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Where were you born?
Fort Hood Where do you live now?
What’s your sign?
I’m a true Aries.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always knew I wanted to work in the beauty industry. I was intrigued by makeup and transformation and learning how to transform myself. It helped me find myself as a young trans woman in Hawaii. I would get inspired as I was hanging outside of clubs in Oahu where drag queens and trans performers were frequenting. I developed a vision for myself through the inspiration, however, I never really knew where that would lead.
How did you get your start in makeup?
As a young transwoman I was always fascinated with the Illusion of makeup and its ability to create a new feeling or persona. I remember saving money I made from doing hair and makeup for proms and going to the MAC store to get my makeup done so I could learn from the working artists.
If you hadn’t gotten into makeup what do you think you’d be doing right now?
Maybe own a nonprofit and own an animal rescue shelter.
How did you know that the makeup artist industry was where you wanted to be?
I realized that I was good at something, and I followed that path. I don’t know where I would be without makeup in my life. I’m just as excited about it every day. I wake up thinking about manifesting the next client and I go to bed dreaming in color. I love when my client sees the makeup I created in alignment to their features and personality.
What was your first memorable work as an artist?
Getting a call back to work with the legendary Pat McGrath. It was for Diesel Black and Gold and it was the first show I did with her. After that I was booked for the European shows in Milan, Paris and became part of the team.
What are the things about your work that makes it the most interesting to you?
The most interesting part of makeup is in my own personal evolution and how I’ve been available to be sensitive enough to always learn and shift the creative energies to suit the client or situation. I believe that’s my secret weapon. Never getting stuck in my head about what makeup is appropriate and then I allow the creativity to take center stage.
What are the challenges you face working as a freelance artist?
The business part, managing money, establishing relationships to gain client retention, and keeping my focus on moving forward to manifest the next dream client. That takes more analytical thinking and I’m a creative thinker.
What should someone who is looking to develop a career in makeup know before getting into the business?
Practice and learn color theory first and foremost. Learn to put your ego aside. Be a team player and have common sense. Be ready to hear no and realize when the gig isn’t for you so you can be available for the right opportunities that fit your style and personality. Before someone takes a chance on you, you must be available and ready to deal with many levels of responsibilities as well as makeup techniques.
What are some of the most important qualities that a makeup artist can have?
Having a positive attitude. Someone is always watching especially when we least except it. Be prepared, be organized, have a clean and organized makeup kit, and learn how to work with a team to create the overall vision. Most importantly listen fully to direction rather than talk over other team members. Allow your input to shine on the face.
How are makeup artists that you see coming into the industry today different from when you were starting off?
Makeup artists starting these days are viewing unrealistic techniques and confusing examples taken out of context on the internet. It’s a challenge to interpret these in the real word of beauty and fashion. Previous generations were good at being inspired by history, ar t and nature and developing techniques to produce looks.
What makes someone a good makeup artist?
A good makeup artist is one who has taken time for themselves to acquire a sense of backstage etiquette. Also having a skillset and mind set to be able to manipulate products and the know how to shift with last minute changes on the job. A good artist is constantly learning as beauty trends change and or recirculate.
Do you have a signature style?
Stylized glam, precision and beautiful skin.
Has your style evolved over the years?
In the beginning of my career, I worked in pageants like Miss USA and Miss Universe, and evolve to fashion, runway and editorial. Currently I do mostly celebrity beauty and glam. I’m always moving into an area that keeps me interested and pays well. I suggest we all allow our value to come through. Our environment will always change.
What brought you from New York to LA?
I always have been fortunate that I have great friends who inspire me by their abilities and after a few years in NYC I had felt. I’d learned a lot of struggles. It was amazing being in the center of the beauty universe, but when I looked at my dream board it pointed to sunny California. I had friends in LA and working with more personal clients was going to be a great opportunity for me to move forward in my career. I took the risk and it paid off.
You’ve been doing a lot of high-profile clients in recent years, including Madonna, how did working with her come to be?
I did a test shoot with photographer Andy LeCompte, we shot like nine covers that day. He was Madonna’s photographer, and she was looking for an artist in LA.Finally, an opportunity to work with her arose and I was excited. Honestly, the first time I did her makeup i didn’t think it was anything amazing. This goes to show you that building relationships is much more than makeup. We had alignment on many levels, and she continued to hire me. I feel blessed.
How do you continue to grow as an artist?
I surround myself with other artists that I’m inspired by, constantly learning, and finding ways to elevate myself and my work.
Do you ever get stuck creatively?
I get stuck in my own head like all good artists do and I use this as an opportunity to look inside. I usually find that I could be communicating more with the client or the team as a way of getting back on track.
What project was the most challenging?
Any TV or film projects. I’m not a fan of the long hours. The hurry up and wait game. I don’t come from that background, so I’ve realized that it’s not my favorite genre.
What has changed most about the industry in the time that you’ve been working in makeup?
Social media. It’s a tool that I have a love/hate relationship with Artists nowadays have to worry about creating content, engaging with the followers, promoting, etc. When you have to worry about all that, sometimes it takes away from just creating beautiful art.
Back to your high-profile clients. How do you handle your social media when you are working with big celebrities?
I don’t over post so I don’t post a lot of my big clients on my social. You have to be really careful to have approval of the use of images.
Do you prefer one type of work to another?
I love doing beauty, full glam, red carpet looks. I love the pressure of the red carpet looks, and with the hair, outfit, nails, seeing it translate from how I pictured it in my head. A lot of people filter their photos but seeing the client feeling confident and beautiful is everything to me.
What would your clients say is the best thing about working with you?
I’m professional and I’m funny. I will always be on time and ready to go with everything in my kit available to create any look my clients can imagine.
Is there someone you have always wanted to work on who you haven’t had the chance to do yet?
I would love to do Cher and Diana Ross
What inspires you?
Art history, nature and cultural makeup from different time periods.
Whose work do you admire?
Serge Lutens, Kevyn, Aucoin, Fran Cooper
Words Michael DeVellis
Photos Courtesy of Wendi Miyake