After fleeing Ukraine, this makeup artist realizes her dream at the Cannes Film Festival

When she fled Ukraine the day after the Russian invasion, she had no idea what awaited her: Ukrainian makeup artist Aliona Antonova was in Cannes, where she formed the biggest movie stars.

Photo: Deborah COLE / AFP

His story worthy of a Hollywood film began on February 24 with the first bombing of his city, Odessa, near his beauty salon and his school of aesthetics. Three months later, the 31-year-old single mother found herself doing makeup for guests on the red carpet of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

“I trust my star”she told AFP. “When I decided to come here, I didn’t know if I would find clients or students, but I knew I had to come.”


Aliona’s life changed one terrifying morning three months earlier. the day before again, “I had an argument with my uncle who told me that war would break out. I couldn’t believe it, but when I went to bed I felt something strange… it was fear”she says.

At six in the morning, her brother wakes her up to the news and tells her to get ready to flee. “I was calling a taxi to check that everything was okay in my living room when I suddenly heard a bomb. I was shocked”

She did not regret her hasty departure to Moldova, given the huge queues at the border. There she was able to reunite with her four-year-old son Micha and his parents who were already in Chisinau. Aliona was able to find work very quickly, in Brussels and Berlin, thanks to her reputation on Instagram (where she has 72,000 subscribers).

But the makeup artist has always dreamed of going to Cannes, a place where “you can meet all the stars normally in the United States at once”† She contacted several salons in Cannes and received a positive response from the first email: she was offered a booth where she could establish herself as a freelancer.

In addition to Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway

“I was very surprised how easy it was”she assures, “so much so that until the first day in Cannes I believed it wasn’t true”

In Cannes she mainly worked with the women who can be seen in the Netflix documentary The Tinder Scammers and on the Croisette, she saw actresses Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway, as well as Brazilian model Adriana Lima.

But despite her situation, the 30-year-old does not spontaneously tell people that she is Ukrainian, so as not to make them feel sorry for themselves. “As soon as they know I’m from Ukraine, people support me. They ask me how I am, how is my family, it is very nice”she explains.

Aliona charges up to €300 worth of makeup for an evening and is looking for investors to launch her own cosmetics line. Thanks to this income, she hopes that Micha and her mother will soon be able to accompany her to Cannes.

But when she thinks about the future, her enthusiasm wanes and she blinks away the tears, admitting that sometimes she lets herself be overwhelmed by fear. “I think the whole world is amazed at how brave my people are”she says. “I hope this will be over very soon, but it will have to rebuild everything and it will be very difficult.”


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