Q&A With Populaire's Makeup Artist, Thi Thanh Tu NGUYEN

“It’s no surprise hands and nails were center stage in Regis Roinsard’s first feature film, Populaire (The Weinstein Co.), which revolves around a secretary training for a speed-typing competition. American Salon caught up with Thi Thanh Tu NGUYEN to discuss the inspiration behind nail looks in the film, which hits theaters September 6th. - Cristina Goodwin

Thi Thanh Tu NGUYEN

CG: What is your background in the beauty industry?

TU: I began my career as a makeup artist in 1989 because my mum, Thi Loan NGUYEN, was a well-known makeup artist in France who worked a lot with François Truffault. Film shoots were a familiar world to me since I grew up around numerous sets. My mum taught me everything when I became her assistant and it wasn’t long after until I branched off and started to work on my own projects.

CG: How is it different being a makeup artist for feature films, than for customers?

TU: The difference is that you don’t work just for beauty. The makeup should tell a story on the face of the actor. I have never made up the same actor the same way when he/she has worked on different movies since it is the character and history that determines the makeup. We must take into account several parameters: the historical period, special effects, the social environment of the character and his past. I believe the face is never the same. 

CG: What inspired your make-up choices for Populaire?

TU: Director Régis Roinsard wanted a glamorous film with a look close to other fifties films. He wanted every face to be perfect, even for the men.

Deborah Francois matches her nails to the keys on the pink Populaire typewriter

CG: What inspired your nail polish choices for the movie?

TU: The idea of different colored nails on Rose Pamphile is part of the story. The director had a clear vision of the colors he wanted to feature in relation to the time period. In the film, Rose learns to type with ten fingers, not two like she’s used to. In order to facilitate this task, she painted her fingers the same color as the corresponding keys on the typewriter.  

1950's nails were created with OPI polish

CG: Why did you use OPI nail polish?

TU: When I researched different colors I looked at various brands. It was just a coincidence that all of the colors were OPI. Then again, this brand has a wide variety to choose from with a fine texture making it easy to apply.

CG: Is there a meaning behind the painted nails?

TU: The modern woman, fashion and, of course, the convenient method to learn to type on a typewriter  

Nguyen gives Francois a more mature look at the end of the film.

CG: Did the makeup or nails ever change throughout the film?

TU: The character of Debutante is awkward at the beginning of the film like a diamond in the rough. She wanted to be like the girls in the magazines but was embarrassed during her interview to get hired because she realized she put on too much lipstick. At the beginning of the film, I created a natural face, which included minimal eye makeup, bushy eyebrows, baby flushed cheeks and natural lips. When Debutante gained confidence later in the movie, I created a more sophisticated look. The eyeliner was thicker and very trendy, the eyebrows were brushed and shaped and the cheeks were defined to look like a mature woman.

At the beginning of the film, I gave Debutante a neutral colored manicure. As the story progressed, her I changed the polish to different pastel shades coinciding to keys on the typewriter. Then at the end of the film, Debutante coordinated her nails with her lipstick, a fashionable trend at that time.