Lessons in Cool: Meet The Makeup Show's James Vincent

  • Written By:Alexandra Perron, Managing Editor
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As a self taught artist I made a lot of mistakes along the way. The fact I assisted so many brilliant artists and had amazing mentors helped me find my style, voice and career.

- James Vincent

Welcome to Lessons In Cool, a new series all about the people we’re constantly inspired by. They are tastemakers, curators of style, thought leaders, and well, just cool.

Meet James Vincent, makeup artist and the Director of Education and Artistry for The Makeup Show. Throughout his career as an artist and educator, he’s worked with all of the top brands, photographers, magazines, and celebrities (hello Joan Jett and President Obama!) — so to say he’s in demand would be an understatement.

Ahead of The Makeup Show in NYC, we caught up to hear more about how he went from club kid to makeup artist, the products he can’t live without (and thinks every makeup artist needs in their kit), and what cool means to him. Read on for more from James Vincent.

Name & occupation:

James Vincent, Makeup Artist, Educator, Amplifier

How did you get started as a makeup artist? What was your journey like?

I grew up in a large, loud, very close family in Providence, RI. I was lucky to have that family, but I felt like I never fit anywhere. I was always intrigued by old Hollywood films as well as the makeup bands and musicians used for album covers and music videos. Growing up in a small place, I would read all of these books about travel or watch these films but never felt it was a possibility for me. My mom was very involved in the church and the community and I loved that. I went to school for Social Work because I loved the idea of working with people. One day Anita Roddick, who founded The Body Shop, came in and spoke to our class and hired me to work with some of her camps for children living with HIV. They hired me in the stores and I fell in love with makeup and skincare and found my tribe. I moved to Atkanta to work on my masters degree and got headhunted by MAC.

I was a club kid in Atlanta and NYC and experimented with makeup, but it wasn't until I was hired to be part of the team that launched MAC Cosmetics in the very early days. Working for MAC opened me up to so many opportunities and I started assisting makeup artists like Billy B and Kevyn Aucoin and working with celebrities and musicians for music videos and magazines.

What led you to The Makeup Show?

I have always been passionate about education and community. As a self taught artist I made a lot of mistakes along the way. The fact I assisted so many brilliant artists (Kevyn Aucoin, Linda Cantello, Dick Page, Pat McGrath) and had amazing mentors helped me find my style, voice and career. I also was given a career changing opportunity by artists like Billy B and Sharon Gault. I wanted to help others find themselves. Shelly Taggar and Michael DeVellis, who created The Makeup Show, brought me in to oversee education and allowed me to develop with them based on their passion for community which felt like exactly what I wanted to be doing.

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James Vincent with actress Molly Ringwald

I love amplifying new talent and helping to create spaces that are inclusive and diverse and representative for people who have never seen themselves in beauty or fashion or the world.

What do you love most about what you do?

The ability to help people find their voice and their style and see possibilities all around them. I think that is my real gift. I have never been the best makeup artist, but I know people. I love trend forecasting and product development. I love putting together teams of creatives and seeing how an idea comes to fruition. I love developing an artist's passion and skill set. I love amplifying new talent and helping to create spaces that are inclusive and diverse and representative for people who have never seen themselves in beauty or fashion or the world.

First thing you do in the morning:

I start every morning with meditation, movement and breath work before I do anything else. It helps me prepare for the day ahead. I drink some warm water and a strong coffee, and practice gratitude journaling before showering and tacking my email and social media posts and responses and looking at my calendar. I pull oracle cards every morning to find my daily intention or for my client and then set to work with clarity and understanding of what i need to accomplish.

Biggest challenge:

The voices in my head that tell me I need to compare myself to someone else.

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Where do you look for inspiration?

I work in an industry full of inspiration. I find it from other artists and entrepreneurs who changed the game like Pat Mcgrath and Bobbi Brown. I find huge inspiration in fine art. Museums are a constant source of inspiration and imagination for me. I find inspiration in travel. I love visiting places and seeing how people really live. I love the streets of NYC. Feminist writers like Audre Lorde and Bell Hooks have always held great inspiration for me. I find inspiration in my family and friends and my Queer community and with anyone who is a visionary. I find a lot of inspiration in the women of Rock N’ Roll. Music is a constant part of my life.

Last person you texted:

My mom. She texts me every morning so she doesn't wake me up with a phone call even though I am always up when she texts and then we end up talking.

Most scrolled app or site:

PAAM.org… It is the site for the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. Many people know Provincetown as a vacation spot but many do not realize it is America’s oldest, active art colony. It fuses the beauty of the outer cape with incredible art from every period and genre in an inclusive manner and holds the history and works of artists from every major movement. Artists including Rothko, Motherwell, Hawthorne, Pollock to name a few. Legends like Billie Holiday, John Waters, Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill all called Provincetown home. PAAM employs over 300 artists each year, was the first green museum in the country and is an art association that allows any member to submit work and be shown four times a year. It is my favorite place in the world and the site allows you to see the work in the galleries and what's happening.

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What are the 5 beauty products you can’t live without:

  1. Rebels and Outlaws Potion is the perfect toner to balance my skin and prepare my space and energy. Organic Rose Water, essential oils and curated crystals prepare my skin for moisturizer and it doubles as a smudge spray.

  2. Danessa Myricks Beauty Oil is a gorgeous dry oil that is a blend of nine oils that give me glow without shine.

  3. B3 Beard Oil is a must have for me. It keeps my beard shiny and healthy.

  4. Jones Road Miracle Balm is an effortless everyday must-have that keeps me ready for camera and Zoom calls, but looks natural and leaves my skin glowing and healthy without feeling heavy.

  5. The Creative Makeup Black Shadow is the perfect pigment for lining my eyes and stays put for long days on set that turn into long night of work or fun.

One product every makeup artist needs in their kit:

Honestly, Jones Road Miracle Balm is part of every makeup application for me.

Your style icon:

Joan Jett and Stevie Nicks. I fuse the two together in my own look and kind of end up looking like Ann Wilson from Heart.

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I think cool is about finding your own individuality and style and being comfortable enough with that to share it with others and live out loud.

Advice you’d give your younger self:

Be yourself babe.

Advice you'd give makeup artists just starting out:

Put down your phone and be yourself babe.

What does “cool” mean to you?

I think cool is about finding your own individuality and style and being comfortable enough with that to share it with others and live out loud.

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