More Than A Photo Studio
Featuring Lori Taylor
by Michele Elyzabeth
The cosmetic industry does not belong to the French exclusively. Many companies based all over the world have given France quite a bit of competition. In the past two decades names such as Stila, MAC, Urban Decay, Makeup Forever, Bobbi Brown, NARS and Smashbox have been at the forefront of the industry with a steady growth. While these labels are youth oriented, often qualified as “avant-garde,” bold and daring, they still provide undeniable quality.
In 1990, Dean and his brother, photographer Davis Factor, also the great grandsons of Hollywood Icon makeup artist Max Factor, formed Smashbox studios. Davis, a star in his own right, decided to host the first ever Photo Assistant Show to discover new talents, turning Smashbox into a modern day image factory. Dean ran the business side while Davis ran the artistic side of the company. They became an instant hit, booking major shoots from celebrities to magazine covers months in advance. A year later they added another studio and eventually they built four more.
In 1996, while their venture was thriving, the company represented multiple makeup artists, stylists, set designers and photographers and still do. Davis, who admits that the concept of Smashbox Cosmetics started by accident, recounted the time when celebrity makeup artist Paul Starr suggested for them to make their own line and that is when Smashbox Cosmetics was introduced on the market.
“All of our products carry out of the photo studio and into reality” Davis said. “Because we know that if it works in the tough studio environment, it will work in the real world”.
The legendary Photo Finish Foundation Primer, created to minimize touch-ups, appeared on the market in 2000. It was an instant hit. In 2003, L.A Fashion week saw the launch of Smashbox Studios and the rest is history. But a company cannot be successful unless it has dedicated associates and employees working to accomplish the same goal, and Smashbox has that. Makeup artist Lori Taylor has been a big part of their success. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she has been with Smashbox almost 15 years, which is unheard of in this ever-changing world. She has been the Lead Makeup Artist on numerous events for the company which included fashion shows at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Los Angeles, Divine Design, Marc Bouwer’s Fall 2011 3-D Fashion Show, Matthew Williamson & tribute to Alex Alexander McQueen, the MTV Video Music Awards, and Stand Up to Cancer, to name a few. She has also appeared on numerous television shows and worked on celebrities such as Sandra Bullock, Sienna Miller, Paris Hilton, Amy Smart, Rosario Dawson, Linda Hamilton, Taraji Hensen, Shannon Elizabeth, Kerry Washinton, Alfe Woodard, and many more.
During the annual “Makeup Show LA,” I met with Smashbox Global Pro Lead Artist Lori Taylor who took me through her “wonderful experience,” and still going strong with the company.
What’s so special about the company?
Oh my God. I’d have to say the thing that makes it the most different and the thing that kind of got me when I was a little young, fledgling make-up artist and I first wanted to work there, was the fact that they have Smashbox Studios. So it was a place where half of the images that I saw on magazines, like Vanity Fair and W, were shot. So I was like, ‘I want to be in that place.’ And the fact that they had makeup that was tied to the studio just made it so much more. I needed to be a part of whatever they had going on. So I’d have to say the fact that the cosmetics come from a place that has all this energy and excitement — that’s the thing that makes it the most special. And the people.
Take me back to when you first started and why you wanted to be a makeup artist.
This is a true story: I was raised by my grandmother. She had this ridiculous vanity where she had wig heads, little Avon lipsticks, Max Factor pancake makeup, and false lashes. She used to wear slips, gloves and hats, and she was just like a lady. So to watch her get dressed for church or for events was great. I could sit there and just watch her for hours. I spent 90 percent of my childhood playing in her vanity, to the point where she would say ‘Get out of my room.’ I would take her lipsticks or her lashes and lose them, so she’d only have one. And I was constantly just playing and making myself up, or making up my dolls. About every other Christmas, I would get a Barbie, the one which only had the head and shoulders, and I would spend hours on end combing her hair and putting her makeup on.
That’s the ‘80s.
Yes, I’m a kid of the ‘80s. Boy George is the reason why I wanted to really be a makeup artist.
Because he was like this amazing, androgynous thing. That was MTV when they used to play music videos, and his makeup and everything — I would sit there, and watch him. I grew up in South Central LA, so not very far from here. I would try to emulate him. My grandparents thought I was having a nervous breakdown. I was about 16, 17 years old then and would paint myself up. My grandmother would let me wear makeup around the house, but I couldn’t wear makeup to school, and I couldn’t wear makeup out of the house. So when I would get on my school bus in the morning, I would take all my girlfriend’s makeup, and wear makeup all day at school, and then wash it off before I would go home. Makeup was just this fun creative tool that I could do anything with.
Can you say that it is your passion?
Makeup is my passion, and I love it. I could talk about makeup and do makeup — and when I first started doing makeup, I did makeup for free. It didn’t matter. I would say, ‘Let me just try this on you,’ or — my poor brother. I would make up his face. He’s like, “You better not tell anybody.” Laughs. I just love it. It’s one of those things where you could change how someone looks or feels about themselves with just the most minor thing. It’s so minor. When I first came to Smashbox — and I used to do a lot of their in-store events with them because I was a counter makeup artist — I remember the story of this girl. We were opening up a Nordstrom store in Atlanta; she brought her mom in. It was a mother and her daughter. And I did their makeup. Six months later, she wrote a letter to Smashbox telling them how amazing the experience was and how great it was that she could share that experience with her mom, who was dying of cancer.
What is your red carpet look?
One thing about the red carpet is red-carpet makeup, it seems to me like it’s very everyday makeup. That’s what it’s transitioned to. Before, you would paint a face. But now with the invention of digital cameras, and the things that the cameras pick up now, you’ve got to really take a step back and just go a lot lighter. So I feel like my style has always been kind of red carpet. Natural makeup is beauty.
So do you have certain artists that you work with regularly?
I do. I have a few clients. I’ve done Sandra Bullock, Kerry Washington, Rosario Dawson, Paris Hilton. Dean and Davis the founders of Smashbox, are really good friends so, they keep me very busy with shoots. I do a lot of models. I do all of our beauty shoots for all the advertisement for Smashbox
What are the colors this season?
Lips are bright and matte. Matte lipstick is everything right now and bright, that perfect blood, that perfect red, to a pink — like a bright fuchsia, or that bright magenta- Barbie pink and bright orange. So everything that’s bright. The skin does have texture, but you’re not gonna see bright on lips and cheeks. It’s very architectural in the sense that you pick a texture — this is matte, and this skin is a little bit more radiant and sheer. It has a flush of color. You’re starting to see a lot of pops of color, but in a different way. The eye might have bright liner, and the lip might have a matte lip, but it’s not shiny and glossy.
And any kind of specific colors or the full gamut?
I haven’t seen a lot of deep colors. We just came off of fall, where we saw a lot of ox blood and a lot of burgundy. It’s so funny to say — you’re going to see a lot of pink colors, from bright Barbie pink, which is kind of blue to warm pinks, but almost all of them are matte.
Do you travel all the time?
All the time! I just got back last month from Dubai, for the very first time, which was amazing. It was so incredible. These women love makeup. They get to wear it —underneath their veil. They love full coverage. They don’t use a lot of skincare, I found out, which is so different from, Asians or Russian women.
Do they have a lot of spas?
They have a ton of spas. They have this whole massage moment where they’re literally splashing you with water and oil and milk over and over again. And then massaging —it’s like this five-step process that they do. And they go from the hair to the toes, and some of the skin on those women is perfectly even, and so butter soft. It’s incredible.
How do they relate to the US?
They look to the U.S. as their determiner on what they should be doing. And the more expensive it is, of course, the more they want it. But they look at anything that has to do with Hollywood and celebrities. They are into their brows and they have a very particular brow shape that they love. They use this almost kind of terracotta-y red color for their lips. It’s like this warm, rich, almost brick-y red. And mascara. So it’s brows, mascara, and lips.
So what did you do there?
Smashbox’s #1 point of distribution is in Dubai. It’s a million-dollar makeup counter. We sell the most Smashbox in Dubai. We were there for a year. We spent time with the press and mingled with the clientele.
It must have been a challenge to do makeup in the store.
We basically set up a Smashbox, in one of their studios and of course with no mirrors. But their makeup is definitely a part of their personality.
Any other countries where you’ve gone that have surprised you?
Brazil was interesting. We were in São Paolo and women there have an impressive makeup routine. They love a red lip! Every week they get their hair and everything else done as well. They are women and they are into their beauty regimen. One of the biggest questions I get asked by a lot of people is: How do I find the perfect red? They got it. They know. They know their perfect moments. That was definitely a trip. Russia was also an interesting place, yet quite different because they love skincare more than color. Some of their routines are a little dated, but they know skincare like nobody’s business. It’s interesting to see just how makeup is translated in all these different places in the world.
What about Asian women?
I was in Korea a couple of years ago, and their idea of the perfect makeup is understated. They’ll do something where they’ll take concealer around the edges of their lips to make them less defined. They’ll just take a little bit of gloss — it’s almost Geisha-like, but not fully. And that’s it. It is all about their skin — they call it baby cheeks, where it’s this kind of porcelain complexion, a little bit of a glow, and just the slightest bit of pink on the apples. So different…
You’re happy where you’re at right now?
I think I am. Where I think I’m very fortunate is that I have a job where I get to do exactly the thing that I want to do. And pay my bills. I’m so fortunate because I get to do makeup, and work for a really great brand, Smashbox. I’ve been there so long and they’re like my family. I started as a freelancer and I now lead all their makeup artists.
It must be very rewarding!
Well, I love them, and every time they said, “Can you do this,” I never said no but rather ‘I can do it,’ even though sometime I thought, ‘I don’t know how to do that but I can figure it out.’ I think I’m pretty good. I’ve watched the industry change so much, especially with Instagram now which is this whole other phenomenon. Some of my makeup artist friends are like, “They’re not really makeup artists.” And my response is, ‘You know what, these kids have followers, and they have a technique, and that’s their technique.’ Years ago, people were looking at the stuff that we were doing, and that’s not how they did makeup. So makeup is changing. It’s the age of just different things. And I follow some of them, sometime I think, ‘Not bad.’ They do give me a little bit of inspiration. Maybe I’m not doing, cut crease and this crazy brow, but I’m taking some of their techniques. I stay open.
So what would you like to see happen for yourself in the future?
Someone helped me out a long time ago, when I decided that I didn’t want to go to college for communications anymore, be a business major, and I wanted to be a makeup artist. And I worked with a makeup artist. I was working at a Lancôme counter, because my parents wouldn’t pay for makeup school, which I didn’t doubt. I thought ‘I know you’re not going to pay for it,’ and I was saving up money to move to New York to pay for makeup school. And this makeup artist that used to work on the morning news would always come to the Lancôme counter that wasn’t too far from here, and I bugged him and bugged him and bugged him, and I used to say, ‘I’ll clean your brushes, I’ll work for free.’ And I did. And I learned so much. I learned so many things I couldn’t have learned in makeup school. There just weren’t any. So the one thing I always said was that when I had my opportunity, I would either inspire or teach or just help other makeup artists to reach their dreams. I’ve helped a few of my assistants. I have one assistant now — she just got signed to an agency about six months ago, and she told me, “I would’ve never been here if it weren’t for you.” I think my thing is to just inspire other people. If this is your passion, don’t let somebody tell you you can’t do it. I don’t know if I want to do a makeup school, but I love workshops. I love talking to makeup artists and lead that person where she wants to go. I feel like if you’re not open to sharing, you’re afraid of something, and being afraid comes from a place of insecurity. I’m not insecure. Am I Kevyn Aucoin or am I Pat McGrath? No, but I’m a very good makeup artist. And I can do what I like.
Follow Lori: https://twitter.com/lotayray