Fenty Beauty’s Global Makeup Artist spills the secret behind Rihanna’s lit AF makeup looks

Fenty Beauty’s Global Makeup Artist spills the secret behind Rihanna’s lit AF makeup looks

Girl on fire

Text: Emily Heng

Image: Instagram | @fentybeauty

While nothing can fully ease the sting of Queen RiRi's three-year-long musical hiatus, us makeup devotees can agree that Fenty Beauty comes incredibly close. Breaking boundaries and new ground since its inception in 2017, the brand is synonymous with all things right in the beauty industry these days: diversity, inclusivity, and equality, just to name a few.

"I just feel like it's important to make everyone feel included whether it is race, skin tone, or culture," explains Hector Espinal, Global Makeup Artist of Fenty Beauty. With an instrumental role in the brand's industry-shaking growth, launch and products (including the Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Foundation that started it all), the makeup artist is unwavering when it comes to the brand's vision and mission. 


This is evident in the release of their all-new Sun Stalk'r Instant Warmth Bronzer, available in eight shades that promise to bring all skin tones to life. And if Hector has anything to say about it (which he does), this is simply one of the many supposed limitations of the beauty industry that Fenty Beauty is aiming to shatter. We sit down with the man of the moment to find out more, from his bronzing do's and don'ts to the one makeup trend that should never make a comeback, ever.

When did you discover your passion for makeup?
It started in 2009, but I feel that my passion only truly grew in 2012. That was the first time where I began to really grasp what was makeup. In my first few years, I was still discovering what to do, and I'd be doing all these crazy makeup applications...  


How did this passion come about?
I actually was a babysitter, so I used to draw a lot with the kid I watched. And so, when I went for an interview with Sephora, I showed them my sketches. And that was when they decided to make me a makeup artist — which I was not a fan of at first, but it worked out. It was something I discovered for the first time. Like, I had no idea what concealer was when I first started.

Back up. Why weren't you a fan of becoming a makeup artist, at first?
It was just never my thing. I never liked the idea of touching a woman like that! [Laughs] But it all worked out, and I became a national makeup artist for Sephora. I would represent the company in the highest level of artistry and do national campaigns and all that good jazz. Then, Fenty Beauty happened.

What are your sources of inspiration when crafting Fenty Beauty's campaign looks?
Oh lord, everything. It takes everything out of my body. When we are doing those campaigns, what we do is a lot of brainstorming beforehand with Rihanna herself. It is usually a very intimate room with Priscilla, her, and I, and we just brainstorm everything that she could possibly imagine.


It really boils down to, "how can we make the brand different?" When you have to think about that, you really just get inspired by everything, even by this plant right here. Like I'm looking at it and thinking, "I could do a really brown smoky eye with Midnight Wasabi." It's just those things you look at that are beautiful.

What are some Fenty Beauty products you can't live without?
Aside from Gloss Bomb — which everyone knows I love — I'll have to say the new bronzers. One, I made them, thank you very much, and two, I love being bronzed. I think it's a Spanish thing for me, like I like wearing a lot. Like, I want people knowing that I am wearing bronzer.

What are your bronzing do's and don'ts?
There's plenty of both. The way these bronzers work is that they are very forgiving as the formula's texture is very lightweight. We also decided to go with matte, because it gives you the room to really play.

The do's: less is always more. Start with sheer coverage, then build warmth to the skin. We've made it very easy for the consumer where bronzers are divided into four families — light, medium, tan and deep — and within each family, you're going to have two bronzers. So, one is something that is more neutral, and the other is something warmer. It gives you the room to explore.


The don'ts includes over-applying. The center of your face always has to be nice and light. People think that bronzer is meant to make you tanned, and it's not, it's meant to make you warm. Like a flushed, sexy inner glow. Another don't is choosing the wrong shade.

How do you prevent from choosing the wrong shade? What if you can't identify your undertone?
There are a lot of easy ways to find your undertone. One of the best ways is to going to your forearm and pressing at it with your thumb... press it down hard enough and pull away, and automatically you'll see the colour of your undertone right there. 

Any brushes or tools beginners can use to make bronzing easier?
At Fenty, we always give multiple options to play with, so, in this case, we have two brushes. The Sculpting Bronzing Brush is more artistry-driven. Rihanna designed this one. The Cheek-Hugging Bronzer Brush is more forgiving. It grabs the cheeks, forehead, and sweeps a nice, even coating over them. The formula of the product is actually very, very sheer, so it's very hard to mess up. Remember: never use your fingers for bronzer, you'll just look blotchy.


Are there any makeup trends you're really excited for in 2019?
I have to say skin. I feel like we went through a stage where people were wearing too much foundation or too much coverage, and now it's more about understanding your skin, making it look glowing and healthy. 

The '90s are coming back in a really big way. Are there any trends you don't want to see making a comeback?
Skinny brows. I know Rihanna said she wants them to come back but I mean... I sat her down, and I was like, "you can pull off anything, and you're going to look great." It's Rihanna. Rihanna can put a leaf over her face, and people are going to be like, "That's so beautiful." But I think like for the everyday woman, you know, when you mess with your brows, you are basically reshaping your entire face because your face structure is the frame of your face, so I'd have to say no to skinny brows.


I hear that you played a critical role in selecting Fenty Beauty's boundary-breaking array of 50 foundation hues. Tell me more about that.
At Sephora, I used to do a lot of product development, and when Rihanna found that out, she was like, "Perfect, guess where are you going to be for the next six months." [Laughs] But really, it's not the amount of foundation we have. The point of difference with us is the undertones. It's really about finding this niche of undertones that we were missing, and it's one of those things we really wanted to master. And that's why they put me in there, because I know how to do that.

What is a makeup look that you would think Singaporean ladies should try?
I think there's not a specific style because it's makeup, you know? Try anything that you can possibly try. If you're afraid of colour, then start with the lips, or use a Killawatt Foil on your eyes. And if you don't like it, then wipe it off and try something different. Makeup is fun, there shouldn't be a look or a standard rule. Rules are meant to be broken. If I was a girl growing up, I would be doing my makeup like a club kid from the '80s all the time.