DIG DEEPER: The Beauty Interview with Makeup Artist Rachel Goodwin

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Rachel Goodwin is a makeup artist's makeup artist. Her bold choices and willingness to push boundaries on the red carpet are so inspiring, and if you've ever had the pleasure of spending any time with her, you will find her passion, knowledge and humor completely engrossing (we can literally spend hours talking on the sidewalk, unable to end our conversations). She works with some of the biggest bold faced names in Hollywood and more specifically with some of the most stylish ones. For example, she has been working with Emma Stone for over a decade, watching her star rise and helping her polish her red carpet persona (which is a unique and interesting thing about being a makeup artist in Los Angeles; you will work with the same face over and over and over again for years--sometimes dozens and dozens of times within a short time period-- developing a deeply intimate relationship with that person's features, and finding a way to make their look different every time, while still keeping them feeling like themselves). January Jones has relied on Rachel to mix up her look for years, collaborating on some truly memorable red carpet moments. These are just two examples out of a myriad of incredible clients. Read on to learn more.....

We’ve known each other a long time and I love how our lives have taken parallel paths.  (Readers: Rachel and I knew each other in high school and our paths have crossed socially and professionally over the years.  Rachel had already been in LA for a while when I moved here in the early 2000’s, and I am so fortunate that our friendship has grown stronger and stronger over the years).  I find that us makeup artists have pretty unique origin stories, unlike hairdressers who traditionally have to go to school at the start of their journey.  Can you share the story of your path to becoming a makeup artist?

I know! It’s so wild really, especially where we come from, that we both ended up becoming professional make up artists! I love that our paths have continued to cross throughout our lives and have led us back into each other over and over. First as teenagers, then in NY as young striving artists and now here in LA as well established artists and mothers. I feel lucky have shared this artistic path with you! 

My particular path has been the long road, but as they say slow and steady wins the race. One thing I can say is that I’ve never questioned my career choice. Even in it's most challenging moments I’ve always truly loved being a make up artist. I suppose there really is something powerful about not having a back up plan.

I began right out of high school, and I got my first job doing makeup at 21 when my friend at SF State called me to tell me that she saw a posting at school about an independent film production looking for a make up artist. They had no money but would supply a new make up kit. Next thing I knew I was on the set of a movie about a family of morticians, creating realistic cadavers in a funeral home in San Jose. The movie never saw the light of day but I had a brand new make up kit which set me on my journey. After that I began working as a freelance artist for brands like Shiseido and MAKE UP FOR EVER in downtown San Francisco and was eventually hired to work for a new concept called MAC PRO which helped orchestrate my move to NY. As a young artist, working with those brands was invaluable; I was able to support myself as well as build my kit and build important relationships. At night I would do make up for lots of fashion shows for niche designers who would put on shows in the underground S&M Clubs in San Francisco's South of Market district. I would recreate things I’d seen on the runway for McQueen or Dior, which I was obsessed with, as well as design my own original creations. It was a no holds barred environment that allowed me to experiment wildly, there was always lots of glitter and colors so basically I was in heaven. During those early years I was determined to make my mark as an artist, literally doing photo shoots before I went to work, on my lunch hour and after work. I had serious tunnel vision. I don’t think I looked up for 5 solid years. I just LOVED all the creative collaborative energy and still do. It's what drives me to this day. I eventually moved to New York and began assisting established make up artists Linda Cantello, Mark Carasquillo, James Kaliardos and Tom Pecheux which was my initial foray into the fashion world.

Shortly after 9/11 I got booked on a job shooting in Los Angeles. I’d never even considered going out to LA to make my way; everyone in San Francisco and New York thought I was nuts to consider it. I went against everyones advice and found that I was immediately embraced by the beauty industry there. Within one month I’d found an agent and began working on a regular basis. It felt like professional kismet, so my husband Frank (who was my boyfriend at the time) and I made the move to La La Land. The rest is history. I remember everyone telling us we were insane at the time, but I am so grateful for the opportunities Los Angeles has given me as an artist. I never thought I would call this place home, but it is the place we bought our house, are raising our children and where my career and life has flourished for the last 15 years. I can honestly say I love LA. 

                     Strong graphic eyes on the drop dead gorgeous Isabelli Fontana.

                     Strong graphic eyes on the drop dead gorgeous Isabelli Fontana.

So if you hadn’t ended up as a makeup artist, what do you think you’d be doing now instead? 

Honestly there are two careers I get a little envious of, and they are Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Ice Creams and Anthony Bourdain. If I could be an artisanal ice cream maker or a culinary anthropologist traveling the world, helping connect people though the history and cultural traditions around food, I think I would be very, very happy. Maybe there's still time for me to be the Anthony Bourdain of make up?

One of the things I love about you Rachel is your thirst for knowledge and how that translates into your work, whether it’s reading a book on Cleopatra or Marie Antoinette or cooking an epic meal.  I’d love to hear a little about how those influences marinate in your creative mind, and how they manifest in your work. 

I am inspired by SO many things. I love to read, cook, draw, listen to music and pod casts, take photos, be in nature and museums, talk with fellow artists about what excites them. It all influences my work, I never stop looking around or learning. When I was a little girl growing up in San Francisco one of my mom’s friends said to me, "The worst thing you can be in this life, Rachel, is uninteresting." That one hit me like a brick. Since then I’ve always wanted to be someone who could talk to anyone about anything. I’m genuinely interested in people and the world. A big part of being interesting in being interested, I’ve learned that much. I am a very black and white person as well. I either care a lot about something or don't care at all so it’s a little bit extreme, but if I care WATCH OUT! I love looking back at old photos and seeing my different artistic phases and seeing what was influencing me at the time. I think its so important to have a strong, uncompromising point of view. It’s the only thing that distinguishes you as an artist from everyone else. I think that it’s even more important now than ever before as our lives have become flooded with social media visuals and anyone can call themselves an artist. 

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We all have some pretty hilarious on set McGyver moments where we have to think fast and improvise. Can you share one of your best McGyver moments? 

I've had more that a few "make it work" moments over the years. My kit was lost on a 24 hour trip to Hawaii once for a beauty campaign a few years back. I had to use the make up from everyones personal make up bags for the ad. I defintley found out what I was made of that day! It's not about the products, it's about the skills! 

You have recently been named the Director of Pro Artistry and Red Carpet for NARS cosmetics. This is SO HUGE and exciting!  I personally think this is such a great match. You have such a unique approach to makeup, especially red carpet makeup, and I see that rebelliousness paralleled between you and NARS the man, and NARS the brand.  You are willing to take chances with your clients (and your clients obviously trust you implicitly) which pushes all of us to take chances as well. How will we be able to see your mark on the brand? 

NARS is the ultimate line for me as an artist. It's the brand whose products, philosophy and aesthetic speaks to me the most. It's like a dream come true to get to partner with them. I love the idea of make up as a means of self expression and self confidence and not something that women feel they need to use to be desirable to someone else. Francois as an artist, and NARS as a brand, has always been about strength, expression and authenticity at it's core. That is the baton I hope to continue to pass on with all of our endeavors together. Whether it's creating artist related events and products, or helping the multitudes of women around the world understand the power of make up. I can't wait for all the fun things to come!

Racehl is a dedicated foodie, and for her inaugural event with NARS she hosted an intimate dinner in collaboration with Craig Thornton, the chef/owner of Wolvesmouth, She sent him the collection of the new NARS Powermatte Lip colors and asked him to create dishes based on the shades and his creations were a riot of color and flavors. Just one beautiful example of how Rachel thinks outside of the box.

Racehl is a dedicated foodie, and for her inaugural event with NARS she hosted an intimate dinner in collaboration with Craig Thornton, the chef/owner of Wolvesmouth, She sent him the collection of the new NARS Powermatte Lip colors and asked him to create dishes based on the shades and his creations were a riot of color and flavors. Just one beautiful example of how Rachel thinks outside of the box.

She also had a "lip reader" present who would read your kiss print and tell you what she saw. I am able to say she was eerily accurate with my reading. (A serious "Kiss and Tell" moment.)

She also had a "lip reader" present who would read your kiss print and tell you what she saw. I am able to say she was eerily accurate with my reading. (A serious "Kiss and Tell" moment.)

There are some products we just can’t work without.  Maybe they’re discontinued?  Maybe you can only get them in Asia or Europe.  Which are your holy grail products? 

RIP :(
Kevyn Aucoin used to make this taupe cream shadow that I was obsessed with. I know you had a few at one point you were saving for posterity! It was in a tube and it was absolutely perfect. I miss it so much!

Stepane Marais had a line at one point that was a special as a unicorn. The pressed powders and cream foundations were just beyond. 

Say you could only use 3 items/products for a job?  What would those be?  What few things could you create a whole look with and be happy with the results?

Black Eyeliner, Concealer and Eight Hour Cream. 

Travel is a big part of a makeup artists life, and carrying a LOT of stuff is also part of our lives, so what personal products make the cut when you travel? What gets you through long-haul flights and days on end in random hotel rooms?

Yes, travel is a real double edged sword for me. I love it so much but the hardship on your body and mind can be brutal. Matcha tea and lots of water. I always have my Tracy Martyn Complexion Savior Mask with me. I stopped drinking alcohol on planes because it makes me feel even more dehyrated and less able to bounce back. I bring essential oil sprays with me when I am on the plane and in my room. I also try and get outside when I land and take a walk. It helps literally ground me.

Our job is unique in it’s ups and downs.  What are your tools to keep you balanced and confident?  What keeps you humble? 

Rejection is a daily occurence in our industry so staying humble has never been a problem. I’ve always said every time you get a job someone else just lost one; it keeps it all in perspective. Sometimes you're on the winning side of the equation, but you always know what it feels like to be on the losing side. It keeps me from ever feeling cocky about it. This business highly competitive, and my not being a naturally a competitive person has made it a strange dichotomy for me to exist within. Oddly I really don’t think I have a particularly well suited temperment for this industry, but I’ve managed to exist in it for over 20 years anyway, I think mostly because I made a decision early on not to let it define me. From the very beginning I've always been very careful to make sure I had a fully flushed out life outside of our business. I also have a very grounded husband who keeps it REAL with me. He’s not impressed by the trappings of our industry and neither are my family which has created a great balance for me. He’s been by my side for the entire wild ride so he knows me as a person from before I experienced much success, he knows how much work and devotion it has taken to make this career happen. I think any confidence I have at this stage comes from knowing what I bring to the table as an artist after all these years of experience. I have no illusions that I’m for everybody and I’m totally ok with that. It’s a comfort level I am proud of and have now, but believe me it’s been hard won.


What are your favorite products that you use on yourself? You have so many to choose from, what’s jumped from your kit into your vanity?

I am a Huge fan of Tracie Martyn Skin Care, she's my favorite facialist and her and her partner make the most incredible line of organic skin care out there. They care so much about what they're making, it's truly inspirational, and I've been using her moisturizer and masks for years now. 

NARS radiant creamy concealer is an all time go to. I literally have a panic attack if I don't have it in my kit or in my purse.... I don’t know how I would have survived motherhood without it.

References are wildly important in our jobs.  It’s shorthand for communication, direction and inspiration.  I know you do lots of research for your clients when they have a big event like the Oscar’s or the Met Gala. Who are some of your makeup idols or people that you consistently draw inspiration from?

I love references because I love doing project research, and that they can create a framework for a collaboration. I'm always finding inspiration, from other artists work, Topolino, Serge Lutens and Peter Phillips are three of my faves but also nature, paintings, photography, music; anything can spur an idea at anytime. It can be hard for me sometimes to reduce the noise down, like if a photographer says to me, "do whatever you want". Thats the worst thing you could say to me! My brain is way too messy for that! I like there to be rules set up so I can break them. 

                                Rachel working her magic and applying final touches on Emma Stone before a red carpet event....

                                Rachel working her magic and applying final touches on Emma Stone before a red carpet event....

And lastly, what are your favorite products from Reed Clarke?

Sante Beauteye eye drops. You got me into these on a trip I took to Japan years ago and you told me I needed to try them. They are soothing and the bottle is beautiful, I have never have been without them since. I am also a big fan of Rituel de Fille Eye soot in Nightshade, and the Astraea eyelashes are beyond beyond beyond!

I love the tight knit community of beauty mavens we have out here in LA.  I think it’s really special.  When I lived in New York I very rarely socialized with other makeup artists, not because I didn’t want to, but because we rarely crossed paths.  Out here in LA, we run into each other constantly at makeup events or press junkets or travel on press tours together.  I also think that social media makes us closer…...We all get to spend time with one another which makes our community stronger and healthier and I just love it so much.  I’m honored to know you and honored to call you a friend.  Thank you for inspiring me Rachel, with your passion, your creativity and your joie de vivre. 

I love our little artist community so much! I feel so lucky to have known you all these years Fi, I feel like our journey has many more chapters ahead and I can’t wait to share them with you!

                                   The oh-so-chic, even when naked in the tub, January Jones.

                                   The oh-so-chic, even when naked in the tub, January Jones.