This exclusive interview feature also appears in the upcoming December 2017 issue of Mirabella magazine.
It isn’t every day that a girl lives out her playful high-school fantasies on the faces of luminary Hollywood figures – particularly amongst the likes of Cindy Crawford, Reese Witherspoon, Lucy Hale and Kate Bosworth. No big deal, right?
But this is the reality of the beautiful, blonde and California-born Kelsey Deenihan: Avon’s official brand celebrity makeup artist. Her story is a dynamic one – roaring with applause-worthy credits, but its ambition was first given breath in a most innocent and organic way. When a friend’s dad, a writer for the television phenomenon “Seinfeld,” caught the 14-year-old Deenihan in the act of glamorizing his daughter’s face in preparation for a homecoming dance, he was impressed by her raw yet undeveloped talent, saying, “You know, Kelsey, That’s a real job. You can make money doing makeup for celebrities and on television and film sets.”
From that moment, Deenihan’s adolescent aspirations became a sparkling, grown-up mission – one as solid as a diamond. “I was just having fun, but was then immediately sold on the idea and never second-guessed what I would do with my life,” she says, reflecting upon that day.
After high school, she ventured to Colorado for college, where she studied photography and art history in order to support her goals. Upon graduation, she immediately circled back to Los Angeles and “hit the ground running.” Honing her craft through unpaid collaborations with novice photographers and models for a time period, she soon found herself backstage of the Teen Choice Awards and MTV Movie Awards, leaning into the faces of Hollywood A-listers and getting their décolletages and pouts spotlight-ready.
Now, a decade later, she often finds herself cozied on the couch in her living room, watching a Bronco’s game (one of her personal obsessions) and seeing a commercial light up the screen with her skillful eyeshadow blending in artful focus. Or landing in New York City and fixing her gaze upon a movie poster in Times Square with her brow-arching handiwork on glittering display. Or driving by a bus stop on Sunset Boulevard and intimately recognizing an advertisement – remembering what the individual was laughing about during the moment of capture, or perhaps how difficult it was to keep her t-zone from shining and her lip gloss from smearing.
From come-hither lashes and perfectly-arched eyebrows to contoured-and-highlighted complexions on the red carpet, Deenihan is oftentimes the woman responsible for enhancing the faces we so admire. And, in the span of our cozy hour-long interview, it became clear she has a thing or two to teach us about embracing that which we genetically inherited, celebrating our individuality and what to expect in beauty trends in the coming months (although, she swears, you don’t have to obey them all).
So don’t dare curl up before the unmerciful glow of the winter fire, ring in the New Year in your party dress or prepare to drop your Valentine’s negligee without her beautifying and liberating wisdom.
What She Most Reveres About Being a Makeup Artist
Through working intimately with Lucy Hale (her first official client, by the way, who was the brand ambassador for mark. at the time), she became well-acquainted with Avon. “Aside from the quality of the products, I loved what the brand stood for and promoted, which was women’s empowerment,” says Deenihan.
But it’s the tiny glimmers of self-confidence she has never been able to get enough of – whether she is working with a barely-known brand or an unstoppable icon. “That glance in the mirror right before [a client] prepares to hit the red carpet or go in front of the camera, and you can tell they feel confident in how they look, that is the ultimate satisfaction for me. I love giving that to someone – knowing they are feeling themselves,” she says.
The Basics She Wishes Every Glam-Aspirer Would Grasp
Before you reach for you makeup brushes, Deenihan wants you to understand that beauty begins with authenticity and self-acceptance. She asks that you celebrate what you were divinely given, rather than fight to morph yourself into someone else. “I’m not a fan of overdrawing the lips or over-contouring because it often looks obvious. I’m not a fan of anyone altering their natural facial structure too much, period. I prefer that we work with what your mama gave you. Anyone can look beautiful accentuating and fine-tuning what they naturally have,” she says.
And, whether going natural or theatrical, a clean, healthy canvas is the backdrop for how the rest of the story will be told. “Skin is the foundation for how you present yourself, and how the rest of the makeup comes together. I always strive with every client to first create a smooth, natural and glowing skin finish.”
Once the canvas is created, she says not to play up every feature at the same time, or else you risk overkill. “Each feature will be in competition with one another if you overdo it, and you will lose the beautiful softness that is most attractive. Concentrate on only two features at a time, and gently enhance the others.”
But remember that your hair, makeup and wardrobe must convey the same story. “It’s important to create a balanced conversation with every aspect of your look. Never underestimate how much better your makeup will look when it compliments the theme and textures of the other parts,” she says.
Kelsey’s Die-Without-Them Products:
mark. by Avon Touch & Glow
This cream-to-powder compact is comprised of nine shimmering shades and can be used individually to create distinct effects, or altogether for a wash of illumination and radiance. “I love to use as a highlight all over, or apply one of the lighter shades under the brow bone. There is also a green-khaki shade I love to use alone as an eyeshadow. It’s such a multi-faceted product and looks great, in some way, on almost any skin tone,” says Deenihan.
mark. by Avon All Butter Now in Bare All
This lip treatment is available in four light-to-medium-coverage and four medium-to-full-coverage creamy shades, but Bare All is Deenihan’s favorite. “It’s a gorgeous and understated nude I often reach for,” she says.
Avon True Color Perfectly Matte Lipstick in Red Supreme
Deenihan believes lipsticks are the perfect ringleader for one’s attitude on any particular day. “Ask yourself where you want your day to go or who you want to be on any particular day, then let your lipstick be the creative outlet to guide the look and energy of that. For example, if I’m feeling like a badass or wanting to feel like a badass, I always reach for red – particularly Red Supreme. It’s an instant energy-changer,” she says.
Avon Anew Sheet Masks
These are available in two varieties – one primarily for brightening and the other for firming. “There is a purple one and a yellow one, depending on a person’s needs. I’m obsessed with how much moisture they instantly give, really preparing the skin to receive makeup,” she says.
Tips and Trend Alerts to Whisk You Stylishly Into 2018
Be Not Afraid of the Bold Blush
“The exaggerated and bright blush look with bold brows and soft eyes is trending heavily. Burberry did it on the runway this year, and I couldn’t stop admiring it. It looked really youthful and beautiful.”
Monochromatic Cheeks, Eyes and Lips Are Here to Stay (for Now!)
“Monochromatic looks are still in, where everything is kept in the same color family and interplaying with each other. If done to compliment the person’s coloring, while not being too excessively matchy-matchy, this can look ethereal and pretty.”
Feel Free to Remain Matte and Muted (or Not!)
The 90s mattes and muted browns are still in, and will continue trending throughout the colder months. “I’m not a huge fan of this because if you go too matte with your lips, you risk looking like you have dried paint on your face. This is not a trend everyone should follow too closely,” she says, before adding, “Proper hydration and suppleness always converts to a more comfortable, flattering and timeless look. And when a person feels comfortable in their skin, they always look their best.”
©Lacey Johnson / The Daily Doll 2017