The L.A. celebrity makeup artist and former model dishes on his kit staples and his top trick to getting a perfectly blended look. From working clients in the chair to being in the chair himself, Cruz has learned the ins and outs of makeup.
How did you get started?
I was into punk rock as a teen and that world is very free and artistic. I lived in the Bay Area and the punk rock community was all about expression. At that time, I wasn’t sure who I was yet but I started developing a love for beauty, fashion, and art. I couldn’t get a job anywhere though because I had neon green hair. The only place I saw people that looked like me was at the MAC store. People were decked out in full-fledged makeup. I applied and got the job and it was so magical.
From San Fran, MAC took me to their store in NYC- I was working at the MAC store on Christopher St. Artists like Pat McGrath, Kevyn Aucoin, Ramiro Jenning, Gregory Arlt and Billie B would all come in and we’d help them. Working at MAC really helped me meet all these amazing artists. Kevyn would come in and give us jobs that he couldn’t take. So I started doing makeup jobs like that, from his reference. I started doing photoshoots and celebrities.
I had been doing makeup for 3 years and then I got discovered. I took a detour and did modeling for a bit. I did that for 10 years. I had some major moments, I worked with Giorgio Armani, I walked shows in London, Paris, and Milan. It really helped me see both sides of the business and also be on both sides of the chair- I had my makeup done by Bobbi Brown and Vincent Longo and got to see their approach.I was then approaching 30 and it had been 10 years and I decided I was done. I wanted to quit while I was ahead. I went back to makeup. I dove back in and started contacting other artists and agents. I started shooting with Oribe and he really elevated me and pushed me. He introduced me to Cindy Crawford and Anna Wintour- who are still my clients! He introduced me to Sonia Kashuk, and she’d have me do her campaigns and she really took me under her wing. I’d help her with product development. Her brand at Target was made at Intercos, an amazing lab. It really felt ahead of the game and we were able to give access to top-quality cosmetics at a mass price.
What’s a day in the life of a makeup artist like?
I’ve been back into makeup since 2008. I was working on shoots and clients for a decade and then I moved out to LA a couple of years ago. The business was really headed towards celebrity. Now, I have a lot of flexibility to take jobs and see who I want to work with. Sometimes, you get paid great, and sometimes you don’t get paid at all. But you get a learning experience from all of it- every job. Being self-taught isn’t just about doing your own makeup at home, it’s really looking to the masters of the craft and learning from them also.
What are some of the staples in your kit that you always rely on?
I love the Bounce concealers- I use them for everything. Just like the foundation, it’s very long wear. I love them so much, I don’t do a lot of heavy glam- no heavy contour or base. With this, skin looks so real. I use so many concealers but I feel like the shade range is awesome for my clients and the formula doesn’t get cakey. It doesn’t even need powder and it’s long wear.
I think complexion is going to be bigger than ever, especially after this pandemic. People are going to want to look done and I think they’ll be excited to go places and feel glam. This concealer is my go-to and so is the foundation. It makes skin look very even but natural.
I love the Power Pocket Puff a lot- I use it to set makeup. I like powder puffs for applying loose powders. The puff is the perfect shape and it offers control. I can throw it in the washing machine and it survives. Other puffs on the market just don’t last. I just press it into the zones that really need extra shine control.
I also love a beautiful brush- I probably have 2-300 brushes in my collection. I have a huge assortment. The Beautyblender brushes look so gorgeous.
I also love Tatcha skincare, their moisturizers are amazing. The Dewy skin cream and the gel for oily skin are great for under makeup. I also love this Australian brand called Go-To. They have an oil called Face Hero that I love and the Very Youthful Face Cream which is wonderful. It’s a fun time for makeup, there is so much out there.
What’s your #1 makeup tip?
Desaturate the brush. Dip your brush or puff into product and then apply it on the back of your hand so you’re not getting too much product. Start out with a little bit and build. You’re applying 90% less this way than if you went from compact to face. You’re really building up the formula to your desire. That’s why you often see makeup artists applying from their hands to the client’s face. You really don’t need so much to get the look you want. A lot of products are high pigment now, so you want to start with a little and keep layering until you get the finish you want.