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Celebrity Makeup Artist Jenna Menard Shares Her Makeup Secrets

Her must-have products, how to get comfortable with colour and the psychology behind our beauty routines.

I swear I was friends with Jenna Menard in another life. No, really—when I met her at Clinique's big, celebrity-filled party for the new Dramatically Different in NYC, we both had a total déjà vu moment. Were sure we knew each other, but couldn't figure out how. So I'm just gonna say that we're beauty kindred spirits from some other realm.

First of all, Jenna is total beauty crush material. Beautiful but also warm, smiley, open and approachable. And she wears makeup just the way I always aspire to, with fresh skin, long lashes and a little hit of liner or lipstick. I had no idea at the time, but she's got a mega-impressive celebrity client résumé that includes the likes of Taylor Swift, Carey Mulligan, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst and Emily Blunt (and I can totally see how she'd make them feel comfortable). She's also worked with big-name mags, designers, photogs and advertising clients, before joining Clinique in 2011 as their first global colour artist.

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I followed up our in-person meeting with a more in-depth phone chat to find out more about Jenna's makeup philosophy, her favourite products and how her background as a psychology major influenced her approach to beauty.

How did you get started as a makeup artist?

I actually didn’t set out to become a makeup artist, but I grew up in a family where beauty was important because my mom was a hairstylist. I remember just sitting and watching my mom cut hair, and being mesmerized by it. I didn’t know why. I would watch her cut, colour, and do everything—and then watch her clients leave feeling more perky. I thought it was completely normal and that’s what always happens when you get hair done. The older I got, the more I realized that something actually happened when they felt and looked better.

I also have three sisters, so it was always girls, girls, girls. Although none of us were very girly girls, and we were more into sports than makeup, my mom made us aware of personal presentation. I started to see that makeup is important when you want to look a little bit better.

Did you go to makeup school?

I went to school for psychology in Pennsylvania. I chose psych merely based on the fact that I wanted to work with people. I didn’t know what I wanted to go into. A lot of people go, "oh, psychology and makeup artists." It wasn't a plan, but looking back, it was the best thing I could have done. Watching my mom do hair, then getting my psych degree, and then makeup—all those little pieces added up and gave me a well-rounded approach to beauty. And really understanding how appearance can affect you.

In college, I started doing makeup on my girlfriends. Then of course, I wouldn’t have much time to do my own makeup. They would get all these compliments when we would go out, and I thought, "wait a second—I did that!" It was an experimental phase of makeup for me because in college, you're more open to trying different things and playing around with products. I learned the art of makeup through just applying it.

How did you build your career as a makeup artist?

When I graduated, I moved to New York solely based on an internship that I got through Ann Roth, who is a costume designer. She was doing a film called The Stepford Wives, and introduced me to the makeup artist, Bernadette Mazur, who I ended up assisting for a summer. It was a big leap. I didn’t have a job, I moved based on an internship—thank God it worked out. If I had to take that risk right now, I probably wouldn’t do it.

After the movie, I started to do more and more things. People on the set were very supportive because they were like, "you should go into fashion." Okay, my mom was a hairstylist but she wasn’t in fashion or in New York. What do you mean 'go into fashion'? What does that mean? I was very naïve to the industry in general. It actually helped that I was blind to everything, as I would ask people questions. I was told I had a talent, and one thing led to the next in a very organic process. When I set my mind to do something, I tend to just go, go, go at it. I assisted for a while and then did a lot on my own, working hard to get jobs and do as much as I possibly could.

A few months before the Clinique opportunity came about, which was three years ago, I said to myself, "I think I’m ready for the next step." I had been working on a lot of editorials and ads, but I wanted something bigger. At the time, I didn’t know makeup artists could have contracts with beauty brands, or to what extent they could influence people and teach them how to do things.

How did you start working with Clinique?

It happened very organically, which has been the theme of my career and something I really appreciate. Of course I’ve worked hard to get where I am, but I don’t like to force things. The people who interviewed me had been seeing a lot of candidates to find someone for the position, but I didn't know the criteria. Normally, I would do research and figure out who and what they’re looking for, and give them what they want. But being naïve and new at this whole thing, I just went in blindly.

I was watching their faces and little did I know, I was telling them the Clinique philosophy of beauty. They also asked what I know about Clinique, and to be frank, I thought growing up that Cliniquewas makeup. It was the only makeup my mom ever used, so I was exposed to the brand at a very young age. It sounds funny, but it was such a fit that working with them was kind of meant to be.

So what IS your beauty philosophy?

I love to make women feel and look beautiful, and to enhance their natural beauty. Not necessarily to transform them into someone else, but to use makeup products, techniques and tips to feel more confident. The philosophy behind what I do as a makeup artist is about understanding women in general.

What's your earliest makeup memory?

Around age 13, I was messing around with makeup and mixing different powders—a bronzing powder and a translucent powder to get the perfect shade for my complexion, so it would look like I'd gone on vacation and was a little bit tanned. They were definitely Clinique powders I was using, and when I started to custom-blend them so they weren't too light, it looked good. I was so proud, I said, "Look mom, I mixed my own powder!"

What are your top five favourite products?

These have all crossed over and are products I use both for myself and in my kit—which shows they really are all-time faves.

  • Clinique High Impact Mascara: When I run out, I kind of panic. ("Okay, Jenna, just call and get more.") It's my favourite mascara. When people are like, "I haven’t found a good mascara," I say this is a really good go-to mascara. It has a normal brush, a good formula, it stays on doesn’t transfer. You get all those things in one.
  • Clinique All About Shadow Quad in Jenna's Essentials: For eyeshadow, I had the opportunity to create a palette of my essential shades. When they said they wanted to create a palette, I thought it definitely should be something that's always in my kit when I work, something I have with me when I travel, going from job to job—parties, weddings, events—and my go-to in my personal makeup bag. There are four fairly neutral shades that allow you to create many different looks.
  • Clinique Cream Shaper for Eyes: I’m a huge fan of the Cream Shaper. It's a pencil eyeliner and it’s got a little shimmer. They're soft and go on really easy, but they stay. Really great colours, easily blended and they create different eye looks, especially with the palette and all mixed together. The Quickliner for Eyes Intense is also high on my list.

What's your go-to makeup look?

I try to practice what I preach, which is telling people to try different things. Of course, when you're pressed for time, you stick to what you know and what you're good at. My go-to look is always a little foundation, either Even Better or CC cream, depending on how I feel in the morning. Usually a little bit of something to make my skin look even, which helps so much when you're running around tired, with jet lag, all that. Lot of mascara. When I say a lot, I mean multiple layers. It’s not clumpy or anything—I really work mascara into my lashes to open up my eyes and bring attention to my eyes. Then I use the Cream Shaper in Black Diamond. It's a black with shimmer, so it's softer than the typical full-on black. I rim my eyes with that, blending with my finger and then I put on some blush. Usually I don’t put any colour on my lips, but I always have a Chubby for an easy nighttime transition.

Who are your beauty icons?

People like Ali MacGraw and Audrey Hepburn. Those women were true to who they were and always looked like themselves. Audrey would have maybe a little flick of eyeliner or lipstick, but still looked like herself.

Ali MacGraw was just very natural.

Grace Kelly is a more glam version.

What or who do you think has influenced you the most as an artist?

I think it was my mom, because she was the one, when I'd be going to prom, to tell me, "you need a little bit more makeup." Whose mom tells you that you need more makeup? I'd be dressed up, my hair done, and she'd say, "you need to add a little more." She wasn’t saying load it up, but it was about the balance of the whole look. I saw how a tiny bit of blush or bronzer, or an extra coat of mascara makes a difference, and that translates to how I do makeup now. She taught me to pay attention to the whole picture.

What's your biggest makeup pet peeve?

I wish women would stop saying, "that doesn’t look good on me" or "I would love to be able to wear that, but I can't." It gets to me after a while. I get to the point where I'm like, "who told you that?" None of them can say. It’s just their insecurities. This is where the psychology of makeup comes in. Once I start talking them through it, I say, "tell me why it doesn’t look good on you." They can’t. It's just a feeling they have.

But when you do it for them—say, eyeshadow—they leave for the day, get a compliment or two, and they're like, "oh my God, now I know eyeshadow looks good on me." So it's less about what they do, it’s more about being scared and not willing to try something different.

Of course, we all get stuck in our ruts. I tell this story a lot. I usually focus on my eyes. One day, years ago, I was meeting friends in Central Park. I thought, "I’m just going to wear a red lip, just for fun." It was easy and quick. A friend who I know very well asked me, "are you wearing coloured contacts?" My eyes are brown with a bit of green in them, and the red lip made them look more green instead of just brown. So I tell people that a lot—we often don’t realize how different makeup changes our face and our look.

Any advice for those of us who are nervous about colour?

I think different women will get over it in different ways. It doesn’t take long. I’ve seen it when I talk to people. When I hear that, and start talking to them, it’s like a mini makeup therapy session. I'm not encouraging women to completely change their makeup routine or look. It's just trying something different; a small step. If they want to wear coloured eyeshadow, they don’t have to put blue eyeshadow all over their lids—they can do colour underneath the lash line. It's the idea of colour but it doesn’t have to be three different blue eyeshadows.

I think we are seeing more colour as a trend. I think colour is attractive to them because they want to try what they’re seeing on the runways, in magazine pages, and even just in the ads. They see the Clinique eyeshadow ads, but they'll say, "oh my God, I love those colours but I'd never able to wear them." "You haven’t even touched them." I always make people laugh by how I react to their comments. And it makes them see how ridiculous they sound, which is a good thing.

What other makeup questions come up the most often?

Most women are like, "tell me how to make my brows look more full but not totally penciled in." Or "how do I get my lip colour to look like a stain but not lipstick?" It's always about making makeup look like it's not. It’s so Clinique. It's got to the point where Clinique is such a good brand to recommend to people—first of all, it's easy to use, and second, what they want is what it gives to them.

It's interesting; I've always of course been about using the best products for any particular thing, but I keep going back to Clinique. "If this is what you're looking for, this is what you need." Someone will say, "I want to wear eyeshadow, I'm just not sure how to." I tell them to try the Chubby Stick for Eyes; these are best things. Then you can add powder shadow to that and graduate into another level of doing makeup. It's small steps. Or with lipstick—someone says "I want to wear colour," I say, "go get a Chubby." My recommendations are authentic and real.

How has your psychology background influenced your approach to makeup?

Everyone looks at makeup differently, and to each their own. Some women can’t leave the house without any makeup on. There are times when I love to not wear any makeup. It feels good not to wear it; I won’t put mascara on all vacation and then I appreciate and see what it does so much more. I think you can look at makeup as a way to transform you and shape your face into something that it’s not, masking who you are. But then makeup can also be used to slightly enhance everything, and to see who that person is.

More often than not, I see people with a lot of makeup on and I'd love to take off three layers of that foundation. I don’t think, "she has bad skin," I think, "she is relying on foundation because she thinks it looks better." I'm more inclined to want to strip things down off people who wear a lot of makeup. I’ve kind of trained myself to see the beauty in a natural face. Or just a natural feature, something that I can hone in on, instead of completely covering the skin that’s not even bad. Then you wonder, "well, is it bad?" You wonder what’s going on under there. I find something that’s beautiful and special about each face without having to completely mask everything and redraw it.

What's your best beauty tip?

Accept who you are. Even before you get into the makeup. Be happy with who you are.

Also, I didn’t realize this until I got older, but my mom always said to get beauty rest. That’s real. You're not going to be pretty without sleep. Now I understand what beauty rest is. My skin looks better and everything is just clearer. I just came back from another interview and they had the funniest question, they asked, "what did you put on the whites of your eyes?" They thought I used drops. I laughed. I mean, first of all, I had done up my eyes with makeup, so it probably contrasted and made the whites look even whiter. But thinking back, it was probably the beauty rest. So make sure you're getting enough sleep.

And then you can pick and choose your makeup. Foundation is important in making skin clearer. At Clinique, we believe great skin can be created, so you can use products that help make skin look less red over the long term so you don’t have to wear as much foundation. Which is huge.

What do you love most about your job?

I work with Clinique not only on product development, but also reaching out to so many women with tips. I love to hear what might be difficult, and picking the brains of all these women in my life—my mom, sisters, friends and women I meet in the industry. It's cliché, but something as simple as teaching them to do makeup on themselves can have an impact and makes people feel better. It's fun to not only have it as a career, but also to live it.

What's your advice for aspiring makeup artists?

I get a bunch of emails from people—I don’t even know how they find me—and they say, "tell me how I can do what you’re doing." I think something that’s important to know is that I didn’t follow someone’s path. I didn't have anyone's path to follow. I made my own and stuck with it. There have been times when I wasn’t working as much, and I'd ask, "is this for me?" But I really wanted it. I really believed in it. I wasn’t searching for fame, or more followers on social media. I really just wanted to be successful in my field, for whatever that was worth. And success could have just been working consistently—that would have been successful to me.

I would say to stay focused and to keep your eye on what you really set out to do. I've never strayed off that. Many of my college friends changed careers or took a while to find their careers—I'm so lucky that I've never had any other job. I've been a makeup artist since I graduated from college. So part of it was luck, but I also made a decision early on to do something that I loved. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be happy. I didn’t want to sit at a desk and go to the same place every day. So it's not an easy thing to make happen. Each step, I stuck with this and worked hard; I networked and followed up. I really put the time in early on. I think that’s something that young aspiring makeup artists should know. If you look at my career, you could say, "oh, so easy." On paper, it kind of looks that way because it happened so organically. But it was 10 years in the making. And even before that, in college, I was doing makeup. So really, it’s been 15 years. It's not going to happen overnight. Many young people think that things happen overnight, whether it's from watching reality TV or reading Twitter. But try to become realistic. It could take 10 years to make a move. It’s true. I'm always honest with people to keep their expectations realistic.

Find more from Jenna on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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