Wednesday, March 14, 2018

An Insider's Look: Oscars' Head Makeup Artist Bruce Grayson

When you watch the Oscars, you're probably looking pretty closely at the people's faces as they're presenting or accepting awards. Have you ever wondered who's making them look so gorgeous right before they walk out on stage? That would be makeup artist Bruce Grayson. Bruce, along with his team of up to 20 additional artists, makes sure every single person walks out looking absolutely stunning. I'm thrilled to bring you my interview with Bruce today! Read on to find out how he got his start in beauty, the concealer he can't live without and so much more.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I’m one of the rare few that was born and raised in Los Angeles. I grew up in the Hollywood Hills and went to Hollywood High School -- go Shieks! There is nothing quite like LA: you have the beach, the mountains, the desert, all within a short drive. You're surrounded by inspiration.

My roots are in show business. My father, Dave Grayson, was an acclaimed makeup artist, who worked with movie stars like John Wayne, Michael Douglas, Bruce Willis and Lauren Bacall. Being raised around the entertainment industry was exciting! Going to movie sets and watching my father do makeup was all part of life growing up in Hollywood. In my heart, I always knew I would end up in the arts. After a short time in college studying music, I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps.

How did you first become interested in beauty, and what led you to become a makeup artist?
My father worked on so many beautiful actresses -- Kate Hepburn, Cybill Shepherd, and as I mentioned, Lauren Bacall. I also loved watching movies -- I was mesmerized by actresses Princess Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood. My father was my biggest influence -- not only was he a gifted makeup man, but he was a pragmatic father, allowing me to study music and the arts as long I studied makeup too.

I started working as an apprentice immediately after college. I learned the craft from my dad’s colleagues, some of the best in the business. I apprenticed with my father’s peers on TV shows. Expectations were high but I loved every minute of that experience. Later in my career I was obsessed with fashion and editorial and made it my main focus. I wanted to experience every aspect that beauty and makeup had to offer.

How did your involvement with the Academy Awards come about?
For most of my career, I gravitated towards live TV. Once you get a taste of the adrenaline rush of a live show, it’s in your blood. One year I was given an opportunity to run the Emmys makeup department by producer Michael Seligman, the same man who at the time was the Supervising Producer of the Oscars. He asked me if I was interested in doing the show and I jumped at the opportunity. I was always attracted to live TV -- the idea of doing a show that is seen not only in North America but around the world live, that had celebrities, performances and only getting one chance to get it right, appealed to me. I love a challenge.

What is it like backstage prepping each celebrity as they're about to present?
It all about gauging a celebrity’s mood when they walk into the backstage makeup area and making sure that when they walk out, they look and feel like a million bucks. It can be as little as reapplying lipstick or a major redo of foundation, or maybe just telling them in that moment, “You look amazing and you are going to do an incredible job."

What are your must-have beauty products backstage?
My must-have products are all types of concealers for under eyes and fixing skin discoloration. I also always have lipsticks, blotting papers, a pressed translucent powder, blush in three colors (pink, peach and mauve), and a healthy variety of breath mints.

Are there any other essentials in your makeup kit? What makes them must haves?

Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage. The best concealer in cosmetics and the most efficient way to kill skin discoloration. The formula comes in great colors and provides the perfect amount of coverage. It blends into skin seamlessly, looks transparent and it doesn’t move.

beautyblender. I seriously cannot work without a BB, they revolutionized makeup! Backstage I use them slightly damp to freshen and reactivate foundation, blend in a small amount of concealer into foundation, or to smooth out brushstrokes.

Black Opal Invisible Oil Blocking Pressed Powder. It takes the shine off skin without leaving a powder residue and it won’t turn dark skin or olive skin ashy. Most important it eliminates the need for make up artists to carry so many different shades of pressed powder.

What are your top makeup tips, especially in regards to red carpet or television appearances?
1) Red carpet makeup application is tricky business. It has to work for both flash photography and video lighting on the red carpet and also stage HD lighting for TV. It needs to last longer then normal makeup. I always prep with a moisturizer that I pick depending on the condition of skin. If skin’s oily, I use an oil-free moisturizer, if it’s winter I use a rich moisturizer. I always spend time working it into the face and finish off with a foundation primer.

2) My motto is to use just enough makeup to create gorgeous looking skin. I use a tinted moisturizer to even out skin tone and provide a bit of coverage under foundation, then stipple on foundation with a beautyblender over it, allowing glowing skin to peek through foundation in areas like the cheekbones and forehead to create a natural-looking luminosity.

3) Keep eyes simple. The best red carpet makeup is always simple, especially when it comes to eyes. Use one eyeshadow across the whole lid, then use a slightly darker shadow around the top and bottom rims of the eyes, and maybe into the crease to create depth. Line eyelids with cake eyeliner or a kohl pencil in black, grey or brown close to and on top of the base of the lashes. Go over it with a damp Q-tip to diffuse the liner. Apply two coats of mascara on upper lashes. Lastly, use a shimmer shadow in the same shade family over the center of lids. Done!

4) Keep the shimmer to a minimum. Everyone wants young, glowing skin and shimmer is definitely a way to achieve it. But be mindful of where to place shimmer products -- it’s all about mimicking light, how it bounces and shimmers off the high points of the face, like the forehead, cheekbones, chin and bridge of the nose. Don't put it on the entire face, because it’s real easy to go from glowing skin to looking like a headlight.

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
The most rewarding part of my job is that I’ve met and worked with the most extraordinary actors, musicians, celebrities, politicians, presidents, first ladies, YouTubers, racecar drivers, athletes and just really cool people. I’ve also traveled the world doing what I love to do -- make people look beautiful.

How can The Beauty of Life readers find you on social media?
You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


  1. That must be such an interesting job!

  2. This was a terrific interview. It's cool that he's following in his father's footsteps. I loved his tips. I've got LM Secret Camouflage somewhere in my stash - I think I'll go look for it!

  3. Wonderful interview, Jaime! I always love seeing what Pro MUAs keep in their kits!

  4. Great interview, I love hearing how the pros do it!

  5. Beautyblender is one of the most perfect tools in existence. I can't imagine my kit without it!

  6. Such a great read! The BTS info is so interesting.