Celebrity Makeup Artist Tim MacKay Debunks Cosmetics Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

New York’s favorite cosmetic artist Timothy MacKay helps to debunk myths that are just plain wrong in the fashion industry

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New York celebrity makeup artist and cosmetic expert Tim MacKay started his journey at MAC’s makeup store, quickly passing his certifications on the first go-around, including New York’s Fashion Week (NYFW) in less than 3 years. Once he started booking freelance work outside of MAC, he realized that his passion lied with freelance, rather than sales. Taking a leap of faith, MacKay left MAC in 2016 and has been working for himself ever since.

For young and aspiring makeup artists, MacKay is the perfect representation of sophistication, class, and dedication. In a recent interview with Digital Journal, he advises those interested in the industry to reach out directly to makeup artists they respect, offering to shadow/assist them.

“Not everyone will respond, but it never hurts to ask,” MacKay said in the interview. “I always encourage new makeup artists I meet while guest speaking at makeup schools or programs to reach out to me or another artist they admire!.”

True Hollywood Talk sat down with MacKay in an exclusive interview where we go behind the curtain of the professional makeup industry. 

Debunking MYTHS Surrounding Cosmetics

Branding today is the blood for any business if it is to survive. When we think about cosmetics companies, we are often brainwashed to think that the more famous a brand, the better its effects. Wrong. 

And then there are other myths where companies market the “one true effective anti-aging product.” Again, wrong. Whether you’re young or old, understanding the type of skin you have dictates the types of products you should be looking for to care for it. When an anti-aging cream is marketed, the company is really just selling you something that helps to minimize wrinkles. 

“There are so many beauty products being made today and so many influencers showing these products on YouTube or Instagram,” MacKay explains, “and as wonderful as they might be, it can often cause clients to ask about these products or ask me why I’m not using them. In my opinion, it casts light onto the myth that ‘if it’s on social media, it must be the best of the best.’ There is no way a makeup artist can carry every product from every brand in their kit, especially if they don’t know what the client likes prior to meeting them.”

MacKay also pointed out that because there are so many products out there that look very similar, which may also meet the expectations an individual has looking at a commercially branded product. “A similar look can be achieved using other products,” he says. “Not everything you see online is ‘the best’, no matter which influencer is saying it, because it might not be necessary or what’s best for your particular needs as a client.”

With COVID-19, Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder

The global beauty industry, comprising skin care, color cosmetics, hair care, fragrances, and personal care has certainly been shocked by the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. For an industry which generates $500 billion in sales a year, and accounts for millions of jobs, directly and indirectly, the industry has responded positively to the pandemic. 

Brands have switched their manufacturing to produce hand sanitizers and cleaning agents, and even offering free beauty services for frontline response workers. Historically, the industry’s resilience has been an advantage, but could this pandemic have a different outcome for the industry? Prior to the pandemic, in-store shopping accounted for up to 85 percent of beauty-product purchases, with some variation by subcategory. For Millennials and Gen-Zers, their purchases accounted for 60 percent of in-store purchases.

However, once COVID-19 restrictions came into effect, the closure of premium beauty-product outlets forced approximately 30 percent of the beauty-industry market to shut down, with many stores never opening again. It’s safe to assume that any new openings could be delayed at least a year.

“Bookings are much less frequent, as many studios are closed and talent have had to do their own makeup/hair for the camera,” MacKay describes. “Personal clients/brides have had to cancel their plans due to COVID-19 restrictions. And the jobs I do receive now are under strict COVID-19 regulations, such as wearing KN95 masks, goggles, gloves, and getting tested regularly. It can be scary to think that you might be turned down from the little work there is because of the pandemic. It’s more important than ever to really put health and safety first so everyone can continue working and thriving.”

Even as successful as MacKay has been over the years, the pandemic hit him hard initially as well, restricting his own ability to work. “I was totally out of work for a good 5 months, and had to really budget my savings,” he revealed. “I kept an optimistic mindset throughout the process and knew that work would come back to me. I’d worked too hard and come too far to change my career because of COVID-19, or be forced to move back home to Rhode Island. I don’t know if it was a ‘manifestation’ or what, but I booked the best job of my career back in September, after those 5 months of nothing. The result? I was on set for 2 months working on a feature film. You have to be strong and keep going.”

We asked MacKay if he could recall his top 3 client/venue experiences from 2019-2020 and what he took away from those experiences.

Condola Rashad

In 2019, actress and singer Condola Rashad asked me to be the makeup department head for 5 music videos she was creating for her new EP “Space Daughter.” I was flown to LA and was able to create over 15 unique makeup looks on Condola, some of them were nothing like I’d done before, turning her into a golden goddess.

Natalie Morales

In September 2020, during the pandemic, actress Natalie Morales announces she was directing her first movie for Hulu, and she asked me to be the makeup department head for the film. I was in charge of ordering every piece of makeup used on the cast, with COVID restrictions in place of course, creating all the makeup looks seen in the movie. I maintained continuity and managed payment for the entire department. It was unlike any experience I’ve had in the past and I absolutely loved it.

Paris Hilton and PEOPLE Magazine

Prior to COVID-19 shutting down our world in early 2020, I was working at PEOPLE Magazine one day, and Paris Hilton came in for an interview. She was scheduled for a makeup touch up with me, and while I was working with her, I built up the courage to ask her a question. 

Back in January 2010, I had previously met Hilton, before I was doing freelance work, at a toy store in Vegas. She was shopping, but offered to take a picture with 18-year-old me. I began telling her about the memory when she cut me off to name the toy store I had met her in, and gave me a huge hug. I couldn’t believe it! She was so nice back then, and that remains intact to this day. It was an awesome experience.

In his interview with Digital Journal’s Markos Papadatos, MacKay revealed that for 2021, he plans to continue working in production. “I would love to obtain some new clients, and possibly start working in LA more frequently, but I’d like to still reside mainly in New York City.”

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