Face of Courage

Birmingham Central School of Make-up student Yuliana Jones chose the colours of her Ukraine homeland to deliver this powerful image – while keeping secret her own personal family drama

Every picture tells a story, none more so than this image which is testament to the dedication and courage of Ukrainian-born Yuliana Jones. The model with the striking make-up is not Yuliana – it is her 15-year-old daughter. The picture is part of a photoshoot for an exam which Yuliana, a student at Digbeth’s industry-leading Central School of Make-up, needed to take and pass to pursue her dream career.

The Ukrainian colours are significant not just because of the war which is ravaging Yuliana’s homeland, but because as the photoshoot was being taken she was secretly negotiating to get her parents away from the frontline and out of the country to safety in the UK.

Unbeknown to the team at the school, in the week leading up to the exam Yuliana, who lives in Cannock, found a volunteer to bring her parents from her hometown to the border of Moldova. She told the school on the morning of the exam that she would be leaving as soon as possible to catch a flight. Despite advice to take her exam at a later stage, Yuliana continued to deliver her stunning make-up work on not one but two shoots.


Yuliana’s parents made it to the border, where she met them in Moldova for an emotional reunion, and having been granted visas they are now safe in the UK with their daughter. However, her sister and nephew still remain in the danger zone in Ukraine.

“She did an unbelievable job pushing through, it was moving to see her strength,” said Laura Quirk, the school’s owner and creative director. “Yuliana had desperately tried to get her parents into the UK before the war broke out, only for them to be turned down. Due to their location in Ukraine, they felt the safest option was to stay in the basement of their home rather than flee.

“It then became more and more of a risk for them to move, their supplies depleting and unable to get to safe passage to a border. Despite all of this worry Yuliana has still attended her course every day, focused and committed. A true professional.”

Yuliana is one of the most inspiring stories of students who have passed through Central School of Make-up since it was established in 2013. The school offers an alternative education route to the make-up industry and provides intensive courses in Foundation Level: Bridal, Fashion/Photographic, Runway and Media Make-Up. The school has trained more than 1,000 students at its studios in the Custard Factory.


“Our school’s mission is to provide an educational environment that encourages the most diverse and inclusive of students to access the industry without limitation and be judged on the sum of their creativity, commitment and accomplishments,” said Laura, whose background includes working internationally with big brands.

“I worked professionally for a number of years,” Laura explained. “I went off and spent time with schools in Paris, working with the likes of LVMH. I’ve done a lot of runway stuff and then moved to Shanghai with my husband which is where I started working with students. We came back and to the school in 2019.”

The school is open seven days a week and offers full-time and part-time intensive courses. The average age of students is 31 and many have decided to make a career change. “We have all kinds of people from doctors and lawyers come through the school,” said Laura. “We provide all the training that students would get at university but more rigorous and intense.”

As Birmingham increasingly becomes a centre of excellence for new media, Laura sees a growing demand for the skills which students at the school learn and develop across make-up, fashion and photography. “There are lots of opportunities as more film studios and associated media are moving to our city,” she said. “All lecturers and guest artists who teach at the school are at the top of their career -working for celebrities, fashion brands, magazines, catwalk, TV and film. The school is the only accredited school to offer the prestigious IMA (International Make-up Association) qualification outside of London”

As well as leading the school, Laura is also the founder of Backstage Artists UK, a team of local pro artists working in fashion and media.