Her client list includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Julianne Moore, Sheryl Crow, and Gisele Bundchen, to name just a few, so it’s surprising that Hollywood makeup artist Pati Dubroff isn’t a household name. Maybe it’s because her modest, humble approach is all about natural beauty. Seen on countless red carpets, fashion spreads, and magazine covers from Vogue to Harper’s Bazaar, but never with fanfare. She is a secret weapon for many A-listers.
From staffing the makeup counter at Bergdorf at age 19 to working with the great Francois Nars, Dubroff’s simple aesthetic hasn’t wavered. Whether working with celebrities or real world people, she’s always focused on accentuating her clients’ natural features. This philosophy spurred Dubroff to launch her own accessible makeup line through Costco this summer. Since the launch, the line has sold out everywhere (her lip balm crayons have been especially tough to keep on the shelves). We caught up with Dubroff to celebrate the success of her line and get some advice, tips, and tricks of the trade.
The makeup artist sees a woman at her most bare-faced and vulnerable. It’s intimate, and definitely secrets are shared. It’s best not to share anything that was discussed in the chair. — Pati Dubroff
You’re an industry veteran with years of experience. What was the defining moment where you knew or realized this was what you were meant to do?
Every day is another layer of gratitude for this path I’ve embarked on. There are the major starstruck “wow” moments—like when I was backstage at the Oscars last year with Charlize Theron. And then there are the moments when I’m consulting “real” women, and I see how a little bit of makeup can boost their self-confidence in such a major way.
What was it growing up that you may have seen in magazines, movies, etc., that drew you to wanting to do makeup?
With makeup, I was drawn first to the actual pots and pans and tubes. For me, they were better than any crayons or paints—I was as interested in the packaging as what was inside. I then put together that this is what transformed the beautiful girls in fashion magazines.
You’ve attributed your career taking off to Francois Nars, and you’ve spoken highly of fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh. How did they inspire you?
Both Francois and Peter are incredible artists and visionaries. I love how they both celebrate women without masking. For Francois the makeup could be very full-on, but you would always see the texture of the skin. It was never a mask. Peter loves the sultry rawness of women. He taught me to celebrate “imperfections” rather than trying to cover them up. I still love what they do and am constantly inspired by their vision.
How would you describe your approach to beauty? What’s the philosophy behind the looks you create?
I’m quite a naturalist … less is way more in my world. Healthy living is very important to me, and I like the makeup I do to reflect that. Glowing healthy skin is a must. I like a polished look but not one that is overdone at all. I love a smudgy, sultry eye with glowing, healthy skin.
What was one of your craziest days in the business and how did you manage to pull it off?
Oscar day last year was pretty intense. I was with Charlize [Theron] in the morning, then had to be all the way across town for Naomi Watts, then back across town to go backstage at the Kodak Theater [now Dolby Theatre] to prep Charlize for her dance number. I pulled it off by hiring a driver to eliminate that stress, stocking the car with pressed juices, and getting quiet meditation and focused breathing time throughout the day to stay centered.
What was the lead-up to the launch of your line like? How excited are you to see your products available to the public?
It’s absolutely surreal to see my name on products, and even more surreal when I hear that makeup artists who I respect and admire are using the products! I must say, when I go to Costco, I need to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. When I was approached by Hatchbeauty to be part of the Beauty’s Most Wanted Program, I didn’t hesitate. I’m surrounded by such amazing talent—the other experts who are part of the program, and especially, the team who supports my vision.
You’ve said one way to make it in the industry is to know how to “keep secrets.” What do you mean by that (if you’re willing to explain!) Can you reveal a secret we may not know about?
The makeup artist sees a woman at her most bare-faced and vulnerable. You are looking eye-to-eye, and so close you can almost feel each other’s breath. It’s intimate, and definitely secrets are shared. It’s best not to share anything that was discussed in the chair and especially anything regarding relationships and health. I also don’t talk about the quality of someone’s skin, or if I’ve added little helpers (like individual lashes).
Which products never leave your kit or bag? If you could only bring one (or two!) items to a deserted island, what would they be?
I’m a big believer in shopping high/low. In my purse is La Prairie Eye & Lip Perfection à Porter, a genius eye cream and lip balm combo, and my Luster Lips Lip Balm Crayon (this week the color is Dark Orchid).
Whose makeup haven’t you done that you’d kill to do?
I would love to do Beyoncé’s and Jennifer Lawrence’s makeup.
What’s next for you?
I just worked on spring shades for the Pati Dubroff Beauty collection, I’m heading off on a European press tour, and happily enjoying every moment of life with my family.