Long Island to the World: My Life-Long Passion for Makeup
by Pamela Taylor
As a child, I was destined to become a makeup artist. Even at the young age of five or six, I recall being attracted to color, texture, packaging, and anything to do with makeup. Some of my earliest memories are of shopping with my mom and being inextricably drawn to the makeup counter of the store.
I was transfixed by the color palettes and textures of makeup, imagining putting the colors together and visualizing the endless possibilities. Every afternoon, I would watch the cartoon featuring Penelope Pitstop, a character that drove a convertible car featuring an automated lipstick dispenser and eyelash headlights.
I was born and raised on the South Shore of Long Island. As a young child, I recall visiting my grandparents’ home and being mesmerized by the watercolor tubes and watercolor painting method I saw my grandmother use when she had paintings on the easel. Each summer our family visited another relative in Montauk Point, a seaside town that seemed to be magical.
I was the youngest of four girls. My mother was a natural, outdoorsy-type who enjoyed nature and beauty, however never cared much for makeup. She did teach her daughters how to care for and protect their skin – two important qualities to have growing up on Long Island, frequenting the beach and playing in the sun.
At an early age, I loved to look at people’s faces and imagine the possibilities. I truly enjoyed seeing the faces and expressions of others, but it would be a few more years before I would realize I would become so influential in the world of makeup artistry and be a leading creator of artistic expression through makeup, myself.
During my teenage years, I began venturing from Long Island into Manhattan with a friend’s mother, who had a scarf design business. Her name was Jane and she was my first unofficial mentor. We would go into Manhattan by train and would arrive in Penn Station, where we would map out wholesale shopping destinations. We would explore the fashion district, going in and out of buildings, looking at new fabrics and products for her business. I enjoyed the energy of New York and enjoyed going on every adventure.
In the city, there were people from all different cultures, so to view all the different faces was exciting. One afternoon, we passed by a photoshoot on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art – I stopped short and was mesmerized. There, I watched the makeup artist, who wore a belt overflowing with brushes and worked with palettes like a real makeup artist. During the ‘80s, there were no MAC counters or makeup lines that had makeup artists like this. This was the real behind-the-scenes action that I read about in magazines. Mustering the courage, I approached the makeup artist on the shoot. She was very encouraging and told me about the work she was doing. After that experience, I had no doubts – I wanted to be a makeup artist.
I began reading and studying the most popular beauty and fashion magazines. It was the ‘80s – my favorite models at the time were Brooke Shields, Christy Brinkley, and Cheryl Tiegs. I would often dream about creating their makeup looks and intently read every article I could about makeup application. It was during this period that I read about top makeup artist, Way Bandy. During the 1970s, Bandy became one of the most well-known and highest paid makeup artists in the fashion industry. I purchased his book, “Designing Your Face,” and read it from cover to cover. My inner passions were ignited!
While still in high school, and at the recommendation of my guidance counselor, I enrolled in the school’s cosmetology program. During the class, the only part I cared about was skin care and makeup, which in those days were not a huge portion of the curriculum. At the age of 17, I completed enough hours to take the New York State licensing exam for cosmetology. I always knew makeup was my true passion, so I supplemented my cosmetology degree with a plethora of makeup classes.
After taking a makeup class on Long Island, at a school where the instructor applied and wore way too much makeup, I decided to investigate New York City for classes. I looked up some phone numbers and contacted NBC TV. They directed me to a man by the name of Bob Kelly. I was a frequent visitor to Bob Kelly’s studio in Manhattan, where I learned many theatrical-based techniques. I also trained with Lee Baygan, the head of NBC, and Rex Hilverdink, another well-known makeup artist and author of the time. I took many classes, including a class from the founder and instructor of one of the first airbrush courses, Dennis Hoey of Starmist.
The summer following high school, 1982, I took a job at a local mall in the beauty supply. In that position, I learned about purchasing, marketing, and selling cosmetics and was able to begin doing makeup application for the public, as a customer relations strategy. It was through this experience that I realized I truly enjoyed teaching and could see the effect I was having on people – transforming outlooks and attitudes with makeup! This was a powerful experience that lead me to the Dale Carnegie Institute, where I took courses in public speaking and human relations – gaining confidence in my own abilities – so much so, that I began conducting seminars.
That next summer, I learned that my sisters and some of my girlfriends were planning on moving to Montauk Point, a glacial cliff on the east coast of Long Island, which is a seaside retreat with many local fishermen and surfers. I knew how much fun it would be to be with the girls, but I was in the middle of building my career and I wanted to continue working. I was determined to find a way to make it work. It was here that I created my first makeup business venture.
On a walk through the town, I passed “The Corner Store.” I noticed many people in and out of the store and spotted some unused space in the front of the store. I got an idea – I could rent the space and open a makeup counter! After some conversation, the owners agreed to rent me the space. I went home, gave notice to the beauty supply store, and began preparing for my first business venture. I applied for a tax ID number, got insurance, and purchased what I needed to create a display. Then, I placed my first wholesale order for cosmetics – lipsticks, shadows, foundations, and so forth. And, I was in business!
I spent the next few summers working in Montauk and East Hampton. I sold cosmetics, taught makeup lessons, and conducted seminars at the local yacht club and restaurants.
The store was mostly busy with summer tourists. One afternoon, a regular came in – it was a man – one of the very first celebrities to ever buy makeup from me – Dick Cavett. Cavett, who resided in Montauk, was a television talk show host and comedian. He purchased face powder and a powder puff from my counter. Years later, I ended up working with Peter Beard, one of the top photographers in the world, on a fashion shoot overlooking the cliffs of Montauk.
Following Montauk and The Hamptons, I went on to become a freelance makeup artist, via an agency, that was featured in department stores, applying makeup for the customers. One of my first clients was the Lauder group, a group of brands that booked me regularly. I soon realized that what I was doing entailed educating people about their skin, makeup, and its application. I became a master at analyzing facial features and recommending beautiful, natural makeup looks for my customers. Whatever I applied, they would somehow end up buying. I gained a following of customers and other makeup artists who wanted to learn from my aesthetic. During that time, I also began working for a local model agency in Huntington Long Island, as a makeup artist, with the photographers that the agency hired.
About this time, I began to mix my own pigments and experiment with color and texture and, before long, I had developed my own signature looks and techniques. In my mind, I had a look that I wanted to create and could not achieve the effect with regular makeup. I started adding water and natural humectants into my base and created what I titled the “hydration technique.” Next, I was offered a position as an instructor at a skin care school on Long Island. I was first to coin the phrase “prebase” before it became a standard product category. I created a prebase product and held the trademark for prebase prior to it becoming a standard name.
Soon after, I was hired by Rosanna Regan, who was directing a new skin care and makeup school on Long Island. I worked with her earlier in my career and she contacted me regarding a teaching position. The school was owned by a pioneer in skin care, who opened a school on Port Jefferson, L.I. I began teaching and conducting seminars on makeup. I also started to conduct seminars at local beauty shows. During that time, I began writing articles and, in 1993, received a call from Milady Publishing. They had noticed my techniques in makeup and inquired about my work. After several meetings, I was offered a book contract. I wrote the book “Makeup Techniques,” which was published in 1994. The book was published in several languages and, as a result, I travelled internationally to teach my techniques.
When I received the book contract, I began studying courses for post-secondary education. I received my teaching certification from college, attempted student teaching, and realized that teaching permanent waves and hair was not for me. Although I have worked with some of the most talented hair artists in the industry, hair to me is a different skill all together. As a matter of fact, for large fashion productions, there are usually separate hair and makeup artists – rarely do they hire one person to do both.
Teaching has been an extremely inspirational aspect of my career. I always enjoyed teaching, which evolved into teaching as a keynote speaker at major shows around the world. I have been a keynote speaker at the International Beauty Show, Global Face Art in Greece, International Congress of Esthetics, as well as others.
One afternoon, while on a train to New York, I met a photographer friend who was looking at places in New York. I first shared a beautiful space with him and, then, opened my own studio, The Pamela Taylor Makeup Academy in New York City. As the school’s founder and educator, I welcomed students from around the world to study and practice my techniques. Today, many of my students are very successful, both in the United States and around the world.
Many of my students have stayed in touch with me and have shared their success. I recall a student by the name of Wendy Buiter, who came from the Netherlands as a result of winning a competition sponsored by Maybelline and Cosmopolitan magazine. Wendy spent a week at my studio in NYC, with the editor of the magazine. I recently received two beautiful paintings as a gift from her.
Another former student was Mabby Autino – who has a very successful school and company in Argentina. There are many. When I would get hired for shows, many times I would bring a makeup team so that my students could experience the fun of behind-the-scenes work.
The late and great Betty Most was director of education for Clinique. Betty attended my class, never mentioning what she did or who she was. Once completed, she mentioned it was one of the best classes she ever attended. I ended up creating a special class for the “Stars to New York” – a private group class featuring the top producers from around the country. I also did an event at Saks Fifth Avenue – “Taylor Made” at Saks.
Over the years, I have been the makeup artist on countless photoshoots and events. I have had the privilege of making up some of the most famous actors, musicians, politicians, industry executives, and countless others. I have worked with the world’s greatest rock bands and musicians, including Billy Joel, Jack White, and Meatloaf; actors, including Ed Burns and Kevin Bacon; sports celebrities, like Daryl Strawberry (Mets); and film directors, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. One my favorite jobs was working on the musical artist Sting. I received a call from a photographer friend mentioning that I should meet him at the dock and to bring my makeup kit. While on a boat to Jones Beach, New York for a show, the artist Sting was on board. I did his touch-up and grooming and enjoyed an amazing show.
I have also had the pleasure of working with top photographers and amazing fashion models, like Deutsen Kroes and Josie Moran.
My recent work involves consulting on the men’s sector of cosmetics. My specialty is, and has been, working with men’s skin – which, in my opinion, reacts differently to most makeup products. I am especially interested in corrective coverage that appears undetectable for the camera.
As I wrote this last portion, I spent the early afternoon working with a new client who read about my work. He is a news reporter who has vitiligo and was amazed and thrilled with the results, commenting on how breathable and natural his skin appeared following the application of makeup.
The past few years have evolved for me. I still enjoy my on-location education seminars, where I am available to teach at salons and spas around the country. In addition, and by sheer coincidence, I ended up scouting and becoming a “mother agent” to several successful models in the industry, including a new model who will be seen in a major campaign, in the spring of 2019.
From politicians to rock and roll stars and top fashion models, I am fortunate to have worked with some of the best in the field. One thing I do know is, I will probably never stop loving the world of fashion and beauty.