Career Diaries: Celebrity Makeup Artist AJ Crimson’s Best Beauty Advice

October 14, 2020
Genesis Rivas
By: Genesis Rivas | Makeup.com by L'Oréal

AJ Crimson is a celebrity makeup artist who has worked with some of the most well-known names in the music and entertainment industries, including Fergie, Missy Elliott and Hilary Duff, to name a few. His experiences in beauty led him to create his own makeup line, AJ Crimson Beauty. The brand started as just lipsticks and glosses, but it has now evolved into an inclusive line offering powder and cream foundations, his fan-favorite Artist Kits and more. 

We talked to Crimson to learn more about his journey to becoming a successful makeup artist and entrepreneur. Read on for some of his best advice to aspiring makeup artists, see the makeup tips he thinks everyone needs to know and get a sneak peak into exciting newness from AJ Crimson Beauty. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got started in the makeup industry? 

I started as a radio producer and music research coordinator. I jumped into artist development as an assistant at Biv 10 Records, where I discovered fashion styling and makeup. While working at a MAC store and learning makeup, I got a break assisting Oscar-winning costume designer Mark Bridges on the movie 8 mile. Shortly after, he offered me the opportunity to continue on in Los Angeles. Five hundred dollars and a bus ticket later, I was in LA making my way. I landed a test for a print job with Lori Phillips, who was designing with Will.I.AM for his first clothing line. At the fashion show, I met Fergie and we connected instantly. “Where Is The Love” was my first music video as key hair and makeup. 

What inspired you to start your own makeup brand?

First, I started developing lipsticks and glosses in 2005. I wanted to make things I used and spent a great deal of money on for clients. I launched Kissable Couture in 2007 and evolved to AJ Crimson Beauty in 2013. AJ Crimson Beauty embodies everything I’ve learned along the way. From customer service jobs to all of my experience as a makeup artist, it’s all inspired me to create. It started with my clients’ needs and extended to the needs of all women and beauty lovers.

What’s been your biggest pinch-me moment of your career so far?

That’s tough, but I’d say the time I was invited to Oprah Winfrey’s home for a dinner celebrating Forest Whitaker’s Oscar nomination. His wife, my friend, Keisha, was my business partner then in Kissable Couture. The dinner was special because the guest list was intimate and extraordinary. Many times people like to categorize others based on what they do. Saying things like “Oh, that’s just the accountant or just the makeup artist.” But from the moment I walked into Oprah’s home, everyone had already known my name before I had a chance to introduce myself. I was welcomed for being myself. I participated in conversation amongst some of the greatest minds and talents. I was never looked down on or made to feel less than. This experience reinforced my belief that
I’m an extraordinary person like the other extraordinary people in attendance that evening. It was empowering. 

What’s your favorite part of your job?

It’s pretty magical seeing the end results of what you envisioned come to life. Also, just recently while working on a campaign for AJ Crimson Beauty, I hired one of my assistants, Chanel, to do all of the makeup. There was a moment while on set looking through the images that I called her into the room to see. The image was beautiful and I said, “That’s your work unretouched and it’s amazing. I’m not sure I would have made the same choices for it to be this gorgeous. Thank you.” I loved that day because it allowed me to give others a chance to be great and push themselves to create their best work.

What’s been your biggest pinch-me moment of your career so far?

That’s tough, but I’d say the time I was invited to Oprah Winfrey’s home for a dinner celebrating Forest Whitaker’s Oscar nomination. His wife, my friend, Keisha, was my business partner then in Kissable Couture. The dinner was special because the guest list was intimate and extraordinary. Many times people like to categorize others based on what they do. Saying things like “Oh, that’s just the accountant or just the makeup artist.” But from the moment I walked into Oprah’s home, everyone had already known my name before I had a chance to introduce myself. I was welcomed for being myself. I participated in conversation amongst some of the greatest minds and talents. I was never looked down on or made to feel less than. This experience reinforced my belief that
I’m an extraordinary person like the other extraordinary people in attendance that evening. It was empowering. 

What’s your favorite part of your job?

It’s pretty magical seeing the end results of what you envisioned come to life. Also, just recently while working on a campaign for AJ Crimson Beauty, I hired one of my assistants, Chanel, to do all of the makeup. There was a moment while on set looking through the images that I called her into the room to see. The image was beautiful and I said, “That’s your work unretouched and it’s amazing. I’m not sure I would have made the same choices for it to be this gorgeous. Thank you.” I loved that day because it allowed me to give others a chance to be great and push themselves to create their best work.

What’s your favorite makeup product from your collection? 

My AJ Crimson Artist Kit. I love how it came to be, I love its evolution. I love the way my supporters love it. It’s a must-have in my kit. If I don’t have it, I just can’t create the beautiful skin I know I can. I’m quite dependent on it. It changes the game — period.

What advice do you have for others pursuing a career as a makeup artist?

Follow your heart, try it all, push the limits, stay creative and have fun! When you stop having fun it will affect the quality of your work, which will affect the quality of your earnings. Stay sharp and practice new techniques. It’s easy to get stuck in a look. 

What's one beauty trend you can't get enough of right now?

Skin has always been my thing. What I love about my work is when you can shoot a close-up and it just looks flawless, like no makeup is on but really there is so much on. Skin is my forever favorite mood and trend. 

What are three makeup tips you think everyone should know?

First, incorporate AJ Crimson Beauty Dual Skin Foundation into your daily makeup routine. As a foundation, concealer or contour or all of the above. It will make your life much easier. You’ll also be supporting a brand that supports artists and women. It’s built on integrity, authenticity and authority. Not a boardroom. Best of all it’s Black-owned luxury.

Second, stop using 20 products to make one face. Use essentials and multi-use products. It’s fun to try the trends, but you don’t need all of them on one face and at the same time. Free yourself from the pressure of it all. 

Third, trust the artist in you, even if you don’t know anything about makeup artistry. You know yourself and what makes you feel good. Makeup is your supporting castmate. You are the lead and you get to shine bright, so don’t let makeup intimidate you. It’s there to help you. Enjoy your makeup journey.

What’s next for AJ Crimson Beauty? 

We just dropped the Office Politics collection, which consists of five work-friendly glosses. I’m celebrating seven years of AJ Crimson Beauty complete with a new site, new classes for beauty enthusiasts, artist master classes and new anniversary-edition foundations. We are evolving into everything I always imagined and that’s beautiful in and of itself. 
 
Photo: Courtesy of AJ Crimson, Design: Hannah Packer

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