M.A.C.’s Romero Jennings On Creating ‘Alien Realness’ For The Blonds

Beauty is an ever-changing industry—and one person who’s kept up with the times is Romero Jennings. The director of makeup artistry for M.A.C. has endless advice to share from his lengthy career; from using social media as a portfolio to the importance of finding your go-to mascara. Jennings is also a Fashion Week pro, having made standout beauty looks this season for designers like The Blonds, Frederick Anderson, and Prabal Gurung. The Daily caught up with him to find out what life’s truly like as an inclusive beauty leader—plus which products we should always have in our makeup bags!

What’s your earliest memory involving beauty and makeup?
Growing up I remember being mostly influenced and interested in beauty through music. Musicians like Grace Jones, Debbie Harry, and Diana Ross were rule breakers and futuristic trailblazers and I found that interesting.

How did you get your start in the industry?
I was a freelance makeup artist and I discovered M.A.C. Cosmetics from a colleague on a music video set. I applied for a job at M.A.C. and for 27 years, I have found the perfect balance of working for a global makeup brand and being an independent artist. M.A.C. helped nurture my career and growth by opening many doors and exposing me to the global world of beauty. They turned me on to social media when it all started back in the 1990s, and that’s now an important part of being an artist. Social media has become the new business card. Ooh, wait—no one uses business cards these days! Well, it’s become your new makeup portfolio that shows the world your vision of beauty.

Tell us about your role as director of makeup artistry at M.A.C. Is there a such thing as an average day at work, and what does that look like?
As director of makeup at M.A.C., there is no usual day. I interact with multiple departments of the brand on many different types of projects. One day I can be sitting in a three hour product development meeting. The next, I can be backstage at shows in New York, Milan, or Paris creating looks for designers, or at a photo shoot. I also have what I call the ‘unsexy’ part of my job. It is a monthly expense report. Dealing with numbers wasn’t always interesting, but I started to realize the value in accountability, discipline, and structure [which] helped my business and personal life too. I find corporate training valuable and it helps keep me relevant.

You’ve created so many looks for NYFW! What do you love about working on a beauty look for a show?
I really enjoy the creative process. The dance between the designer, stylist, hair and makeup can be a beauty symphony. The process is as intriguing as the beautiful finished look.

You just did the super-glam makeup for The Blonds’ latest collection. Tell us about the inspiration and the direction for the looks. What were the star products?
Working with The Blonds is always electric! The energy at The Blonds shows never disappoints. The Blonds always seem to transport you to another world, and this time it was that of a futuristic warrior. This was a right fit for me, as I have always been interested in technology and serving ‘alien realness!’ Key products were the Pro Longwear Paint Pot in Born to Beam—a rich yellow gold used on the eyelids and tops of the cheekbones as highlight. I added a 14K gold brilliant finish by adding Kiss of Klimt Dazzleshadow Extreme eye shadow. I used the Paint Pot shadow in Groundwork to sculpt and define the eye crease and cheekbone to create an alien-like contour. I overdrew the lip for impact with Stone lip pencil and applied Peachstock lipstick and the Poutsiders Powerglass lip gloss for a ‘galactical’ shine. I also created a customized silver metal eye brow appliqué to compliment the clothes and add a layer of armor.

A makeup look by Jennings for The Blonds (Courtesy)

What was different about creating looks and being on set during the pandemic, compared to past seasons?
The new normal on set is really something old school. The feeling is that you have to be more creative, since production teams want to keep the body count low on the set for safety reasons. This means bringing everything that you need and more, just in case the look changes. PPE is key, so making sure to bring all the necessary safety items and following guidelines is a must. So having an organized well-stocked makeup kit is critical. Many designers found value in creating shoots and videos instead of shows. The creative process is the same but all else is heightened.

You did so many shows this season. What’s the process like working with designers to come up with the beauty angle?
This season for New York Fashion Week, I created looks for Prabal Gurung, The Blonds, and designer Frederick Anderson. Working with designers, hair stylists, and clothing stylists is always great since everyone helps to complete the designer’s vision. It really is a magical process to interpret the designer’s vision and create a look that enhances—but doesn’t overpower—the clothes.

What are some of your favorite moments from your career?
Working with the amazing Daphne Guinness, Ellen von Unwerth, Troye Sivan, supermodel Elsa Hosk, and being asked to do this interview are definite highlights of my career.

You’re known online for creating really dramatic, colorful lashes! Where do your ideas for those come from?
I discovered my love for creating custom eyelashes and eyebrows for editorial photoshoots. I love technology and get inspired by it, but I have a passion for gardening and I get many ideas while outside. Nature is wondrous and sometimes I get inspired by the many shades of green in my garden. Hours can feel like minutes when gardening, and I really get lost in it before surfacing clear-minded and refreshed.

Do you have a go-to beauty look/inspiration for everyday makeup?
Since we are all trying to look good on virtual calls, I now realize how important blush and contouring is. Blush helps add life and color to your face. My favorite is Glow Play blush in Rosy Does It, which looks like healthy glowing skin. This shade is flattering on every skin tone, and a must-have in my makeup kit. I have created the floating blush technique and trend—where you apply blush to the cheeks and add a bit to the tops of your eyebrows. This elevates the face, giving you an instant lift that pleasantly draws your eyes upward. Since we’re all wearing masks when going out in public, this upward blush placement is key. A soft applicator—like the #128S brush—helps speed up the process to just a few seconds.

What beauty products do you think everyone should have in their vanity?
Blush, concealer, mascara, and a nude lip are game changers. Just mascara or lip color alone can attract good attention and be an icebreaker. I love the Extended Play Perm Me Up lash mascara with a curved, detailed brush and lightweight formula, which delivers controlled lengthening and thickening. I love the Powder Kiss liquid lipstick formula in Date Maker. This is a buildable and hydrating matte lipstick that looks great on many skin tones. It photographs like a real lip color and can be customized with a lip pencil like Spice, Cork, Plum, or Chestnut. The Prep + Prime Skin Refined Zone is a liquid primer that can be used under or on top of makeup to stabilize, minimize pores, smooth and soften fine lines. It is colorless and creates smooth skin on camera and in real life.

How have you seen beauty change throughout your career?
I have seen the beauty industry begin to create more inclusive beauty, which is something that M.A.C. has always believed in: “All Ages. All Races. All Genders.” Beauty has no boundaries!

What advice do you have for the makeup artists of tomorrow?
My advice is to study your craft and find out what you excel at. Never stop learning, as the beauty industry pivots quickly. If you blink you might miss the next important wave. Utilize social media as a learning tool to keep you updated and educated. Physically practice makeup often to keep skills sharp. I was worried about this during the COVID-19 lockdown, and that’s why I started doing self-application during quarantine. I then rediscovered the power of makeup, and that it can be mood-altering.

What projects are you working on now? What’s next for you?
I have  many upcoming projects that I am working on now. Some of them will surface in three years! I prefer to say ‘Stay tuned’ and check out my Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok for the next project.

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