Norma Patton-Lowin (left), an award-winning Makeup Artist and member of IATSE 891, on set with Jennifer Beals from “The L Word”.

Member Spotlight: Norma Patton-Lowin

iatse | Feb 22, 2023 |

891 Makeup Artist Norma Patton-Lowin reflects on 50 years of working in the industry, training as the foundation for improving diversity and inclusion, and her journey to an award-winning career in film and television.

Norma Patton-Lowin’s love for her craft started when she was a young girl watching her mother apply makeup in the mirror.

Growing up in England in the 1950s, she never dreamed she’d end up with an award-winning career that would take her onto film and television sets all over the world.

“As a young person, I didn't know anybody in the industry at all. I didn't know the job of makeup artist even existed, and none of my family, none of my friends, had anything to do with the industry,” says Norma.

This year, Norma will celebrate her 50th anniversary of working as a makeup artist in motion picture production. Over the last five decades, she’s worked on dozens of big feature films, including Out of Africa, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. For twenty years and counting she’s also been personal makeup artist to Halle Berry.

It all began when Norma was working in retail, giving impromptu makeovers to customers before that was a common practice. Her talent stood out, and she was recruited to work for cosmetics company Orlane for a newly established role as a resident makeup artist at the department store Harrods. While there, she had her sights set on a training program for makeup for film and television offered by the BBC.

“They were only accepting a handful of applicants out of hundreds and hundreds, and I didn’t think I’d get it because I was working-class,” says Norma.

The program was competitive, she explains, and the BBC had a middle-class and upper-class reputation.

That didn’t stop her. In the evening, Norma took classes at the London College of Fashion focused on makeup for TV and film. She ended up getting into the BBC program and worked at the public broadcaster for 11 years, steadily climbing the career ladder to become a makeup designer, before branching out to do freelance work.

“As I gained more training, I gained more confidence and that's what it’s about – having the confidence.”

Today, Norma lives in Vancouver and continues to love working in motion picture production.

“I love the fact that it allows me to explore my creativity. It also gives me a wide education because I'll work on a project that might be historical, and so I'll have to research the times, and how people lived, and how they would have looked in a certain era, and how they would have appeared in different class structures.”

Top: Norma with Halle Berry in “Bruised” (left) and Robert Pattison in “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” (right). Bottom: Norma with Tony Robinson in “The NeverEnding Story III” (left), hard at work on set (middle), and with Siân Phillips from the BBC Drama “I, Claudius” (right).

Her experience ranges from historical and futuristic projects to high fashion and working with prosthetics. She loves the opportunities to travel and getting access to museums, homes, and exhibits not usually open to the public. While working on a mini-series called The Cleopatras for the BBC she got access to rare archives.

“I got to go to these history museums and be in their special reading room where they have all these incredible books that are hundreds and hundreds of years old,” she says with a twinkle in her eye.

It’s special experiences like these, plus her continual love of learning, that fuel her passion for her work.


For Black History and Black Futures Month, marked annually every February, Norma shared her reflections on the importance of efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in the motion picture industry.

She reflects that it’s important to recognize that Black History and Black Futures Month is a chance to celebrate that many Black people are rising up from a horrific history of slavery and racism and celebrating who they are now. She’d like to see more Black history worked into school curriculums rather than just emphasized over one month.

Education is the key, she says, to building understanding between cultures and ending prejudice.

“My mother was white and my father Black. Of course, I knew they were two different colours, in my eyes I could see that, but in my heart they were no different. They were just my parents, and that's how they raised us. They raised us to be people first and not even think about if we were any different in any way,” says Norma.

“I'm all for inclusion. I'm all for not being made to feel different. I know that I might get a bit of backlash for that, but I want to celebrate the unity of everybody and not the differences.”

When it comes to the motion picture industry, she says it’s important for young people to have role models.

“It's important for young people to see a good diversity in the industry. I'm not just thinking of skin colour, but also of sexual orientation, of race, everything. They need to know that they can reach those heights, and that it's not a closed job, and that it's not only there for a certain group of people. It’s important that they see all of us working and having a good career and that it inspires them to want to achieve that also.”


Mentorship makes up a big part of Norma’s work philosophy.

“When I'm working on a production as a Head of Department, I love imparting my knowledge and skills to my team, and I expect them to do the same back to me too, because that's how you learn, by sharing back and forth. It's not a one-way street. I'm not just there to teach. I'm there to learn as well,” says Norma.

Motion picture production means working with lots of different people, and with the right attitude, there can be plenty of opportunities to learn from each other.

“By helping other people, we help ourselves, we help the industry to grow,” she says.

For that to happen, however, there needs to be mutual respect. Given tight deadlines and stress, that’s not always the case, and she says people working in the industry need to have a better appreciation for each other’s roles.

“There seems to be a definite lack of respect on set for makeup artists. We need to be seen as professionals and as artists. We are just as important as many of the other departments and I don't feel that we're given quite the respect and the importance that we deserve,” she says.

Collaboration and mutual respect become especially important when much of the behind-the-scenes hustle requires a certain degree of calm under pressure.

“We have to remember the actor on set is trying to stay in character. They're trying to remember lines. They've got an emotion maybe they're trying to hold onto or retain for the next shot. We have to respect them as an artist trying to do what they need to do.”

“Sometimes it's a fun scene and they want to laugh and joke with you as much as everyone else. But other times we need to be very quiet and very respectful of what they're trying to achieve, and we need to give each other time and space to do what we need to do without getting into their space.”

For people interested in getting involved in the industry, Norma advises them to do their research.

A great place to learn about different roles in the industry is, which provides short videos of people working in different departments and a skills calculator that allows people to determine what department might be their best match.

“Stay curious and keep upgrading your skills,” says Norma.

As for successfully diversifying the industry, it all comes down to access to good training.

“I think it's a duty of the training schools when they advertise to make that very clear, that it's open to everybody, and once people are in the training that they are given the opportunity to learn everything about all skin colours, all skin types, all facial structures,” says Norma, adding there are makeup skills to be learned for all body types and faces.

Becoming a member of IATSE 891 comes with plenty of opportunities to get access to training and ongoing career development that’s covered or subsidized by the Union.

“We need to start with encouraging people to apply for training, and the training must be good well-rounded training. That’s the basis for realizing that there are opportunities out there to forge an amazing career.”

Read more 891 Member Spotlights here! Help shine a light on other 891 members making BC’s motion picture community a great place to work. Email spotlight suggestions to