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The transformative power of make-up

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With a career spanning over two decades, Ilona G Garamvölgyi has established herself as a central figure in Cyprus’ beauty industry, blending artistry with personal expression. SARA DOUEDARI meets her

The evolution of makeup, from its inception in ancient civilisations to its prominence in today’s society, highlights its continuous relevance. Originating around 6000BC in Egypt, makeup served purposes beyond just decoration. It was integral to spiritual rituals, protection against malevolent forces and a marker of societal rank. Utilising elements like kohl and red ochre, Egyptians across all social echelons employed makeup for both empowerment and safeguarding.

In modern society, makeup is a multi-faceted phenomenon. It is a billion-dollar industry that drives fashion trends and beauty standards, yet it also serves as a medium for personal storytelling and self-definition. The rise of social media has amplified its reach, with influencers and makeup artists showcasing techniques and styles. Despite the digital era’s dominance, Ilona stands out for her hands-on approach. Her journey is a story of resilience, adaptation, and the magic of makeup as an art form.

Ilona’s career in makeup is a lifelong passion, one that saw her move from Hungary to Cyprus at the age of 24. She has since become a name in the region, travelling around Cyprus to offer workshops, cater to brides, attend parties, festivals, and participate in media and brand shoots. Her dedication is reflected in her own words: “I don’t really have hobbies. My hobby is my job, my hobby is doing makeup.”

For seven years her shop in Nicosia is more than just a place to buy makeup; it’s a studio where transformation happens.

Every makeup product, brush and utensil are meticulously arranged side by side. “That’s the setup of a professional makeup studio”, Ilona explains. The centerpiece, a grand mirror, equipped with perfect lighting, sets the stage for a transformative experience. The journey into the world of makeup begins with the basics, as Ilona clarifies the importance of skincare, laying the groundwork for a flawless makeup application. From the application of primer to the art of choosing and applying foundation, concealer and highlighter correctly, every step is a building block towards achieving a radiant complexion.

feat 2 2Ilona’s approach is comprehensive, ensuring that her clients understand not just the ‘how’ but the ‘why’ behind each product’s use. Colour theory plays a pivotal role in Ilona’s teachings as well. She navigates through the spectrum of shades, explaining which colours complement different skin tones and how to select them.

For me, she crafts a perfect, natural-looking makeup look that exemplifies the power of well-executed contouring. But the learning doesn’t stop at observation. Like all of Ilona’s clients, I was encouraged to wield the brushes myself. “My clients participate; otherwise, they’ll forget everything by the next day,” Ilona says with a laugh. Her philosophy is simple: makeup is not just about application but about understanding and practice. By involving her clients in the process, she ensures that the skills they acquire will stay with them.

Following a challenging divorce in her twenties, Ilona found strength in her work and her new home. “I felt lost after my divorce, but I always knew that I would never go back to Hungary. Cyprus is my home, my happy place,” she says.

feat 2 3Her resilience is reflected in how makeup acts as a means of transformation and empowerment. “Makeup,” she says, “is an ancient form of expression, a means to showcase beauty, strength, and individuality.” This perspective challenges the modern inclination towards digital filters and the quest for perfection through artificial means. “Compared to modern digital filters, makeup is art. It takes you as an individual into consideration. It makes the best out of you, but you remain you,” she adds. Her approach is to emphasise the individual’s inherent beauty without imposing unrealistic standards.

Ilona’s philosophy extends to her teaching methods, focusing on techniques that are simple yet profoundly transformative. “Here in Cyprus, and across the Mediterranean, makeup is an essential aspect of how women connect with their sense of self and community. It’s about feeling good in one’s skin, a sentiment deeply rooted in our culture. Makeup is also a very critical element of celebration, especially in weddings where it symbolises joy, beauty and the transition into a new life phase,” she adds.

Despite her expertise in creating diverse looks, Ilona prefers a simple and natural look for herself, living in Nicosia with her husband and son.


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