Bonnie Gillies, a talented professional makeup artist and beauty expert, is the visionary behind Basics By B, a successful cosmetics brand. With a passion for art and a love for makeup from a young age, Bonnie’s journey into the beauty industry was a natural progression. Despite initial challenges, she persevered and built a thriving career, working on prestigious projects, including Hollywood feature films and with the royal family. A trailblazer in the industry, Bonnie’s dedication and creative vision continue to set her brand apart in the competitive beauty market.

How did you get into makeup/beauty?

Being an artist has been a part of me from a young age, and transitioning from drawing and painting to painting faces was a natural progression. My fascination with makeup started when I discovered face charts, and I became obsessed with experimenting on them, thanks to a family friend that worked at David Jones and kindly provided me with them. I would also collect unwanted makeup from anyone I knew, building my own makeup kit as a child. I always knew that becoming a makeup artist was my calling, however, my parents had concerns about career opportunities in this field, and they encouraged me to attend university after school. Despite their wishes, I found university to be an unhappy experience, and I eventually followed my heart to pursue my true passion as a makeup artist.

Where did you learn your skills?

My makeup journey started with self-teaching, but I also attended a makeup school for a year. After that, I landed a fortunate job with Elizabeth Arden in China and then the UK. Working with them was a turning point, and I got the chance to work at London Fashion Week twice a year for five consecutive years. As my expertise grew, I ventured into big magazine editorials, television projects, and even worked on Hollywood feature films like The Da Vinci Code. I also had the incredible opportunity to be a beauty advisor to the royal family when I was just 24 years old. However, these opportunities didn’t come easily; they required dedication, persistence, and a lot of hustling on my part.

What does a typical day look like?

Basics By B keeps me busy with various tasks, and content creation is a key focus. I started producing content long before influencers and bloggers were a thing, facing criticism initially. Now, I have a loyal community of women seeking makeup advice, making the online connection the most rewarding aspect of it all.

How /when did the concept for Basics by B come about? 

Basics By B was created for myself, but mainly as a range for my followers and online community. I wanted something I could sell to my customers, and they could learn to use along with me. I started with one palette, every colour is custom blended, so the one product was all I could afford to make. I don’t have a wealthy family or investors, I started the brand with my own savings I’d earned from make-up jobs and put it all into the brand. 

How has the range developed/evolved since then? 

 The support for my brand from my audience has been AMAZING! As I could afford it, I would add more and more products to the range. Now I have over 50 SKUs in the range. I was lucky I had another income from my make-up artist career because I didn’t take any money from what the brand made for the first 3.5 years, I just reinvested it all back into growing it. But now I only pay myself from the brand, and the occasional make-up artist job I still do because I love it!

Can you tell us about your ingredients and formulations?

I’m not a fan of 100 per cent natural makeup. As a makeup artist, I prioritise high-performance products, and achieving that requires scientifically formulated man-made ingredients. The whole ‘natural’ makeup category bothers me because most brands claiming to be ‘all natural’ still use man-made colours, except for some using ingredients like carrots, beetroot, or crushed up beetles for colour. So, the reality is that 99.9 per cent  of these ‘all natural’ claims are actually false. My products are meticulously crafted for cleanliness, free from harmful toxins and unnecessary ingredients. They feature a perfect blend of natural and man-made elements, ensuring high-performance, long shelf life, and stability without causing irritation.

Can you tell us about your packaging?

I prioritise avoiding plastic as much as possible in my products (greenwashing in the beauty industry is outrageous – but that’s a topic for another day!) I opt for eco-friendlier alternatives whenever feasible. Our palettes are made from cardboard, retaining a beautiful appearance while being environmentally conscious. Additionally, I use glass bottles when possible, despite the higher production and shipping costs. The next step on my agenda is to transition away from using plastic lipstick tubes. Currently, it’s the only option available, but as soon as we allocate budget for research and development, I aim to develop bio-degradable lipstick tubes.

How do you compete against the big beauty players?

Honestly, I don’t pay much attention to what other big brands are doing. My brand is unique and stands apart from them, so my focus remains on my customers and their wants and needs. While I understand the market well, I prioritise building a strong relationship with my customers. Unlike other brands, my connection with customers is person-to-person. They see me as an equal and turn to me for makeup advice and support, valuing the empowerment I strive to provide.

 From day one, my mission has been to empower women with makeup skills to enhance their confidence and feel great about themselves. It’s not just about sales for me; it’s about helping my customers use makeup confidently to look and feel amazing.

Your advice to budding makeup artists?

Stay determined and eager, and never give up. Rejections and ‘no’s’ are part of the journey to the top. Use them as fuel to fuel your ambition. When someone says you can’t do something, let that little voice in your head say, “f**king watch me!” It’s true! Enjoy the journey; it’s not all about reaching the top. And consider traveling; working overseas opens up incredible opportunities for makeup artists beyond Australia’s industry.

One product you couldn’t live without?

Basics By B Liquid Glow Drops – the most beautiful liquid highlight! I use them as cheek and eye colours too.

This article was first published in the Spring issue of Retail Beauty.

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