Veteran Makeup Artist Gucci Westman Talks Taking Risks and Finding Balance in Life and BeautyJanuary 28, 2021
No one creates a dewy complexion quite like Gucci Westman. The veteran celebrity makeup artist decided to take her beauty career to the next level back in 2018 when she founded Westman Atelier. The clean-conscious makeup line is easy to use (shoutout to the stick packaging), infused with skin-care ingredients and delivers on its promise for buttery, luxe-feeling formulas. Here, we spoke with Westman about developing her brand, taking risks and creating a healthy balance in life and beauty.
How did you get into makeup and translate that into a career in the beauty industry?
My fascination with makeup started at such a young age, so in a way I always knew I would be in the beauty industry. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup when I was younger, so of course I wanted to rebel and explore it. Later, I became an au pair for a fashion journalist — she would share all of the luxurious makeup she received with me. It was this wonderful glimpse into the aspirational and romantic worlds of fashion and beauty.
I eventually went to makeup school in Paris and then left for Los Angeles, California to take classes in special-effects makeup. During that time I met photographers like Annie Liebovitz and Bruce Weber, who told Grace Coddington, the creative director at large for Vogue, about my work. She hired me for two Vogue shoots. That’s when I got really busy.
Later on I became the international artistic director of Lancôme and then the global artistic director at Revlon. The experiences I had there were invaluable. I learned so much about the product development side. The process of deciding what goes into formulations is fascinating, especially as a makeup artist. I gained a whole new understanding and appreciation for the work that goes into getting the perfect formulation for exactly how you want a product to look and feel on the skin.
What led you to start Westman Atelier?
I wanted to replace the staples in my own working makeup kit with products that were clean, but still performed to my standards. I learned about the difference between marketing levels — you only need to include a drop of an ingredient to be able to say it’s in there — and efficacy levels — what levels are active enough to actually make a difference to your skin. As a makeup artist, performance is paramount. Our products have to do what we say they’re going to do.
I also learned how to do makeup using a stick format, which is how most of our products are designed. I find it so easy and intuitive to use. I wanted all the textures to feel very buttery and luxurious, like they are really melting into the skin, not sitting on top and feeling artificial.
Is there a certain ethos that you try to keep at the core of the brand as it grows?
I’ve always believed in an 80:20 approach to my own wellness habits and business practices. In my personal life, that means 80% of the time I try to maintain a healthy balanced routine, but I’ll be flexible the other 20%, sans guilt. I’ve applied that same philosophy to Westman Atelier. Bringing my expertise as a makeup artist into the line is important, but so is finding safe ingredient choices for the skin and the environment. We have a plant-first approach, but that doesn't mean sacrificing integrity. If a natural option doesn't work for the product's performance, we'll always work alongside our labs to find the safest, most responsible synthetic alternative.
If you could tell your 20-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
Believe in yourself. There will be failure along the way, but if you don’t fail, you’re not taking risks. And if you’re not taking risks, you’re not learning. You have to learn every day. Pushing yourself to do new things grows your confidence.
Fill in the blanks:
A beauty trend I regret trying is: Thin eyebrows.
My first memory of beauty is: On the bus going to school. I would do all the girls’ makeup.
First place I'm going post-Covid is: Europe.
To me, beauty means: Confidence.