Neutrals be damned.
This story first appeared in the November 16, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Makeup artist Rachel Goodwin isn’t known for bashful beauty, much preferring instead to insert swipes of vibrant hues into even the most classic makeup looks. Take the periwinkle shade she brushed on Emma Stone’s eyes for a premiere of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” the generous blush and burgundy accenting January Jones’ peepers at one of her many Emmys appearances or the bright pink lip she gave Kat Dennings for an “Iron Man 3” red-carpet jaunt. “I’m an emotional artist,” Goodwin says. “Color makes me feel things, and that’s where it all connects.”
Growing up in bucolic Marin County, Calif., Goodwin remembers being fascinated by makeup when she was just four years old. Barely out of diapers, she sketched bedazzled women with enormous fluttering eyelashes. “I was always drawn to sparkly things,” she recounts. Barbie was a victim of her budding enthusiasm for makeup. “I started doing terrible work on her very early,” she laughs. Goodwin’s mother served as inspiration, too. “She would do makeup on herself at the department store counter. I was sometimes mortified, but I think it sunk in that it was a way of expressing yourself,” she says.
Goodwin made up her mind to pursue a career as a makeup artist before she really knew what it took. A family friend was a professional makeup artist, and the day Goodwin graduated high school she phoned to get advice on becoming one. The friend pointed Goodwin in the direction of the San Francisco Opera, where she learned the art of stage makeup from Patricia Polen. Still in the Bay Area, she freelanced for various brands, including Shiseido, MAC Cosmetics and Make Up For Ever, and dabbled in film by doing makeup on the indie movie “Til Death Do Us Part,” which convinced Goodwin staying on set wasn’t her passion.
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MAC brought Goodwin to New York to work at a new store aimed at makeup artists. In her mid-20s back then, Goodwin recalls, “I was hungry to know about the business. I was like, ‘This is it. This is where I’m going to make my mark.” While working at MAC, she began assisting makeup artists such as Linda Cantello, James Kaliardos and Tom Pecheux.
Goodwin realized the commitment — and luck — required to prosper as a makeup artist in New York, and wondered if she might actually make her mark elsewhere. “I saw the kind of dedication and the lack of personal lives that they had. The unforgiving hours and stress were real,” she says. “It wasn’t all creativity. It was blood, sweat and tears.”
Unfamiliar with Los Angeles, Goodwin found herself in the city on a job. “It was this open landscape of unknown. Everybody in San Francisco and New York was like, ‘Why would you ever go to L.A.? That is the worst decision you could ever make,’” remembers Goodwin. Moving to L.A. became attractive when paying gigs mounted. “In New York, I would probably be working for another 10 years for free,” she says. Financially it made sense to relocate, and she felt at home on the West Coast: “I’m a California girl.”
At the outset in L.A., Goodwin’s fashion sensibilities paired well with musicians, and she found herself in the mix with Gwen Stefani, Marilyn Manson, Smashing Pumpkins and Pink. A big celebrity break in L.A. came when she did Brittany Murphy’s makeup for a Flaunt magazine cover shot by David LaChapelle. “The supermodel era was ending, and magazines were putting more celebrities on covers. I benefited from that because I was able to be a bridge between fashion and celebrity,” Goodwin says.
A few years later, Chanel signed her as its celebrity makeup artist. Her first Academy Awards came in 2008, when she was assigned the task of beautifying Penélope Cruz. The next year, it was Diane Lane. A string of red-carpet successes have continued since. She handled best actress Oscar winner Brie Larson’s makeup at this year’s Academy Awards, and Stone’s last year. Goodwin’s other clients include Amber Valletta, Alicia Vikander, Selena Gomez, Jodie Foster, Diane Kruger and Jennifer Lawrence.
In a business marked by fleeting partnerships, Goodwin’s lasting relationship with Chanel is a point of pride. “I take it seriously. I’m always like, ‘Is this appropriate? Would this reflect the brand I’m representing?’” she says.
Ultimately, though, Goodwin wants to step into a more prominent role with makeup products. “I would love to build a line, hopefully with a brand where I create collections and give back some of what I’ve learned in the 20 years of being in this industry,” Goodwin says. “I would love to be able to have a bigger voice somehow, someday.”