Next in our series is Blair Patterson, an Estée Lauder makeup artistry vet who has been with the brand for 15 years.
What made you want to be a makeup artist?
I just remember when I was 11 or 12, I used to tell my mom I wanted to be a makeup artist. She would say, "You don't even know what that means." And I guess what it really was is that I wanted to work in special effects, and then that quickly turned into beauty as I got more into the industry.
How did you get started?
I was in high school in New York, and I just wanted to start working. I asked a bunch of people if I should go to school for it, or if I should take the money that I had saved and invest in a makeup kit. Everyone I asked said to just invest in a makeup kit and go hit the ground running. I made business cards, and I went to the New York University campus and handed them out for free makeup for student films. I got a lot of jobs, actually. I had a good little business going by the time I was 17.
Were you always artistic growing up?
Yes. After-school stuff, for me, it was always acting or drawing or painting classes or sculpture. When I went to college, I studied theater, but I left my senior year because I got a job doing makeup for a Russian soap opera. It was my first consistent makeup job with money, and I realized I didn’t want to be an actor anymore anyway. I wanted to be a makeup artist.
What does makeup mean to you? What is the power of makeup?
Diversity. I think people look [at makeup] and they approach it with fear or trepidation. To me, it's just fun. The options are endless. We did a demonstration with makeup artists, and even though it’s the same techniques with the same colors and the same steps, it can turn out differently as you do it. It’s not a test. You don’t have to get it right.
What is one of your most memorable experiences as a makeup artist?
Shooting for Vogue in Barcelona. We were with all of the Estée Lauder spokesmodels, and it was this image of the four of them with the backdrop of the city behind them. It was just one of those amazing experiences.
Makeup is adaptable to any skill set or level, and that level can change with how much you practice.
Over the course of your career, you’ve experienced so many different brands and products. What are your favorite Estée Lauder products and why?
Advanced Night Repair. It’s incredible for skin of course, but it does so much. You can mix it into foundations, concealers…you can intensify eye shadows with it.
Sumptuous Knockout Mascara. I like the intensity of the black, the color it dries down to.
Bronze Goddess. I love anything in the Bronze Goddess line. The bronzer is great, but the whole category is super creative, with really fun new items each year.
Pure Color Envy Sculpting Lipstick. I like the intensity of the formula. And the firmness of the actual bullet makes it really easy to create difficult looks, like red lips, because you don’t need a lip liner. My favorite shade is Envious. It’s like silk.
You’ve worked all over the world. Are there any big differences you see culturally with makeup?
Yes. The differences can be night and day in some places. In Russia, for example, I think, on average, they use three to six eye shadows at once. That's probably the hardest part of this job, traveling to new places and hoping to have all the answers, even if you don't fully understand the cultural preferences, trends, styles or techniques. I lean a lot on my team [in each region] for that. I am always in touch with them about what’s changing, what's coming, what is going to be a trend.
To that point, are there any new trends out there that you are particularly excited about or inspired by?
As fun as trends are, a classic look or technique that you know makes you look great is a good place to begin. Trends are the things you swap in and out for a season like you would do with your wardrobe. You wouldn't throw all your clothes away because you're trying something new for fall, so the same goes for makeup.
I think that makeup is adaptable to any skill set or level, and that level can change with how much you practice. You’re going to mess up, and then you fix it and you learn how to do [a particular trend or technique] and adapt it to your face.
What does it mean to you to work for Estée Lauder?
There's a lot of responsibility of heritage, which is something that I constantly remind myself of. We're keeping pace with the industry while still trying to keep sight of where we came from. We teach women how to find their best makeup looks, but we also make such incredible formulas that it doesn’t require a lot of difficult artistry to apply the products.
It’s also just a trip to work for such a huge global brand and travel all over the world and see it represented in different ways in different countries. It’s a cool journey, especially when you see a commercial on TV and can say, “I do that.”