Interview with Celebrity Makeup Artist, Emily Gray

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Emily began her love of makeup and exhibited an artistic mindset at a very early age. No sooner than she could pick up a crayon she was drawn to the human body and in particular, the female face. Like many girls Emily suffered from acne in her teenage years and discovered the miraculous powers of concealer and foundation. Like magic in a bottle makeup became her liquid confidence, planting a seed for what was yet to come.

As chance would have it, a brief stint modeling introduced to the artistry of makeup. It was not long before Emily recognized her passion for creativity was best nurtured through makeup artistry and made the pivot from in front of the camera, to blossoming behind the scenes. Emily’s unrelenting drive, ambition, and desire to be the very best that no one ever was, has propelled her to becoming one of the industries brightest rising stars.

Emily prides herself on a balanced skill set of bold glamour, flawless editorial, and clean natural looks. However, her true gift is making her clients realize their most beautiful selves while simultaneously putting them at ease with the entire process. Emily’s background studying classic art combined with her relentless quest for staying current with the freshest styles and latest techniques makes her the celebrated artist she has become. Emily splits most of her time bouncing back and forth between Nashville, Detroit, and Los Angeles. While home in Nashville, Emily enjoys spending time with her loved ones, most of all her adorable Corgi, Buffy

Tell us a little bit about how you first got into makeup, and about your journey to where you are today!

My makeup journey started as an accident. I had graduated from the University of Michigan and had planned to attend law school. Taking the LSAT had completely wiped me out mentally and I began to realize that law might not be the right career path for me. I took some time off and through the grapevine of friends, I got a job at Sephora. 

Until I started working at Sephora, I never realized how naturally drawn I was to makeup. I had always been into art, in particular drawing women’s portraits (go figure), but I did not realize that makeup was a career. Not only just any career, but a possibly fulfilling and profitable career. I was able to study while at Sephora and worked with all skin tones, types, and different makeup styles. I was also introduced to proper sanitation.

Now I currently live in one of the fastest growing cities in the USA, Nashville, TN. I am an agency signed makeup artist and get to work on music videos, red carpets, commercials, fashion and beauty campaigns. Some of my most recent work are a video with pop artist, Lennon Stella, a Sephora campaign for the clean & luxurious brand, Playa, and a publication in In Style Magazine for the Memma brand. 

Do you have any advice for anyone, any young person who wants to go into the field of professional makeup?

Yes, so much! I am actually in the process of writing a book about how to get into makeup artistry. When I was first starting out, I was frustrated with the lack of resources. Now I am writing about my experiences (both bad and good) for people interested in professional makeup artistry.

But if I was to tell one thing to an inspiring makeup artist, I would tell them about the importance of marketing yourself. I think we often forget about the business side of being a mua. I have known so many talented artists who did not post on their social media, build their website, work on test shoots, or network themselves within the community. No one knew who these artists were. And how were people supposed to know them?

Where do you find your core inspiration?

I would say the core inspiration for my artistry is rooted in the giants of the celebrity makeup industry. However, I do pick up inspiration from classic art styles. I almost went to art school for illustration, so I often pull from my favorite paintings and drawings. One of my favorite periods is Art Nouveau, and  I pull the flushed cheeks, soft washes on the eyes, and painted lips for inspiration. 

I also love beauty techniques. The last year I have been studying eastern makeup styles and buying way too many korean products. I want to continue to study other cultures and country’s makeup styles for a more versatile skill set. 

What famous artists have influenced you, and how?

I do not know if everyone has this, but I have a top five favorite makeup artists list. In no particular order: Charlotte Tilbury, Nikki Wolff (aka Nikki_makeup), Patrick Ta, Hung Vanngo, and Mario Dedivanovic. 

All of these artists, you can see in my work. I love Charlotte for her shimmer eyes and nude lips. Nikki for her immaculate liner technique and emphasis on skincare. Patrick, who I have had the honor of meeting and seeing work, for his bronze looks and perfect feathery brows. Hung does the best lifted eyes and I love how he tends to stay away from heavy lashes. Mario, who should be on everyone’s top five, for revolutionizing the makeup industry. I think his work with Kim really brought the role of makeup artist to a celebrity status and paved the way. I hope to one day reach the same status as these wonderful artists.

What are the three tools in your makeup kit that you can never, ever be without?

If we are just talking tools: the tweezerman tweezer, the Sephora Brand #57 concealer brush, and my Ben Nye giant white palette.

What is the most important beauty advice that you can give to both men & women?

SKINCARE! Please for the love of everything: find a good exfoliator and moisturizer, and wear SPF. Makeup is an illusion based artistry. I cannot erase wrinkles or reverse skin damage. In order to create the best makeup looks, I need to have a great canvas to start with, hence the importance of skincare.

How would you describe your signature look and what is it about your style that sets you apart from other makeup artists?

I describe my signature makeup look as “natural glam.” I love to enhance and bring out the best parts of someone’s face. I do not like to over contour and change features. I think my style sets me apart because people feel comfortable in my makeup. Clients frequently tell me, “Wow, this still looks like me!”

What has been your favorite makeup trend since becoming a makeup artist?

DEWY SKIN. I am really hoping this stays for the rest of my career. I sure am glad that the full coverage matte look is out! When I worked at Sephora, that was all the rage. I think people look their best with a radiant finish.

Beauty profiles on Instagram have become a major influence to the beauty industry – Do you have any favorites you follow or want to recommend to our readers?

I really only follow artists on my Instagram! My top five artists are my favorites to follow! 

What measures do you take to ensure that you are being sanitary with your makeup applications?

I have so many measures to ensure sanitation conditions! Where do I even start? Throwing away beauty blenders after use, alcohol for everything, palettes and scrappers are my best friends, no double dipping, disposables, throwing away expired makeup, deep cleaning my kit all the time, clean brushes, etc. I could go on and on. 

These practices always seemed common sense to me, but I have been in the presence of many unsanitary MUA’s. I have seen artists use mascara straight from the tube on multiple models, an artist blow extra powder on the model’s face (my jaw dropped), and even an artist using a straight up dirty used blender on a model’s face ( it looked moldy). 

I am so glad to see someone preaching about these important sanitation practices. It is super, super important for the health of our clients. 

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