Meghan Markle’s wedding day make-up artist on how he achieved that natural look
Daniel Martin and the Duchess of Sussex are old friends, so he felt no pressure making her up for her marriage to Prince Harry. He takes us through his 45-minute routine that day
Daniel Martin says he did not realise the significance of what he had signed up for until he was in the car following Meghan Markle, now Duchess of Sussex, as she was transported to St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle for her wedding ceremony.
“There were all these people carrying giant signs like it was a protest, but it was for something good,” said Martin. “That’s when it hit me, that this was on a whole other level.”
Martin was the make-up artist behind Markle’s glowing and refreshingly restrained look when she wed the UK’s Prince Harry in May.
He lives in New York and describes himself as “Frasian” – his father is French, his mother is Vietnamese, and his stepmother is Korean. He was in Los Angeles recently, accompanying his friend and collaborator Victoria Tsai, founder of the cult-favourite Tatcha skincare line, at an event for her brand. Bald, bespectacled and thoughtful, he wore a matching floral two-piece combo that was about the only flamboyant thing about him.
Martin and Markle too are long-time friends and collaborators. Before she became a duchess, Markle was an actress and the founder of The Tig, a lifestyle and fashion blog that she closed after three years.
When she was working on The Tig, she invited Martin to be a guest blogger; they went on to become friends, and Markle became something of a muse to Martin. He sent her beauty products to try (she raved about the Tatcha blotting papers) and he did her make-up for red carpet events.
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He received a text from her earlier this year, asking what he was doing on May 19.
“I replied that I wasn’t sure, I thought I might be working at the Cannes Film Festival, and asked her why, what was happening?” Markle’s response: a bride and groom emoji. “I literally dropped my phone,” he said.
While the rest of the world was caught up in wedding fever in the run-up to the nuptials, Martin did not give it much thought. Markle may have suddenly become the most famous woman in the world, but to him she was just his friend, a woman he admired and adored long before she was poised to marry into royalty.
“That’s the thing, there really wasn’t any pressure,” he said. “I’d known her for so long, I know who she is, I knew it would be an easy morning. When you have a close relationship with [famous] people, you don’t see them the same way as everyone else does, because you know who they are, what their character is.”
Martin’s easy-going and grounded approach to celebrity has stood him in good stead, especially given that he more or less fell into the make-up business. He was an art history major in Seattle in the early 1990s when he realised that what he “really wanted to do was to be a club kid in New York”.
So he dropped out of college, moved to the east coast, and started apprenticing at an Aveda concept salon before going on to teach for the brand.
After he ventured out as an independent make-up artist, his natural, “no make-up make-up” aesthetic caught on with celebrities, and he began working on the likes of actresses Jessica Alba and Jessica Biel and overseeing the looks at major international fashion shows. He says what distinguishes his approach is his focus on the complexion.
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“It’s important to really understand the texture of the skin,” he said. “You need to get it to a certain point so it accepts make-up.
“When you’re working with a product that’s not compatible with your foundation, it winds up sitting on your skin so you don’t have the continuity and connection with everything else. My job is to make sure the skin accepts the foundation.”
He does that by massaging the complexion to prepare it for make-up application, and by stressing to his clients that skincare is as important as everything that goes on top of it. “There’s a lot of education on how to get make-up on. But not a lot on how to get it off, and how people can own their own beauty,” he says.
His sublime work on Markle was a case in point; for her wedding day, he prepped her skin with a toner, water-based moisturiser and a Korean sunscreen. For her discreetly smoky eye, he laid down a base of cream colour on her lids with shades of warm chestnut and cocoa. That barely discernible glow in her cheeks came from a coral-coloured blush cream.
Martin says there was no practice run. He came in to her hotel suite, did her make-up and was finished in 45 minutes, after which he and the world’s most anticipated bride ate breakfast together. He said the only thing that made him nervous was not knowing who was doing her hair, or what the dress would be like.
“I did not want her to feel any disconnect,” he said. “But when I saw that morning that her hairdresser was going to be Serge Normant, I knew it was all good.”
As colossal an opportunity as being part of the royal wedding glamour squad was, Martin says that his life has not changed that much (he is currently a brand ambassador for Dior Beauty and creative colour consultant for Honest Beauty). What he does appreciate is the legions of messages he received from mothers who reached out to “thank me for showing their 14-year olds they did not have to pile on make-up to go to school”, he said.
That more than made up for the detractors who also let Martin know that his work on Markle was, in their opinions, underwhelming.
“They came after me,” he said, laughing. “They were like, ‘where is her highlighter?’ But at the end of the day, as an actress, she had already had her red carpet moments. Her wedding day was their moment. She wanted to feel comfortable in her own skin, and for that time.”