A Conversation with

Nichole Bennett

Imagine a five-star chef never tasting his own dish, a Grammy-winning artist never hearing her own music or a world-renowned photographer never seeing the final print. This is the case for the adult film industry抯 most highly sought-after hair and make-up artist, Nichole Bennett, who has made a name for herself as the go-to avant-garde mastermind for the past decade. When we spoke with the Los Angeles-based stylist, she shared how she got her foot in the door and what she has learned along the way.

Take us back to the start of your career. Was this something you had always aimed to achieve?
In 2002, I attended The International Make-Up Artist Trade Show in Vegas and entered an avant-garde competition. I ended up in second place, earning The Westmore Academy of Cosmetic Arts Makeup Scholarship, which helped me get to Los Angeles to attend school. While I was there, I was learning how to do special effects make-up, which I liked the fantasy side of, but I knew wasn抰 something I wanted to pursue further. I thought of it as a step along the way to what I had realized I really wanted to do: I knew I wanted to get into the adult industry because I liked things to look pretty. Even if it抯 edgy and dark, I want it to look clean and high fashion.

Were you able to just jump right in to the adult film industry?
Well, not exactly. I had worked my way up the retail ladder behind a MAC make-up bar, and I realized I would never get to where I was trying to go if I stayed behind that counter. So, I posted an ad on sexyjobs.com. At first I got some pretty weird calls, but soon enough, I got a call from Lauren Phoenix, who was a really popular performer at the time. She wanted me to do her make-up for an upcoming job and do some of the hair and make-up for other girls in her agency.

And your career just took off from there?
Pretty much. Not too long after that, because of the relationships I抎 developed with the girls at the agency, one of the industry抯 biggest directors at the time asked me to fill in for his hair and make-up artist who had flaked on the day of filming. After that day, he hired me to work for his production company exclusively, and I stayed there for a couple years before branching out.

Now that you work independently, what does a typical work day involve?
I generally do three jobs at three different locations in one day. Before I arrive, the director calls or texts me the basic idea of the scene or plot, so that I can easily pick out the wardrobe and know the look I抣l be going for with the hair and make-up. For instance, one director does a lot of oral scenes, so I know I have to either create an updo or have the hair pinned back away from her face so it doesn抰 get oily or in the way of the shot. If it抯 a bikini scene, I already know I抦 going to create long, loose waves paired with bronzed skin. So I go in, do my thing, then head to the next job before they even start shooting.

What is it like seeing the final product on screen?
I actually don抰 even watch porn, so I don抰 ever see my work in that context. The girls are really sweet about sending me pictures of the looks, though, and that抯 really enough for me. Regardless of whether I get to see it or not, I know that what other artists and I in this industry do is crucial to the end product. When a girl shows up at 9am, exhausted from whatever she was doing the night before, we抮e the first people she sees. Our energy and how we treat the talent sets the tone for the day.

How so?
It抯 my job to make the girls feel beautiful and confident. No matter what, I have to remain positive and get the girls in a good mood so they抮e feeling super-hot by the time I抦 done. In order to unload sexuality onto the camera, you have to be feeling sexy. Sometimes, that means catering to the girls makeup preferences a little bit while also keeping the directors goals in mind. It抯 a balancing act you learn to master.

Is it typical for the directors to give you such freedom with the looks you create?
It depends on your professional reputation and your personal relationship with the director. You get to know who you抮e working for and what they like. Some prefer straight hair, some prefer updos厃ou try to take that into account as much as possible. Very rarely will a director tell me he specifically wants a red lip or glamorous curls. If a director hires me to do hair and makeup, he or she usually trusts my avant-garde specialty. It抯 rare to have that kind of freedom, but I definitely remain consistent across productions. I always carry my personal style like a personal signature and infuse it into the look no matter what it happens to be that day. I have noticed that I do favor flowy hair with shimmery, flawless-looking skin.

If avant-garde is your aesthetic specialty, which is your artistic forte梙air or make-up?
I抦 definitely a stronger make-up artist, and it抯 what I love to do. I love the colors and the ability to create the look of perfection with subtle contouring, but it really is imperative in this industry to be able to do both. Directors don抰 want the inconvenience of hiring one person to do hair and another to do make-up.

How are you able to do both, when your educational background is make-up?
I actually grew up in a salon and have been doing hair long before I ever did make-up. My dad was a platform hairstylist in the 70s and loved to teach me his trade. That抯 actually how my mom and dad met梙e was a stylist and she was a hair model!

- MEGAN RUPP

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