Hilary Holmes is a true dynamo. Having endured a traumatic childhood beyond many people’s imaginations, the woman whose picture is likely in the dictionary next to the phrase ‘self-starter’ packed up and headed off to London as an untrained, inexperienced makeup artist. It may sound like an inauspicious start, but her self-taught skills and passion for beauty meant this was the beginning of a career that has seen her not only open two salons back home in Australia, but also recently launch her very own product line, Holme Beauty. With her trademark no-holds-barred honesty, Hilary told us about the difficult ways her childhood manifested itself in her adulthood, and the work she has done on her physical and mental health since then. She also told us about her fellow female founders (and good friends) that she looks up to, and why makeup is about so much more than great products – though she loves those, too.


“I have been a makeup artist for 12 years now.

I opened my first salon, Hilary Holmes Makeup, six years ago, a second salon three years ago, and have just celebrated the first birthday of my product line, Holme Beauty.

I got into makeup because I lacked self-worth. Makeup transformed how I felt about myself, and I loved the creative aspect of it. As my sense of self has grown and my life has gone in new directions, I wanted to share what I have learned with others. That is that we don’t need to aspire to meet someone else’s beauty standards, but, instead, we can celebrate our own beauty. My business has grown as I have.

I had a tough upbringing which included abuse, neglect and abandonment.

I became driven by knowing that I had never been seen for who I really was. I wanted to prove my worth, gain approval and to stick it to the man! Trauma used to be my driving force, so since those early days, I have done a lot of work on finding a replacement for that. Now, I am driven by healthier fuel that is more authentic to who I am.

My business has strong messaging around the importance of mental health, backing yourself, owning all of who you are, and being unapologetic in the face of unhealthy societal constructs. I am so motivated to change the face of beauty and the way it impacts the way someone feels about themselves.

There are always challenging periods in anyone’s life, and some are harder and more damaging than others. The challenging times I have been through are the reason my business exists now.

When I gave birth to my first child, I was hit with severe PTSD. Suddenly having an innocent little girl in front of me 24/7, I was no longer able to ignore that, when I was little myself, I had been sexually abused. After spending years avoiding that knowledge, I now had my own baby in front of me, and what I had experienced then came flooding back.

Having experienced child abuse still impacts me daily, but what I have chosen to do is face it, name it, deal with it, and try to understand it. By rising up to meet it, I have left behind any sense of shame or disgust about myself. Anyone who has suffered abuse needs to know that it is never your fault.

Unsurprisingly, I grew up with no sense of self-esteem. And so I ate. Eating was a way to mask, avoid, and hide from what had happened to me, and was also a way to seek comfort.

Eventually, I got up to 132kg. Six years ago, I had gastric sleeve surgery, and it didn’t go well. I lost 50kg over six months, but had significant issues from my now-twisted stomach. I chose to take the good with the bad. Even though the outcome wasn’t what I wanted, I used the weight loss I had been able to achieve as a starting point, and took it as an opportunity to get fit, and to change my views on food and flavour.

I’ve been bullied significantly throughout my life for being different, so now I have a very strong ‘no dickhead policy’ that I apply to my life and my work.

Happily, it means we have really grown an incredible community of supportive and empathetic humans who are showing up with kindness is their hearts. A lot of what I am about can be very triggering stuff, so I always hold so much gratitude for those that understand and support what we do.

I wanted so much to get into makeup professionally that I left my career in Agricultural Science, without much to fall back on, to get myself over to London.

Before I left, I paid some random guy $200 to take some shots of makeup I had done on my girlfriends, so I had a portfolio to take with me. (This was well before you could do this sort of thing easily on social media!) Then I knew I had to keep putting myself in really uncomfortable positions to try and get my foot in the door. For instance, I interviewed and tested at MAC in London as a self-taught, inexperienced makeup artist. Looking back, it was one of those times that made me squirm, but was worth it in the end.

The most important business lesson I have learned is to invest in yourself, and then others will too.

It’s also important to have initiative, be assertive, and never be anyone but yourself. And also remember to be patient – if you’re doing all of those things, then your time will come.

In terms of practical business tips, some of my can’t-live-without tech tools for managing myself and my work are Asana, Planoly, Timely (for the salon) and Dropbox.

My days start at 5am, when my alarm goes off.

I meditate for about half an hour, then spend about an hour getting some form of movement in. At 6.30am it’s time for a shower, and then the babies are up at 7 and I start their routines and prep for daycare. By 8am we’re in the car (which has become the place I do my makeup most days!)

There are so many amazing Australian women in business who I admire so much, I can’t even put it into words. Plus they’re girlfriends of mine, so I know them at their core, and I get to see everything that goes into their success.

They include Phoebe Simmonds from The Memo, Victoria Devine from She’s On The Money, Mia Klitsas from Moxie, Keira Rumble from Habitual Beauty and Maeva Heim from Bread Beauty Supply. I also so admire Jamila Rizvi from Future Women for showing up and slaying, even in the face of hardship. She’s changing deeply entrenched cultural issues, and still also makes one of her main priorities raising other women up.

It’s tough to name all of the people that inspire and help me, as there are so many.

I’m a huge consumer of podcasts and have found so many great ones by people I don’t know personally but have still given me so much. It feels like Brene Brown gave me permission to really see my trauma, and how it has played out in my life. And my therapist is pretty much beyond description. I see her weekly, and through my work with her I have evolved to a place I am so proud of, including recently celebrating five years of sobriety!

I love to share and help others. I have done so many random things in my life to get to where I am now, received a lot of encouragement and learned so much, and I want to pay it forward. I’m always here to chat, support and hold space for kindness and growth.

I wouldn’t do anything differently if I had my time again. Absolutely nothing. Everything I have been through was a lesson needed to get me to exactly where I am now.

All these years after I started as a makeup artist, I am still absolutely obsessed with makeup.

Some brands I love are Charlotte Tilbury, Tom Ford, Embryolisse, RCMA, and Modelrock. Hand on heart, though, I’ve created my dream products in Holme Beauty. I can’t pick a favourite, though I have to tell you that our Holme Base Primer is pretty damn incredible. I’m so proud every time we get a five-star review from our customers – we read them out to each other and it makes the whole team so happy.

We have a really big year ahead of us at! We are just about to relaunch my Masterclass program, which I have run for the last six years at my studios. The relaunched offering will be available both in person and online, which I am so happy about as it means we can reach so many more people. We also have some incredible new products in the works that will really round out the current range, and those are launching very soon. We are creating niche products that make perfect sense for each person using them, which means we work years ahead to get everything exactly right. Once it’s finally ready to bring a new product out into the world, it’s such an exciting time.

It feels so good to know we aren’t just making epic products and doing beautiful makeup. What we are doing is supporting people, by helping to change the narrative of beauty. Ultimately, I want the work I do to help everyone to see how incredible they really are.”

Story by Zoe Briggs. Imagery supplied by Holme Beauty.

This article was produced in partnership with Holme Beauty.

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