Friday, October 17, 2008

First Look Fridays Interview Series: Makeup Artist Nathan Johnson

I am pleased and thrilled to bring you this week's edition of First Look Fridays, featuring the fabulous makeup artist Nathan Johnson! Nathan was raised in the Berkshires and moved to New York right after high school, where he attended Marymount Manhattan College for a degree in acting/musical theater. He then went on to receive a graduate degree in classical acting from Columbia University. "Growing up, I always thought there could be nothing worse than life in a one blinking stop light town," he says. "Now, I look back and realize nothing could have been better! Sometimes I really miss the calm and ease that comes with small town life." So how did this fabulous guy trained in theater come into the makeup business? He received his formal makeup education from The Make Up Designory. And now? He's the makeup artist for hit TV show Project Runway! Read on to discover more about this amazing makeup artist.

How did you first become interested in makeup, and what led you to become a makeup artist?
My interest in makeup began when I was very young. It was singers more than anyone else that caught my attention, Boy George and Cyndi Lauper in particular. The brave and amazing things they did with makeup blew me away then and now. From them I first learned that color can make you unique or beautiful. Thanks to my mom's makeup drawer, I got to start playing. Soon enough, people started asking me to do makeup for their shows and the rest is history. My first career choice was not makeup, in fact, I fought it for a long time. Life has a funny way of putting you where you need to be.

What are some of the shoots and shows you've worked on that have stood out as highlights in your career?
I have been very lucky to work on some pretty amazing projects. Two of my favorites are Project Runway and Big Gay Sketch Show. These shows really put my makeup skills to the test. On both, the artists get very limited time to do extreme make ups. It is very important that you be well-equipped, open and ready for anything. What I love about Sketch Show is that it really utilizes my special effects background.

Recently, I had the opportunity to design makeup, prosthetics and special effects for the Off-Broadway production of Michael Weller's new play, Beast at the New York Theater Workshop. Everything about the experience was amazing. The director, the theater staff and the actors have been a dream come true. This was my third Off-Broadway show and I am hoping to expand my career on the New York stage.

Have you worked with any makeup artists that inspired you?
There is one artist that really took me under his wing. Donyale McRae may be one of the most gifted makeup artists on the planet. He hired me for the first time, having never seen my work, and he has guided and taught me ever since. Watching him work has brought my artistry to a whole new level. He is amazing.

What are the products and brands you simply can't live without?
Nathan Johnson, First Look Fridays interview series, makeup artist, Cover FX Natural Finish Oil Free Foundation
1) I cannot live without Cover FX Natural Finish Oil Free Foundation. It is the greatest foundation I have ever used. The finish of the makeup is so beautiful and natural, no one will ever know you are wearing it. They will just think you are blessed with a flawless complexion. And best of all, it is fortified with vitamins that treat your skin and combat aging! Their primer and setting powder are also a dream.

2) I love gel liners. They stay all day and they are wonderful. I cannot live without my angle brush.

3) I don't like lip liner.

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
The greatest reward comes from working on the everyday woman. Nothing beats the teary-eyed hug I get when I've made someone's makeup dreams come true.

What are your top 3 makeup tips?
1) Skin is a beautiful thing, don't cover it unless you have to. It is very important that women (and men) wear foundation properly. Choosing the right color and texture separates women who are naturally beautiful from those who look made up.

2) No mascara on the bottom lashes if you have dark circles. It seems really obvious but I cannot tell you how many women still do this. If you have dark circles, mascara on the lower lashes will accentuate the darkness and make you look even more tired. Try a little liner on the outer third of the eye. This "drop shadow" will give the illusion of a thick lower lash line without pulling out the darkness.

3) If you get a pimple, don't pop it. No matter how big and red it gets, I can hide it as long as you don't pop it. Open and scabbed skin will grab the makeup and make the pimple even more noticeable. I know how tempting it is, but no more popping!

Playing with makeup must be fun -- but what are some things you do for fun outside of being a makeup artist?
I write. A few years back, I completed my first novel, and this year I finished my first full-length young adult book. I am hoping to have these and others published in the near future. I also love movies, both at the theater and on DVD. I love the experience of being told and shown a story.


  1. I grew up in the Berkshires too! Yay Berkshires! I couldn't wait to get out & sometimes I miss it too.

    Thanks for the great interview Jamie!

  2. You've come a long way, baby!