Location: New Zealand
Social media: @hilseycook
Hils Cook is an extraordinary talent in the world of hair, make-up and prosthetic artistry. Evangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett, and Kylie Minogue are just a few of her high-profile clients.
Her work has graced the pages of Italian Vogue and International Make-up Artistry Magazine and has lit up the silver screen in some of the biggest movies of all time including Lord of the Rings, Avatar and the Hobbit.
Hils is such an inspiration, she is not only an incredible makeup artist but a gorgeous person. Make sure to follow her for lots of amazing behind the scenes whilst she works on incredible shoots and film sets all over the world.
1. What type of makeup work do you do/what makeup are you known for?
I predominately do film, but in between film work, I do photoshoots, print, commercial, weddings, and red carpet.
2. How long have you been working in the industry?
Eeeeek 20 years now which makes me feel old!
3. Have you always worked in makeup/how did you get into this career?
No, in fact, I didn't even know its what I wanted to do. I wanted to study art but my parents couldn't afford to send me away to university at the time so my mum suggested I do hairdressing as it was a form of art.
I got a hairdressing apprenticeship and loved it! My boss at the salon used to help people with scalp disorders & baldness and would take templates of their heads in a tiny private room ready to send to the wig maker. I was fascinated by this process and wanted to learn everything I could about wigs and wig making.
Once I completed my hair apprenticeship I headed to Australia to a place I knew worked with wigs and repairing them, I wanted to juice their brains about wig making and they gave me a job. That Job took me all over the world.
I had arrived and was working in London for the same company, I witnessed daily dreadful scalp disorders that I would have to treat, source and repair wigs for those poor people constantly. In my downtime at home, I would paint and sculpt, coming up with the idea I would sculpt and paint realistic replicas of the scalp wounds I had been dealing with at work onto my arms (LOL as you do!).
I was flatting in a wonderful place smack in the center of Soho, opposite the West End theatre backstage door. My flatmates didn't appreciate my grotty pus-filled arm masterpieces and were afraid that it would put the pizza delivery man off delivering so they suggested I go to the Westend backstage door and ask someone where I could learn to do that sort of thing for a living. The woman I spoke with gave me the name of an amazing school “Greasepaint” that was having an open day & I was there in a shot, and that day changed my life!!!
I felt a new high that I just can’t explain and knew this was my place and my people. I wanted to train in Prosthetics but to do so I had to do every other course first. I became a full-time student and would subsidize my life by working at my old job at night. I also did private tutoring with some of the students on how to ventilate hair and became the cook and cleaner of our flat in exchange for free rent.
I completed everything at Greasepaint and got top of the class for my exam. Greasepaint at the time had an agency and the two top people would be put on their books and funneled into jobs to build up our portfolio or make a little money. I got sent to the BBC working casually on “Top of the Pops”, small doco projects and the odd News job.
My Prosthetic teacher contacted me and asked if I was considering going back to New Zealand as she would put my name forward to Richard Taylor, head of Weta Workshop. They were gearing up to start prep for Lord of the Rings. 3 weeks later I had a call from Richard Taylor asking if I wanted to come on board to make creature wigs at Weta workshop, I negotiated and said I would do it if he let me jump ship to help on prosthetics once filming commenced. I bounced to and from hair, prosthetics and by the 3rd year even to the makeup department. My foot was firmly in the door and the start of my beautiful career unfolded organically, before my eyes.
PS. I finally went to Art school while pregnant with my child and then did it extra mural once he was born AND I PASSED YAY!
4. What is your favorite look you’ve created/tell us about an exciting career highlight:
My favorite look in prosthetics was for a TV series called Paradise Cafe, a sea ghost called Ragnar which I really had a ‘free for all' designing him. I gathered mussels and barnacles from under the Wharf with my little(at the time) boy, telling him we were going on a treasure hunt. He had his little pudgy hands helping collect all kinds of sea treasures to mold and cast to add to Ragnar’s design.
My fave character on film would be Tauriel in the Hobbit with Evangeline Lilly, we spent 3 weeks trying out wig styles, prosthetic ears, and her makeup until we found the perfect look.
And my most exciting career Highlight was going on Evangeline Lilly's worldwide red carpet tour once we completed Antman and the Wasp. She took me to some of the most exotic parts of the world and I still pinch myself now thinking about the stunning countries I got to experience with such a lovely friend and workmate.
5. If you could give your younger self/other aspiring makeup artists one bit of advice what would it be?
My advice ALWAYS to anyone that listens is to learn it all. Learn hair, makeup, special FX, and prosthetics… I am a one-man-band and its how I have managed to work with Evangeline Lilly the past 7 years.
Some stars really don't want to swap from person to person for different things so I have become her person she knows and trusts and we can try out anything with all those skills.
6. Who or what is your go-to for makeup inspiration?
I'm a huge researcher, Google is my friend, so is nature and all those beautiful colors that marry up. The body creates beautiful tones in bruising, blood and artery tones. A simple bruise colour goes through many changes and the colour pallet is stunning, sometimes just pulling subtle colour's from those natural things can bring such harmony to a face.
7. Who do you admire in the makeup industry/If you could swap with one other artist for the day who would it be and why?
I honestly met some incredible artists when I was working for Marvel and would have been happy to swap with any of them. Each artist had something really special about the way they worked and I learned all sorts of things. It was very inspirational.
8. Have you got a dream client or person whom you’d love to work with?
Evangeline Lilly and I do work with her :-)
9. What are your top kit must-haves?
1. Ellis Faawithouts Foundation - such a beautiful skin finish.
2. Proma Kit Six section bag - so awesome for when I travel as I can flatten it.
3. The makeup light - I can't live without, its all daylight lit and an absolute must. I worked with the designer Vivian Baker who is such an inspiration.
4. The London brush company - Sian Richard’s 4K Longwear creme, another talented inspirational lady.
10. Can you share a valuable makeup or beauty tip that you love?
If an actor or client has a pimple and swelling, I grab a couple of Aspirin* ( anti flam tablets), crush them up and add water until they are like a toothpaste thickness, apply to the zit or swelling for 15 mins, gently rinse off and apply your makeup as usual. The paste completely flattens the swelling and works a treat every time.
*Make sure to check that the client will have no adverse reactions to Aspirin first!