This is Jennifer Hanching, a celebrity makeup artist living in Los Angeles, CA.
I interviewed her for my first Behind-The-Scenes series.
I’ve known Jennifer for a very long time. In fact, since we were little kids growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles.
Not only is Jennifer a makeup genius, but she is my cousin and someone who I truly admire for her positive inspiration. From her humble beginnings at MAC cosmetics to traveling the world on set, Jennifer has worked hard and is now living her dream. For this post, I thought it would be interesting to share with you what it’s like to work in the beauty industry and all those red carpet premieres.
When did you realize you wanted to become a makeup artist?
I have two answers for that. When I first realized there was a profession being a makeup artist, I was almost 18 years old. I was a senior in high school; my first job was a Barista at the Cerritos Nordstrom’s Espresso Bar. A lot of our customers were Nordstrom employees. That’s when I met the makeup artists who worked at the MAC counter. I was attracted to their edgy and unique looks. They were my first mentors. Anytime I could, I would bribe them with free coffee drinks in exchange for makeup lessons. Eventually, all my paychecks went back into buying makeup and I started to build my makeup kit.
The second answer is, I had a flash back recently of me in class daydreaming of doing makeovers on the shy students. I remember thinking to myself, if only so-and-so got this type of haircut, lipstick and wear this outfit, she would be so cute! I think I was in the fourth grade when I started to do that. I would daydream doing makeovers and doodle it. Which lead me to drawing faces, they weren’t very good but I loved to draw eyes, mouths, and eyelashes. I would use watercolor, charcoal, pencils etc. So I think I had this innate desire to beautifying at a very young age.
Where did you begin your training?
The abridged version is that I met a woman who knew I had a desire to go to art school. She told me to save my money and to learn from her how to do makeup and I could be a freelance makeup artist. Well, there wasn’t just one woman. There were several of the MAC artists that supported me learning and working for the company. One in particular, let me go to her house and practice doing makeup face charts. Since that was a skill they had and I wanted to learn how. I would practice doing makeup on everybody I could get my hands on. If I had no one, then I would be doing makeup on myself. During this time, one of my best friends was a model. She would help get me booked doing test shoots with her modeling agency with other aspiring models.I learned a lot being thrown in with little experience.
I learned a lot being thrown in with little experience. Some photos came out great, some not so much. From that, I built a small portfolio. With that portfolio and with insider knowledge from my MAC friends, I interviewed for a position at one of the MAC counters. Part of the interview process was broken down to two parts.
First the one on one interview then on the second day, you would bring in a model and do a makeup demo on them. I didn’t get hired the first attempt. A few months later, I went to another MAC counter, interviewed, did my makeup demo and got hired. I was 19 years old. MAC was a great starting point for me. I would learn from the company and from my experiences being a retail makeup artist. Having to do makeup on every customer I met. It didn’t matter what their age; race, if they were men or women. This is key to developing techniques. Once, I felt confident with my skills, I began to focus on my freelance career outside of the retail cosmetics. I continued developing my portfolio and my relationships with photographers, makeup artists, hairstylists, wardrobe stylists, models, etc. This lead me to assisting established makeup artists and was the next step of “training” I learned. Being a makeup artist assistant was by far the best learning experience for me.
What do you love most about makeup?
Something simple as lipstick or eye shadow can make someone feel confident and beautiful.
Where do you get your inspiration?
All over!! I can find inspiration in random things. For example, I stepped on one of my son’s marbles the other day. Which can be painful, as I looked at it closely, I loved how all the colors were swirling together. It was a teal, magenta blend. Art, music, film, patterns, colors, textures… the list is endless.
Who are some people that have inspired you in your career?
Kevyn Aucoin was one of the first makeup artists that I actually noticed his work in fashion editorials. I would look closely on the magazine pages and study it. I bought his first book, The Art of Makeup when I was still a Barista. Another makeup artist that inspires me is Pat Mcgrath.
If you weren’t a makeup artist, what else would you do?
I would be a photographer and/or director.
Do you have a signature look? If so, how would you describe it and what sets you apart from other makeup artists?
I pride myself on doing very clean, pretty makeup. I like whoever is wearing makeup not to look like they are wearing too much. Even if it is a bold lip or eye, I like when makeup is enhancing his or her own natural beauty. What I feel that sets me apart from other artists is the feedback I receive. Photographers have told me, that they don’t have to retouch my makeup work. Which is very rewarding to hear! I also like when clients say they like how I do their makeup because they still feel they look like themselves. They are just a more polished version of themselves.
What is the most important beauty advice that you can give to women?
This will sound cliché’ but beauty comes from within. It doesn’t matter how much makeup, fashionable clothes, and hairstyles you wear, if you’re not happy with yourself, it’s going to show.
Do you have any other stories you’d like to add for fun? Anything that happened to you on location/set etc. that was memorable.
Wow, there are too many great memories to say! I do have to say, I find it fascinating that my little hands have lead me to have some once in the lifetime experiences and visit places I probably would never visit. That is very fascinating to think about. I’ve met a lot of wonderful, interesting, creative people. Also, I‘m a nurturer, so to have a skill that encourages people to feel beautiful and confident. That is rewarding.
Here are favorite moments in my career so far:
– Doing makeup in a moving motorhome at 45 MPH. We were bouncing around! I had to put on eyelashes and draw on liquid liner.
– Shooting Fall (furs and leathers) clothes in 117 degrees in Palm Springs for ELLE Singapore. The model was such a trooper.
– Doing makeup on an actress in my car and only having an iPhone light to see.
– Shooting a music video in downtown LA in an alley that was first cleansed with ammonia, peroxide and alcohol to get rid of the feces and urine.
– One of my first music videos I assisted on was a rap video that was shot in the middle of South LA. I had to do makeup on 20 dancers. I ended up getting a 102 fever. We shot until 3 am but wrapped early because there was a stabbing near by. This was in 1997.
– Shooting a music video inside a sewage waste facility.
– Shooting a commercial at a trash sorting facility.
– Being Dept. Head of a makeup and hair for a tour. We did 39 shows all across North America. For each state we were in, I had to hire 3 local makeup/hair assistants that I never met or worked with before. That can be challenging especially in a pressured environment. Lucky for us, we found great artists in each city.
– Shooting swimsuit editorial in South Australia. Due to the extreme weather there, locals live underground to keep cool. Our hotel was also underground and we got to shoot inside opal mines.
– Shooting a music video during a concert while trying to track down 100 models that were lost in the audience.
– Doing makeup on a very young Rihanna for her first Vogue photo shoot.
– Wrapping a show in Kansas City around 9 pm, catching a 12 am flight back to LA (5-6 hours on connecting flights), slept on the plane, arriving that day to head straight to set to work a 8 hour commercial shoot then back to the airport to catch up with the tour in New Orleans .
Thanks so much Jennifer! You are such an inspiration for all of us!
To find out more about Jennifer and her work, visit JennArtist.
Written by Katie Orse