Hailey Bieber makeup tutorial: How to recreate her flawless skin and lilac eyeshadow by Shiseido makeup artist Vincent Oquendo

Class act

Text: Emily Heng

Real-life success stories in recent times are often accredited to the power of social media. Take Grammy nominee Shawn Mendes for example, who got his start on video-sharing application, Vine, while model-turned-actress Barbie Ferreira rose to fame in part thanks to her Instagram account. Fascinating as it is to witness their meteoric rise through a series of tweets, Instagram stories, and Internet statistics, we can't help but feel a tad nostalgic for the humble origin stories of yesteryear. Think: Gisele Bündchen being scouted at McDonald's; Kelly Clarkson plucked out of obscurity thanks to American Idol; and Vincent Oquendo discovered at Saks Fifth Avenue's cosmetics department by MUA legend, Pat McGrath.

The latter is a tale that proves familiar amongst the beauty community. "When I first started out, I was working in nightlife. I bartended, I did cocktail waiting, and just about everything to pay my rent," Vincent Oquendo, who is Shiseido’s Global Artist, shares matter-of-factly. "I got fired from many, many restaurants, I was waiting tables, but it wasn't my passion. I knew what was my passion, which was makeup. Eventually, I got the opportunity to work with Pat McGrath." The self-taught makeup artist took years to build his portfolio before landing a gig at Fashion's Night Out in New York where he assisted Mcgrath on her secondary makeup team. He was later invited to stay on, and continued helping out at shoots and shows for big names Anna Sui and John Galliano before he left to forge his own path. And the rest, as they say, is history.

In 2019, Oquendo is the go-to makeup artist to an extensive list of it-girls from Bella Hadid to Elsa Hosk, regularly featured in acclaimed international publications (like Buro. Singapore!), and Shiseido's Global Ambassador and Artist — which is what brought him to our sunny shores. So, what's next for this makeup maestro? We sat down with the mastermind himself to find out the secret to his beauty prowess and the methods behind his one-of-a-kind lewks.

When did you first discover your passion for makeup?
I wasn't a very artistic child, if you can I believe it. I was a lot sportier growing up [Laughs]. When I went to college in New York, I wanted to work at Saks Fifth Avenue as one of those guys who would spray perfume at people who'd go past. I wanted the job, I didn't get the job — but as I was leaving the department, this pregnant woman spotted me and she invited me to come and work for the sunglasses department. Now, the sunglasses section is right next to cosmetics, and I remember I could just see it clear from where I was working every day. It called to me, and I just fell in love with it.

I made the shift soon enough. I didn't know what I was doing, but I was willing to learn and listen. I learnt from the customers, the women at Saks Fifth Avenue... Makeup brands do seasonal training, too, so that was where I picked up my fundamentals. Then, I discovered Kevyn Aucoin's book, Making Faces, and found out about this thing called the Powder Group, which is a collective of artists that do makeup shows. That's where I met big celebrity makeup artist, Billy B, and I offered to assist him for free and that's when I saw a really different side of the industry.

Different in a good way, or...?
Oh, a great way! I was mesmerized straight away by the idea of doing editorial, celebrities, and fashion.

What was the first product that caught your eye way back when you were working in Saks?
Oh god, I don't think that there was one in particular [Laughs]. You know, we've all been on the makeup floor in a department store. It's like being in a beehive — that's the best way to describe it. There's a humming, an urgency. I was entranced by that. It was the spirit of it that really pulled me in, and the ritual of it. I considered each counter its own sort of universe. Before I signed with Shiseido, I remember seeing their counter at Saks Fifth Avenue and there was this serenity to it. This spa-like, elevated feeling, where they'd take cotton pads to do a facial massage, and hold it in this certain way... It felt so exotic to me. I would never imagine in a million years that I would work with a brand like Shiseido and I'm so glad that I do because it feels so special.

We noticed that you work with a pretty impressive list of celebrities, too.
[Laughs]. Yes... a couple of my regular clients are Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lily Collins, Elsa Hosk, Bella Hadid, Sara Sampio, Hailey Steinfeld, Janelle Monae, Winnie Harlow... Oh, and Bebe Rexha is a new client of mine, too. She's very exciting and fun.

Who would be your dream client?
Julie Newmar. She's the original Catwoman, and I think she's the epitome of sexy. I hold her in the same category as I do Jane Fonda. She's an elevated, sophisticated, strong woman... there's a versatility to her.

What are some of the more memorable makeup looks you've created?
Some of my favourites are the ones I created for the Cannes Film Festival. I feel like Cannes is on an international stage, where the whole world is looking no matter if it's Asia, Europe, America... Those are the looks that get the biggest traction. So, I like to challenge myself with it, and take risks in a glamorous way. I really loved this one look I did for Winnie Harlow, where we did a violet purple eye, and she wore a Ralph & Russo gown that was sheer on the sides.

What inspires you?
I find most of my inspiration from old Hollywood and nature. I have an assistant who creates this moodboards of orchids, flowers, and things like that. I just love how nature puts colours together. When you look at orchid show, you are just mesmerised by the beauty of nature, you know? I'm always trying to translate that combination of colours onto someone's face. Like for Hailey's look we just re-created, I remember the main inspiration behind it was the dress. It had a really cool opalescent feeling to it, but with a tremendous amount of depth and dimensions that is traditional of my work. It's monochromatic, but there's so many layers to it!

Is monochromatic eyeshadow a makeup trend you're looking forward to seeing more of?
Not really, but only because I'm pretty anti-trend! [Laughs] I love disrupters. I am constantly inspired by people and clients who go against what everybody says, because those are the ones that are memorable. I'm more interested in creating the trend than following it.

That sounds like you enjoy taking risks with makeup...
When I feel it, I do it. I am truly an artist in that sense. When I feel it in my heart, I communicate it to my clients, and I think they feel my passion for it. And they just get excited by my excitement, you know? They trust me. Like Lily Collins, she doesn't even ask me what I'm doing. She just lets me do whatever I want. They have complete faith, because you are the expert and the master. I don't take that responsibility light, and it just brings me so much joy that they believe in me.

The risk paid off! We loved what you did for Lily recently.
Yes, oh my god. It was such a controversy amongst beauty editors. People were like, "Is it blue, is it purple...?" I loved it.

Her complexion looked amazing. What are your tips for creating a flawless base?
Find a full coverage and medium coverage concealer and dance between the two. Use broader strokes for the one with medium coverage, and tap lightly with the full coverage offering. Really concentrate it and eradicate anything you don't want to show! This allows for skin to still look like skin — where you can see the pores, peach fuzz, and freckles, but dark circles, discolouration and broken blood vessels are covered.

Is there a right order to put it on?
No. It's truly like a dance. You feel the impulse in the moment. For me, sometimes I even use the medium coverage concealer to sculpt. This pushes out the colour you've laid down.

Wait, so no foundation?
I tend to opt more for concealer than foundation. It's very true to my style. I use foundation to sheer down concealer. If my makeup is a sandwich, bread is the medium concealer, meat is the foundation, and concealer is the other piece of bread [Laughs]. Foundation is more of a mixing medium for me, in a way.

We noticed you use both fingers and brushes during makeup application.
That's because for me, skin should still look like skin, no matter what. I'm not interested in a too perfect, flawless complexion. I'm always trying to make looks that are aspirational; that I think people want to wear. In fact, I've heard from other celebrities that I'm the account they look to when they need a reference for red carpets. It's a huge compliment. There's a couple of celebrities — big ones! — who just followed me, and I'm like, "Girl! Book me!"

What's one makeup tip you have?
Take risks! Coloured mascara, for instance — it's not just for the '80s! Jewel-tone mascaras are flattering on every skin tone. Violet is great, too. It's not as intimidating, you know — I think I gave this tip in the video, where you can put black mascara on the root of your lash, and then ombré that violet over it. Or just do violet on the bottom lashes.

How do you apply mascara on your bottom lashes with a chunkier wand?
Hold it vertically. Almost like a pencil! Go vertical, side-to-side, and just coat the lashes like that.

Last question: if you could sum yourself up into a single makeup product, you would be...?
A highlighter, because I like to shine bright.


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