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With clients like Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Bella Hadid, Shanina Shaik and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Nikki DeRoest technically may be a celebrity makeup artist, but she specialises on doing the looks of a certain kind of woman. They’re the type you look to for their style (adventurous, confident) as well as their beauty look (a feature eye, crazy good seemingly poreless skin — you know how this ends).
What has set DeRoest apart and made her a go-to for red carpet appearances of these women is her consideration of a full look. “When I’m doing a look for red carpet or a photoshoot, the hair, makeup and styling needs to be cohesive,” she says of her approach. She honed her beauty skills as a hairstylist first (her mother was a hairdresser) before devoting herself to makeup. “I really developed my eye, so I can basically look at someone and design what I think will be best for them from hair to makeup.” And, whether as a makeup artist, or doing it yourself, DeRoest stresses the importance of looking at the big picture — literally. “Most of the time, especially when you’re doing your own makeup, you’re really close up in a mirror. You actually need to step back and look at the full picture. You always need to consider the full look.”
Watch: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Nikki DeRoest do everyday glam
While she favours more natural makeup, especially for herself (“a little more minimal or undone”), she updates the look by experimenting with texture. “It’s not about disco on the face or anything too glossy, but keeping the skin natural and having texture on the eye or more of a shiny lip,” she explains. “It’s playing in those elements of neutral but picking an area to add that touch or feel that you can get through different types of products. It’s a fun way to always update your makeup wardrobe, or get excited about makeup in a different way.”
Her aim for a makeup look is to create that “lit from within look, and not overworking the skin.” As she puts it herself: “I don’t want people looking at you and seeing you have makeup on.” She often starts off with serum as a base such as bareMinerals Skinlongevity Vital Power Infusion (“I love working with bareMinerals”) or ByTerry’s Cellularose Brightening CC Serum. “They’re more like skincare product. I like to use highlighting or brightening products as primers. I think so much of what I teach to people is actually knowing why you’re doing something and not just going through the motions to do it. You need to customise it for the look you’re trying to create, and not watching a YouTube video and doing it because you saw that someone did that.” For foundation, she reaches for the bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Foundation Stick. “It’s incredible and it has a unique texture. It feels really good on the skin and the finish is beautiful.”
Watch: No makeup makeup with a twist
With her growing presence on social media, DeRoest has niftily balanced showing her work and her personal life, while maintaining the respect and comfort of her clients. “I’m so careful about my clients so I feel as though I don’t share as much as some others might because I’m so sensitive to if they want to be filmed. I don’t want to blast them across the internet because I don’t want them to think that my relationship is because I want to gain something off their fame.” Plus, she is mindful to not always have her phone in her hand with clients. “I’ll deal with it later because I don’t want my social interactions to not feel like I’m there. The younger me was not good at that,” DeRoest admits.
While she knew she wanted to work in the beauty industry early on, DeRoest’s life and career took a turn when she moved to Italy on a whim at the age of 18. She stayed in a friend’s guest house in Milan for six months. “That was my eat, pray love,” she says of the positive experience, which allowed her to reflect on what she wanted from her life and job. “I didn’t know anything or anyone other than a few friends, but it gave me the time to evaluate my life, and work on things that I never gave myself the time to work on. Just breathing and taking that space inspired the next part of my career.” Returning to Los Angeles, DeRoest was prepared to really put all her energy in working as a makeup artist. “I’m inspired by making people feel good,” she says of her chosen career. “When someone finds out I’m a makeup artist, they immediately get insecure and think I’m looking at their makeup but I’m never doing that — I love looking at faces and thinking how beautiful someone’s lips are, or how I love their eyes,” she says.
Read: MECCA’s The Memo interviews makeup artist and beauty brand founder Gucci Westman
It’s the connection and genuine relationship-building of being a makeup artist that fulfils her. “Every day I get to have that connection or that touch with people, and to teach them something that they didn’t know,” she tells The Memo. “For a long time, beauty and fashion seemed empty to me, but what I take from it is that I can help you feel like the best version, or more confident, so that you don’t need to think about it and you can go and achieve all the other things you want to do in your life. I think that’s so powerful.”
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