Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting celebrity makeup artist Troy Jensen. We clicked so well that he invited me to his house for a makeover and to talk makeup! The most important thing I took away from my experience, was that he's not just a makeup artist, he is an image maker. Troy worked closely with Kim Kardashian in the beginning of her career and produced some of the most iconic and well known images of her to this day. She was his muse, he explained to me. Troy’s not afraid to take risks and he conceptualizes entire looks, thinking beyond the makeup. Continue reading to get my full interview with this makeup genius.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that what you’re doing is wrong, or bad, or is a mistake… It’s makeup, you can wash it off. It’s not like your love life, or problems with your family. You should be open, you should be creative, you should get crazy.” -Troy Jensen
How did you get started doing makeup?
“I had a couple of beginnings, but I’ll tell you one of them. I left home at a very early age, I was 15. I wanted to be an artist or a rock star. I would set up my easel in front of the Mann’s Chinese theater and I would draw a lot of my favorite beauties from the 70’s like Charlie’s Angels, Farrah Fawcett, and all those kind of people. And one day Farrah Fawcett walks by and sees all my drawings and told me I was an amazing artist. From the beginning when I met her, I was never star struck, I was like ‘Yeah I’m badass, I’m pretty cool.’ She told me she was on her way to a meeting but said ‘When I come back I’m going to buy your drawings.’ And I told her 'When you come back I’ll have a new drawing for you.' She came back about 3 hours later and I had this drawing of her that I drew from memory. It was a drawing of her with a plunging neckline and her hair in ringlets with smokey, smokey eyes. And she looked at it with this blank stare, I didn’t know if she hated it. But then she looked at me and she said I would be an amazing makeup artist. She told me she was doing a photo shoot and asked me to do her makeup. So I went to all my drag queen friends and borrowed a little paper bag of mostly Revlon products, because that’s all they could afford. And I showed up to the photographer’s studio and I did her makeup and she remained a very close friend of mine until she died. And the photographer, Greg Gorman, who was a very big photographer at the time, got on the phone with another celebrity client and said 'I just worked with this 15 year-old kid from Orange County who’s brilliant,’ and I’ve been doing it every since."
How did you get your big break?
“I think that was a pretty big break, when I met Farrah. With her, she became more of a friend and I didn’t do her makeup that much. I did the Oscars with her, a couple of photo shoots, but we remained friends. She was very supportive of me, and would call me to say she was proud of me when she would see photos with my name on the credits. She knew me when it all started and to see how my career advanced, she was always very supportive and very kind to me. And I think that is probably the thing that I’m most proud of, is the connections I’ve made. And not just with celebrities, but with photographers, directors, models, makeup people, hair people, people I’ve met in the industry. I don’t know if I’ve had just one defining break, I’ve been doing it for so long. To have longevity in this industry you have to know how to sort of reinvent yourself and recreate the will. So there’s many times when I’ve thought, ‘Wow, that’s it. I’m done.’ And then I get into myself and I think, ‘Okay, what is it I want to do?’ And I get a model or an actress, Kim Kardashian used to come over my house and she was my little muse. And I’d beat her face and we’d take some pictures and next thing you know I’ve got my fifteen minutes again. And that’s just the nature of being in this business, the nature of being an artist. You’re going to have high times, you’re going to have low times, you have to just focus on what you do, and never stop evolving, never stop learning. Once you feel you’ve got it all figured out, that’s when your career’s done."
What is your Signature Look?
“I do this thing, I call it ‘The Troy Jensen Smokey Flair.’ Basically what is it, is a combination of a wing-tiped eye and a smokey eye. It’s sort of a cross between a wing tiped eye, where you have the shape of the wing tip but it’s more of a smudged look. I do it by layering wet shadows, starting with a warm brown, then the darkest being black and I blend it really well. I just did it on Jordin Sparks for the MTV Music Video Awards. I did it with bronze and dark chocolate on the eyes and paired it with a nude matte lip. I love women, so I love all that’s beautiful. I love really strong iconic women like Sophia Loren and Marlene Dietrich and Bridget Bardot. These women were sensual, and feminine, and glamorous, they weren’t hard. You still saw women when you looked at them. And I always wanted my esthetic to be that you looked at the woman, not the makeup. I’m an artist and I want to push buttons too, as an artist we want to do that. But I really love accentuating the beauty of a woman. So I think that’s probably my signature… thing."
What are some of your favorite products?
“I'm really impressed with the new line of Makeup Forever brushes, they're almost like a painter's brushes, you can create anything with them. Revlon ColorStay liquid foundation is amazing. There’s many times when I don’t even have to powder it because it lasts. And when I do photo shoots I use it, I’ve used it on Kim and made her six shades darker, you can spray oil on it, it doesn’t move, it’s amazing. And I get really excited when the seasonal collections come out; I love the Dior collections, the Chanel collections.
As an artist it’s paint to me, but the one product I can’t live without is a good foundation and a good concealer. This Fall I will be touring with Make Up Forever with an event called Foundation Nation. To promote their line of HD Foundations and their new Pro Brush line. I'm obsessed. I have been using them on my star Clients like Megan Fox, Jordin Sparks, Nicole Scherzinger and Lana Parrilla. The foundations are amazing and I love how this brand has brought the artist out in me. I've always mixed my own foundations shades and I'm loving the HD Foundations and the Chromatic Mix. I can adjust the foundation shades with just a few drops. I'm really excited about this opportunity with Make up Forever. I work closely with the brands I use. I've collaborated with them in top magazines sharing tips and trends. I've been involved with product development as well as charity events. This tour with Makeup Forever is exciting because it will give me a forum to share one of my favorite brands and introduce an amazing new product. I am very passionate about beauty. My relationships with my favorite brands are important to me. I blog about a lot of the looks I create on my star clients. And I will build the looks with one complete line. I look at it like a runway show. You want to know when you see the model walking down the cat walk that they are head to toe in Dior. I feel the same way when creating a look, and I'm fortunate to have the products to do it. Keep an eye out for me on my Foundation Nation Tour with Make up Forever this Fall. I will be posting my in-store appearances on my Twitter and Facebook page. I hope to see you there Chrisspy!"
"I also really love a line called Jouer, which means ‘to play’ and they have really amazing eyeshadows, and lip colors. But I really love their cream highlighters. You would love the white and the pearl, I use them under foundation and over, they look really natural and they blend really well. Lip wise, there’s nothing like a Chanel red. And I love the Tom Ford beige lipsticks. But lately I’ve been really excited to use color, because I tend use browns and beiges and pinks, really natural palettes. And I’ve been really inspired by color, and brightness, and disco, and 80's, and glitter. I wonder who, ‘ hint hint’ [Troy points to me], I feel like I’m going through something right now where I’m having a bit of a creative awakening where I want to start playing with color again, and take some creative risks. Makeup Forever has a lot of really vibrant shadows that you can use wet or dry. I like to use wet shadows, I like the control of it and I don’t like the fall off. "
What are some tips for preparing for makeup jobs?
“One would be to have a clean kit, sterilize your brushes always. You have to use warm water, glycerin soap. First soak them in warm water with hair shampoo to remove all the loose product, then you use glycerin soap, get all the product off and rinse it really well. Then you put them in a bowl and add witch hazel, let them sit there for a few minutes in the witch hazel then you rinse them again. Then I put them in a bowl and I put a little bit of mild conditioner, let it dissolve in the water and rinse it again. Then you dry your brushes standing up. Carefully squeeze the water out and put the brushes in their shape and set them standing up in a cup. Because you want them to dry without having any bacteria on them and if you lay them on a towel they can still have bacteria on them even though you’ve cleaned them and sterilized them. But that’s the proper way to clean your brushes and you should do that after every job."
"I think that just by taking care of your makeup, we get crazy, I mean I have makeup all over my hands, it’s important to take the time, or get like an assistant to help you keep all your makeup really clean. You give your makeup that love and that respect. I would hope that if you’re an aspiring makeup artist that you have talent and that you do good makeup but I think that it’s also important to be professional. If you’re on a shoot with other people, pay attention to time restraints. If you have an hour and half to do makeup and hair, don’t take up an hour. Be respectful to other people and make sure that everybody else has the time to do what they need to do as well. Respect is really big for me. And then just as far as staying inspired, and trying new things, you can’t do everything on your client so get a model or do it on yourself. Try different looks, try different products, and try to find a way to get your work out there."
What's one piece of advice you would offer to an aspiring makeup artist?
"After over 20 years as a professional make up artist, I've learned so much, and I've shared my experiences with hundreds aspiring make up artists at events like The Makeup Show in NYC and LA. As well as this past years PHAMExpo. There's so much makeup artists have to be prepared for. Personally, before each job I will put together references of looks that inspire me for each booking. Then discuss it with the client and see what they want to do. I am always a bit early to set up to be prepared for the day. I'm conscious of the other stylists' time. Meaning I will convey the time needed to complete my make up look with the entire styling team, hair and wardrobe. Then I will stay on schedule so everyone has their time to do their thing. I will go out of my way to create a positive vibe on every set. If you come across conflict and or attitude, stay calm, be clear and never walk off. Stand your ground with grace. Being a freelance makeup artist has it's pros and cons. I think more pros. But what's amazing about this type of career is not knowing what to expect. New people, new experiences. It's how we deal with it and the pressure and still do clean, precise and flawless make up.
I won't partake in gossiping or bad mouthing anyone. Be kind, helpful and professional. And above all, DO GREAT WORK!"