Jillian Dempsey: My Life In Beauty
Jillian Dempsey: My Life In Beauty

Jillian Dempsey: My Life In Beauty

Jillian Dempsey is one of the world’s most renowned make-up artists. As well as creating memorable looks for the red carpet – her clients include Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Winslet – she’s also worked on some of the biggest editorial campaigns out there. Here, she shares her main beauty lessons, the products she’s never without, and her advice for those embarking on a similar career path…
By Rebecca Hull

All products on this page have been selected by our editorial team, however we may make commission on some products.

My career started with my friends. I did their make-up for fun, but they helped me realise I wanted to take it more seriously. That’s when I decided to get my professional licence in West Hollywood. After graduating, I started working on sets and photoshoots – everything from commercials to videos and print. I also took a part time job at the Shu Uemura boutique in LA. I learned such invaluable knowledge there, and worked with the most talented people. 

I am known as a make-up artist, but I do hair too. I had to build up my portfolio to get an agent, so I trained in both hair and make-up, and moved to London to build my career. There, I worked with a variety of photographers and hairstylists – many of whom I’m still in contact with today. It takes time to create a name for yourself, but the hard graft is worth it. 

Organisation is essential in this career. My training at Shu Uemura was intense, but it gave me lifelong habits that have kept me in control. That includes things like presentation and cleanliness. Maintaining a well-organised and clean make-up kit is the best advice I could give anyone who wants to be a make-up artist. It means you’ll be ready for any type of job at any given moment. 

The 90s make-up look is one of my all-time favourites. I love that it’s so on-trend again. It’s all about strength in the arch of the brows – using a pencil – and a strong, black, upper tight line for the eyes. That’s followed by MAC’s Spice Lip Liner, Shu Uemura’s Nobara Foundation and Shiseido’s Eyebrow Pencils – I use all of these products on my actress clients. 

There is one constant in my kit. My career has spanned many decades, so a lot of my favourite products have sadly been discontinued. However, I always have my Shu Uemura Eyelash Curlers. The experts aren’t lying to you when they say they’re the best. 

Scott Andrew was a true inspiration to me. He was a fantastic make-up artist based in New York. Sadly, he is no longer with us, but his work has probably influenced my style the most. He did so many Allure magazine covers with Michael Thompson, who I also really admired. 

Know what SUITS your face and don’t follow every trend. Understand what works with your INDIVIDUAL features and make it your own.

My biggest mentor has to be Millie Kendall. She was the first person to hire me – at the Shu Uemura Boutique – and she even let me crash at her flat in London at the start of my career. She gives the best beauty advice: to design products I would use on myself, and that my friends would love. It’s simple, but it is so true. You have to want to use what you create.

There are so many memorable moments in my career. One that stands out is working with British photographer Craig McDean on a shoot for my hair pomade with my twins and husband as models. Also, introducing my vibrating Gold Bar was a defining moment – I’m very proud of all my products, but this was a real highlight for me. 

The one lesson my career has taught me is professionalism. In this line of work, you have to be professional and on time – every time. Both count for a lot. Then, remember to cater to the needs of the job and the client – leave your personal life at home. Finally, gossip is never a good idea if you want to maintain healthy relationships at work. 

Polished skin is my signature. I love to keep people’s complexions – my own included – glowing and fresh. Then, I’ll pair that with a smudged-out eye. I’m not heavy handed, but I will work on a look until it feels complete. I do like to see a bit of natural skin coming through – that, and a plump glow on the cheeks.

Clean skin is essential for good make-up. Always wash your face, especially if you wear make-up a lot, to keep the skin feeling clean and looking fresh. Dirty skin will inevitably cause breakouts and clogged pores. Taking a skin-first approach also allows you to simplify your make-up routine. A dab of concealer under eyes, a quick cream blush on the cheek and a coat of mascara and tinted balm will be all you need.

Tokyo is one of the best places to shop for new beauty. There is so much to do and see. In terms of specific shops, Nigel’s Beauty Emporium has a lot to offer – you’ll find it on the West Coast, so if you’re ever in the area, it’s a great place to browse. 

Elizabeth Taylor would have been my dream client. I have had and have many incredible clients and I feel so fortunate to be involved in creating their looks. But from the past, Elizabeth Taylor is the one person I would have loved to do make-up for – no one wore a smokey eye better than her.

A rich brown kohl eyeliner is a staple in my own make-up bag. I am never without my own one – it’s so easy to blend and smoke out. Likewise, my Sunny Cheek Tint is essential for a healthy flush of colour. I’ll always finish my look with a coat of mascara and swipe of lip balm, then I’m done. Two products I couldn’t go without are my gold bar and a good SPF– EltaMd’s is my favourite.

My best make-up tip is to make a look your own. Know what suits your face and don’t follow every trend. Understand what works with your individual features and make it your own – that way, it will always look right and never OTT.


Follow @JillianDempsey for more beauty advice, tips & tutorials

Shop Jillian's Beauty Essentials

Fashion. Beauty. Culture. Life. Home
Delivered to your inbox, daily