Interview with Marietta Carter-Narcisse

Makeup Artist, Educator, Diva Businesswoman, Mother, Beauty Writer for Black Elegance Magazine, National Spokeswoman for Interface Cosmetics, Member of IATSE Local 706, Member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the list goes on! A diva of all trades and a woman of excellence for September!

I had an inspirational interview with Marietta at her home in Los Angeles. Her home is warm and inviting, filled with photographs on every table with culture abounding in every square inch of her home. She holds fast to her roots as a native from the Caribbean Island of Barbados. She is a mother (among other things) of 4-and-a-half-year-old son Grégoire. Marietta keeps a full schedule as a working makeup artist in TV, film, print, commercial, and videos. Early in her career she toured as Natalie Cole’s personal wardrobe, hair and makeup artist. Now, Marietta’s reputation as a makeup artist has her celebrity clientele list overflowing! Her personal attention is requested by Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Denzel Washington, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Cindy Crawford. Marietta’s passion is educating makeup artists on how to makeup women and men of color. She protests it’s not about skin color but undertones! She is a goal setter, never looks shabby on a job, represents the epitome of professionalism, is energetic, passionate, and an advocate about her job. (Which she insists is her money making hobby!) Marietta is a package deal with credentials and experience that will raise your eyebrows. She prefers to work smart not hard. Always seeking out knowledge in unknown areas, she is not someone who relies on hear say to develop her own trends or innovations. Read about this once pre-med student turned makeup artist’s career and you will be inspired, as I was.

Tell the Makeup Mania readers about your job as President of the Fred Segal Agency? How did you get involved in the business end of representing makeup artists in the industry?

I have been involved with the agency for about a year now. I started a company called Beaute´ 411 Inc., an agency that represents makeup artists, hairstylists, fashion stylists and photographers in March of 1998. My company, Beaute´ 411 created a base for the Fred Segal Agency. I took artists and developed them to their full potential. I cross-trained professionals from TV and film to the print world. I help artists develop books because a lot of them don’t have anything to represent their work. I feel really good about this aspect of the job because now some of the top artists’ in television have books and tear sheets that reflect their work. These artists have good foundations to build upon and it’s only going to get better for them.

What are your other responsibilities at the agency besides developing artists’ portfolios?

I book jobs, negotiate deals, create curriculum for workshops, and teach workshops. I have my hands full! It’s the day to day aspects of running an office, but it’s an agency.

What are the differences in working with the agency and teaching the workshops for the agency?

Working within the agency your dealing with the day to day aspect of five lines ringing at one time, trying to negotiate 3 to 4 deals at a time for different people, making sure all the paperwork is complete, following up with clients and production companies to collect payments, and being the buffer between the artist and the client to maintain the balance. I love teaching! I love putting together curriculum from scratch. I like to put things down on paper as well as get it across to someone verbally. That is very rewarding to me when someone in the class gets it.

What is the one thing you would like to say about agents or agencies?

I have a whole new respect for agents.

What is your advice to an aspiring artist looking for representation from an agent/agency?

An artist who has the potential to be quite busy can benefit from having a good agent. They can just go in and do their job without the hassles of deals etc., because the agency would handle the business aspect for them. Artists tend to not be organized individuals, and tend not to be business people. If these aspects are weaknesses for an artist, I would highly recommend getting an agent. Interview them, just like they interview you. Find out what the agencies’ goals and mission statement is. Find out what the financial turnaround is within the time that you are booked on a job. Ask if they set goals for their artists and how many artists’ are on the roster and working.

What are some tips for new artists in the industry or fresh out of makeup school who want to have an agent represent them?

Don’t go into an agency with a scrapbook, or photo album photos from your family album. If you don’t have a portfolio, say “I don’t have a portfolio, what do you think is the first step for me to take in getting one together?” Conduct more of an inquiry with an agent instead of “I want an agent,” and you have nothing that an agent can work with. Inquire about advice for starting out, you might get answers from a kind person or you might get nothing. It’s a chance you have to take. The worse thing you can do to yourself is approach an agent with mediocrity. It makes you look worse than asking a couple of questions over the telephone. Be professional, the presentation sells itself. Make sure your stuff looks clean and you look clean. When you submit a resume check that you don’t have 500 misspelled words. If you don’t have the experience, don’t fudge it. Make your resume make sense. Don’t list your specialty as “does black makeup” on your resume. I don’t think that racial stereotypes are specialties. You are either a prepared makeup artist from A to Z in coloration, or unprepared, and call it a specialty. You will not get a job from me with that as a specialty on your resume.

You are a national spokeswoman for Interface Cosmetics, how did you become involved with this company?

I put together a promotional lecture two years ago at the Samuel L. Jackson golf tournament. I contacted several makeup companies, one in particular that I contacted said I know this is a new makeup line, I can’t tell you much information about it, but we need someone like you to help represent the line. A few months later I was contacted by Interface Cosmetics and they wanted me to help promote the new line. I helped launch the new line in Los Angeles. My affiliation with celebrities was a draw to reach a lot of people. I started going around the country doing media interviews, makeovers, and television appearances.

Where is Interface Cosmetics located?

The headquarters for Interface are located in Long Island City, New York. Macy’s, Fox Hills location in Los Angeles carries the product, and it is located in other areas across the United States.

On average, how much time do you devote to Interface as their national spokesperson?

Once a month, I go out 3 to 4 days to different cities across the United States.

Tell us about your teaching experiences?

I love educating, training and teaching. I lectured at the Makeup Artist Trade Show in 1998 and this year. I am still getting letters from people who attended. They thanked me for changing their careers around. That is exciting to me when I know I have made and impact on people and I can contribute something to their careers. People stop me in places and say, “you have no idea how you have changed my career.” I approach makeup from a very philosophical standpoint, which is very different from how most people approach makeup. I try to get artists’ to see that when someone sits in your chair, especially if they are not an actor, the kind of impact you have by changing their physical features around. When you make the consumer look like that glamorous person they have always wanted to look like, it is so rewarding. As a makeup artist you have a lot of power in your hands and sometimes you don’t even realize it. When you tell a woman how beautiful her skin is, or how gorgeous her features are, it positively reinforces insecurities she might be living with her entire life.

What are common makeup questions you get from other artists’ or the general public?

Most of my questions have been directed to working on black skin and how to determine proper undertones for all skin types. A lot of makeup artists have an issue about working on black skin. I have had to come up with some really strong ways of teaching so that people can understand that there is no difference between black and white skin. You are just making up undertones. I try to take “the color” out of makeup.

What kind of feedback do you have when you teach your methods of makeup?

The response is overwhelming! I say you are not doing black or white you are doing undertones: warm and cool. Most artists’ just see black skin and forget what is coming through the dark, is a blue or deep purple undertone. Artists’ get so overwhelmed by the fact that the person in their chair is black, that nothing else matters. You have to be able to take that element out of there and start looking at what you do as an artist.

Do you think that education in this area of makeup application is lacking?

Yes. Teaching proper application of undertones, not skin color and ethnic backgrounds is lacking. If you teach a person to be an artist and to work with color, whoever sits in their chair, color becomes irrelevant. You deal with facial structure or hair texture, not skin color. I say that in all my lectures because I find that no one else talks about it. Everyone ignores it. Unfortunately, I have found that most makeup artists don’t know color. Do yourself a favor and take a color class. Because you do your own makeup doesn’t mean you can do it on someone else. I try to get artists’ over their fear so they can be prepared to work on anyone. Stock your makeup kits: warm to cool, alabaster to ebony. Be a well-rounded artist. I am very political about this issue. You have to fight to not get pigeonholed as a certain type of artist. I am a makeup artist, hire me for the quality of my work, not the color of my skin. I say to artists’, take the time to be qualified so that your art shines.

What is your advice to artists’ interested in working in the film industry?

I think you really have to assess your personality in this field. If you are young and have no responsibilities other than yourself it is great to travel around with a celebrity or personality. You get a chance to see a lot of different places at someone else’s expense. You can travel and experience life and come out of your own microcosm. If you have no kids I say travel around , or do a film, make it fun. I was in Jamaica for two and a half months on a movie working 17-18 hours a day but I still had fun because I made it fun. If you are married and have a family you might consider working on a TV sitcom and do some print work. Based on your personality, and your individual circumstances assess your career based on that, a lot of people don’t think about that. If you like to live in a comfort zone the film industry is not the place for you.

Are you still working as a personal for Samuel L. Jackson?

No. I am taking one day at a time, one project at a time. My life has changed with my son Grégoire. I have to have a life and my life revolves around my son.

Of your celebrity clientele, is there someone you love to work on as and artist?

Angela Bassett. I can do her makeup in my sleep and watch her face come to life. LynneWhitfield. I enjoyed doing her makeup on “Eve’s Bayou.” Her hair was very black for the film, which made her face become cool. Using all the period lipsticks and makeup colors made it all look so real.

What has been your least favorite project?

The Negotiator was my least favorite. There were a lot of things I did not like about the production in general.

What has been the most challenging project to date that you have been a part of?

“Malcolm X.” I was department head of both makeup and hair. I had up to 50 people under me a day, no matter what happened I was to blame if anything went wrong. The research for the historical period figure was impeccable. I look more like Malcolm than Denzel does! Creating the look for Malcolm on Denzel was challenging because he didn’t look anything like him. The chiseled jawbone, eye color and skin color became a lot of work to transform him. We did a lot of makeup tests. I was very happy with the end result. Some days you couldn’t tell who was Malcolm and who was Denzel. “Malcolm X” by far was the biggest challenge with Tina Turner’s, “What’s Love Got To Do With It”, next in line. She is still living, how do you do this beautiful icon that’s still alive? There was no room for error. I had a chance to interview Tina for about eight hours to research a lot of nuances that you don’t really see but made the character. A lipstick shade or nail polish color, the makeup techniques that she used. I had to know where all the nicks, scares and bruises were because it made a big difference in the completion of the person she was. These two films were the biggest of my career.

What is your favorite period style to work in?

The forties. The forties are absolutely gorgeous. The clothes, the makeup, and the women were beautiful. Women in the forties were ultra feminine and had bodies. The nails and red lipstick I love. The fifties take it or leave it. I don’t like the fifties June Cleaver look.

What might we find in your makeup kit if we looked inside?

Castor oil. This is my favorite thing. I use it under the eye areas and in dry flaky areas. Beard cover in the orange color family, those are the best concealors. La Femme gold leaf powder, gold shine from light to dark. One of my favorites is Alex de Markopff’s Eye Disguise. It keeps eye shadow on till you cut your eyes out. My motto is whatever works, whether it’s dime store or department store. I am no product lover. Stock your kits with warm and cool and find those neutrals.

Give us a trick of the trade beauty tip.

Gold. That’s what I use on everyone in different intensities.

Marietta’s resume is impressive and extensive, here is a sample list:

  • The Negotiator
  • Jackie Brown
  • Sphere
  • The Red Violin
  • Eve’s Bayou
  • 187
  • The Long Kiss Goodnight
  • A Time To Kill
  • The Great White Hype
  • Fair Game
  • Strange Days
  • Dangerous Minds
  • Beverly Hills Cop 3
  • Tina: “What’s Love Got To Do With It?
  • The Jackson’s: An American Dream
  • Malcolm X
  • A Class Act
  • Mobsters
  • Boyz ‘N The Hood
  • Ghost
  • The Long Walk Home
  • Why Me?
  • Her Alibi
  • The Mighty Quinn
  • Clara’s Heart

Check out Marietta in makeover action as the National Spokesperson for Interface Cosmetics

3 Responses to “Interview with Marietta Carter-Narcisse”

  1. Dear Marietta:

    Wanted to have a brief conversation with you , concerning our New York show for 2011, Interface cosmetics & Make Up Mania & you wonderful talents! We have over 53,000 attendees!

    I would appreciate any 10 minutes you have! To navigate around time zone ,contact me by balckberry number 914.774.1004
    Thank you so much!!! Loretta

  2. Ebony Malone says:

    Absolutely loved the interview! I’m a 35 yr old wife & mother and am trying to transition into the makeup world. Ages ago I was a model and even worked at Nordstrom in cosmetics at one point in my life. I reside in MD and am looking for a reputable makeup school as well as scholarships. Any words of wisdom for a mature woman looking to explore her much loved hobby?

  3. JACQUELINE CAESAR says:

    Hi Marietta,

    I am trying to locate a distributor for Interface products in Brooklyn new york. I am a Barbadian and would like to make purchases. please assist me. thanks in advance.

    jacqueline caesar

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