MUA James Vincent Talks Beauty Diversity at Make Up For Ever

Makeup artist James Vincent discusses the beauty of diversity at Make Up For Ever.

Tall and tattooed, MUA James Vincent is a bull in the china shop that is the makeup world.

And that's perhaps why he does it so well. It's a world that can be pretentious, too polite, and stuffy. Someone needs to cough. Vincent does it well, breaking down myths and explaining makeup in a touchable but thoughtful way.

Vincent taught a seminar, Global Complexions, at Make Up For Ever's midtown New York studio in early March. The seminar addressed the increasing diversity of the American face: No longer one or a few shades, the country's melting pot has forced the hand of many cosmetics companies to address this with their foundation arrays. Make Up For Ever, to its credit, has been one of the top brands to showcase beauty of varying ethnicities and to answer the demographic shift with its product array: Its foundation shades are among the most diverse and reaching on both ends of the spectrum.

A major point of Vincent's seminar was to look at not only the person, the face, or the undertones of the face, but also that person's culture: In some cultures, deepening the complexion is considered more beautiful, while in others it's a virtual travesty. Vincent also emphasized shaking our perception that makeup is about putting a wash of an opaque liquid over your blemishes and skin: Instead, he focuses on correcting colors to counteract skin issues such as rosacea. Demonstrating with a green-toned Make Up For Ever primer, he showed how much redness can be brought down with a small amount of product and without covering the skin. He recommends getting a color wheel (available at any paint supply store) to help understand how colors counteract and work with each other.

He also addressed some common myths about makeup. One is that blush is meant to be applied to the apples of the cheeks. Millions of women believe and follow this without realizing that it should be used with some discretion: It widens a gaunt face. The bigger point from Vincent was to think through the makeup tips you're following or using on others and make sure they apply, rather than thinking techniques are universal.

I asked Vincent a few follow-up questions about diversity in makeup. The Q&A is below.

Q: As our "global complexion" gets increasingly varied - due to factors like interracial marriage and coupling, immigration, etc. - what's the strongest message you try to get across about our approach to makeup?

James Vincent: "The most important thing to think about is understanding and respecting different cultures and backgrounds and adapting away from ideas of Caucasian beauty and Western culture as the most valued. I think the multi-ethnic beauty will be the future, and I love the concept of beauty that is personal and powerful as opposed to media manipulated ideals. Looking for inspiration in the individual instead of in the mass media will force us to listen to our clients and respond to their needs. Artists will have to understand color theory and how it applies to every skin tone. In the end perfect skin is perfect skin."

Q: What do you observe as being some of the biggest steps in the makeup industry to address the changing face of the consumer? What do you see as some of the remaining challenges?

James Vincent: "The makeup industry needs to produce foundation shades and color ranges that are dark and deep enough for women of color, but they also need to understand that these women need to be represented in advertising and all media."

Vincent is Director of Artistry for The Makeup Show, The Powder Group and On Makeup Magazine. He's experienced in makeup for film and theater, celebrity and television, and high-fashion editorial. His background includes training and product development positions for companies including MAC, Stila, CNN and Lancome. The co-founder of the niche makeup line Pretty Pretty, his recent clients have included Lady Gaga, Liv Tyler, Joan Jett and Jane Fonda. Vincent has also worked in television as key artist for shows including "American Idol" and "Sex and the City." Nylon magazine and Women's Wear Daily have named him as a "makeup artist to watch."


  1. This is great. I never really thought about it, but he is so right on when saying cultural backgrounds should be taken into consideration when deeming what is beautiful makeup. We're all different, even within our own culturs, so it's great that the makeup industry is waking up to that.

  2. Thanks, guys! He was really talented and informative. He also did an amazing tutorial on contouring.


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