I Took a Master Class With Kim K.'s Makeup Artist—Here's Everything I Learned
If you happened to stumble into the Screening Room at the Crosby Street Hotel on December 16, 2016, you would have seen a small group of women in the audience, swiftly typing on their phones at a manic pace while a man at the front of the room applied makeup to a model. Given the individuals’ seeming interest in their phones and not the man, you may have assumed you had walked in on an incredibly boring presentation. You would have assumed wrong.
In truth, the women were beauty editors, and the man at the front of the room was none other than Mario Dedivanovic, aka @makeupbymario—he of Kim Kardashian West–sculpted-cheekbones fame. And we weren’t tap-tap-tapping on our phones out of apathy, but rather a frantic desire to jot down every last tip Dedivanovic casually dropped along the way as he demonstrated his signature bronzed, glowing look on the model on stage. Perhaps unsurprisingly, West’s makeup artist has the type of soothing demeanor and lilting voice that washes over you like a Xanax and puts you in a semi-meditative state, which would be great except for the fact that he was spilling mind-blowing beauty tips left and right. And thus, I resisted the urge to sit back and watch him sculpt, shade, and transform the model’s face in front of me, and instead did my best to record every tip he shared—and trust me when I say there were many. From sandbagging to the bobby-pin ear trick (it’s as weird as it sounds), keep scrolling to find out everything I learned.
#1: Say goodbye to the Instagram brow
Instagram brows, for the uninformed, are the harsh, hyper-sculpted arches often seen on your Instagram feed on individuals (usually blogger or Instagram makeup gurus) who favor the super-contoured look. “I don’t like Instagram brows,” Dedivanovic told us bluntly. “I think they’re so masculine—not chic or feminine.”
Instead, he says he starts by brushing the natural brows up using a spoolie then lightly fills them in with a brow pencil in the outer corners. As a finishing touch, he defines the shape by taking a brow brush and brow powder one shade lighter than the pencil to set everything in place.
#2: Try an ombré brow (sort of)
His best tip for women with thin brows? “Apply less brow product on the inner corners and more product on the outer corners; then brush it out with a spoolie,” he says. This will help your brows look fluffy and enviable but still natural.
#3: Swap eye shadow primer for…
Instead of eye shadow primer, Dedivanovic says he applies a light wash of foundation on his clients’ eyelids, then setting it with translucent powder before applying eye shadow. “It does the exact same thing as eye primer,” he promises.
#4: And maybe face primer, too
Dedivanovic isn’t a fan of face primers, either. “I never got into face primer,” he says. “Moisturizer works really beautifully as a primer, especially when you use loose powder. It holds onto moisturizers and looks natural, not powdery.” He likes Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer ($20).
Laura Mercier Translucent Setting Powder ($38)
#5: The classics will never let you down
All of us were keen to know the exact foundation brands Dedivanovic counts on, and he easily rattled off three that never fail him: Tom Ford, Bobbi Brown, and Laura Mercier.
#6: Get creative with loose powder
“On shoots, I barely ever use powder,” he told us. “On clients and for red carpets, I only use loose powder.” He swears by the iconic version from Laura Mercier, which he doesn’t just dust all over the face with a light, fluffy brush. He mentions baking, a technique where you allow the powder to set and “bake” before dusting it off. (He does advise anyone with aging or mature skin to avoid this technique because it might cause your makeup to settle into fine lines.) Or there’s sandbagging, which is similar to baking and involves using a damp makeup sponge to pat a thick coat of translucent powder on top of your under-eye concealer (Dedivanovic specifically says to be “heavy-handed”). After a few minutes, dust away the excess with a fluffy brush for a bright, crease-free under-eyes.
#7: DIY a makeup brush cleaner
Dedivanovic told me he mixes baby shampoo and tea-tree oil (“It has antibacterial properties!’) to rinse and clean his makeup brushes.
#8: Be generous with your concealer use
The secret to Kim Kardashian West’s airbrushed-looking complexion? Heavy concealer use, apparently. Dedivanovic swipes a peach-toned concealer (he likes Nars’s Radiant Creamy Concealer, $29) with a heavy hand in key areas on his client’s face. “I blend it out with a Beautyblender ($20), and it looks good in photos and polishes the face,” he says. “If I was doing makeup on myself, I could use my finger to blend as well.”
#9: Darker skin tones can pull off brighter colors
Dedivanovic also works with clients with darker skin, like Naomie Harris, Gabrielle Union, and Jourdan Dunn. When asked if he changes his technique for darker skin tones, he says the amount of makeup you apply and blend is different. “You can intensify it for darker complexions, and it will still look natural because darker skin tones absorb more light,” he reveals. (Here are some more makeup artist–approved tips for darker skin tones, by the way.) He also brings up reverse contouring on someone with very dark skin tones, where you bring out the higher points of the face instead of accentuating the shadows.
#10: Paler skin tones should swap pink for taupe
“On really fair skin, I’ll use a really pale blush that’s almost taupe—a soft shade with gray undertones and natural shadow,” he says. (Here are some tips on how to contour if you're really, really pale and some blush shades that are super flattering on the super fair.)
#11: Heavy contour is out
A collective gasp was heard around the room when Dedivanovic uttered this sentence: “I’m trying to bring back a more natural look for Kim.” Could it be true? Could the queen of contour, full lips, and mile-long lashes be jumping on the no-makeup makeup bandwagon? (This photo proves yes, possibly.) “Contouring is a heavier look,” Dedivanovic explains. “It’s like the anti-fashion. Fashion is about being more clean and modern.” But there’s no denying the life-changing effect contouring can have, which is why Dedivanovic says you can still contour but with a lighter hand. For example, try using a cream formula like Tom Ford’s Shade & Illuminate ($80) palette and blending it out with a Beautyblender. “It’ll always be around,” he admits. “Once people do it and know how to do it, it’s life-changing.”
#12: Adjust your eyeliner technique
We watched in awe as Dedivanovic blended a soft line across the models’ entire lower lash line. But wait—isn’t that a no-no? “If someone has close-set or smaller eyes, you don’t want to bring the lower liner too close toward the insides of the eyes,” he says. “If you have normal-set eyes, you can bring it all the way in.” Another tip: Your eyeliner doesn’t need to be perfect. Instead, take an eyeliner brush and blend it over your pencil liner to create a quick smoked-out look.
#13: Layer your eyeliners
Here’s a secret: That perfect eyeliner you’re seeing on Kim is actually four or five layers of eyeliner. Yes, four to five. “I always layer eyeliners,” says Dedivanovic. “My biggest pet peeve for photos is when you can see through the liner. When you put eye shadow on top of your liner, your skin and shadow can absorb it. I apply pencil liner after eye shadow, let it dry, then do a gel or cream liner on top, then finish with a liquid liner for a glossy, inky effect.” No wonder Dedivanovic’s clients say his makeup can last up to three days (seriously, though, he says some of his clients will book him the night before an event if he doesn’t have time to see them the day of—truth.)
#14: Beat watery eyes with this bobby-pin trick
“I hate watery eyes when I’m applying makeup,” Dedivanovic sighs. Nevertheless, they are an often inevitable part of doing someone’s makeup (lifting up their eyelid and jabbing a pencil in there can do that). To deal, he wraps a tissue around his finger when the tears start building, then lightly taps it along the eye. If you’re doing your own makeup and accidentally jab yourself, he says to breathe through your nose and suck in—literally suck the tears back in. Or there’s always this: “When I was in the Middle East, the Arab girls told me a tip where you clip a bobby pin to your ear and it prevents your tears from falling out.” You can be we’ll be testing this out in the near future.
#15: Don’t ditch the powder puff that comes with your loose powder
As Dedivanovic put the finishing touches on his model, I couldn’t help but notice he was actually using the puff that comes with the Laura Mercier Translucent Setting Powder. “I like to dab the powder in and really press it in there,” he says. “Then, I take a fluffy brush and lay it on lightly on top.”
#16: Keep it in the family
By the time Dedivanovic was finished, the model’s eyes looked soft and smoky, subtly defined but not obvious. It was mesmerizing, truly. I watched Dedivanovic trace a brown liner along her upper and lower lid as well as lift her lid up to apply it to her waterline. “What’s that eyeliner you’re using?” asked one eager beauty editor. “This?” He looked at the liner as we waited in breathless anticipation. “Oh, this is the brown liner from Kylie’s Kyliner Kit ($26).” Who would’ve guessed? You did good, Ky.
Want more makeup secrets from the industry’s top pros? We’ve got complexion-perfecting tips from Gigi Hadid’s makeup artist!