When we talk about legends in the beauty industry, our conversations shouldn't only highlight the front-and-center founder or celebrity. Individuals working behind the scenes deserve their flowers too. We wouldn't have any of our beloved products without the genius work of cosmetic chemists. We wouldn't be kept abreast of the best skincare practices without dermatologists and estheticians. And many facets of the industry—like campaign shoots and runway shows—wouldn't be able to function without the hands-on work of professionals like makeup artists and manicurists. Bottom line: There are countless power players who have devoted decades of their lives to making an impact in beauty. Ahead, we're highlighting 20 behind-the-scenes legends making the industry a better place.
For nearly three decades, Mamie McDonald has worked as an esthetician. The New York-based skincare expert is revered for her knack for combining old-fashioned techniques with modern technology to enhance her clients' complexions. McDonald's unique approach to skincare treatments has allowed her to cultivate an impressive client roster, including celebrities like Iman.
Renée Rouleau is a trusted esthetician who has dedicated over 30 years of her life to the field. Celebrities and editors alike sing the praises of Rouleau's expert insight and ability to address any skincare concern. Her three decades of experience led her to create her thriving skincare brand, which is uniquely formulated for nine different skin types.
Dr. Elena Jones
Dr. Elena Jones is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. Dr. Jones apprenticed under some of the city's top dermatologists. She later became a faculty member at the St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital’s Skin of Color Center before serving as a director of their dermatology clinics. Dr. Jones has been in private practice for the past 20 years and has been the owner of her own practice for 16 years. The veteran skincare professional has also been a longtime advisor to the cosmetic industry, recently helping her client Pharrell develop his product company Humanrace.
Dr. Dendy Engelman
Dr. Dendy Engelman is a board-certified dermatologic surgeon at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue. She completed her dermatology residency at the Medical University of South Carolina. She additionally fulfilled a one-year fellowship in Mohs and dermatologic surgery, lasers, liposuction, and vein treatments. Dr. Engelman's skincare expertise also encompasses cosmetic dermatology including neurotoxins, injectable fillers, and chemical peels. In addition to working with patients, Dr. Engleman is the director of dermatologic surgery at New York Medical College, where she helps guide future Mohs surgeons and dermatologists.
Magical Makeup Artists
Known as the "Mother of Makeup," Pat McGrath has propelled the industry forward with her artistry since the early '90s. As the most influential makeup artist (a title bestowed on her by Vogue’s Anna Wintour), McGrath is regularly tapped to work for major fashion runway shows (think: Valentino and Alexander McQueen) and editorial spreads. The beauty mogul is also the founder of Pat McGrath Labs, a coveted makeup line now valued at $1 billon.
Daniel Martin's career in beauty began roughly three decades ago. Since then, he's become one of the leading artists in the industry. He's worked with everyone from Meghan Markle (he was responsible for her wedding day glam) to Priyanka Chopra. In 2020, he further deepened his footprint in beauty by taking a role as global director of artistry and education at Tatcha.
Sam Fine has been a force in the industry since the '90s. He regularly painted the faces of legendary ladies like Iman, Tyra Banks, and Naomi Campbell. Nowadays, he also works as the global makeup ambassador for Fashion Fair Cosmetics. Fine was the first Black spokesperson for Revlon and Covergirl and is the author of Fine Beauty: Beauty Basics and Beyond for African American Women.
Pati Dubroff began her career learning under makeup artist and entrepreneur François Nars. She's since become a legend in her own right, working with celebrities such as Margot Robbie, Priyanka Chopra, and Kaia Gerber. Dubroff has also collaborated with elite photographers like Annie Leibovitz and Peter Lindberg throughout her career. To top it all off, Dubroff is also one of Chanel's celebrity makeup artists.
Kim Kimble grew up surrounded by the hair industry, working as a shampoo girl in her mother's salon at age 16. After snagging her first Hollywood styling gig on the 1997 film B.A.P.S., Kimble's career has continued to reach new heights. She's cultivated a celebrity client roster that includes the likes of Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland, and Oprah Winfrey. Her head-turning hairstyles have appeared in national campaigns for Pepsi, Neutrogena, Nike, CoverGirl, and Beyoncé's visual album Lemonade. In addition to her styling work, Kimble's hair empire also includes a namesake line of haircare products and styling tools.
For over 26 years, Felicia Leatherwood has been one of the top celebrity hairstylists. She's created dynamic looks for some of the most influential names, such as Issa Rae and Ava DuVernay. Known as the "hair whisperer," Leatherwood also hosts workshops under the name "Loving Your Hair with Natural Care" to help provide people with the tips they need to care for their unique hair. Outside of her day-to-day styling and speaking engagements, Leatherwood is also the inventor of The Detangler Brush, a thoughtfully developed flexi-bristle brush that makes detangling textured hair a pain-free process.
Sam McKnight has had a legendary career spanning over four decades. He was the longtime stylist of the late Princess Diana and has collaborated with fashion houses such as Chanel. McKnight's contributions to the industry have been widely recognized, being honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Scottish Fashion Awards and Creative Head Awards. In 2017, the iconic hairstylist decided to share his expert styling tricks with the world by launching his haircare brand, Hair by Sam McKnight.
If you've ever admired Cardi B's nails (and who hasn't?), then you're familiar with Jenny Bui's work. Known as the "queen of bling," Bui famously uses Swarovski crystals to create her nail sets. Bui has been working as a nail artist since the '90s, but her prominence began to grow when she began working with Love & Hip Hop's Yandy Smith and Cardi B. Bui is now one of the most in-demand nail technicians, being crowned Nail Artist Influencer of the Year in 2019.
Bernadette Thompson has been setting nail trends since the '90s. For three decades, she's been the go-to manicurist for legends like Mary J. Blige and Missy Elliott. Thompson is most known for her intricate nail art, with Lil Kim's "money nails" being one of her most iconic sets. In addition to her trailblazing nail designs, Thompson made history by launching the first Black-owned nail care line, Bernadette Thompson Nail Care.
Tom Bachik, also known as the "celebrity MANicurist," has nearly three decades of experience under his belt. He's polished the hands of every celebrity you can think of, from Beyonce to Jennifer Lopez. As a trained graphic designer, Bachik has an unmatched ability to create eye-catching and artistic nail looks. Bachik's cutting-edge nail skills have led him to win over 300 prestigious nail contests, including the WINBA World Championship. If that wasn't impressive enough, Bachik was also the first nail artist to have a contract with Chanel and has served as an ambassador for brands like OPI and L'oreal.
Esi Eggleston Bracey
Esi Eggleston Bracey is the dynamic mind helming Unilever's beauty and personal care division, bringing 28 years of experience to the table. As the executive vice president and chief operating officer, Eggleston Bracey is tasked with accelerating the growth of brands like Dove, TRESemmé, and Suave. She has also helped launch Dove’s CROWN Coalition, which supports the CROWN Act legislation efforts to eradicate hair discrimination. Before landing at Unilever, Eggleston Bracey held positions as the president of Coty’s global consumer beauty division and as senior vice president of Procter & Gamble’s global cosmetics department.
Cara Sabin has been making a mark in beauty for nearly two decades. Her debut in the beauty industry came when she assumed the role of assistant vice president of L'Oreal Paris in 2003. Since then, she's held prominent management positions at Avon, Johnson & Johnson, Clinique, and Nars. In 2019, Sabin signed on as the CEO of Sundial Brands and now oversees brands like SheaMoisture. Most recently, she helped execute the launch of Madam by Madam C.J. Walker, a new textured haircare brand celebrating the legacy of beauty entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker.
Katie Welch is the marketing mastermind behind Selena Gomez's Rare Beauty. Welch brought over 20 years of experience to the newly launched makeup brand, having worked as the general manager of beauty at The Honest Company before joining the Rare Beauty team. Her impressive resume also includes roles as the chief marketing officer for Hourglass Cosmetics and the vice president of integrated marketing communications at Bliss World. P.S. If you've ever wanted advice from a beauty exec, follow Welch on TikTok for candid career tips.
Akuba Torvikey Dawkins
Akuba Torvikey Dawkins is an award-winning marketer and product development expert who has helped launch over 100 products for multi-million-dollar brands. Torvikey Dawkins worked with brands like Bronner Bros and Mielle on their marketing and promotional strategies. She later landed at Godrej Consumer Products, where she helped redevelop iconic Black haircare brands like Afro Sheen, African Pride, and Just for Me. These days, Torvikey Dawkins serves as the director of product development for Pattern Beauty. She additionally founded the Breedlove Beauty + Wellness Accelerator to provide free resources and mentorship to Black-owned beauty and wellness consumer goods companies.
Robyn Watkins is the founder of Holistic Beauty Group. For over two decades, Watkins has been championing the beauty industry’s adoption of clean, sustainable, and safe ingredients. She is behind the ingredient policies of some of beauty’s buzziest brands like Estee Lauder, Smashbox, and Arbonne. With her work at the Holistic Beauty Group, Watkins spends her days helping brands like Rizo's Curls and Nourage develop innovative and effective beauty and wellness products.
Ron Robinson is a veteran cosmetic chemist with over 20 years of experience. He began his career working for the Clinique division of Estee Lauder Companies in the early '90s. Robinson then went on to develop best-selling products for other leading beauty brands such as Aramis, La Mer, Revlon, Avon, and Lancome. In 2019, Robinson leveraged his product expertise to develop his beauty brand, BeautyStat Cosmetics, under which he created the world’s first serum containing 20% stable and pure vitamin C.