For Paula Durance, who was born deaf, working as a make-up artist is the perfect job. She talks to Gemma Peplow about why she loves her work, and how it has helped her realise her dreams.
Paula Durance wears a bold lipstick with aplomb. If there’s one thing you need to pull off a bold lip colour, its self-confidence, and Paula comes across as having it in spades. It’s funny how life works out. Paula, 38, didn’t always feel this way; didn’t always feel brave enough to apply a bright, colourful lipstick, to stand out from the crowd. Born deaf, she spent years of her life feeling different and ashamed, and the low self-esteem that blighted her adolescence remained with her throughout much of her working life.
And then, about eight years ago, she discovered make-up. Following work in a council admin role, she decided to try a beauty therapy course. Something clicked: “I was able to be in control of what I was doing,” she says. “Also, being one-on-one with a client made it so much easier. You just get on with what you’re doing.”
While the council was good to her, by adapting her role to make working life easier, it wasn’t Paula’s dream career. Applying a woman’s make-up, she says, is a rewarding experience: “Being able to make a woman feel happy, confident and beautiful about herself; I love it. It makes me feel so happy to see them happy.”
Paula, a mum-of-two boy’s lives in Leicester Forest East, was born with the hereditary condition, which affected her and her three siblings. Growing up, the support that might be offered now wasn’t available back then: “I felt different, ashamed, withdrawn and had such low self-esteem and confidence. Now we have subtitles and mini-coms with a text-relay service, which gives us more independence. Deaf awareness and home support has improved so much, especially for deaf children. But it was difficult back when I was growing up as there was not much support available.
“School was horrible. I didn’t have any support during classes, which meant I couldn’t understand what was going on. I had to work extra hard at home to make sure I didn’t fall behind. Kids would pick on you because you were different, and that stays with you.
“Finding employment as a deaf person is getting easier, but there’s still a way to go. I think a lot of employers need to take a deaf awareness course when they employ deaf people.”
Being able to hear is something those who can take completely for granted: “It really is! Can you imagine wearing ear plugs for a day? Getting on with your day-to-day life not being able to hear anything? You really have to concentrate and be very aware of your surroundings, and when someone is talking to you, you really have to strain to concentrate, especially with trying to lip-read. I get very tired and suffer from headaches daily.”
Being deaf used to get her down. But as Paula’s talent for make-up grew, so did her confidence. She worked at Fenwick, John Lewis, Clinique and MAC at Debenhams, before finally taking the plunge to go fully self-employed as a make-up artist at the end of last year: “Those jobs really helped me build my confidence and made me a stronger person, as I had to deal with all sorts of different characters,” she says. “I’ve been working for myself fully from November and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.” Now, she is happier than ever: “As I’ve got older I have more pressing things to worry about than being deaf, I can’t change the way I was born so I try not to let it take over my life.”
Work is a rollercoaster, with no two days the same. In the week of our interview, during the height of wedding season, she is “all over the place” with different jobs and 16-hour days: “Let’s just say my eye bags have made an appearance,” she laughs. Fortunately, she’s in the right business for hiding them. Earlier this year, Paula launched her own make-up range with business partner and good friend Amena Khan. Ardere includes concealers, highlighters, brow fibres and eye glitters, and is all selling well: “We have eight wearable shades of eye glitters which are eye-safe and give a gorgeous pop of colour. We also have sculpt pots in two shades, which are for contouring.” Ah. Contouring. The trick made famous by the Kardashians which involves lining the face to create cheekbones and standout features. To a make-up novice, it can look quite strange: “It’s something I tend to do without thinking now as everyone requests it these days. It just helps to shape and define facial features.”
Contouring lesson completed, Paula continues: “We have two shades of brow fibre which help to shape and define the brows, and five shades of flawless concealer.” The concealers give medium to full coverage and are designed to be creaseless and long-wearing: “It really does not crease!” laughs Paula.
“And the newest addition to our Ardere family is our flawless highlighter, which is beautiful and so glowy. We have had so much love and support from our customers, which has been amazing. One celebrity make-up artist used our glitters and highlighters on Chloe (Ferry) from Geordie Shore – I got really excited about that.”
Launching Ardere was important to Paula and Amena: “We had the same ideas and passion about make-up and wanted to create our ideal products – for example, finding a creaseless concealer was impossible, as was finding a highlighter that gave a glow without having to apply it repeatedly. We also wanted quality without the hefty price tag.
“It’s amazing working with Amena as we get on so well and both work really hard. I couldn’t wish for a better person to work with.” If Paula could do anyone’s make-up it would be Cheryl Cole, she says, without hesitation. And when it comes to her own appearance she’s a big fan of a “glam smokey eye and lashes.” That’s when she has time to think about herself, she adds.
And what are her top tips? “A good skincare routing is an absolute must in order to achieve a flawless make-up look; it all starts with a good base. Also, a well-shaped brow can make the world of difference to your overall look.”
Now, with her make-up artistry career keeping her busy every day and her own brand taking off, Paula couldn’t be happier. What would her advice be to anyone wanting to get into the make-up industry, and to anyone with hearing problems or other disabilities?
The message is simple: “Don’t let anything stop you from doing what you want to do.”