Life & Culture

Her make up skills make the stars shine

Tally Bookbinder makes up a lot of famous faces. She told Francine White about her musical Manchester roots


There was a time when Tally Bookbinder was the envy of a lot of women. Bookbinder, now 48, was Take That’s official make-up artist — so spending time with Gary, Robbie, Mark, Jason and Howard was part of her job.

“The first video I shot with them was Back for Good,” she recalls. “I went everywhere with them right up until the press conference when they announced they were splitting up.” She’d kept the secret of the break-up for some time. “You have be very trustworthy,” she says, “I never breathe a word of anything I hear when I am working.”

She continued working with Gary Barlow, and did the make-up for the cover of his first solo album Open Road.

“But then I had to move on and continue my career. I just loved those boys, they were lovely, down-to-earth Manc lads with great humour.”

Bookbinder was no stranger to the music business. Her grandfather had a big band, Nat Bookbinder & The Chapters, in the 1940s. “My grandpa’s band used to play at an American base at Burtonwood near Warrington. At the time, black servicemen were not allowed to socialise with white soldiers. My grandpa refused to play unless they allowed the black servicemen in, which they did, because he really made a stand.”

Her father Brian was a saxophonist and her Uncle Alan played clarinet. “They were incredibly close.” They played weddings, barmitzvahs, went on tour and even played a gig at Strangeways prison. Brian also opened a club in Manchester, which soon became famous: Bookbinders on Minshull Street. “My dad sang and played the sax, they were great times.” And singer Elkie Brooks (née Bookbinder) is a cousin.

The former King David pupil didn’t inherit the family talent for music. “Dad bought me a clarinet but when I play, only dogs can hear me!”

It was her maternal grandmother who started her love of all things cosmetic. “My ‘bobby’ would take me out into town and we’d go into Boots and try all the make-up on the back of our hands, I just loved it.”

When she was 17, her father funded a college course in make-up for film and television. But there was a two-year waiting list. “So I took a job in Debenhams on the Estée Lauder counter. When it was time to leave and go to college, my line manager thought I was mad because in those days nobody made a career out of make-up.”

Bookbinder worked with high-profile photographers and many celebrities. “People want you because they think you are ‘a celebrity make-up artist’ but actually it’s not just about how good you are at doing make-up but how you fit into the dynamics of the shoot. Speed sometimes is of the essence.”

Now Bookbinder is the go-to artist for red carpet appearances “I do all the Coronation Street girls”, she says, and she’s part of the official team that gets the cast ready for award ceremonies.

She also has a lucrative commercial career and works for many magazines.

A year ago, with her friend Collette Casey, she opened her own make-up school, Pro Make Up Academy in Manchester; “We wanted to teach real women, not just actresses. People who ask ‘how can I get my make-up to stay on all day or how do I get a perfect brow line?’”

Since the school launched last July, they have run courses for everyone, including teen beauty master-classes, one-to-one classes for make-up confidence, and put on special evenings for charity including a pamper night for mothers involved in Chai Cancer Care.

She married Mark, an estate agent, in 2012 after he proposed on one knee at the first family Shabbat dinner she had made him.

“My aunty Lorraine had actually met him through work and heard him talking about his children being at King David — she immediately asked him if he was single! He said he was but perhaps he was a little old for her,” jokes Bookbinder, “so it was a shidduch!”

They married at the Jewish Museum with her teenage daughter Georgia, and Mark’s daughter Lisa as bridesmaids, and Mark’s son Zak as best man.

“We went to look at the museum and there were all these chairs that had been dedicated to people like Golda Meir and paid for by various people in the community. All of a sudden, we saw one dedicated to the memory of Nat Bookbinder.

“I’ve tried to find out more because certainly my grandma never mentioned it and my dad and uncle are gone so I can’t ask them. The museum doesn’t have a record of who dedicated the plaque. I took it as a sign though and we got married there under a 17th-century chupah. It was beautiful.”

Bookbinder has kept her maiden name professionally, as a tribute to her grandfather and father; “Everywhere I go, people say ‘Your dad played at my barmitzvah or wedding’. Or ‘I remember going to see your dad play at somewhere or other’. So I feel I am carrying the baton a little bit.”

Or, indeed, the mascara wand.

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