Q+A with Celebrity Makeup Artist Ermahn Ospina
Ermahn Ospina on the movie that sparked his interest in working in "movie magic", how women inspire him daily, and more.
Ermahn Ospina is a Colombian-born, Los Angeles-based makeup artist. His celebrity client list includes Salma Hayek, Amal Clooney, Alan Cumming, Javier Bardem, Jordana Brewster, Rosario Dawson, and many more. His work can also be seen as the makeup designer in over thirty Hollywood films, countless red carpet events, and top worldwide publications. Read on to learn more about Ermahn’s time in the industry and some of his all-time favorite products.
Q: First and foremost, we’d love to hear about your journey as a makeup artist. How did you get started, and how did you get to where you are today? Can you recall where your passion for makeup came from?
When I was a kid in Colombia, my mom took me to see the movie Gone With the Wind. It was a movie that she had enjoyed very much as a young girl. She had no idea that this movie was going to become my biggest obsession as a kid — it used to make my mother crazy because I kept asking her to take me back to see it again and again! I just fell in love with the movie, and I became obsessed with Vivien Leigh’s beauty as Scarlett O'Hara. Also, my mind started to wonder about how movies were made; later I found out that all this movie magic happened in a place called Hollywood and since then, that was where I wanted to be.
Soon after I moved to Los Angeles, I got involved with the film department at UCLA where I learned how to do character makeup and how to manage a film makeup department. I also did makeup for six student films. I got the best scenes from each one of these films and created a reel. I made multiple copies on tape (at the time, the internet didn’t exist yet) so I would mail these tapes with a letter to production companies asking for a job as a makeup artist for their projects.
Eventually, after a lot of persistence, mailings, some job interviews. and a screen test, I got to be the Makeup Department Head of my first movie for Columbia Pictures called Desperado, starring Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek.From then on, I have worked with countless actors, actresses and directors; I now have over 30 films in my resume. I have created great work relationships with some of the actresses in those films and I have gone to work with them, making them look beautiful for their press tours, their magazine shoots, and red carpet events around the world.
Q: Your artistry is known to “transcend traditional boundaries”. How would you describe your style as a makeup artist?
As a makeup artist, I have been asked to create a lot of looks throughout my career, and I have been very successful on most of them. However, my style as a makeup artist — I would describe it as “personally designed natural makeup.” What I mean by that is that I really take into consideration who I'm working with. I get a sense of how they feel about themselves and that allows me to know how far I can go with makeup. I don't like to impose something just because it's a trend. I like to just enhance their beauty and style. Perhaps I could introduce them to a new product, but always within the realm of something they're going to feel comfortable with and that I know that they will take into consideration next time they do their makeup.
Q: What do you love the most about your work?
There are many things I love about my work! One of them is that sometimes I get to work and travel the world with beautiful people. But I love women's beauty — I especially love how women feel once they see themselves after I am done with their makeup. I love having that experience of connection with them.
Q: From where — and from whom — do you find inspiration?
I'm very inspired by Indigenous women: the way they see themselves, the way they keep their integrity with their makeup, and how they apply colors that I will never combine but somehow it works for them. I get inspiration from that, and I also get inspiration from all women daily. I’ve learned so much just by seeing new trends and the way that people play with makeup nowadays.
Q: When you think of all of the looks you’ve created, is there a favorite that comes to mind? What is it?
There have been so many, but recently I worked with Elsa Pataky for the premiere of Thor: Love and Thunder that she went to with her husband, Chris Hemsworth. I love working with her because she's a huge fan of makeup, but at the same time, makeup that doesn't look like makeup — what we call the “no makeup makeup” look. For this look, we used all cream products, we used very little powder, and the powder that we used was just oil-absorbing powder. It was so natural and beautiful, and the red carpet photographs looked stunning.
Q: What are some essential products you always keep in your client kit?
I love Radiant Creamy Concealer by NARS in all its shades. I also love The Foundation by Cle de Peau and its concealer, which is SPF 27. I always keep that in my kit!
Another foundation that I love is Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra 24H Long Wear Matte Foundation. I love the Shiseido SYNCHRO SKIN Invisible Silk Loose Powder. Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge for Lips & Cheeks is a cream that I love for lips and blush.
I also love the Power Line Plumping Lip Liner by Buxom. I always carry that because I could come in with any color and it gives me the effect that I need. These products are always in my kit.
Q: Are there any personal favorite products you can’t live without? If so, what are they?
I use the Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment. I tend to get spots on my face that I particularly do not like! So I use this treatment every night. Another product I can't live without is the Supergoop! Play Sunscreen SPF 50. People have come up to me to tell me that my skin looks great and so glowy, it must be the Play! So I love that.
One of my favorite products I can’t live without in my kit is the Shiseido Future Solution LX Eye and Lip Contour Regenerating Cream. The thinnest skin that we have on our body is right under our eyes, and that cream was designed to feed all the little cells of that area. I could use it under or on top of the concealer without making a mess. Let's say I'm working a 10-hour day with an actress who's doing press. Usually in the middle of the day we have to do touch-ups. Instead of adding more concealer, I just apply this cream over the concealer, massaging it gently with my fingertips. The look under the eyes is immediately refreshed and beautiful. I love this cream for clients as well as for myself!
Q: Do you have any advice or tips for those that may be interested in a career in beauty, specifically as a makeup artist?
Just be creative! Love what you do, learn from others, watch people on the street, study their makeup style, learn about products and what they do. Don't get into the business just because you hope you are going to become a celebrity makeup artist — start doing makeup because you love it, just like I hope you would love any other profession you choose.
Now if your goal is to be a celebrity makeup artist, my advice is what I said above, and definitely assist those who have experience — whether it’s a celebrity makeup artist or bridal makeup artist etc. Basically, assist someone that you can look up to and learn from, not only the application of makeup, but the ethics of working on a set and especially how to work and be with people. People not only hire the most talented, but also the people they like to be around.
My major suggestion is to be humble and learn. You need to create and have your own experience, then you will know what to do.
Rapid Fire Round
Q: Hairstylist partner in crime:
Q: Product you can’t leave home without:
Supergoop! Play Sunscreen SPF 50.
Q: Favorite drugstore or budget find:
L’Oreal Voluminous Original Mascara in Carbon Black.
Q: Worth the splurge:
La Mer Crème de la Mer.
Q: Recent beauty discovery:
NYX Micro Eyebrow Pencil.
Q: Brand you wish more people knew about:
Danessa Myricks Beauty. This is such a fun brand with a great skin shade selection. I especially love the medium to darker tones, and love the brand’s eyeshadows. They bring me back to the feeling I had when I started doing makeup, full of fantasy and excitement.
Q: Your last beauty empty:
Shiseido Future Solution LX Extra Rich Cleansing Foam.
For more of Ermahn's favorite products, check out his shop below: