Mac’s Romero Jennings on make-up, social media, YouTube beauty vloggers and advice for aspiring make-up artists

The director of make-up artistry, Romero Jennings, talks real about being a make-up artist and why he always keeps a flashlight in his kit

Heidi Yeung |

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Romero Jennings demonstrating an extreme editorial make-up looks for Hong Kong’s first MacPro Extreme Editorial Beauty Masterclass.

Being a make-up artist isn’t just about knowing how to perfect winged liner and a red lip. “You have to think: what’s next?” says Romero Jennings, director of make-up artistry at Mac Cosmetics.

New Yorker Jennings came to Hong Kong in June to showcase extreme editorial make-up looks for Hong Kong’s first MacPro Extreme Editorial Beauty Masterclass.

He studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in the US, and discovered his love of make-up when he was working for a fashion designer in Japan. He started working as a make-up artist for fashion shows in Japan, and then for music videos when he relocated back to New York. At one such video shoot someone said to him: “There’s a new company called Mac, it has one store and it’s kind of cool; you should go apply.”

That’s how Jennings started at Mac 23 years ago as an in-store make-up artist. Today he travels the world for fashion weeks, and for editorial photoshoots for magazines such as Marie Claire. And even though he’s now in a directorial position, he’s still always planning ahead.

“You can’t wait for someone to tell you what you want to do, you have to know what you want to do,” says Jennings. “It’s really important to have a game plan. Because even if you’ve found something you excel at and can grow in, even if you have people willing to push you, you have to push yourself.”

"Personality, endurance for work, professionalism, and experience" is Romero Jennings' advice for any aspiring make-up artist.
Photo: Mac Cosmetics

Jennings keeps up with what’s new by watching popular YouTube make-up artists, becoming familiar with their looks and techniques.

“The digital era and social media has really changed the work of a make-up artist,” says Jennings, “People can go online and teach themselves. I didn’t have that. But I have to watch these things, too, to stay in the game.”

Jennings advises aspiring make-up artists to treat their social media accounts as their portfolio and resume. So post your best work, and avoid negativity.

“When you post something that’s negative you’re limiting yourself,” he explains,“A potential employer can look at something from even a year ago and say, ‘This person posted this about their last job/client?’ You can post whatever you want, but you need to know there will be repercussions and it can affect you.”

But Jennings has to plan far more than just his next Instagram post. He had already planned the make-up palettes for Spring/Summer 2017 by Spring/Summer 2016, featuring the colours he’ll be using on models next month. He even has the hashtags for those colours and looks ready; being a make-up artist is all about being prepared.

So how does someone who is constantly on the go ensure he always has everything he needs for his work?

“Palettes are essential. No one comes with full-size anything. You can cut your kit size in half and carry more,” explains Jennings.

“You need a foundation in the lightest shade and one in the darkest, and a few in between so you can mix it up to match every skin colour. You also need brushes of all sizes and multiples of them. Sometimes you are running from one photoshoot to another, so you need different sets because you won’t have time to clean them.”

In Jennings’ kit, aside from make-up and tools, he also has a flashlight, toothpicks, cotton buds, and straws. The flashlight is a vital tool to ensure the look works with the lighting.

A flashlight is an unexpected essential in a make-up artist's kit.
Photo: Mac Cosmetics

“Most shows nowadays use a bright white light on the runway. What you do backstage under a yellow light can look completely different on the runway, so you use a flashlight to check it,” he explains. As for the toothpicks, cotton buds and straws?

“If you have something in your teeth or corner of your eye, I need to tell you. And if I spend 20 minutes doing a couture lip, I don’t want it ruined when the model needs a drink of water.”

It’s clear that being a make-up artist is about much more than just applying product and making people pretty. As Jennings states, success comes down to a few key qualities: “Personality, endurance for work, professionalism, and experience.”