Seeing Stars with Billy Orr

Over the last two decades, Billy Orr has balanced a busy column in Kazumi Hair Salon with his work as a freelance hair and make-up artist. He has worked with Henry Cavill, John Legend, Olivia Palermo and Lady Gaga, has collaborated with international cosmetic houses such as Estée Lauder, and has shot in Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Dubai for the likes of L’Officiel, Vanity Fair, Condé Nast Traveller and Grazia. His TV work includes The X Factor Australia and The Eurovision song contest, Russia and he is currently part of the Ireland’s Got Talent team. Meet the man himself.

Working on photoshoots and at hair shows I became interested in make-up. There were lots of hairdressers and there were lots of makeup artists but there were very few people who could do both. Some people used to say that one is painting and the other is sculpting but I was determined to prove them wrong. I studied hair and make-up for television and began assisting a make-up artist in Glasgow at shoots and shows. Most times, I’d just paint models’ nails but I studied everything she did. A friend worked in props in TV and he got me work experience on a TV set.

Fringe Magazine - Billy Orr

I moved to Ireland and while working part-time in salon, I got a freelance contract at RTÉ. Record label executives would bring their celebrity acts to the TV studio to perform and many of them want their ‘glam’ done at the hotel beforehand. So at weekends I was going to hotels doing celebrities hair and make-up and travelling to the TV station with them. That was the moment I knew I was doing something right because I was getting repeat bookings and building relationships with people in the industry. The Saturdays were among my first clients and I got to meet Una Foden. She calls me her go-to in Ireland and we’ve built up a brilliant relationship. She’s amazing.

Billy Orr - fringe magazine

I contacted a local modelling agency and offered to style hair for the models’ test shots for free. You get to network and meet people in the industry. One of my pals was a clothes stylist so I used to do hair for magazine shoots for credit. Meeting photographers, stylists and models is the best way to build up your book.

I signed with an Irish modelling agency and started working on editorials and advertising shoots. I worked with L’Oréal Paris as a spokesperson for their seasonal hair and make-up launches, that was a whole new arena for me. I realised that we only have a small number of magazines in Ireland so I reached out to Wilhelmina Models in Dubai. Dubai has all the glossy magazines that we have: Harpers, Cosmo, Elle – and I wanted to challenge myself. I met with editors and stylists and began getting booked for jobs and contributing quotes to beauty pages. I worked with Marie-Claire and Harpers and I shot for Dior make-up and jewellery, Bulgari jewellery, Dsquared2. Now I travel back and forward and stay for a month and I balance that with my salon clients and working on TV programmes.

At the moment I am working on Ireland’s Got Talent and its sister show Ireland’s Got More Talent. I got a call from a production company looking to put a crew together. It’s a massive project – during the audition process I work with presenters and celebrities, and going into the final, I will work with the team on the contestants. It’s an amazing opportunity. It’s really exciting, the audition process was great fun, you’re on set – I love this environment. ✂