Vicky Hayes is a Parliament House makeup artists. She sees our politicians at their most vulnerable.
Vicky Hayes is a Parliament House makeup artists. She sees our politicians at their most vulnerable. Supplied

The bizarre life of a Parliament House makeup artist

WHEN Julia Gillard faced the media after being dumped as prime minister back in June 2013, it was a devastating moment for her.

Perhaps she had shed tears, (who wouldn't?) but it was impossible to tell. She looked professional and composed.

This was in no small part due to veteran makeup artist, Vicky Hayes.

Right before fronting the cameras, Vicky went deftly to work on the-then prime minister. With her low-key, professional manner she swiftly applied foundation, blush, lipstick and styled Gillard's hair.

Although the media always portrayed Julia in a particular way, Vicky sees her in quite a different light:

"She is just the most beautiful human being - the nicest, warmest, funny, generous person you can ever meet."

Vicky has been working as a makeup artist at Parliament House since 1990. She's seen seven prime ministers come and go and groomed them all. Yes, even the men.

In fact, she tells me quietly, some of the men have makeup put on them extremely often. This includes one well-known male MP who tells her: "I just feel more confident and ready to do this speech or face the camera."

On a few occasions when he was prime minister, she even cut John Howard's notoriously unruly eyebrows.

"He did come up to the Press Gallery once and they were quite thick and wild and there was a couple of long hairs that looked like they were going to hit him in the eyeball. So I said, 'Do you mind if I just trim a couple of stray hairs?'"

"He said, 'Yes, that's all right but just not too much.' He liked to do it himself really," Vicky recalls.

Out on the road in Uluru with former Governor-general Quentin Bryce.
Out on the road in Uluru with former Governor-general Quentin Bryce. Supplied

For most of Vicky's working life she's been a contractor for ABC TV, starting in the late afternoon and working into the evening.

Her resume is jam-packed with esteemed TV programs such as Lateline, 4 Corners, 7.30, Kitchen Cabinet and Australian Story.

In the earlier part of the day, she worked for herself as a freelancer (and has recently left the ABC to do this full-time).

"You need to be ready to go any second. If you want to succeed in your career, you just say yes," Vicky says, "you've got to be available and reliable."

Just a few weeks ago she got an urgent call from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's office asking her to give him a quick haircut before he boarded a plane to Singapore.

She "bolted in," cut Turnbull's hair and packed up. Clutching a little bag of haircutting equipment, she suddenly realised 20 eyes were upon her.

"He [Turnbull] was having a meeting in his office and there must have been 10 people around his conference table. In my job, you can find yourself in some very unusual situations sometimes," she says, laughing.

Despite the constant time pressure - "it's always in a rush" - things tend to go smoothly.

But there's one disastrous moment that Vicky shudders to recall. Back in the early 2000s, comedian Brian Dawe had a so-called "bald cap" made in order to play the satirical character, Sir Murray Rivers, live on stage.

"I stuck it [the bald cap] on inside out and during the performance in the Great Hall at Parliament House, it started lifting," Vicky recollects, and "I thought: 'This is the end of my career'."

When we meet, Vicky greets me with a huge pile of photos and press clippings under her arm. Impressively, one 1996 article pictures her giving the Dalai Lama a pre-TV makeover.

In her line of work, Vicky explains, it's crucial to be trustworthy otherwise she simply "wouldn't have a job."

"I've never had to sign any confidentiality agreement with any of them, but there was once that Julia [Gillard] did stop and looked at me and said, 'Please don't repeat that'."

According to Vicky, working with female politicians has been the highlight of her career.

"They're just really passionate about what they do. You just connect to them. In a way, you're in quite an intimate space with them because you're putting things on their face, so it's quite a personal service that you're doing," she says.

Vicky and Julie Bishop together before last week’s Midwinter Ball.
Vicky and Julie Bishop together before last week’s Midwinter Ball. Supplied

Vicky says Bishop is always great to work with. "She's incredibly warm-hearted and glamorous too. She dresses beautifully. And because of her sense of style, I can be more glam with her makeup than some of the other pollies."

Even though politics is a high-pressure game and her clients are frequently tired and under the pump, Vicky notes they are rarely rude or short tempered.

However she concedes that unlike other pollies and political staff, Kevin Rudd "never said please or thank you."

She also says that it was impossible to please former foreign minister Alexander Downer.

"Downer always thought, whenever I made him up, he looked pasty. So in order to make his cheeky look rosy, I invented a Downer makeup," she says.

Although sometimes Vicky views makeup artists as "invisible" and "forgotten" cogs in a large machine, her passion for the job is unwavering.

"Working with politicians is a real privilege because they're just ordinary people, doing really big jobs," she says.

Vicky doing Chloe Shorten’s makeup before last week’s Midwinter Ball.
Vicky doing Chloe Shorten’s makeup before last week’s Midwinter Ball. Supplied
News Corp Australia


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