Anna Bielkheden received her makeup training at 16 years old back in her birth city of Stockholm, Sweden. She was immediately recognized for her talent despite her young age and started booking covers and spreads for various well-known magazines, with the emphasis on fitness editorials. But since early childhood, she had her mind set on Los Angeles, and at 17 she was already sitting in her uncle’s sunny backyard in Santa Barbara, planning out the future as a makeup artist in the US.
In 2007 she left Sweden for California the last time and opened her own makeup studio and was quickly making connections within the American industry. With the advantage of speaking fluent Swedish, she started working for Swedish media shooting news material and filming television shows in the Los Angeles area.
During her work with a fitness reality show, she ran into fellow Swede and top fitness photographer Pavel Ythjall, with whom she exchanged business cards. Anna started working with Pavel on a regular basis. She’s worked with big names such as Ava Cowan, Pauline Nordin, Amanda Latona, Julien Greaux, Matus Valent and many more.
What’s it like working with fitness people vs. in the fashion industry?
There’s a huge difference. The fitness world is so positive, so personally empowering and so, well…healthy (for the most part)! It’s just a great, rewarding environment to work in and opposed to the fashion industry, the models eat all the time, ha-ha!
What would you say the difference is between working with male vs. female bodybuilders?
Well, obviously, women are much more conscious about the way their makeup looks, how their skin and hair looks and so on. So it’s a lot more work. Male bodybuilders are usually super laid back and enjoy being a little pampered. They are more interested in how the body looks than anything else – obviously! So it’s a very chill atmosphere.
What does working with male bodybuilders entail?
First off, I obviously do the basic face makeup, making sure they look perfect and don’t have dark circles or uneven skin tone. Second, if needed or requested by the client, I groom their beard to desired length, and I might even shave some body hair in places like the back where the model can’t reach. It’s really important how the skin looks as the body is in focus, like a piece of art. So I might tan them up with Jan Tana tanning lotion if they aren’t tan, cover bruises, and oil them up to get a nice sheen, which will make the muscles pop on camera. When all that’s done, my most important tool is the spray bottle! In between every shot I pop up to the model and spray them dripping so it looks like they are sweating from working really hard.
What do you think makes a successful male fitness model?
The fitness industry consists of lots of “self-made” models. I’s not like the fashion industry where you can be a diva and get signed with Ford, after which you will simply book gigs based on your looks. The fitness industry consists of hard working people that often work for free to get their names and pictures in the magazines, until they are well known enough to get a big sponsor, if they are lucky. So with all these people fighting to get a chance in the spotlight, editors and sponsors have a lot to pick from. I think it’s important to network, be humble, show extreme work ethic – get on time for shoots, stay in pretty much the same shape year round and always stay on top of the game. Be nice and not too personal on Facebook, people you might want to work with will see your page and judge you thereby.
As with female models, I don’t think competing is necessary, unless you are a hardcore bodybuilder – then you’ll need to get known as a competitor before you’ll be featured in a magazine. But as far as fitness models that have more of that cross over between bodybuilding and a more athletic/physique look, I think it’s more about taking great photos and doing all of the above mentioned. Take Julien Greaux, a good friend of mine and a very successful male model – he’s never competed a day in his life. Yet, he’s graced the covers of countless big magazines. As far as work ethic, he’s a perfect example.
How do I get a fitness agent?
First of all, anyone who wants to sign with an agency to do fitness work
needs to remember that bigger advertising companies are going to want you to look more mainstream. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be in top shape, but stay in the range of what a “natural” physique looks like. Meaning, a huge bodybuilder isn’t going to book an Adidas ad, but someone you’d see on the cover of FitnessRX might. To get with an agent, you have to think as one – and they in their turn, think of what the clients will want. That’s where you want to be.
Remember that you don’t have to just target the agencies working exclusively with fitness models. There are plenty of good commercial agencies that have a sports roster.
Do you have any tips to prepare for a photo shoot?
The most important thing is obviously to come ripped and pumped. If you aren’t in shape, there’s no amount of lighting or tan that can make you look good on camera. Remember that a photo shoot can come up at any time, so don’t slack around and expect to have six weeks to diet for a shoot. Why miss an opportunity just because you couldn’t stay of the donuts?
Second, tanning. Do get a great spray tan a day or so before, it will save time at the shoot and it will make your skin look perfect if it’s done right. And we don’t have to worry so much about water/oil since the tan is already set on your skin, rather than just applied as with Jan Tana.
Shave/wax your body! No one wants to see a hairy fitness model; that’s just the way it is. You want to see lines, muscle tone, and great skin tone – with no hair covering any part of that beautiful piece of art you worked so hard to create. So – go to the nearest Korean spa and get a full body wax!
Grooming – if the photographer requests his/her makeup artist do it, then wait until the shoot. Otherwise, get it done beforehand to make sure your skin doesn’t get irritated and has time to recover should you get any bumps or cuts.
Skin care – yes, guys need skin care too! I don’t know where this idea came from that only women need products, after all we all have the same skin! Sure, guys can get by looking a bit rugged, but the more you care for your skin the longer it will last, and thus the longer you will last in a career in front of the camera. I can recommend Kiehl’s that has some great products formulated for men.