Interview With Nathan Johnson, Project Runway Makeup Artist

Project+Runway+Judges Interview With Nathan Johnson, Project Runway Makeup Artist
For months, I have been absolutely ravenous for new eppys of Project Runway. Every now and again, Bravo throws me a bone in the form of late-night or weekend marathons. But while these re-run nuggets are tasty and entertaining, I need sustenance. I require my Project Runway fix on a weekly basis or I get fussy.

So you can imagine how keyed-up I am that the Season 5 premiere of Project Runway is mere hours away. Can you even stand it? How have I survived without Tim’s quirky chuckle or Michael Kors’ one liners? “It looked like Comme des Garçons goes to the Amish Country!” Ah…the good old days.

My fellow PR junkies, brace yourself. Today, time is gonna move like molasses. So to tide you over until tonight, I have a little treat. Recently I had the opportunity to interview Nathan Johnson, Makeup Artist for Project Runway. Read on to learn about Nathan’s favorite products, and how he makes them work – on the runway and in real life.

Nathan+Johnson Interview With Nathan Johnson, Project Runway Makeup Artist

When did your fascination with makeup begin?

It began with Boy George. I was blown away with how he would use color to make himself stand out. I found it astounding that he could even make himself look beautiful. I suppose that’s when I fell under the spell of makeup. Another biggie for me was Cyndi Lauper. She was (and still is) never afraid to go all the way. When she first came out, she would paint swatches above her lips and use eye colors no one else would ever have dreamed of. In a lot of ways, I think she was a force in creating the make up trends of the 80s.

How do you describe your makeup style?

That’s a hard one. Since the majority of my work is for film, television, stage and public appearances, what I do is usually set for me (by the script or the image the celebrity already has). Still, I make sure everything I do has my flair, which is romantic glamour. When I work, I plan very little before I see the woman’s face. I use makeup to bring out all of the things that are uniquely beautiful in each woman.

What would be your dream makeup assignment?

I would be a staff makeup artist on a morning show. That would be awesome for two reasons: I love to be home at night and having normal hours. Second, the thrill of always having new people to work on and never knowing who’s going to sit in my chair is very exciting for me. I also love working with the everyday woman. I think make up should be taught to women in high school. So many ladies have no idea what to with color. They apply it wrong, or stick to the same three colors for their entire life. I get a lot of fulfillment from showing women how to bring their beauty to a new level.

What is a typical day like, for you, on the set of Project Runway?

Except for start of day and touch ups, it’s always different. A half hour after call time, the models come into the L’Oreal room. From the second they sit in the chair, we have 30 minutes to hear the concept and execute the makeup. Touch ups only happen once and they happen in such a tiny window of time that we are only able to do what is necessary to the string of 10+ models. There are four makeup artists on the show and, between us, we keep track of every color used on every model. To work on Project Runway, you have to be ready for anything.

jaslene Interview With Nathan Johnson, Project Runway Makeup ArtistOn Project Runway, is the model’s makeup look a collaborative effort between the makeup artist and the designer? Or do you look to the garment for inspiration and let your imagination go wild? The show glosses over that process, so I am very curious.

It’s both. The designer comes to me with an initial idea or thought and I delve deeper by asking about the garment, the style, feel, fit, mood, colors, etc. Taking everything into mind, I tell the designer my concept and we reach a common ground. It is necessary to guide them at times. I tell them what works on TV, what works for the runway, what will read under the lights, what the judges like, how the colors compliment the look, etc. They know fashion, I know makeup…when we listen to one another, amazing things happen.

Can you share with us some on-the-set beauty tricks?

Have the powder already on your puff! Under those hot lights everyone shines and a pre-powdered puff saves so much time. Also, disposable lip brushes are a lifesaver. You can pop on lipstick or gloss, and then just throw it away. You don’t have to keep track of each models brush, just get a new one every time. One thing I do on set that you can do at home is highlight and brighten. Want to make darkness disappear and features pop, use a lighter face powder. After you conceal under the eyes, press in the lighter powder with a dense brush, it will brighten the whole area and banish darkness. Want to make your structure pop, brush the lighter powder onto the top of the cheek bone an along the jaw line. I love the Three Custom Color Specialists face powders, they go on smooth as butter. Just be sure to choose a shade 1-2 lighter than your tone.

What are the trends in makeup this summer?

What I’m doing for summer evenings is a dark black red lip (try Three Custom Color Specialists ‘Flapper’ from a Century in Red Lip Collection) with a very shiny gloss on top. For daytime or evening, I’m brightening the lid with a champagne shadow and lining the inner upper rim of the eye with black, this gives appearance of a super lush lash line without the eye liner effect. It is fun and flirty. I am also using multiple colored liners on the bottom lash line. Apply the color below the lash line and smoke it out. Of course it depends on the woman’s coloring, but some of my favorites are Three Custom Color Specialists’ Navy Eye Liner, MAC Jade Way Technakohl Liner, and MAC Purple Dash Technakohl Liner.

Which brands or products are staples in your makeup bag/toolkit?

clarifier Interview With Nathan Johnson, Project Runway Makeup ArtistFrom Three Custom Color Specialists: Champagne, Bronze, Copper, and Silver Eye Shadows, and the Clarifier Pencils (they’re great for brightening the inner rim of the eyes, covering up stubborn spots and blemishes, and adding a nice strong highlight under the brow bone). Bellini Lip Gloss is my favorite. I use it over lip colors because it compliments everything. I also use it on its own because it is universally flattering. MAC Fluidline is a staple. I use it in lots of different colors. I also use some of their Pro eye shadows. Makeup Designory: I love this brand’s eye colors.

What is your number one beauty secret/tip?

Skin is a beautiful thing. Don’t cover it up unless you have to. In my opinion, the biggest mistake a woman makes is layering on too much foundation. Cover only what you need to cover. If you don’t start with clean beautiful skin, nothing else will be beautiful. Makeup should say “Look at beautiful woman!” Not “look at that mess.”

Thank you, Nathan, for this glimpse behind the scenes! Be sure to catch the Season 5 premiere of Project Runway tonight on Bravo…it’s sure to be fierce.

Carry on!

2 Comments on Interview With Nathan Johnson, Project Runway Makeup Artist

  1. nilla cookie
    July 17, 2008 at 6:13 AM (6 years ago)

    Awesome Q&A!

    I love that his dream job is working with everyday women – whowuddathunk!?

    Reply
  2. Roxy
    September 5, 2008 at 7:27 PM (6 years ago)

    Please, Project Runway…..Show more of this smart, gorgeous and talented make-up artist!! He is a star!!

    Reply

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