From our Fall 2016 issue Spotlight: Carl Ray Makeup Artist to Michelle Obama. Carl’s flawless and iconic work speaks for itself, and we were fortunate to get a chance to sit down with him and get the inside scoop. Carl told us how he got his start in makeup, his experience working with and what he does when he’s not on-call with the first lady and much more! Check out the full interview below and don’t miss our A Few Questions With series also featuring Carl Ray during The Artist Summit 2017.
Be sure not to miss a chance to learn and get hands-on experience with Carl at The Powder Group program coming up in Chicago, August 6, 2018. Making Up with Carl Ray. For details and registration visit thepowdergroup.com
How did you get started in makeup?
I found my passion for makeup when I was 14 years old. My parents were going through a divorce, and I would watch my mom applying her makeup for work and for her new life in the dating scene. That’s when I got the makeup bug. I asked my mom if I could help her with her makeup application because I thought I could do it better than she did. She said yes. I could see the confidence and happiness that my makeup application was bringing her and that sparked my passion and purpose. I have always viewed myself as an artist and deeply connected to not only the creative process of makeup but the direct impact that it has on women’s confidence and self image.
Tell me about your experience working with the First Lady.
I had been working in Washington for years before I began working with the First Lady. I had grown my clientele to include political figures and VIPs who were local and also thosevisiting from across the country and around the world. I remember being super excited, and a bit nervous, the first time I met the First Lady, but that feels like a lifetime ago. I’ve now been working as her personal makeup artist for over 7 years. I’m responsible for all her official appearances foreign and domestic. That means everything from TV appearances to State Dinners, international events to magazine covers — including Vogue, InStyle, Essence, Glamour — family portraits to her incredible speech at the DNC.
Your work with Mrs. Obama has been universally praised across the broadcast, print and social media. How has the recognition affected your career?
The national and international recognition that I have received for my work has been amazing. Having my work on every major fashion publication and across every major media platform has been a dream come true. With that being said, you won’t see my name come up every time you see my work because this isn’t about me. My job is to make my clients, including Mrs. Obama, look and feel stunning. That’s why interviews like this one are so rare for me.
Michelle Obama is arguably the most beautiful First Lady our country has ever had. What’s it like working for her?
I would have to agree Michelle Obama is the most beautiful First Lady our country has ever had! She has also impacted the world in a very positive way, and she has played a special role in the history of our country. Being a part of her life and all she does is an honor and a privilege. I love her authenticity and the person she is inside and out. Her work ethic is off the charts and she is the perfect role model.
Are there challenges with the work you do with Mrs. Obama?
The biggest challenge working with the First Lady is the very demanding schedule. However, I have learned to pace myself and adapt easily by being flexible and organized. The best approach is to be as prepared as possible, travel light and go with the flow to enjoy the experience.
It seems that you are kept very busy with your work with Mrs. Obama. Do you still take other clients and projects?
I have a great DC client base that I have maintained for 18 years. My clients use my services for galas, head shots and special occasions. I also have a very busy and successful bridal business that I thoroughly enjoy.
It’s amazing that you still have time to do your bridal work. What’s your best advice for others in the bridal business?
y number one rule is get to know your bride. Do a bridal trial, and get to know your brides personality, style, and how she envisions her look for her special day. For all my clients, my goal is to make sure they look and feel their best – and that’s especially true for Bridal work. In our industry, your reputation is everything, and you will get amazing clients based on referrals; that’s why it’s so important to make this an individual experience for each bride and pay close attention to what matters to her.
How does working with such high profile political figures differ from working with other clients?
While my most recognizable client is Michelle Obama – and I plan my schedule around her — I’ve also worked with Nancy Pelosi, Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, and former President Bill Clinton. I treat all of my clients with the same respect. Regardless of whether a client is a political figure, a bride, a VIP, or a bride to be — they can all expect the same attention, service, and confidentiality.
What’s next for you?
I’m going to take a little breather; although, when your job is your passion it doesn’t ever really feel like work. It will be nice to stay in one time zone for a while, and look back and reflect on this great time that I have enjoyed. But stay tuned for new projects that I look forward to announcing in the New Year.
Any final thoughts?
It’s funny. I was an average kid who followed my passion, not ever thinking that my life would bring me this amazing opportunity. My message to younger artists: never give up, keep going and stay authentic to your art and who you are as a person. Life will bring you opportunities when you work hard and stay open.