The Beauty Business | Kay Montano – Celebrity Makeup Artist
Few makeup artists are as cool Kay Montano; started off in the industry at the age of 16, has worked with an enviable list of publications, names and photographers including Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, Bruce Weber, ID Magazine, Kate Moss and Thandie Newton, is social media savvy and worth following whether it’s on Instagram where you’ll find her backstage at a fashion show or her blog where she shares her insights and refreshing opinions on topics such as foundations for women of colour. Her experience and knowledge of the industry makes her a credible voice in the Internet where truly valuable voices are very hard to come by.
One of the things that drew me to Kay Montano‘s work is her being vocal about women of colour and their place in the beauty industry. Whether it’s writing about the difficulty finding the right makeup shades or marketing campaigns featuring women of colour, Kay has had her say and “by a combination of demand and commerce” we’re now seeing campaigns reflecting diversity i.e. Hanaa Ben Abdesslem becoming Lancôme‘s first Muslim face, Liu Wen and Joan Smalls being dubbed The Beautiful Women of Estée Lauder and L’Oreal‘s recent advertisement for the new Collection Privée by Colour Riche which I must say I cannot stop watching. Whether it’s motivated by profit or not there’s a definite shift in attitudes towards other ideals of beauty.
Onto her career, I have to quiz her on the illustrious career as we know it. The best clients to date? “There are many levels of this question: financially, artistically and personally. Plus I’ve been doing this since I was 16 so it’s hard to answer. For me, personally, as that has the most impact on quality of life I’d say, even though he’s a photographer, not a ‘client’, Bruce Weber. Also Ralph Lauren, Salma Hayek, The Face and early ID Magazine, this editorial started me off. There is a combination of money and personal fulfillment with them all.” And the most fulfilling moment? “Right now thandiekay.com. I have creative creative freedom and voice.” Today marks the launch of ThandieKay, her beauty blog with the actress Thandie Newton. Expect to see interviews with one of my favourite authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, tutorials and exploration of what beauty means to others in the context of different cultures and viewpoints.
For someone as experienced as Kay, her advice for aspiring makeup artists is gold. “Graciousness, mutual respect, experience, hard work, dedication, then talent” is what distinguishes a makeup artist among their peers. I also ask her two questions, one answered succinctly – is make-up school necessary? “Not at all”. The second is worthy of some note taking. How do you get your work across to potential clients? “By working extremely hard, having a LOT of initiative, never stand there waiting to be told what to do! Clean something, make tea! Getting lots of experience working under or watching make-up artists (often for none, to a fraction of money) and having an excellent attitude and not falling prey to the easy slide into ‘over-socialising’ at work. Assistants need to be seen and not heard. This may all sound a bit harsh, but that’s what people are impressed by, there are a lot of ‘personalities’ in a room and beneath the veneer of friendliness on a job is a very expensive day where a lot of perfect work has to be done by all, and the assistants don’t have that pressure. The only pressure they have is to make the make-up artists pressure easier by being useful and pre-empting their needs. I had to do it, and it was the best training I could have had.”
Now it wouldn’t be an interview with a makeup artist without asking for a peek into their kit and asking what we’ll find. “Everything – my kit is now a room from which I grudgingly have to modify for every job I do!” And I’m certain we’ll find some red lipstick in that room so I must ask Kay for the best red. “It used to be the YSL’s, Chanel’s and Dior’s but now there is Bobbi Brown, Laura Mercier and brilliant independent brands like Diego Dalla Palma, Lipstick Queen and Lola to name but a few.”
And finally, it would be criminal to have a chat with Thandie Newton‘s makeup artist and not ask how us mere mortals can get those gorgeous cheekbones and glowing skin. “Exercise, because that’s what Thandie does. She is also fastidious with her skincare. These two things are the most important, you cannot fake this with make-up, sorry! You can, however, accentuate smooth skin by not powdering cheekbones (and never use mineral powder foundation!) and using none, or a great, non ‘powdery effect’ foundation. Thandie uses a light veil of Make-Up Forever Face and Body and Becca concealer where needed”.