact it made.

Coming from a family with academic background I went to university to become a linguist. Even though studying was very interesting my heart was yearning to be involved in fashion and the entertainment industry. I was asked about my biggest dreams and to many people’s surprise my answer was always: to move to Hollywood and work as makeup artist. It’s hard to tell if I believed it would ever happen, but I made steps to get closer and closer to complete my dream. My first big step towards this direction was moving to South of France and study makeup and fashion design. I fell in love with work on set and painting faces at this point I knew I enjoy it. Next step was enrolling in a legendary special effects school in Hollywood were I was trained by amazing Emmy and Academy Awarded makeup artists. I had so much fun doing prosthetics and clean beauty that at this point I was sure it was my calling. I graduated and started from zero. I remember my mom would call me every week and beg me to come back to Poland, because clearly she wasn’t crazy impressed with the life of starting out artist. Life in LA can be hard at the beginning, especially for a girl coming from Europe who had no relatives, no friends, no car and permanent place to stay, but a big dream. I accepted every single available job and project the first year in Los Angeles, I had no car and didn’t mind taking a bus, sometimes it meant waking up at 3am and taking 3 different buses to be on set on time. I’ve heard many times from various people that they haven’t seen more dedicated artist than me. I got very immersed in the makeup work, it was a very exciting, adventurous, happy time in my life.

These hardships and countless hours on various sets shaped me to who I am as an artist. My book was getting solid and that’s when I decided to switch it up and move to Spain. I was fortune to sign up with an amazing agency the first week in Europe. My first agent Marina after seeing my online portfolio invited me to their office in Madrid. I didn’t hesitate a minute, I booked a flight right away and saw her few days after that. She thought I was talented enough to work with them and I was the happiest to hear I would be represented by the agency among other amazing artists like Pep Guy. The time spent in Spain was very creative; I spent countless hours in museums, galleries beautiful parks and binge watching Almodovar movies. I also got to produce a lot of photo shoots myself in Madrid and Barcelona (it’s my secret hobby) I was published by various magazines and worked regularly with Marie-Claire. I started missing Los Angeles and made another impulsive decision to moved back to Los Angeles. I always follow what my heart is telling me. This time I stayed the longest I ever stayed anywhere. I immediately signed with Artists by Next and that led to continuous exciting projects. I was also represented by Exclusive Artists Management. Currently I have a luxury of working mainly with my favorite photographers that I truly love and who are on the same creative wavelengths; Sasha Samsonova, Elias Tahan and Lexie Montoya. I have a sweet 2 year old daughter and a supportive, loving husband. Things are just getting better and better. I’m in love with life.

Has it been a smooth road?

Fashion world may look very fabulous on the outside and in most cases it truly is. As makeup artists we get to work with many inspiring artists and work in breathtakingly beautiful locations. Once in a while there is a 4am call time which means there is almost no sleep the day before the shoot. The first steps are always hard and probably my biggest obstacle was working the first year of my career in LA without a car and without any connections to the industry professionals, but the great part of being an European where in most cities car is unnecessary in life, I had a mentality of a person who doesn’t need a car to be happy. This of course changed after realizing that Los Angeles is a city where you can’t exist without a car 🙂 Now looking back I’m very impressed with my determination and the excitement I had for my job. My first and huge milestone was getting represented by an amazing agency in Madrid and later in Los Angeles, it opened many doors to many fantastic projects and work relationships.

What are your plans for the future?

I am hoping to focus on beauty and fashion exclusively I feel the printed image best represents my work, I am inspired by beauty and attention to detail. I want to continue to deliver a holistic product that comes from a good creative team with an inspired vision. I am planning on spending more time in Europe with my Husband and our young daughter in the coming years as I really like bringing a bit of LA to the European market. I am currently talking to agencies in Berlin, Warsaw Paris and London. I have worked in Paris and Madrid in the past and it was a great fit! I want to push myself to create truly inspiring images. I want to travel the world with my awesome supportive family. And I want to continue to work with the extraordinarily talented Photographers and Stylists that have kept me going all of these years with their inspirational work.

On a personal note, we are renovating a 130 year old distillery in the Polish countryside and we plan on spending time there with my family. Interior design is a passion of ours. I can just get lost in the sea of countless possibilities of textures and colors. That’s fun. I like an often changing environment, it recharges me and helps me rediscover myself and reinvent my life.  LA has been very good to me you never know what will happen in this town. Sometimes I still can’t believe that I am working in Hollywood having grown up in rural Poland. Who would have thought that the girl who had a Twin Peaks Club in Elementary school would one day meet and work with David Lynch? LA is a magical town.

Let’s dig a little deeper into your story.  What was the hardest time you’ve had?

One difficult aspect of my job is when you have to conform to the Client’s vision, a vision perhaps that you are not 100% agreeing with, while still being able to deliver something you are happy with.. . You somewhat feel that you are no longer an artist, but just a makeup technician that is hired to do whatever is requested. It is not fair to do this to an artist.  I find I do my best work when allowed to collaborate and contribute.

At the end of the project you put your name on it and if it’s ‘not you’ you feel the whole thing might have been pointless.

I’m very sensitive about this I like when clients pick me because they like my work, esthetics, my energy. When everyone on the team is on the same page that’s when the real magic happens.

Over years I have developed many relationships with amazing photographers and I try my best to choose my jobs wisely. I get the highest satisfaction from working with amazing talents that also happen to be… nice, kind and gentle souls.

There was a time in my life when I didn’t have the luxury of choosing my projects. I definitely had my share of jobs that I did “for the money” while subsisting on “two buck chuck” & canned soup when I was first starting out. I spent all of my money building up my kit back then. I was very fortunate to begin working with some great people. Luckily I can be a bit more discerning these days. I am at a point where I feel my work is representative of my esthetic and I am honored to have the opportunity to see my vision come to life.

There have been many times in my career that I have felt very fulfilled. One was definitely the day I met my dear and most inspiring celebrity client Chrysta Bell. We shot an amazing editorial with the very talented photographer Elias Tahan who introduced me to Chrysta. I’m absolutely in love with her music and everything about her she is a unique talent a truly magical. She is a dream to create with. As an artist you can’t ask for anything more inspiring, human energy like that is food for soul. I did Chrysta’s makeup for her concert at The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It was probably the most exquisite live performances I have ever heard. I felt very honored to be able to creatively contribute through my makeup artistry to this beautiful experience and Chrysta looked radiant on stage. Later that night she introduced me to her mentor and my favorite director of all time: David Lynch. Life is good in a town where anything can happen.

One of my first jobs in LA was a fashion show for two very eccentric designers who also happened to be a couple. I loved their designs, they were known for spectacular haute couture gowns.  I saw it as a big opportunity for an artist. Such as myself trying to get my name and brand out there and I was very excited to get the work.

On the day of the show one of the makeup artist didn’t show up at all and so it was just me and one other makeup artist to do makeup on fourteen models. I knew it was going to be a tough job however I was still very excited to do the show.

One of the designers came backstage and let us know he would love it if all the models including the male models wore red lips. I meticulously painted red lips on all of the models. Right after I was finished with the task, the other designer arrived backstage and let me know he absolutely hated the idea of red lips for this show. He was dismayed and his tension was permeating the room. He asked me to transform the lip color on all of the models to nude. He said he needed it done quickly. After a few deep breaths, I removed the red and put the nude on all 14 models who were understandably as confused as I was. Of course, just as I am finishing the last model with nude lips the designer who wanted red lips for the models walked into the backstage area and was furious with his boyfriend for disregarding his concept… After a minor meltdown the initial Designer asked me to redo the red lips on all of the models.  Thinking that “the show must go on” I dutifully removed the nude and reapplied red to each of the fourteen models wondering if all jobs will be like this?  It looked great and at least one of the Designers was happy.

During the show I witnessed a heated debate backstage between the two warring Designers/ Hubbies over red vs nude lips 🙂 Not wanting to get in the middle of a domestic affair I remained cool, calm and collected while they enjoyed an animated discussion about the virtues of red lipstick…or lack thereof.

The red lips were great they were definitely the right choice. Looking back on it now the whole situation seems quite ridiculous. The lesson I learned from this experience was that intense and challenging moments make you stronger and increase your people skills. The key is to not fall into anyone else’s drama and enjoy the ride 😉

The highlight of the story is that the other makeup artist who worked with me that night, and observed how sane and focused I remained throughout the show, recommended me to a key makeup artist he worked with on a big show. They hired me the following week for a job that ended up being an amazing project which had a huge impact on my career and opened a lot of doors for me. It is always a group effort and a good team can make something quite beautiful. Los Angeles is a great city to do creative work. There are always good people to collaborate and network with. Often times the weirdest gigs introduce you to the coolest folks. I love LA!

Contact Info:

  • Email: jb.makeupartist@gmail.com
  • Instagram: joberdzinska
  • website: www.jbmakeup.com

Check out her work below:

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