Pro-File: D’Andre Michael and his favorite $5 highlighter

With a clientele that reads like a Grammys guest list, L.A. makeup artist D’Andre Michael has made a name for himself painting some of the most gorgeous faces in music. From Lil Kim, to Destiny’s Child and Mary J. Blige, Michael has learned the tricks of the trade.

D'Andre artwork

How did you get into beauty and eventually become a makeup artist?

I started out doing hair and just played with makeup. I would do my mother,  friends, drag queens. I was just playing around but I loved the results and people's responses after they see themselves. I went to beauty school but became a beauty school dropout - I dropped out 3 months before graduation. I felt like I knew what I was doing. 

I moved to Atlanta and I was managing a shoe store which was nearby Glamour Shots. I used to walk by there all the time and it looked fun. I applied for a job to be the hair and makeup artist. I quit my salaried job at The Wild Pair and Glamour Shots which was all commission-based but I loved the experience.  I worked there for 3 months and she told me about this celebrity MUA who offers makeup classes. Gwynnis Mosby- she worked with TLC, and basically doing makeup for anyone down south. She was the Kevyn Aucoin of the South. I went to her class and then I went on to assist her. Gwynnis helped me book clients on my own. I moved to NY and I asked Kevyn Aucoin if I could assist him and he told me to make a name for myself.  

I was in Atlanta for 2 years and then I wanted more, I got my portfolio together and looked at agents. I moved to NY and worked my way up- I saw agents and kept sending out my book. I saw one agent and she got me a job with Lil Kim within 3 hours of meeting her. She sent them my work. They wanted me to work the whole weekend right away. 

What’s your advice for aspiring artists?

Believe in what you do and rise above everything around you. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. There was a makeup artist I met from NY on set and they tried to steer me the opposite way. I wasn’t deterred though. 

I moved to NYC in 1998 and I left in 2003. I’ve pretty much worked with every rapper in that era- When I look back at my resume from then, the first page and half is all celebrities - Lil Kim, Destiny’s Child, City High - Claudette, I’ve worked with Jimmy Carter to Magic Johnson and Queen Latifah. 

I moved to LA after 9/11. I worked with Mary J Blige and I thought I wasn’t ready to work with her, she’s a legend, but I still work with her to this day.  I’ve worked with MJB since 1999. From there, I have worked with Angela Bassett. It’s a blessing to be able to do this. 

mary j blige

When we came up, we didn’t have Instagram. We looked at magazines and went to the library and lugged around a 50-pound book. Now, a lot of people want to be a celebrity makeup artist. I have people who call me and say they want to do celebrities. You can be an amazing artist but you don’t necessarily need to only work with a celebrity. Be a great artist first and then everything else will follow. Don’t sell yourself short, don’t undercut yourself, it sets the whole industry back when you do that. Find the right person to work under, they’ll guide you. 

Examples of D'Andre's own makeup and artistic talent

When did you first discover Beautyblender?

I knew Rea Ann when she was working with her prototypes and it was just a plan and idea. To see its conception to birth and witnessing the life Rea Ann gave it- wow. It makes me exceptionally proud of my friend.  She's a force in our industry because of it and such an inspiration for me and many other people. 

I know the difference between a Beautyblender and any copycat- the texture and consistency of other sponges feel very dense and they won’t blend well. The Beautyblender is so pliable and it really just blends into the skin. 

What’s your favorite way to use it?

I use it to apply creams,  foundations, setting powder and Glass Glow Shinelighter. The way it's shaped, you can use every corner- crevice of it. I like to use the tip for concealer and the bottom rounded end for base work. I do a lot of blending, I’m a firm believer in blending and then blend again. I can pat for 15 minutes and not dip back into foundation. It just creates that skin-like finish. I’ll use it for my setting powder too. Any other damp sponge might make powder go on splotchy but this doesn’t. I also like to apply sunscreen with it. It’s a multiuse thing. 

What’s your go-to or signature?

I think people say my makeup looks very natural- I think it comes down to the foundation work.  I really focus on the skin and make foundation look like skin. I am all about basework. I use Glass Glow Shinelighter and Aquaphor at the end to help bring in dimension. 

What do you think is the biggest mistake people make with foundation?

People focus so much on contour and highlight and they go too dark with contour. Try to go natural- go closer to your skin tone. What pops on Instagram doesn’t necessarily look good in real life. I’ll do a contour but I make it pop or add “highlight” with Aquaphor, which is like $5, or Glass Glow Shinelighter.  People love that dramatic highlight but if you’re not in the right light, it can look like a very weird streak on the face. That’s why everything looks good online because you have particular lighting and filters but in real life, you don’t have that. Find that happy medium and don’t be afraid to look natural- be a better version of yourself than just like looking like someone else.  

What do you think is the most underrated trick to looking your best?

Sleep- ha! But seriously, it’s true.  Plus, drinking lots of water. But for like a quick beauty trick, since I'm an esthetician as well, I’d say lymphatic drainage. A little massage can de-puff eyes, give you a glow and sculpt your face.