Gordana Poljak knows just how striking a great tattoo can be. Heavily inked on her arms, legs, chest and neck, the committed Catholic turns heads wherever she goes with an elaborate collection of tattoos that depict everything from a flock of birds to the Virgin Mary.
But it is the tattoos you don’t notice that can have the greatest impact according to the make-up-artist-to-the-stars, who has spent the past four years learning and honing the skills involved in eyebrow micro blading.
While finely shaped lines and uber-plucked brows were once “the thing”, beauty trends have taken an about-turn in recent years thanks largely to the Armenian heritage of American reality television superstar Kim Kardashian, according to Gordana.
While women across the globe may desperately covet the thick, shapely brows of the most famous member of the Kardashian clan, achieving the look is not always so simple – at least without a little extra help.
“Kim Kardashian, she’s the world’s inspiration for thick brows, 100 percent,” Gordana says.
“The make-up you’re seeing on YouTube videos where the young girls are teaching everybody how to put the highlighter, the contour and the eyeliner, that is all to look like the Kardashian style of makeup.
“The Armenian women were voted the most beautiful women in the world, I think, two years ago, so now everybody wants to look like a Kardashian. Lips have become bigger, eyebrows have become thicker and a lot of requests from people are ‘I want that Kardashian-style brow’.
“As a make-up artist I plucked a lot too, and you have that chance that you might never have (the eyebrow hair) grow back.
“If you were to look on my Instagram there are photos of people who have almost no eyebrows and the real challenge is not only to do the technique that you’ve been taught but how do I make the strokes look like they work in with her hair, so I do cross the rules a little bit.”
While carefully applied make-up can work wonders filling in the gaps to create that thicker look, increasing numbers of women are opting for the more permanent solution of a cosmetically tattooed eyebrow.
Cosmetic tattooing, also called micropigmentation, involves the controlled insertion of colour pigments into the dermis layer of the skin via small needles.
The practice covers a number of different techniques including micro blading, which involves partially or fully camouflaging missing eyebrow hair with fine deposits of cosmetic tattoo pigments to create the simulated appearance of hair.
Gordana spent several years researching the area before undertaking training in both the fundamentals and advanced methods of cosmetic tattooing in Australia and the US, and is a member of the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals.
While she offers her services in Sydney under the banner of Dr Freckle and Mr Hide, she is also now working wonders on a host of Hunter clients through Newcastle cosmetic surgery and medispa practice BellaFACE, located at Honeysuckle.
“I’ve always been deeply passionate about evolving in my industry. Having accomplished so much with basic make-up, I decided to master permanent make-up,” Gordana said.
“Micro blading is a handheld method using a tool that has on the end of it something that looks like a blade but is actually created with lots of needles pronged closely together.
“The little blade is penetrated into the skin in tiny strokes to create the hair stroke, then the pigment is smeared over the top, so that when you wipe it off (some of the pigment) has attached itself to the strokes in the eyebrow, creating naturallooking hair strokes.
“I’m four years in the industry but it is not easy and every job is different, it’s a challenge.
“I am very aware of the diligence needed in looking natural! My favourite phrase is when people say ‘You can’t tell it's tattooed’.”
Clients raving about her work include a number of the on-air personalities from Channel Nine, where Gordana previously worked as the head of the make-up department.
“I decided to go to Gordana from Dr Freckle and Mr Hide. I trust her implicitly as I’ve known her since she was the top make-up artist at Channel Nine,” media personality Shelly Horton said.
“Heavily inked herself, I knew she’d be up-to-date on the latest techniques. After only the first treatment I was already thrilled with the results.”
While Gordana has specialised in cosmetic tattooing for four years, her career in the make-up industry began around 19 years ago when she scored a freelance contract with Channel Nine.
Her skills with the make-up brush and ability to visualise and then create an overall look for the on-air talent saw her soon join the broadcaster on a permanent basis, before later being promoted to the head of the department.
It was in a make-up chair at Channel Nine where Gordana also met her former husband, renowned broadcast journalist Mike Willesee, with whom she has a son, Rok.
Since leaving Channel Nine Gordana has worked with a host of film and television companies and is the make-up artist of choice for an impressive list of A-list movie stars when they are in Australia.
This has seen her work with everyone from Reese Witherspoon, Anne Hathaway, Anna Faris and Famke Janssen to Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Rachael Taylor and Rachel Griffiths.
Hollywood’s hottest male stars have also benefitted from her grooming skills, with clients including Tom Hiddleston, Vince Vaughan, Orlando Bloom, Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe, Ashton Kutcher and Hugh Grant to name just a few.
Not a bad effort for a woman whose father was dismayed when she dropped out of an art teaching degree to become a make-up artist!
While Gordana continues to work with some of the biggest celebrities in Hollywood when they are in town, she concentrates most of her time these days on the cosmetic tattooing work.
Having expanded her expertise beyond the permanent make-up, she also provides medical tattooing services for women who suffer from various conditions including alopecia and cancer. She can completely rebuild the appearance of eyebrows for cancer patients who have lost hair following chemotherapy, while breast cancer sufferers who have undergone a mastectomy can utilise Gordana’s expertise to recreate a three-dimensional-looking nipple and areola.
She said the medical tattooing procedures can help restore both the appearance and the self-esteem of women and men who have undergone cancer treatment and surgery.
“Most of them are immensely thankful, so grateful, some have cried, they’re so in shock when they see the little (tattoo) strokes,” she said.
“It’s amazing what you can create if you can do a perfect 3D areola and it makes a woman feel like she’s got a complete breast.
“I’ve had a client say ‘You make me feel like I’m beautiful’ and I tell her that’s because you are and now I’ve created something that has complemented and completed your look, and that makes me feel amazing.”