Actor Nicola Kawana’s Beauty Routine

By Janetta Mackay
A firm believer in rocking out your own individual look, Nicola sees beauty in diversity. Picture / Supplied

Nicola Kawana is about to tackle another appearance in a Kiwi classic story, Maurice Gee's Under the Mountain. She will play Aunty Noeline in the Auckland Theatre Company version of the curious tale of two twins, the weird Wilberforces and life under Auckland's volcanoes.

With recurring stints on Shortland Street under her belt (playing another auntie in the character Huia Samuels), and roles in Mercy Peak and local films and stage shows, Nicola is an established actor.

She appreciates the professional power of makeup, from special effects extremes to routine TV transformations. But she’s also wary of the reality gap between how people appear and how they are.

“As women, we are constantly bombarded by images which represent such a small spectrum of beauty. It’s so easy to want what you don’t have or loathe what you do in order to measure up to these unrealistic ideals, she says. “In a society where women cut up their faces in order to look like someone else I think it’s better to rock out our individual look and know that beauty lies in diversity.”

Nicola’s personal approach to appearance is holistic, with a “beauty comes from within” belief and a liking for natural products.

“We have so many great skincare and cosmetic brands in Aotearoa. I like to support brands that are committed to using natural ingredients, mindful packaging and who don’t test on animals.”

Tricks of the Trade
Having worked with some super talented makeup artists I have an appreciation for the artistry they bring to the job. A good makeup artist doesn't impose a "look" upon you, rather, they utilise what you have and work with it. You have to remember that when you're looking at someone on screen, they've usually spent an hour in the makeup chair having one or two professionals working just on their face and hair.

In comparison, I’m pretty low key when it comes to grooming. Nothing beats a good night's sleep for getting a glow on. Taking your time to find a perfect foundation is key and I have learned that a light gold or cream eyeshadow on the inner corner of your eyes will make them pop.

Real-Life Appearance
Unless I'm heading out for the night, I am usually sans makeup. Though moisturiser, lip balm and sunscreen if I'm working outside are a must. My hair is naturally wavy and prone to frizz in the summertime. I've finally started spending money on great shampoo and conditioner which means avoiding anything on the supermarket shelves.

Everyday Routine
I cleanse my face in the evenings then apply a face and lash serum. In the morning I just rinse with warm water and moisturise. I try not to over cleanse, I reckon it interferes with the skin's natural oils and bacteria. I also take a marine collagen supplement and a fish oil containing vitamins, and liquid zinc when I remember.

Getting Glam 
This usually involves high heels, a little black dress and a red lip. Hungry Like The Wolf by Antipodes is a favourite. I like a classic French makeup look which is pretty minimal.

Nicola takes a holistic approach to beauty and supporting locally made products. Picture / Supplied
Nicola takes a holistic approach to beauty and supporting locally made products. Picture / Supplied

Favourite Products
1.Kereru Calendula and Manuka Honey Skin Cream: I've tried other creams but always come back to this. Skin loves calendula and this product is all natural and free of mineral oils, synthetic perfumes and preservatives.
2. Be Pure One and Three multivitamins: Because being well is a huge aspect of beauty, I think what we put inside our bodies is just as important if not more than what we apply to the outside. I've been taking these for years. I've never had the flu and haven't had a cold in years. I also take Clinician's Rejuvenate with hyaluronic acid. This is a marine collagen supplement. I'm an advocate of kai rongoa – "Let Food Be Thy Medicine And Medicine Thy Food'. Beauty from the inside out.
3. Loveskin Arohanui Face Serum: This is my night time face food. It absorbs beautifully and has a list of lovely oils in its ingredients including avocado, hemp seed, evening primrose, orange and chamomile.
4. Eye of Horus Bio Lash Lift Mascara: This stuff has seriously eye-popping coverage and most importantly it doesn't irritate my eyes or run.
5. Kama Sutra Cream Perfume: I once sat next to someone who said that my perfume had transported her back to the 70s  and the memories were good.

Makeup Evolution
I became a teenager in the 80s. Big hair, loads of eye colour and too much blusher were de rigueur. When I was a kid, my cousin, Sharelle, who is the same age as my Dad, would come visit from Wellington. She was a drag artiste. Once she brought a  posse of her friends who were all 6 foot plus drag queens in platforms and beautiful 70s frocks. I wanted to grow up and be a drag queen, I think for a time in my 20s I may have got close, certainly in the frock and heel department.

Memorable FX Makeup
Having a prosthetic arm made from a cast of my own for the film, Fresh Meat. The arm was sliced off me in a scene with a meat cleaver, which then proceeded to spurt blood from a tube within the arm. The tube was hooked up to a keg filled with fake blood. Making a splatter movie was soooooooo much fun.

At My Best
If I look my best version of myself it is well rested and engaged, playful and a little bit naughty.

Wellbeing Choice
I married my best friend who also happens to be the sexiest man I know. Doing weekly yoga and pilates is pretty nice too!

Beauty to me is ...
Stepping outside the status quo and honouring your authentic self. Empathy, kindness, curiosity and a wicked sense of humour. As Oscar Wilde said, "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken". I like beauty which is a little bit wild and less contrived, the opposite of a Kardashian.

•  The ASB Season of Under the Mountain runs from February 7-21. Visit

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