In the Kit
inside erin parsons beauty closet

We Have Makeup Cases, Erin Parsons Has a Makeup *Room*

Dramatic beauty is her specialty.

By: Hannah Baxter
Photography: Alec Kugler

Let us explain how to get a beauty nerd excited. Show her an impeccably organized closet stacked with drawers upon drawers of products (labeled, naturally), then pull out four suitcases filled with multicolored feathers, slime, and glitter. If you’re anything like us, you’re probably hyperventilating on the floor right now. That’s exactly how we felt when we met Erin Parsons, the Maybelline Global Makeup Artist who also happens to paint the faces of celebrity clients like Gigi Hadid and Emily DiDonato. Her New York home and studio is essentially a beauty Shangri-la—not surprising for someone who got her start assisting Pat McGrath.

If you think back to a recent magazine cover you loved because of the killer makeup look, we predict Parsons had something to do with it. Maybe it was the Chaos one with Bella Hadid wearing a wire Mickey Mouse-type mask, or Karen Elson looking all types of ethereal with pale olive eyeshadow. This sort of dreamy, irreverent makeup is her specialty. “I really love going to the extreme,” she explains while we dig through her seemingly endless custom lip palettes. “I love using products that people don’t use all the time.”

But as much as she enjoys creating over-the-top editorial looks, the Ohio native says that, at the end of the day, she simply loves making clients look unbelievably stunning. “Gigi started working with me because she knows I can make her look more beautiful than she already is, [and] that’s not easy for makeup artists to do. If you want to make money, you better know how to make girls look gorgeous.” Isn’t that what we all want our makeup to do?

Ahead, see the makeup must-haves Parsons keeps on set, where she finds the bulk of her beauty inspiration, and why she’s obsessed with platform shoes.

“I was obsessed with Marilyn Monroe since I was around six years old. She’s just the epitome of glamour to me, [especially] in The Seven Year Itch. I remember seeing her and being like, I need to put red lipstick on. It all started when I was really young. I would go to the library and find books on Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich, anyone with more interesting makeup.”

“When I was younger, I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup. When I was 12 or 13, every time I would get to school, I would go straight to the bathroom and put on my makeup. I was in the Air Force when I was 18 for nine months because I didn’t go to college straightaway. I was always in red lipstick and false lashes with a Mia Farrow haircut, in the Air Force! I wasn’t necessarily fashionable, but I was already pulling looks.”

“I had been working in retail for 12 years, and I had no idea that this job even existed. I knew this world existed because of Kevyn Aucoin and Steven Meisel’s images, but I didn’t know you could do this for a living. So when I was 28 and over doing the retail thing, I was just like, ‘I’m going to move to New York and give this a shot.’ It took a long time, but it finally worked.”

“After I left Pat [McGrath], I met Gigi. We’ve done maybe seven or eight covers together, and she introduced me to Maybelline. Our first shoot together, those photos were their number one liked photos or something. So there was already something starting to happen. That was a huge moment for me, because from then on I kept working for Maybelline. I’ve been in that [Global Makeup Artist] role for two years, and hopefully I can keep going for as long as I can.”

“I love doing fashion week shows. It’s harder to do makeup during the shows because it’s stressful, but coming up with the concepts and the looks beforehand is probably my favorite part. But you can’t beat the feeling of having a cover come out, editorial-wise. I love doing advertising, too. I can’t pick a favorite!”

Her must-have product on set:

“An eyebrow spoolie. If you ever see a close-up picture and there are two hairs off, you notice, so I’m always brushing hair up. And powdering if they need it with an eyebrow brush.”

“I love the Maybelline MicroPrecise Eyebrow Pencil because it can do little hair strokes. I don’t often do a really heavy brow. I just usually do feathering. I like to draw in the Maybelline Tattoo Pen as well. I start with nothing on the face, no moisturizer. I brush the brows up, and I do them hair by hair. Then I would use a clear brow gel, and I will brush them all in place. Then we do the face. The reason I do this is because if you get moisturizer in the eyebrows and you try to put those pens on, they won’t stick. With too much moisturizer, the eyebrows can also look waxy or slippery, so it has to be dry brows.”

“I almost always use liquid, dewy foundation. The way we apply it is by mixing it with a darker foundation in my hands and put it on as a moisturizer so that the color of the face matches the body, especially if you’ve got a tan. To make it look natural, you’ve got to make it look like part of the skin.”

“I don’t usually use a sponge, honestly. The only time I use a sponge is when I’m doing a very theatrical look, like a fully white face. Hands first, always, and then I use a brush. I’m not even going to say what it is because everyone keeps buying it, and it’s always out of stock! I add the layers I need to add and then use small concealer brushes to put on concealer. I spend more time on natural makeup than dramatic makeup. I don’t use BeautyBlenders on other people, but I use them on myself.”

“If a girl really needs it, I’ll do a moisture mask and an under-eye mask [before makeup]. We usually clean with the Bioderma, and then we moisturize. It’s about massaging in the skin care. My assistant will literally massage the skin care for ten minutes. That’s more important to me than the entire skin-care routine.”

“I try everything on myself. When I’m testing looks for magazines or a show, I’ll try the look on myself to make sure. If it makes me look good, it’ll work on a model. When I’m doing a Maybelline shoot, the new products will come to me then, so I’m testing them right then and there. I’ll know if they’re working or not. But if I love it, I’ll keep one for myself and one for my kit.”

“All [the products] are labeled, and we have the drawers. My assistant and I label everything. When I have days off, I like to put everything in plastic bags and make sure everything’s perfect. It may sound crazy, but it’s how I find everything.”

“I collect vintage Vogues. I’ve always loved collecting them. I don’t even know when it started. I reference materials through them. I don’t go on Instagram for inspiration. I love really going back in time. This Twiggy cover is so now, it reminds me of that Prada collection a few years back with all of the flowers. I love having references more than anything.”

“[When I’m traveling for work,] I bring four suitcases, maybe more, depending. Last time we had flowers, so it was five. Two work for everyday.”

“I’m only 5'2", and if a model is in high heels, especially for shows when I go to powder them, I can’t reach them without these shoes on. I hate being short in general, so I’m always in a platform. But they’ve gotten higher and higher and higher. It really all started from necessity. I can’t walk in flat shoes, I feel so short.”

“I feel like, because I do Gigi for red carpets, people now can know who the makeup artist is. Before [Instagram], the makeup artists, hairstylists, and stylists never got noticed. Now you can do a lot more with the views. It’s more about reaching out to fans. People are like, ‘What red lipstick is she wearing?’ And you can actually respond to them. I started my career when social media was around, so I don’t really know any other way. [When] I worked for Pat before it, I was always behind in the shadows. But when I met Gigi, she was like, ‘You gotta get Instagram.’ One of the first pictures I posted was what we did for Halloween that year; she was Sandy from Grease. I posted it, and I had like, 200 followers, but it got 7,000 likes, and from then on I was hooked.”

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