Mr. Reggie Wells

Mister Reggie Wells has left us and a light has gone out. Those are the words that went through my head when I heard the news. Dozens of texts and direct messages from fellow artists all sharing the news that one of the greats had gone and all ready to share a story about Mr. Wells, his makeup, and more often than not, a story about the man himself. His latger than life personality and the charm, sass and wit he brought to any interaction always left a deep impression. I laugh out loud just remembering some of his antics and the crazy stories he would tell. It is cliche to say someone was one of a kind but I have never seen or met another like him.

When Michael asked me to write this piece I hesitated because there are so many other in the makeup industry who Reggie influenced, inspired and created opportunities for. I wasn’t sure I would capture that certain something special he was in words. Then I heard his voice in my head say, “Oh Mary. Stop being a drama queen queen Rough Trade.” I had to laugh. If you knew him he always shared the sass. He called me Rough Trade since the first day we met. I thought the best way to honor him is to just tell the story. He loved to lean in and really get into a good story.

When I was young, I would read through my aunts’ copies of Essence Magazine and fall in love with the beauty and the glamour. The models and musicians dressed and made up so beautifully. I remember pulling the pages apart and reading the name Reggie Wells. I remember the way the magazines smelled and felt in my hands and I would look at images of some of the most glamourous models and celebrities of the day and be entranced. At that point even in my wildest imagination I could not inagine that one day I would get close to the glamour but these magazines gave me the realization that it even existed.

While I was in college and determining my direction and course of study I researched and collected as much information as I could on African American and BiPoc models in fashion and beauty and Mr. Wells was so often behind the look. I learned that there are entire issues of Essence Magazine where Mr. Wells is the artist behind every single advertisement and editorial from cover to back page. Truly legendary.

Mr. Wells began teaching art in the Baltimore Public School system in 1968. In 1976, he moved to New York City, where he used his understanding and eye for color and his flare for fashion to find work behind the counter in department stores. He was discovered by Essence Magazine while at work where he was helping editors find makeup for themselves which was not always easy and he would teach them to work with and manipulate what was available to meet their own complexion needs.

Mr  Wells entered the entertainment industry as a makeup artist for a Jordache jeans advertising campaign and he said the pride he felt seeing that campaign inspired him to keep moving forward. His first celebrity client was Leontyne Price, the first African American soprano to receive international acclaim. He told me, “Mary when you have worked with a capital D. Diva the other lower case divas are easy.”


Over the course of his career, Mr. Wells worked with Essence magazine and O Magazine as well as Glamour Magazine, Time, Life, Harper’s Bazaar, and Mademoiselle. He also worked with a number of celebrities, including Whitney Houston, Beyoncé, Halle Berry, Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin, Leontyne Price, Joan Rivers, and former first lady Michelle Obama. He often created his own makeup to accommodate the darker skin tones of his clients.


He inspired us all with his complexion work and the way he always designed with each face individually and brought out something special. His use of line and color combined with his ability to softly shape and work with the lighting was like magic and his love and knowledge of art was impressive.


Mr. Wells was born on December 2, 1947 in Baltimore, Maryland. He was a graduate  of Maryland Institute College of Art, where he received his B.F.A. degree in 1971 and his M.A. degree in art education in 1975. He spent an entire career using his passion for art customizing colors for his clients and educating them on where and when and how to use makeup snd make it work for them. Always a teacher. He encouraged and shared so much knowledge with so many of us all the time.

As he became my mentor I appreciated any moment we spoke or spent together and I have tried to always honor the rhings he shared. He was so generous in so many ways. My first time with a client at The Oprah Winfrey show, Mr. Wells came back to the dressing room. I was so nervous. He gave me tips about the lighting and complimented my work while giving me critique to improve. He showed me some brushes he loved and gave me the set. He criticized my kit as too editorial and not right for television and made me a list and gave me some of his favorites. He had never met me before but he spilled the whole tea and told so much truth and offered advice on everything including the way I came dressed to set. He was never a fan of what he would later come to call … my bandana wearing rough trade biker look and he loved to tell me his stories of getting into trouble with bad boys. He always made me laugh.

I would get calls or messages of encouragement or maybe just a little gossip and definitely his opinion especially if I worked with someone he had worked with. He did that for so many if us. I can still see the way his face would light up before he leaned in to spill the tea and tell another tale.


Mr. Reggie Wells was a storyteller, a visionary, a ground-breaker every day. A gay, black man who was the first to do it. Even when it wasn’t easy, Mr. Wells pushed forward opening the doors to so many with the added pressure he was always doing it for so many others. The pressure of being in spaces that never imagined you there. He used to say, “They were ready for it. They just didn’t know it. They needed it. But they didn’t always want it.” His presence and influence have made room for every artist working today.

I will always be grateful. Rest Well Mr. Wells.

Words isotretinoin cheap on online James Vincent
Collage Michael DeVellis