Behind the Painted Face: Interview with Troy Jensen

After 32 years in the world of celebrity make-up artistry, Troy Jensen is no stranger to Hollywood’s elite, working with the likes of Kim Kardashian, Megan Fox, Jennifer Lopez, Rachel McAdams, Eva Mendes and Christina Aguilera…just to name a few. Born and raised by a single mother in Orange Country, California, Jensen credits his three sisters for immersing him in all things aesthetic. No longer a make-up artist, but “an image maker”, we caught up with Jensen, who shared his favorite make-up tips and the secrets to his success.

Mariana Bockarova: Who is ‘Troy Jensen’, the Make-Up Artist?

Troy Jensen: Growing up, I was always an artist. I don’t have the patience to draw and paint as I used to, but looking back I was very good. It wasn’t that I grew up wanting to be a make-up artist, but in the 70s and 80s, if anyone could take a trend and make it tacky it was [Orange County]. So becoming a make-up artist was me thinking “I could make you look prettier than this” and that’s how I got started.

MB: What famous faces have you worked on?

TJ: I don’t define myself by who I do, but by what I do. I don’t know if all the faces that I’ve painted would impress you…if I say I’ve got to work with Diana Ross, I feel younger people would say “oh, okay,” but with what I’ve done with Kim [Kardashian] has given me a lot of fame on the web.

MB: Wow! Kim Kardashian is really the only celebrity I can think of who is exclusively known for her image, particularly her make-up and style. It must be incredible to know you have helped make her fame possible through make-up.

TJ: Well, I’ve never really considered myself her make-up artist. I photographed her, and when I photographed her I did her make-up and hair. Those pictures went out and they defined her as one of the most beautiful women of our generation. That’s what I wanted to discover, her beauty – to be her BFF on her show was never my goal or ambition. I wanted to show her beauty.

MB: When I think of Kim’s beauty, I can’t help but think of the infamous “contour” photo. Contouring seems to have become a major trend right now, promising to beautify. Do you recommend it? How do you do it?

TJ: Why do people want to be beautiful? To be liked and accepted and loved. The more you try to change yourself, the more you are looking like someone else. The person who might love you won’t see you.

Major contouring works only for cameras. I call that ‘plastic surgery make-up’. It’s correcting you; it’s painting things on your face. I don’t think it’s attractive, so when I [contour], I call my technique “toning the face”.  It’s the same [technique] for everyone. I take a matte powered bronzer or even a foundation warmer than your own skin tone and follow the same steps you would in major contouring, but in a lighter touch. You don’t need brown streaks on your temples and down the bridge of your nose, that’s too extreme. If you have a long nose, dust bronzer across the bridge. If you have a big forehead, put bronzer in the centre. If you have a round face, use more of a highlighter so that the light reflects more of the high points. So highlighting down the centre of the nose, the high points of cheek, upper bow of the lip and using matte power to round perimeter of the face will look natural. But, there’s nothing wrong with having a round face or a long nose. Don’t try to change or manipulate your features, just bring out the best in your features.

MB: What about for clients who have different skin tones?

TJ: That topic, along with my artistic eye is what defined me [when I first started]. In the 90s, I was responsible for working with African American women like Janet Jackson and Mary J Blige. In the 90s, there were only two major professional make-up lines; I used to mix my own colours and foundation to get pallets with yellow and red and blue and brown. They didn’t have colours back then, so I would mix my own.

Now, there are a ton of different palettes and colours for every skin colour, but you really have to understand what your undertone is. Is it red, yellow or olive, green? What is your skin type? Most African or Latina skin types are generally oily, so let’s say you have oily skin and wear an oil-based foundation, within an hour your pores will eat your make-up. Oil-free with a matte finish will help your make-up sit and stay. So identifying your skin type is key.

MB: That’s a great tip! What else should women be aware of when doing their make-up?

TJ: 1. Buy an eyelash curler. It will instantly open your eyes. Before you put anything else on your eyes, gently nestle the curler close to the base. Squeeze down carefully, release, and squeeze down again. Don’t move your eye, just clamp down gently, slowly, and carefully near the base and you’ll see that your lashes will perk your whole face up. 2. It’s important to show you are not your make-up, so if you can perfect your skin and get your skin looking great to where you can just use a little something like light cover up; but don’t cover your whole face. 3. Feel inspired and figure out the make-up that works for you. What I do on my clients is always different. The landscape of your face is different, how make-up adheres to it is different, you have only “you” to do, so do what works for you that you still look like you.

MB: I like the idea of being authentic in your make-up technique, but I do wonder, is “staying you” a make-up trend women would want to embark on? Doesn’t contemporary life unfortunately seem to be more about becoming “perfect” in order to be beautiful?

TJ: Well, what we used to do in the 1990s is the pop star face. I thought, “do [women] think boys want to see them with a ton of foundation, a ton of contour and three sets of lashes?” I feel like this obsession with plastic surgery and being that perfect is due to social media. Everyone in their mind is a little pop star, no one is really forgiving or tolerant or accepting or honest about their own beautiful flaws.

It’s my job to make a woman look perfect for the camera to sell an album or a movie or something. I have three sisters and I’m 150% their big brother to say I don’t want my sisters to feel they have to be glamorous or glamorize themselves to be beautiful. The most beautiful quality is having the confidence to say that no matter what they are okay.

MB: So how do we change things and make women feel like they are beautiful from the inside out?

TJ: Start young, before their teenage years. High school’s tough, peer pressure is tough. I say work on what you’re good at now, what is your passion now so that you’re not left to thinking the only thing you have to offer is perfect face.

I heard a quote once that went something like “at 21 you have the face God gave you, and at 31 you have the face you gave yourself, and at 41 you have the face you deserve.” I feel what that means is it’s not just making yourself super beautiful but working on making yourself who you want to be.

MB: Including plastic surgery?

TJ: We have pressure to look perfect in this selfie and Instagram age. It’s one thing to have huge lips and look like a doll when you’re 18 to 25, but how is that going to look when you’re 40, 50, 60? It’s a trap; you have to constantly keep up. It’s insecurity masked as arrogance.

You see women injecting themselves, but after a while they don’t look anything like themselves. If you have a healthy and realistic approach to yourself, the chances are when you get older you’ll accept yourself in a healthy way. I know so many girls who are so enslaved to being perfect. With me, it’s about beauty and it isn’t about someone being perfect-looking but who they are as a person that makes them beautiful.

MB: Any examples?

TJ: Rachel McAdams is one of the biggest film actresses in the world. She is so gracious and so kind, so thoughtful, caring, considerate. In our business we get so used to not always having that. We are just nothing, we are serving them, they shouldn’t serve us. What makes her so beautiful to me is her kindness and her generosity. It’s a rare thing. Those types of beauties stand out to me because of who they are – not only because she’s beautiful, but because of who she is. It’s a pleasure to be around her.

Also, Elle McPherson, she’s one of the world’s first supermodels, and every time I work with her and she will call me and say ‘I just wanted to thank you’. For an artist like myself, it’s everything. We work so hard and put so many hours in…it’s nice when the client goes out of the way to make sure we feel appreciated.

MB: Is that the best part of your job?

TJ: The best part of my job is being able to work with the ladies that I am so inspired by – that to me is a huge gift. I had this experience with a celebrity client who brought out this product used and created by her past makeup artist. She asked if she wanted to use it on her for a photo-shoot and I said “no” because on camera [it would look like] little specks of glitter on the skin. I said if you want me to make you look tanned, I will use a light oil sheen spray to create glowing skin, not sparkling skin. I said to her if she wants the look her personal make-up artist does on her, I can do that, but I would prefer to be Troy Jensen with her. I said, ‘hopefully you trust me to make something beautiful’ and she just said ‘great!’ I was really grateful that she allowed me to create what I wanted to create as an artist.

That’s the secret: When you are doing make-up, there’s a fine line between wanting to be a famous celebrity and being yourself. It’s an amazing gift if you can look in the mirror and say ‘oh but my nose, oh but’ that you are able to look at yourself and say, ‘let’s have some fun today, lets creates something beautiful today. This is who I am.’

By: Mariana Bockarova

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