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6 MAC Cosmetics Artists Share Their Makeup Tips and Personal Journeys


1. Terry Barber (London)

Global creative director of makeup artistry

Terry Barber

Terry Barber

courtesy

By the time he made his way to the artist counter at MAC, Terry Barber had been fired from nearly every job he’d ever held. “I worked in clothing stores, record stores — all just to fund my nightlife,” said Barber, who grew up in South Wales during the ’80s. “We were the hedonistic generation; we weren’t particularly ambitious.”

Influenced by the Romanticism movement and the androgynous stylings of musicians like David Bowie, Barber began experimenting with makeup during his teen years, using his sister’s eye shadows to contour his face and coin a sculptural, allover white-and-brown look. “I used to call it kind of ‘girl-boy’; the goal was always to look slightly alien rather than to look particularly of a gender,” he said.

When an art school stint brought Barber face-to-face with the goth, punk, skinhead and mod subcultures of the ’80s on an everyday basis, “I thought, ‘all these tribes of people — I want to be part of that.’”

Barber's "bin bag" look.

Barber’s “bin bag” look.

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And so he was. MAC opened its first U.K. store in 1993 at Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge, and Barber was hired on the spot when he walked in asking for an application. “They were desperate for staff; it was like the whole world had come through the doors of Harvey Nichols to shop at the MAC counter,” recalled Barber, who quickly found community among his fellow artists at the counter. “We were the type of people who would probably never have gotten a job with another brand because of the way we looked, yet there we were, in the middle of a department store as part of this phenomenal brand that everyone was obsessed with — we felt like we were at the heart of something special.”

Now MAC’s global creative director of makeup artistry, Barber has cycled through a wide range of artistic signatures. “I’ve gone through a minimalist, no-makeup makeup stage; a maximalist stage, a Warhol ‘Factory girl,’ druggie-glamour era — the one thing I always explain to young artists is you can’t just have one look. You have to go from makeup that says something — even if it’s almost nothing — to the highest of glamour and experimentation.”

Music remains a key creative catalyst for Barber, who also often looks to comedy (he finds Brexit, for instance, not only deeply amusing but an abundant source of artistic inspiration), as well as movies. “I like beauty in the context of something — I’ve moved away from looking at pictures of perfectly done makeup; I like characters.”

Favorite MAC Product:

MACStack Mascara, one of Barber's favorite products.

MACStack Mascara, one of Barber’s favorite products.

courtesy

2. Luisa Sporkenbach (Berlin)

Global senior artist

Luisa Sporkenbach

Luisa Sporkenbach

Heks

“It’s funny to have to think about it,” said Luisa Sporkenbach, global senior artist at MAC, when asked how she would describe her artistic approach.

“It’s a little bit subtle — but always with a twist,” she decided, chalking up her instinct toward understated looks to the prevailing trend in Germany, though no creation of hers is complete without an unexpected accent.

“It could be eyeliner that’s extra-elongated, or experimenting with three lip liners instead of one to add more dimension — there’s always a little accessory,” she said, noting beigey-brown Stripdown is her favorite MAC lip pencil.

Having grown up roughly a two-hour drive from Berlin in Dresden, Sporkenbach was 17 years old when she first applied for an internship at MAC. “I went to a school that was more art-driven, and I needed to complete an art-based internship,” said Sporkenbach, who at that point had dabbled in theatrical and SFX makeup but was looking to cultivate more experience crafting editorial and everyday looks.

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A “Cruel Intentions” inspired look by Sporkenbach.

Kendra Storm Rae

After an initial rejection (“they thought, ‘oh, she’s a little young,’”), an undeterred Sporkenbach secured the gig upon reapplying a few months later — and hasn’t looked back since. “My friends were my guinea pigs — I would invite them all to the counter to practice and just do the craziest makeup,” she said. “I never went to makeup school, so I learned everything with MAC.”

A winged liner loyalist when it comes to her own regimen, Sporkenbach’s favorite avenue for experimentation is through eyeliner. “I love playing with different shapes and styles that you wouldn’t wear on an everyday basis — it’s a challenge, but it’s fun,” she said.

Pinterest, TikTok and Instagram, meanwhile, offer a wellspring of inspiration for Sporkenbach, who often shares her own tutorials and takes on viral makeup styles. “I look at Pinterest a lot when I need inspiration; it motivates me to break my habits a little bit, go in a different direction and not just follow something — but create something myself using what’s in front of me in that moment.”

Favorite MAC Product:

Strobe Dewy Skin Tint

Strobe Dewy Skin Tint, a Sporkenbach favorite.

courtesy of MAC Cosmetics

3. Romero Jennings (New York)

Director of makeup artistry

Romero Jennings

Romero Jennings

courtesy

It was while studying fashion design at FIT that Romero Jennings had his first brush with makeup artistry.

“As a starting designer with no funds, I was doing everything myself — the hair, the makeup — my friends and I would all be in the FIT bathroom getting a model ready, trying to make everything look as professional as possible,” recalled Jennings, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and raised in New York.

Fascinated by the avant-garde creations of Japanese fashion designers Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake, Jennings moved to Japan after his undergraduate studies and began assisting makeup artists on fashion and editorial sets.

“When I got off the plane in Japan, there was this deja vu — it was like I had lived there before,” said Jennings, who nevertheless kept his hard-copy Japanese dictionary close during his five-year tenure abroad (“there was no internet back then!”).

A backstage beauty look at Prabal Gurung by Jennings.

A backstage beauty look at Prabal Gurung by Jennings.

courtesy

He returned to New York during hip-hop’s ’90s video vixen era, transitioning to creating music video looks for the likes of Mary J. Blige, CeCe Peniston, Boyz II Men and more. “My biggest learning from that period was the importance of preparation as an artist,” said Jennings, for whom the lesson has a double meaning. “When your makeup kit is prepared, you feel calm, you feel confident — but also you need to prep the skin, which was still pretty novel then.”

A longtime Fix+ Primer and Setting Spray aficionado, Jennings has more recently added MAC’s Hyper Real Serumizer to his holy-grail skin-prep lineup. “I use it on every age, every skin type — it’s a game-changer,” he said, noting the product can be used as a finishing touch, too, for what he calls “glow stacking.”

“After you’ve finished the makeup, you go back in and tap Serumizer over the high points of the face to give it this amorphous dimension and shine.”

For Jennings, who considers both Jamaica and New York home in different ways, inspiration “always goes back to culture; whether it’s through food, dress, music — my dad is Jamaican and my mom is Latina, so in my house it was always a mixture of cultures; we’d have both reggae and Tito Carillo Quintet playing through the home.”

Today, Jennings’ vision for what he can accomplish through his craft only continues to grow. “I feel like I’m at the top of my game right now — who can say that after 30 years? MAC has given me that strength and that power,” he said.

Favorite MAC Product:

Lipglass Clear

Lipglass Clear, a Jennings favorite.

courtesy of mac cosmetics

4. Hannah Bennett (Amsterdam)

National senior artist, Netherlands

Hannah Bennett

Hannah Bennett

courtesy

A trip to the theater in London’s West End when she was 12 years old was the impetus for Hannah Bennett’s creative career.

“We saw ‘The Lion King,’ which was incredible particularly in terms of its makeup, and I came out and said to my mum — ‘I want to be a makeup artist,’” said Bennett.

She made headway on her goal two years later, nabbing a weekend job as a face painter at her hometown zoo. “I’d set up my little stool in the Giraffe House every Saturday and paint kids’ faces for 50 pence — I saw it as a way for me to bring painting and people together,” said Bennett.

By then, she had already heard of MAC. Once she wrapped up art school and a subsequent makeup course, she was sure it was her dream company.

“[MAC] was super hard to get into in London back then,” said Bennett, whose freelance career eventually led her to a role at the MAC counter, after which she worked her way up to store manager, then a succession of roles in events and education, and an eventual move to Amsterdam.

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A “Marie Antoinette” inspired look by Bennett.

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“The beauty here is such a contrast from U.K. makeup trends; Amsterdam is very influenced by Scandinavian beauty, sort of the Matilda Djerf, ‘clean girl’ aesthetic — it’s a very practical look,” said Bennett, who has similarly developed an admiration for a less-is-more approach.

“Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good, brightly colored cut-crease, but I’ve evolved to appreciate the nuances of makeup more — how you can create big differences with less,” said Bennett, whose body of work also heavily incorporates hyper-feminine signatures.

“I love pastel colors, I love any kind of period dramas — Sofia Coppola’s ‘Marie Antoinette’ — 17th-century beauty in general.”

Also — a bold lip.

“I mix different lipsticks but my go-to would be a Locked Kiss Ink because they stay the whole day — you can eat, drink, and I’ll layer a [silky matte] lipstick on top to add an extra layer of intensity in the color,” said Bennett.

Favorite MAC Product:

Studio Radiance Face and Body Radiant Sheer Foundation

Studio Radiance Face and Body Radiant Sheer Foundation, a Bennett fave.

courtesy of mac cosmetics

5. Shawn Xu (Shanghai)

National artistry associate director, China

Shawn Xu

Shawn Xu

courtesy

One could say Shawn Xu’s artistic prowess was predestined.

Having grown up in a family of artists — his father was a lead singer in a band; his mother, a dancer — Xu found himself drawn to both avocations from a young age.

“As a student I performed classic drama and ballroom dance, for which I would use tanning cream, bronzer and foundation to enhance my features,” said Xu of his introduction to makeup. “I enjoyed experimenting with different looks and products to go with the themes of my performances.”

As Xu developed his style, bright colors became his M.O. “Yellows, greens, blue and purple — cooler colors are my favorite,” said Xu, who also finds satisfaction in wielding seemingly unlikely color combinations. “Maybe a light blue with a dark yellow; creamy green with cherry red.”

A favorite look of Xu's.

A favorite look of Xu’s.

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Some of his most fantastical looks, however, have been born out of everyday inspirations.

“One must have sharp eyes in order to observe the little things in the world,” said Xu, for whom recalling famous structures like The Louvre and Sydney Opera House can spur visions of graphic lines and unique textures. “My favorite thing to observe is architectural design — structure, space, and changes in light, shadow and color.”

Among his favorite makeup hacks is to combine concealer, peach-colored lipstick and liquid highlighter to conceal dark circles, while adding dimension to the face. In fact, he finds that blurring the lines between traditionally separate makeup steps is a lesser-known key to creating a seamless finish.

“While contouring the face, I’ll mix highlighter, setting powder and blush to instantly achieve a smooth and full skin texture,” said Xu, whose trick plays well with the ever-popular “porcelain skin” makeup look.

“We have many makeup trends in China; there is the Korean beauty look, which is fresh and favored by the young generation, though they are also very fond of traditional Chinese makeup and sharing their oriental culture through water-painting colors, soft lines and shiny elements,” said Xu, who himself dabbles in all of the above and is always seeking how to create “small details which can completely transform a look.”

Favorite MAC Product:

Extra Dimension Skin Finish in Double-gleam

Extra Dimension Skinfinish in Double Gleam.

courtesy of MAC cosmetics

6. Georgina Padilla (Mexico City)

Regional artist training director, Latin America

Georgina Padilla

Georgina Padilla

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Georgina Padilla, MAC’s regional artist training director for Latin America, reckons the art of makeup isn’t so different from the Mesoamerican pyramids in Teotihuacan, Mexico.

“They both have many, many levels,” laughed Padilla.

Having grown up with a mother who worked in TV, Padilla was exposed to the world of makeup from a young age. “When I was 12 I used to take lipstick and draw on my face a labyrinth, then fill in the blank spaces with black — it looked like a tribal mask,” she said.

When college rolled around, Padilla decided to major in psychology with a minor in psychoanalysis, though during her summer breaks she would tag along to work with her mother, learning how to do hair and makeup and eventually freelancing in both after graduating.

“Every time I was doing hair for a shoot, the people doing the makeup would be from MAC. I would always think, ‘you know — I’d like to go there,’” recalled Padilla, who shortly after landed a MAC artist job at a Mexico City store.

Work for Nora al Shaikh during Mexico Fashion Week.

Work for Nora al Shaikh during Mexico Fashion Week.

courtesy

“I use my degree a lot, because makeup and beauty are very much about how you feel about yourself,” said Padilla, whose signatures include brown hues, monochrome, and androgynous concepts.

“Makeup doesn’t have gender anyways, but part of why I love brown shades is because they can make your face a little bit more masculine, or more feminine,” said Padilla, gesturing to a tattoo on her left forearm which depicts half of Michelangelo’s David, conjoined with half of the Winged Victory (or Nike) of Samothrace.

“It’s like a nonbinary version of the sculptures,” she said. “These are the two energies everybody has in some combination. Being in touch with my masculinity and femininity without having to define myself as one thing, and loving myself as I am, has been a long journey — this tattoo represents that.”

So, too, does her artistry.

“I like doing makeup that enhances whatever people want to enhance — not necessarily within the norm or traditional forms of gender expression,” she said.

It’s a liberating approach she hopes to impart to the next generation of makeup artists through her role as a training director. Her other hot tip?

“Listen first — it’s the best skill any makeup artist can learn.”

Favorite MAC Product:

Hyper Real Serumizer

Hyper Real Serumizer, a Padilla fave.

courtesy of mac cosmetics



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