If matter is neither created nor destroyed, explain to me the existence of Creator, Destroyer, and all-around Womancrush Marissa Gimeno, whose job it is to smash, smudge, puff, drip, and swish beauty products into the gorgeous images you see in editorial and advertising. I had been following Marissa’s technicolor dreamworld on Instagram for a few years and requested an interview for our latest writing prompt, Self Destruct. Not only is she as cool and colorful as her page suggests, she’s also down-to-earth and extremely generous in explaining her enviable career.
Your title is “Cosmetics Artist/Still Life Stylist.” Does that accurately describe what you do? Did you have to invent this title/role for yourself or is there this whole amazing field that’s being kept from the masses? Tell me your secrets!
I’m really bad at telling people what I do for a living. I guess “Cosmetics Artist” does the trick. I throw in “Still Life Stylist” so people know it doesn’t involve models. Products are much easier to work with, they don’t talk back. Basically I arrange and destroy makeup to make pretty pictures. I surely didn’t invent my job and I sadly didn’t know about this path until years after college.
How did you get into this field? Did you have previous jobs that led you here?
I worked on many sides of the “styling” moniker before finding my cosmetics niche. I did fashion styling, set design, props, soft goods, and most facets of still life. My first time styling makeup was on a still life lipstick shoot for Oprah Magazine. I used to do props and other still life styling for the magazine regularly. That first shoot was so well received that they had me work on their monthly beauty section. I still work on that section some 15 years later.
Is this your dream job?
I believe so. At least I can’t think of any other job better suited for my personality. I like the constant rotation of cool artsy co-workers. I love my agent. I like the relaxed dress code. Also, I curse like a sailor so I enjoy the less formal vibe on most sets, ha!
That definitely sounds dreamy. What is your favorite makeup to style and why?
It’s fun to work with all types of makeup. Each format gives varied potential for different creations. Nail polish is a pain as it’s so stinky, but it makes for gorgeous pictures! Moisturizers and lotions are nice as you leave work with soft hands.
Do your clients tend to be hands-on or do they present a vision and let you do your thing?
It’s a mix. Some clients have the vision you must copy to the T. Other clients just supply the makeup and say “Go for it!” Most jobs have an art director on set who will come up with a general concept and inform me and the photographer of the brands desired look/identity. Sometimes they will present original ideas. Sometimes they will find reference photos online from websites or Pinterest. I’m happiest when I’m shown my own work for reference.
Quite often I am handed my own shots without them realizing that is even the case.
A lot of images aren’t labeled properly on Pinterest. I always give the new creation a different spin though!
How do you balance the need to produce an expected result with the element of “letting go” and embracing splashes, spills, and spontaneity necessary to your craft?
There is definitely an element of letting go in cosmetics styling. Often the best texture shots are the ones created in the moment and are not too fussed over. When making a beautiful swoosh of lipstick you shouldn’t overthink it. You just have to let your hand quickly make the gesture. If you hesitate you can see the hesitation in the stroke. Speaking of hesitations, I try to limit my caffeine intake on days that I’m making textures. My movements are less smooth and shakier when I’m over caffeinated.
What’s your zodiac sign (if you’re into that)?
Last day of Scorpio—same day as Goldie Hawn, Bjork, Voltaire, and Amanda Lapore.
A worthy bunch! Are there visual trends you’ve observed/been a part of? How have you incorporated or been asked to incorporate them into your art?
Because clients often find inspiration from formats like Pinterest, I am repeatedly given the same creative looks to reference. I definitely see themes that repeat often from client to client throughout the year depending on “trending” pins. Just like fashion, things come in and out of style. Props used in shoots definitely go through phases as well. I remember a few years ago, it was all about incorporating mannequin parts. One year, it was all about using mirrored surfaces. The past year or so has been all about iridescence. Everyone wanted iridescent sets built. Lots of photographers using “star filter” and rainbow effects lenses too.
How has social media impacted your art?
Social media allows me to share and promote my artwork which is great. There have been a few clients who have found me directly via sites like Instagram. Some of what I style gets used for the brand’s social media accounts. So in that sense it has created more work for me, which is wonderful.
The biggest problem I find is that I’m styling months ahead of most product launches, so on set I have to be careful of what I post. I can’t be all that spontaneous with posting work pictures.
One small downfall is that social media has created more competition for me. People see the art form of cosmetics styling more often now because of social media, when before it would just be in ads and in magazines. But it’s good that other people are shown it as a career choice as I don’t think it’s on the radar of most college guidance counselors.
Do you have an enviable collection of makeup yourself?
I love wearing makeup and trying on new stuff. I’m not loyal to wearing any single brand. Right now my makeup bag includes goodies from Nars, Marc Jacobs, It Cosmetics, Cle de Peau, Mac, and Maybelline. The freebees are definitely one of the perks of the job! When I’m on advertising shoots though, quite often they are done so far in advance that I’m dealing with comps or limited quantities of product.
What’s your favorite place your career has brought you to?
Paris, hands down! NYC keeps me really busy though. I’ve lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn since the 90s. Occasionally I work out west in L.A. and San Fran when I need a break from a bad New York winter. Right now I’m just dreaming about leaving my apartment. Sadly working from home isn’t an easy option for a cosmetics stylist.
Tell that to the Too-Faced palette I just dropped on my bathroom floor! 😜 All jokes aside, Marissa, I really can’t thank you enough for educating me. All the best!