KKW's makeup guru talks about his path in the industry

By Jillian Ruffo
June 21, 2017 09:00 AM
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Credit: Source: Mario Dedivanovic/Instagram

Ten years ago, makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic wasn’t quite sure who Kim Kardashian was — he was trying to jump start his career and she was starring on her first season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Now, a decade later, he’s created countless looks on Kardashian, which have set the beauty benchmark for many aspiring makeup artists, not to mention the thousands of people who travel the globe to learn his secrets at his Masterclass. And with over three million Instagram followers, Dedivanovic is not only a fixture in the beauty world — he’s personally transforming it.

We spoke to the pro about his favorite products, his partnership with Clarisonic, and exactly how he became one of the most famous makeup artists in the world. Below, everything you need to know.

How did you know you wanted to be a makeup artist?
I had never thought about beauty or makeup until I was 17. I’m from the Bronx, so I went into Manhattan to look for a summer job and Sephora was a brand new store in the United States. I walked in with my mom and I just remember being overwhelmed with chills all over my body. They hired me as a fragrance consultant because I had no experience or knowledge about beauty. On my first day of work — my job was to stand at the door and just welcome everyone to Sephora — a woman asked me to help her choose a lipstick shade. I was supposed to say, “I’m sorry I work in fragrance, I’ll get you somebody that works in color,” but I just went and helped her. I handed her a shade and she tried it on and she was like, “I love this, thank you so much.” I’ll never forget that moment, it just hit me. I was like, “This is it, I want to be a makeup artist.”

What happened after that?
I remember my first makeover; I asked my manager at Sephora if I could do one. It was my first time I ever applied makeup on someone and it took me three hours. She was like, ‘Honey, you gotta be quicker than that.’ Eventually I was hired as a makeup artist at another Sephora store and from there I was recruited by different brands as a regional makeup artist. I began building my portfolio because this was pre-social media — back then you really had to pay your dues. I was working with photographers and then I began assisting makeup artists and working on set. And I did that on and off for six years; I assisted lots of the greats, from Billy B to Kabuki. I was doing anchors’ makeup at Fox News on the weekend as a freelance gig. I was working for Armani Beauty at Saks, I was working at Henri Bendel, anything I could do to make money. At 21 years of age I got my first agent in New York and I was working with this photographer named Fadil Berisha in New York and he started putting me on the Miss Universe winners, Miss USA, Miss Teen and I started getting little bits and pieces in my portfolio.

Kim Kardashian has gone from your client to a friend through the years. How did you two meet?
A photographer friend of mine called me and said, ‘Hey I have this shoot tomorrow, it’s at 7 AM and I need you to come. There’s this girl named Kim Kardashian and she has reality show and we’re shooting her for the cover of Social Life Magazine.” I said, “I don’t think I can do it. I don’t want to take off from work.” He begged me, so I looked her up and I kind of knew who she was — she was on season one at that time — so I did it, and we really hit it off. When we were done with the makeup, she was like, “This is gonna sound crazy but would you mind taking me shopping right now? I want to buy everything that you used on me.” At this point I was already late to Fox but I couldn’t say no to her, so we went to Henri Bendel and she bought everything I used. A couple of months after that, she was starting Dancing with the Stars and really gaining national fame. For someone who didn’t have global fame, she worked everyday–there was always something going on. So I worked with her in New York and then she started flying me to LA and we’ve worked together ever since.

What’s one of your funniest memories with Kim?
Kim and I were once working on a magazine cover in Miami. This was when she really liked a lot of makeup, and she was really adamant about wearing false lashes. But the photographer kept coming up to us and saying that we couldn’t have lashes on this shoot, so Kim was like, “Let’s go in the bathroom. Bring the lashes and the glue.” Her show was filming and followed us into the bathroom, but when you’re filming for hours you don’t realize that the cameras are there. So we’re in the bathroom putting full on individual long eyelashes and we come out and the photographer is like, “Hey, do you have lashes on?” She said, “No, I don’t have lashes on, I have naturally long lashes.” The show airs and you see us in the bathroom putting lashes on and we’re both like, “F—k! We promised that we didn’t put any lashes on and now we’re busted on national television.”

What’s been the most exciting moment in your career?
The Master Class – it’s something that I started like eight years ago with twenty people and years later having it be with me onstage, standing in front of thousands of people who are clapping for me and who all came from literally every continent in the world to come see me do makeup and it’s kind of those moments where it’s just overwhelming, like how did I get here? It’s like an epiphany really. Those are the things that make me feel the most fulfilled like I’ve done something right.

We’re all wondering – do you have anything to do with KKW Beauty?
I don’t. Everyone on social media is just assuming that this product is almost mine. But no, I’ve watched her working on this for a long time and it’s all 100% Kim. It’s not Mario. Obviously she asked for my advice and what I think about it. KKW Beauty is more about what she likes when she’s personally doing her own makeup—the formulas and the textures and what she finds easy. She’s really taken that and made that in production. So it’s definitely the formulas that she likes and as far as color things like that, I’ll help her, but I don’t have a role in creation of the brand. The aesthetic is so Kim. It is 100% Kim from everything from the look of it, the feel of it, the aesthetic of it, the packaging, the social media, everything is 100% her and I love that about it.

Kim has gone through many makeup phases, from super glamorous to toned down. How has her look evolved?
We often call each other twins because we’re always thinking the same exact thing. I’ll text her something and she’ll always say, “No stop, I was about to text you that.” We think the same exact way and we have a very similar aesthetic and our aesthetic has evolved together through the years. We both kind of naturally evolved our style of makeup. We feel the same thing always, so when she decided she wanted to go natural, I was so ready, I was so happy. She has a total total trust in me so rarely does she ask me what am I gonna do or question what I’m doing. She just feels her most pretty when I do her makeup. It’s never something that is planned or manipulated. A lot of artists have like things of inspiration and they plan the look before hand, but I never ever know what I’m doing until I’m actually there working. It works for her and I.

Now that she’s launching a contour kit, does that mean the contoured look is here to stay?
Contouring will never go away. Contouring has always been something that we have used as makeup artists since the early 1900s. People in recent years found out how to do it; they found the trick of the trade. We’ve always contoured on Kim and we used to go a lot heavier back in the day, but no matter how much she changes her makeup, the one thing that is consistent is that she’s always going to have contour. She’s always going to have something on her cheeks, something warming up the frame of her face and her nose.

You’re known for your air-brushed, flawless look. How can someone recreate that it on their own?
It’s all about perfecting. Taking time blending is really all about perfecting the skin and really trying to make the skin look as flawless as possible. I don’t take any short cuts, unless I have to. I’ve always used tried and true techniques, but the Clarisonic foundation brush really gives the most beautiful blended look and it saves time. You can blend the foundation so flawlessly and quickly, so it’s kind of like a no-brainer; you don’t have to work because it does it for you.

What has your mom taught you about beauty?
My mom has never ever worn any makeup her entire life. She comes from Montenegro, she was a sheep herder, never went to school, that kind of thing. She’s never worn makeup, was never allowed to in her childhood or her teens and she wasn’t allowed to when she got married. But she taught me about inner beauty, which is even more important. Everything I do is to make my mom proud. She taught me about hard work, doing the right thing, making the right decisions and overall just being a good person and beautiful on the inside. She’s so incredibly proud of me now and she brags about me now, but in the earlier days, she wouldn’t tell people I was a makeup artist. She would lie and say, “He works for a clothing store in the city.” But now she’s so proud.

What do your clients want to learn from you?
The most questions I get are about skin. Like, “Wait, what foundation is that? What powder is that? What concealer is that?”

What’s your favorite look you’ve ever created?
Kim’s wedding to Kanye, just because there is so much emotional attachment to it. I remember doing that look with so much love and doing it with all of my soul and truly just wanting her to look like the absolute most beautiful because she was so incredibly happy. To this day it’s been one of my favorite looks ever. It was so pretty, nothing was crazy over done, no lashes… every element was just so pretty. I wish we had pictures of it that I could show. No one to this day has been able to see that look clearly, because there haven’t really been color photos of it released. That was a turning point in my career as well. I don’t why or how, but things just really took off in a dramatic way after that in terms of social media.

Credit: Courtesy Def Jam

If you could only use one product for the rest of your life what would it be?
On myself, the Clarisonic brush to cleanse my skin. And on a client, it would be a bronzer, because I could use it on the eyes, on the cheeks, on the brows, and to warm up the face. It would have to be a product with multiple uses. The one I really love right now is from Serge Lutens.

Whats your favorite Kylie Cosmetics product?
I actually put a lot of her products in my kit. I love, love, love her brown crème liner that comes in a pot. It’s the perfect brown with the right amount of red in it. When I don’t want to use black liner, the brown just looks so pretty on everyone from fair skin dark skin.

You created a sell-out eye shadow palette, The Master Palette. What did you learn from the process?
I learned I was incredibly indecisive. It made me extremely afraid of failure and put a lot of pressure on me. They had to push the launch date one entire year because I kept changing it. I wanted to make sure it was something truly 100% me and it was a good product that no one can say anything bad about. At the end of the day, the formula was amazing.

What’s the coolest thing about your job?
The Master Class — it’s just honestly the coolest and most special part of the job for me. It goes beyond being a celebrity makeup artist, it becomes so much more, you change people’s lives and you inspire someone. And to inspire someone it’s like the craziest thing in the world for them and for me.

What’s your beauty mantra?
Something that has been consistent throughout my whole career is that I don’t really follow trends; I just do what is most beautiful on my clients. I don’t care much for trendy products or the current trends that are going on. If it works with my clients, I’ll do it, otherwise I wont do it. I just want to make every client I work with look as beautiful and feel as beautiful as they possibly can and that’s taking a quite along with my career; it really works for me.

What’s your favorite look from Dedivanovic? Sound off in the comments below.