Interviews with Industry

Eldo Ray Estes, Makeup Artist and Designer on A Simple Favor & More

From ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ to ‘The Last Five Years,’ and ‘First Reformed,’ four-time Emmy Winning makeup artist and designer, Eldo Ray Estes, has more than likely designed, and perfected, a number of your favourite character’s looks over the past decade. 

Alongside his numerous, and impressive Film & TV  credits, you can also find his work featured in outlets such as CosmopolitanElleSeventeen and Vanity Fair. 

Most recently, his flawless work can be seen in genius director Paul Feig’s (Bridesmaids, The Heat) suburban noir thriller, A Simple Favor; centring around Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a mommy vlogger who seeks to uncover the truth behind her best friend Emily’s (Blake Lively) sudden disappearance from their small town.

I  had the pleasure of asking Eldo some questions to find out more about what the role of a personal makeup artist entails, as well as his experience working on the film.

Read on below to hear about the process of designing the makeup, the inspiration behind Stephanie’s look, and how Anna Kendrick has both remarkable skin and brilliant blue eyes. (Because the effortless comedy and incredible singing voice isn’t unfair enough.)


Interview by Lauren Macaree


When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in the industry and how did you go about making it a reality? 

Actually it was all by accident. I was given a job in the cosmetics department at Bloomingdale’s when I was quite young, and that served as my survival job while I was pursuing a career in the music business. When I found that wasn’t quite working out (haha), I decided to put a little effort into this other skill I hadn’t realized I had! And things began to fall in to place rather easily. It was a lot of good luck!!

What drew you to this profession? Have you always had an interest in makeup?

I never gave it a thought, to be honest. I think what I really loved, and still love, was my ability to make people feel comfortable and safe…and better about themselves.

You have worked on an array of notable projects, including Orange Is the New Black, Younger, First Reformed, to name a few. Do you personally have a process of choosing what projects you become involved with? Is there anything you look for within the script, themes etc?

I am usually drawn more to female driven projects, as I am first and foremost a beauty artist. I also happen to love strong women, and my resume reflects my ability to work well with them. If a project is mostly cops and bullets or blood and gore….I stay clear.

And, of course, you recently worked on the suburban noir thriller ‘A Simple Favor.’ How did you initially become involved with the project?

I met Anna Kendrick several years ago on a very beautiful film called THE LAST FIVE YEARS. Anna personally requested me to take care of her for A SIMPLE FAVOR. She is one of my favorite people to work with, so when she calls, I am there.

What was your process of designing the looks for the film? How much of this process is collaborative between yourself, the costume department, and the actor portraying the character?

Of course the first thing one does is read the script. The next step is conversations with the director. Sometimes the costume designer chimes in. Luckily Paul Feig and I were very much in sync on our ideas for Stephanie. She is a very meticulous person, so her makeup was also rather meticulous and perfect. On the surface there isn’t anything about Stephanie that isn’t perfect. It gave me the freedom to give her beautiful makeup and have it still be correct to the character, which is what is most important.

It varies greatly from person to person, film to film. On A SIMPLE FAVOR I had a remarkably supportive Costume Designer (Renee Ehrlich Kalfus), and an actress that is a joy to collaborate with…it isn’t always that way!!

Stephanie’s wardrobe and overall look is quite natural yet still colourful, which makes her appear younger, and perhaps more innocent (compared to Emily at least!) What were the main sources of inspiration behind her looks?

What I am most proud of in this film is that the makeup helps show the evolution that Stephanie goes through. She is very pert and wide-eyed in the opening scenes. Her makeup intensifies and shifts throughout the course of the film as her life evolves. Once the basic look is set, I try to make everything purely character driven.


Could you tell me a little bit about the palette chosen for Stephanie?

She actually goes through many different palettes throughout the course of the film, but one thing I try to keep constant with Anna is that the audience sees her brilliant blue eyes. Her eyes often photograph very dark, and I have to say, they are VERY blue in A SIMPLE FAVOR! I should shout out to John Schwartzman, our director of photography, who knew how important that was to me!

How does her makeup reflect her personality?

It morphs throughout the film. It is very pink and pert in the beginning, and it is very dark and smoldering in the final chapter!!


What were some of your go-to brands while working on A Simple Favor?

Anna has remarkable skin, and she takes impeccably good care of it, so it’s quite easy to make her look flawless on camera. The Japanese line Koh Gen Do is my go-to foundation for camera. Sharon Stone turned me on to this remarkable product many years ago. And Christian Dior eye shadows are hands down my favorites….

Do you think the genre and tone of the film affected certain choices you made?

Absolutely. I mean…Paul Feig was most definitely not making a documentary! Everything has a somewhat heightened effect…which I love.

Do you have a personal favourite look from the film overall?

Ironically, I really love the mid-section where Stephanie is super natural. Although, upon seeing the film, I was pretty dumbstruck at how beautiful Stephanie is in the section where she puts on Emily’s dress…and the detective shows up to question her. It is a scene where hair, makeup, wardrobe and lighting are perfectly in sync.

I’m curious to know, when you watch a film in general, do you find yourself critiquing or admiring the makeup design? 

I can’t help but notice the makeup. It is impossible for me not to…I always stay for the makeup credits. And I have been to known to call makeup artists I have never met to compliment them on their work!

For you personally, what do you think the biggest misconception of a makeup designer/artist is?

That the goal is for everyone to be beautiful. That makes me crazy. If someone in a film is beautiful…it is because they are supposed to be. The makeup is correct. Sometimes you’re supposed to be ugly, or tired, or a hot mess. The makeup in a film (or TV show) should be correct…. if that make any sense!

And finally, if someone wanted to pursue a career as a makeup designer and or artist, how would you recommend they go about it?

I always tell people to go to a makeup counter and get a job and touch people’s faces. All shapes sizes and colors. And personalities! That is the best initial education a makeup artist that is going to be working in film, with actors, can have.  You then have to work hard, and trust that the universe will get you where you want to go!

You can find Eldo on Instagram here: @eldorayestes.

A Simple Favor is out now in UK cinemas.