Owen O’Donnell – One of Baltimore’s Premiere Make up Artist, Owen Changes Lives While Changing Your Look.
Sapphire: You’re really talented with your make up artistry. How did you get started as a make up artist?
Owen: Thank You. I Was always fascinated by it as a kid but it seemed like uncharted territory. I was a boy in East Baltimore and my mom was more of a natural beauty. My coloring books were 1980’s on point though. Cinderella and Storm from the Xmen never looked so glam. My mom getting me into theater and some dance stuff around 11 opened up a whole realm of possibilities. Still remember the ” professional makeup man” from some B film coming in to teach us how to put on stage makeup. Then I met a few drag queens at 16 that seemed to have all the basics down and learned from them. Eventually left Baltimore for fashion marketing at Philadelphia University because I was unaware at the time of how much this area could have offered me in my pursuit. Knowing little about the actual industry I got sick of working the dorm dining hall and wiggled my way into an interview with a natural cosmetic company I wasn’t even qualified for. Suddenly everything changed and made sense . I met the trainer from the line and suddenly a career path even made sense. She also explained to me the Umbrella of Estee’ Lauder companies and their links to each other. A month or two later I was living with the store manager, done with school( until beauty school) al ittle confused about life, and knew exactly what direction I was going to go in. This was a tough time because I had always done really well in traditional school but I knew after two years it wasn’t the fit or focus anymore. 15 years later here we are. I’d also say be careful when you spend your childhood eves color categorizing your glamorous grandmother’s nail and lip colors wishing you could take them because you’ll probably wake up one day and realize you have to go into Sephora at 3 in the morning and do inventory and stock re counts for ten thousand OPI polishes and holiday lipsticks . Careful what you wish for.
Sapphire: I was excited to see you’ve been getting some great press spots to promote your make up artistry. What have been some of the most exciting and door opening press appearances for you?
Owen: I’ve enjoyed the work I’ve been able to do with cancer patients most because it’s what I always wanted to do but didn’t know how to make it happen at times. I have gotten to work with some celebrities and a lot of sports, news, media, and politicians insiders. I’m also grateful some of these events and clients that came during my time at About Faces have continued on in different forms, sometimes with them.
A sort of surreal moment stands out in my head though as cheesy as it may sound. I was booked last year for an event last year doing a lot of high level national executives and some television star’s makeup to meet with Michelle Obama for an awards ceremony .
I was preparing my kit and documents needed the night before and suddenly looked up and saw the Mayor passing by. I had helped her mom with a donation basket the week prior and she stopped what she was doing and left her team to come say hi. At this time she was receiving A lot of national attention for reasons other than her great style. Minutes later we were still standing there and she was hugging me telling me how proud she was of my success since some of our previous interactions and how excited she was that I would get to see the first lady the next day as well as a host of names you might not recognize but if you heard their positions or accomplishments you would. Definitely a who am I ? Is this real moment .
Sapphire: You’ve spent years working at a make up counters and helping people one on one with their skin and makeup. What do you like most and least about working a makeup counter?
Owen: The people…….. And the people. Each one is it’s own little culture that you really pick up on if you’re traveling or become your troop if you’re full time there. Even the best families have trouble though, but they’re family nonetheless. Unfortunately many counters are struggling the more online shopping grows even in that industry. I think the sad thing is now what is lost or the talent there that goes unrealized. You have to do so much extra now to make a counter successful that it’s hard to actually get down to the actual work.
I also can tell you there are , although shrinking, more guidelines that each brand has to follow that although smart marketing, and maybe even smart for a client, are not what a professional makeup artist would do if you were paying them generally. There’s a lot of talented staff and great products but except maybe from MAC, the makeover you get at even my favorite counter would not be the makeover you get from hiring most makeup artists. Don’t mean to knock them. They’ll still probably teach you something and be a step ahead of what you’d normally do but I assure you it’s different.
They’re a good working opportunity to feel your own business within a business. Especially the larger ones.
Sapphire: Applying make up is more than just adding color to a person’s face, sometimes it’s helping them balance their complexion, hide acne and even scars. How have you seen your make up artistry make a difference in people’s live?
Owen: Absolutely. It’s really down to mind over matter sometimes. I’m a firm believer that if you can bring balance to your face and then your overall appearance then your life can balance out too. Notice I didn’t say look like a model. I said balance. Although most people don’t realize how much potential their God given appearance offers until they master this balancing act at any age. Many are more outgoing and able to make important social connections when they can camouflage their problems and put their best version forward even if temporary. The first time I saw someone reaaaaaallly transformed with before and after camouflage + glamour makeup I suddenly felt more comfortable with myself. It was like oh ok. I can look like that if I need to. Today I don’t need to. Off to the gym And grocery I go. I’ve seen it all from former models turned burn survivors to even male domestic abuse victims seeking me out for help with something that would have been a tough subject minus the violence issue even.
Something to consider, Clinique recently did a study; They love to do those. They found that the number one sign that made a panel vote that someone looked older was NOT wrinkles or loss of firmness . It was first and foremost uneven skin tone then secondly loss of definition. ….. Faded brows , lip, and lash line. Etc . Wrinkles were towards the bottom of the list.
Sapphire: I notice you worked with cancer patients on applying make up, what got you involved in that project and can you tell us more about it?
Owen: Yes it’s something I’m blessed to be able to do as much as twice a week now that we have recently been able to get funding for . I have only started putting this together and making it a real regular focus for the past 8 months and am impressed by how much has been accomplished and the attention we’ve been able to bring, even with it usually being on my only day off. Working on some things to give myself more time for this in coming months. Am honored to be kicking off as nominated candidate for the Baltimore Real Men Wear Pink campaign tomorrow eve with a big party and lots of opportunity to spotlight these doings in next two months. It honestly all started out with a hunch I had that kept nagging at me to do something now even though I had no spare time. That one little push I gave myself set off a trail of synchronicity I am still riding. You’d be surprised what you will get if you just ask when no one else will.
Sapphire: What would you consider your dream project to work on? If you could do the make up of any celebrity, who would be your top choice and why?
Owen: My dream project is when all of my different projects come together and overlap. Some of this is happening now and can also be a planning nightmare ! Lol
You just keep going and write everything down.
I would love to do Tina Turner’s makeup. I have just always loved her interesting face. She seems to have a pretty good handle on it most of the time though. The times that she and Kevin Aucoin worked together though are when she stood out enough and looked almost beyond human.
Sapphire: Many women do their own make up daily and feel confident in their looks. What would you list as the top 3 reasons for letting a professional do your make up?
Owen: There are little fine tweaks they can do that make HUGE difference that you’ll never pick up from one lesson or one magazine even for a natural look . Natural looks sometimes take the most work. Ive done clients from all walks of life but even among the die hard Dior clients in say ……. Neiman Marcus very very rarely do I meet anyone who is not skipping quite a few of the steps to a really polished application regardless of how much money or time spent. News anchors that have to do their own are some of the most thorough and effective at this leaving the few who are not looking a world of different.
Everyone should see themselves in really full on transformative makeup at least once even if they never wear it again. It makes a world of difference in how they view themself even out of the makeup. This in turn greatly effects others around them and their understanding of others too.
Sapphire: Have you ever encountered the client you just couldn’t please? If so, how did you handle that?
Owen: Yes. Be kind……..Maybe it’s professional maturity to then let someone else handle it.
I’ve had less trouble or push back from the more demanding high end or high profile clients I have. Oddly enough it’s usually those who have no reason to be or are poor communicators that are most trouble. The years I’ve spent working with groups of hair stylists and being part of their training has strengthened my abilities to assess what a client wants and needs as well as give them ” something they can work with at home”
Make up you can let air dry if you will.
You know you’re in trouble when the whole room compliments them and they’re just sitting there. Something got lost along the way. Even if you’re right…….. They’re really right.
Sapphire: If you could give all us women out here ONE cosmetic beauty tip what would it be?
9) Use a setting mist . It DOES make a difference. No it shouldn’t replace your powder it will enhance it but hey it’s your face if you want to cut corners. More importantly though make finding the right foundation your biggest priority no matter how sheer or full . It’s your second skin. Treat as such.
The one thing that overrides all of this though is take care of yourself, smile more, and stop worrying so much. You should probably get on with the great day ahead of you not stressing over makeup 😉