Celebrity Makeup Artist to the Stars (Including an Oscar Winning Actress!) Latrice Johnson Reveals Her Coveted Beauty Tips
Revered celebrity makeup artist, Latrice Johnson shares her go-to beauty essentials for a diverse range of skin tones, whether you’re experimenting at home or preparing for the red carpet (one day soon, please!)
As the makeup artist to Academy-Award winning actress and director, Regina King, comedians, and many other high-profile artists, Latrice Johnson creates iconic looks celebrated around the globe. Here, she sits down with Beautytap to share her beginnings, preparing for the Oscars red carpet and the products she loves.
Beautytap: You’ve worked with so many talented celebrities with a variety of skin types, everyone from Regina King to comedienne, Margaret Cho. Now more than ever we are seeing a vast array of make-up lines that have extended their foundation colors for a diverse range of skin tones. Was that the case when you started out?
Latrice Johnson: When I was starting out in 2004 and filling out my makeup kit, for me it was MAC because at that time they had a very large color range of at least 25 good shades. I also went old school with products like William Tuttle and Ben Nye. I still use them in my kits today. But, as far as drug store lines at that time, the color still wasn’t perfected the way it is now. I still had to do a lot of my own mixing, and that is why I gravitated to the Tuttle and Nye’s – so I could add to my color range.
I’m very excited about everything being inclusive now, even at the drug store. When I started there was no way I could go to a drug store and pull enough shades to cover everyone. If I went into a department store at that time, I believe it was really only MAC and Bobbi Brown that was inclusive. Even while growing up, if you remember Prescriptives, that was the only line where I could get the right foundations. When I was in high school, I would sit at the counter at Nordstrom and do my own custom blends. Back then I was a teenager, and that was the only way I was able to have the right foundations for myself.
I love that there’s so much mixing and customizing now. You have brands like Fenty with over 50 shades. I love Fenty and it looks absolutely gorgeous. I just did a shoot recently using the Anastasia Beverly Hills Luminous Foundation. It looks beautiful too. Another one for me is MAKE UP FOREVER Ultra HD Foundation. I believe they were one of the first to extend their lines when all cameras went HD. They stepped up their game and took over.
- Beautytap Advisors (aestheticians, facialists, makeup artists, and beauty professionals) recommend these concealers and highlighters by Illamasqua.
B: You mentioned MAC as being one of the first to have a diversified line of shades. How amazing is it that your first big career gig was actually with MAC. Please tell us about that.
LJ: Yes, my first big project was for Essence Magazine. It was for a photoshoot to promote the Disney animated feature, The Princess and the Frog. Senior National Artist, John Stapleton asked me to work with him on the project. He was doing Anika Noni Rose who starred in the film and I was asked to work with Amber Riley who had just come out on the hit television show, Glee and Yara Shahidi. I need to thank John Stapleton for my start at MAC and my first big celebrity project.
B: You’ve worked with many celebrities since then. What are some of your staple “go-to” products that you use?
LJ: My staple brand that I love is KohGenDo. They are one of my favorite brands for foundation. I use them on Regina pretty much all the time. We’ve had a lot of trial and error with different foundations because she doesn’t like them to be heavy, but we still want the coverage for red carpets, for lighting and also need something that lasts all day, so we don’t have to keep reapplying. KohGenDo foundation has been working for us and they have a great color range too. I’ve been told they are working on extending their color range to have more deeper tones, but the colors they do have now are beautiful and rich. The pigment is amazing, and it looks gorgeous on the skin.
B: Speaking of Regina King, some of the looks you have created for her red carpet appearances have made the top ten lists and are now famous around the world. Can you share the essentials that you use with her?
LJ: Of course! As mentioned, we use KohGenDo foundations, but we also use their skincare a lot. I also love the MAKE UP FOREVER loose powders – that’s another staple I use all the time. I do love Charlotte Tilbury and their “Pillow Talk” shade is the lipstick Regina wore to the Oscars. Actually, for the Oscars this past year, everything I used was Charlotte Tilbury and I fell completely in love.
- Beautytap Advisors (aestheticians, facialists, makeup artists, and beauty professionals) recommend these lipsticks by Paul & Joe
B: That Oscar look was unforgettable. It must be so exciting to be a part of Team Regina King. Can you describe what it’s like to work on an Oscar Nominee the day of the awards?
LJ: I’m holding my breath, literally the entire time until she steps onto the carpet and the first images come through. For me, my anxiety doesn’t come from thinking “I hope my work looks great.” Instead, I want Regina to look and feel great, and I don’t want anything to take away from her moment. I don’t want an eyelash out of place or a crooked lip line to take away from anything for her, and that’s where my anxiety sets in.
B: Do the dress and hair change the makeup? How does the creative process flow?
LJ: It definitely starts with her styling team, Wayman + Micah (Wayman Bannerman and Micah McDonald), and with the dress. Usually, they’ll send the team pictures so that we can all collaborate. Sometimes I will ask what they envisioned or if a certain look came to mind when they chose the dress. Once it all comes in, everyone on the team has to collaborate and work together. I go off of the dress and sometimes the hair inspiration. The hairstylist will send out different cuts and up-do ideas and we’ll go from there. Everything needs to blend.
B: The tension on Oscar night must be very stressful, but when it’s complete it must be so exciting, especially the year she won Best Supporting Actress for If Beale Street Could Talk.
LJ: Once she’s in the car there’s nothing you can do. There’s nothing you can fix. I’m like, “Please don’t drink or cry in the car (laughs).” Those are the anxieties and things I worry about. There’s a lot going on during those mornings – hair, nails, etc. So much is happening and you’re sharing a space with several other people. Then there is the actual getting dressed where anything can happen. That’s when the time starts running down quickly and we are stepping all over each other. You just want it to be perfect.
B: Which products do you usually arm Regina with for Oscar night, since you’re not on the arrivals red carpet with her for touch-ups?
LJ: Sometimes that’s difficult depending on the clutch she’s carrying. I’m always figuring out what I can squeeze in there. Most of the time I will give her a lip color and depending on the clutch size, it might be some blotting papers or a powder, and you just hope for the best. Especially when tears are involved!
B: In addition to doing many of Regina King’s red carpet appearances, you’ve worked with her on some of the most memorable magazine covers including Rolling Stone, Essence, Marie Claire, Entertainment Weekly, and Vanity Fair. Do you have a favorite?
LJ: The Essence, Black Masterpiece cover. That’s my favorite! With that cover, the cool hairstyles were being done by Larry Sims. Once I’d seen the wigs in the corner and saw him shaping one for the cover shot, I was kind of nervous because I don’t always go in with a hard plan, since things can change so quickly. I don’t like to have my heart super set on something. But, once I saw what he was doing with the wigs and the bold prints as far as the styling, I knew I needed to keep the colors pretty neutral. The patterns on the outfits were so bold and there were these really cool symmetrical hairstyles, so I just wanted Regina to look strong.
B: Another great recent cover you did with Regina was for S/ magazine. Which products did you use for that one?
As always, KohGenDo for Regina’s skincare and foundation. I also love DOSE of COLORS. I have a staple lip gloss I use on her all the time for almost all of our covers. It’s the Almond Butter gloss and it is just my favorite lip gloss on her. I don’t have to use anything else with it, and for that cover they wanted it to be very clean and minimal. Whenever we do that minimal look, that lip gloss just works. I used it for the Marie Claire cover too. Almond Butter is one of my favorite staples. Everything else is about clean skin and the clothes.
B: You’ve also been a part of the team for Nene Leakes and Sherri Shepherd. Please tell us about working with them.
LJ: Yes, I’ve worked with Nene for a very long time. We did Fashion Police together. I’m her LA-based makeup artist for the past couple of years. I’ve done a lot of shows with her and various appearances. When she was doing Dancing With The Stars I worked with her for that show too. And, I’m doing Sherri Shepherd for her new show launching soon on Dish Nation.
B: You don’t just do red carpet appearances and cover shoots, but a lot of television as well.
LJ: Yes! I’ve worked on a lot of different TV shows, including the new season of Deal Or No Deal, Hollywood Game Night, and Funny You Should Ask. We have many different celebrity comedians that I get to work with like Whitney Cummings, Margaret Cho and Cedric The Entertainer. The past few years I’ve been working with Louis Anderson too; I just adore him.
B: I imagine there are many diverse skin tones that you have to be prepared for?
LJ: Yes, even on the show, Hollywood Game Night, we have so many celebs coming in for each episode; there around five or six that I work with. So, there are always a lot of different skin tones. On Deal Or No Deal I do 25 models plus back-ups and contestants, so I get to work on a lot of skin tones and I need to be very versatile with my make up.
B: These days most red carpet opportunities have been postponed. Do you have any tips for those who are staying at home and social distancing – how can we all look and feel like a star?
LJ: Yes, this is the perfect time because we are (hopefully) not out in the sun as much – it’s not destroying our skin. So, this is the time to pick up on your skincare routines. Start using your masks and moisturizing your skin. It’s also a great time to watch online tutorials. The key to everything is skincare first. It just gives you the most beautiful palate to work with. You end up having to use way less foundation, powders, and everything else if your skin looks amazing – I’m a big believer in that. Even when I see my clients now, I’m noticing their skin is so beautiful because we are home, we can walk around in our masks and we can super moisturize in the morning and at night.
- Beautytap Advisors (aestheticians, facialists, makeup artists, and beauty professionals) recommend this green tea mask by Epicuren.
B: What are some of your personal secrets for moisturizing skin?
LJ: I love serums. I always use them before makeup – the Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil by Drunk Elephant is one of my favorite serums. I also use Macro Vintage T3 Premium Oil by KohGenDo. Those are my ‘go-to’s’. I love the way they make the foundation look. I also love the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream before any makeup application. It just gives the skin a nice plump, very dewy moisturized look.
- Beautytap Advisors (aestheticians, facialists, makeup artists, and beauty professionals) recommend this Sulwhasoo serum.
B: With so many people wanting to recreate the looks that you have created on the red carpet for themselves, have you ever wanted to create your own line of products and foundations?
LJ: Definitely. I believe for most of us artists, this is something that is always at the forefront. It would be a huge goal to accomplish. I’m always looking and thinking about what I could create to make it easier for other artists and consumers. It’s about narrowing it down to something that is needed and something that is missing. I’m very excited about where makeup is going!
B: Now that you’ve laid the foundation for your own foundation as one of the most in-demand, leading makeup artists, where do you want to go after all of this, Latrice?
LJ: It took me a while to figure out that if I’m happy where I’m at and where I’m going, then I’m in the right lane. I love doing makeup for red carpet appearances and I know that I’m a ‘beauty’ artist. This was a little worrisome for me at the beginning because I wasn’t the ‘fashion-forward, super colorful’ type of artist. I have always liked doing the pretty ‘beauty’ makeup. After doing television and the red carpet, I’ve realized that beauty is my strong area, and this is where I will continue.
Copyright notice: All images of Latrice and her clients are from Latrice’s Instagram