How do Hollywood’s leading ladies get their glow? For many, their secret is Laura Mercier makeup artist Pati Dubroff, who has worked with Liv Tyler, Karlie Kloss, Kylie Jenner, and Margot Robbie just to name a few. She’s the woman behind Margot Robbie’s amazing Suicide Squad press tour glam and Dakota Johnson‘s go-to girl. And when it comes to finding beauty inspiration, her Instagram feed is our first stop. So to find out how she became one of the most sought after makeup artists in Hollywood, Dubroff shared her journey — from assisting François Nars to traveling with Naomi Watts — with us for our series, The Pro Files.
What got you into the beauty business?
“I distinctly remember being 10 years old sitting at my mothers makeup table and being absolutely fixated with everything that was on that table; the packages and the colors and the textures. I was always asking anyone that I could to put makeup on them when I was a kid, and I remember thinking, ‘I want to do something with this when I grow up.’ but at that point, being a makeup artist wasn’t a known career. It took me a couple years of figuring out, ‘How am I going to do something with this?'”
Where did you get your start?
“I moved to N.Y.C. right after I graduated high school — pretty much the next day — and my first job was selling makeup at the Yves Saint Laurent counter in Bergdorf Goodman. I’m really grateful for it because it gave me the opportunity to put makeup on all different kinds of people and really practice all day long. I didn’t even go to any formalized schooling — I think of those days at Bergdorf’s as my prep school.”
After that, I worked at MTV studios, which, in the early 80’s was a really exciting time to be there. Will Smith had a show called Yo! MTV Raps and I was in the studios doing makeup on the VJs and whoever came through. And then Cindy Crawford launched a show called House of Style and I started to do makeup for those shows in the beginning. Then I started to assist on fashion shows and I met with the big makeup artists of that time, and became Francois Nars’ assistant for a year and a half and I would go to Paris and Milan for shows and do photo shoots with everyone. It was a very exciting time to be in the fashion world. After assisting him I broke off and started doing work on my own and literally working with some of the photographers I had met at the assistant level. And that started my journey in the fashion world.”
Who was your mentor?
“François Nars. He wasn’t just someone who let me observe and he also let me be proactive, he was a great teacher in that he would do half the face and I would do the other half of the face. He’d ask me questions, he’d talk about why he was doing things. I learned how to be very precise and fast, which is so important because if you take too long on a base, you really just end up messing it up.”
How did you land your first celebrity client?
“It was Liv Tyler, when she was an actress but she was modeling too, doing fashion magazines. It really was the early stages of actresses making a big presence in the fashion world. She was one of the early ones I had shot a cover with — we met on a cover shoot for Jane magazine — and definitely the first one whose makeup I did for an award show. She was presenting at the Oscars with her dad and that was my first time doing anything for the Oscars. That was a long time ago.”
When did branch out on your own?
“When I worked with François, it was really fashion, fashion, fashion. We worked with Madonna, who was obviously a very big celebrity, but it was about the fashion. It was more and more actresses being photographed for fashion magazine covers and I started to find that what suited my personality was working with actresses and really making these women look like the most incredible versions of themselves. That’s really when I feel like I came into my own because I accepted that the world of Hollywood and the beauty of actresses was a good fit for me.”
When did you feel like you had made it as a makeup artist?
“There was a moment when I decided to move to Los Angeles — like 14 years ago — it was one of those moments where I knew that I was making the right move. I landed in Los Angeles from New York and there was a message from my agent telling me to call him right away. He said that I had just booked the Vanity Fair Hollywood cover with Annie Leibovitz. I had never worked with Annie before and I had never shot a Vanity Fair cover before, and there I was, landing to make my move to Hollywood and booking one of the most important Hollywood covers of the year. When I think of it I have chills.”
What’s your most requested look?
“I think when people work with me they know that their skin is going to look incredible, it’s not going to look like they have foundation on. I think that’s why they seek me out. It’s like making the skin look like the most healthy, flawless, radiant version of their skin. I spend the majority of the time with skin when I’m working on someone.”
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What’s your favorite celebrity memory?
“Years ago, with Naomi Watts in Venice for her movie 21 Grams. They got a standing ovation that went on and on and on and on, and it was such an incredible moment because when a film like that is shown for the first time in such a highly critical audience and it gets received like that, it’s something really magical. That was a great moment.”
What’s your all time favorite look that you’ve created?
“Most recently, I did Margot Robbie for the Suicide Squad premiere. It was perfect. Doing a lip like that is hard, really hard. I was online with my fingers and my toes crossed, hoping that it photographed well. It photographed perfectly.”
How would you consider yourself unique in the beauty world?
“There’s something for everyone in terms of clients and artists. People are seeking you out because of the way you do their skin or the way you make their eyes look. But ultimately I think why they’re seeking you out is because energetically, you match. You bring something to the table. I work pretty hard at keeping myself pretty grounded and centered, and I hope that I bring that to the table so that people will want to have me around.”
What’s the most important lesson that you teach your clients?
“To keep their brushes clean. People have to be taught that.”
What would you say is the coolest part of your job?
“When someone looks in the mirror after I’ve worked on them and they see a reflection back that makes them feel really confident and really beautiful and gives them a boost of beauty energy. That’s pretty darn cool.”
Did you ever fail miserably?
“I had an eyelash incident — I’m not going to say with who — I put false lashes on a client for a carpet event, and I didn’t secure the lash very well. There was a series of events that also loosened the lash and it was falling. That was horrible. Thank god it was fixed but I’m really quick to tell other makeup artists I’m not good at strip lashes. Individual lashes, I’m great. Strip lashes, it’s awful.”
If you could use one product for the rest of your life what would it be?
“Laura Mercier Velour Lovers Lip Colour. Texture wise, there’s nothing better than a very rich and full-bodied lipstick that doesn’t dry out your lips.”
What’s your beauty mantra?
“Beautiful, radiant, healthy skin is everything.”
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