If you've ever lost yourself in the enchanting makeup tutorial black hole otherwise known as YouTube, you've likely stumbled upon mesmerizing makeup artist (and transformation extraordinaire) Kandee Johnson. Widely known and beloved for her infectious personality, amazing character portrayals, product know-how, and game-changing application tips, Johnson has easily secured her spot as one of YouTube's OG makeup gurus (she was doing it before vlogging was even a thing, people) and has steadily gained an incredible fan base, which only continues to soar. (Currently, her channel has almost 4 million followers, and her Instagram account sits at a cozy 1.7 million.)
Additionally, Forbes named Johnson one of its Top 10 Beauty Influencers of 2017 thanks in part to her incredible beauty presence but also in consideration of impressive entrepreneurial endeavors like sellout collaborations with covetable brands from Sinful Colors to Too Faced and OGX Haircare. Oh, and that's all before her new starring role as a judge on Lifetime's show Glam Masters, which debuted in February and airs at 10 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Executive-produced by Kim Kardashian West, Johnson will judge alongside celebrity makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic (West's righthand man when it comes to the sizzling makeup looks she's made her signature) and Marie Claire senior fashion editor Zanna Roberts Rassi. Hosted by Laverne Cox, the eight episodes are built on a formula that feels Chopped meets Project Runway. (Episodes will follow beauty influencers through themed challenges specifically designed to test their makeup artistry and creativity.)
Following the highly anticipated premiere of her new show, we chatted with Johnson to chat all things beauty and, of course, to glean as many makeup tips as possible. (And yes, Johnson is just as contagiously kind and creative as we had hoped for.) Keep reading for our quick Q & A with the makeup artist.
On Glam Masters, you're judging up-and-coming beauty influencers, but what inspired your own start on YouTube?
So, I had actually been a makeup artist for years before I started YouTube. And then one day a friend of mine showed me Lauren Luke's channel, and she was selling these beautiful eye shadow palettes and sharing tutorials using the palettes and showing people how to use them. I was watching and her, and I was just thinking to myself, This is amazing. This is so cool.
Since I was a makeup artist, I always had women asking how to do their eyebrows, how I got my start, product recommendations, so I just realized I could use all of my tips to help educate, and I started uploading videos! I mean, a lot has changed. Back then, none of us knew what we were doing. I didn't know how to edit or even get footage from my camera onto my computer. So to see how the vlogging and influencer industry has grown to where it is today is so mind-blowing.
Considering how much it's changed, what does it take to make it in the vlogging world now?
It definitely takes a good work ethic and patience. I think that's something that a lot of people underestimate. Sometimes people get started and they think they'll make videos for a few months and then they're going to get millions of followers. It's not a situation where you have overnight success. It takes a lot of work. It's a labor of love! I mean originally, I think my goal was for like 50 people to see my videos. I just never would have dreamed when I first started this whole thing that one day I would be on a TV show about makeup where I'm judging people in this competitive and inspiring environment.
What kinds of traits will you be looking for on Glam Masters? What separates someone from the competition in this field?
As a makeup artist, it's not just creativity. It's also innovation, unique artistry, somebody's style in general. Everyone has a signature—whether you're looking at a makeup artist like Pat McGrath or someone like Kevyn Aucoin, who also had this amazing uniqueness. The contestants have to have that X factor—that thing that will make them stand out. Also, the willingness to learn—even if they're not perfect at something—is so important. Openness to taking direction and making the area that's weak stronger.
We also really want to see something new, not just the things other people think are popular or are taking over social media. Show us what is in your mind and what you're passionate about sharing with the rest of the world. That would be my advice for anyone looking to break into the makeup and influencer industry.
Who inspires you in terms of their artistry?
It's funny because, in the beauty space, there are just so many people who inspire me. I just love and appreciate seeing really cool artistry, and it doesn't necessarily have to be someone incredibly popular or someone who everyone knows about. I really appreciate raw creativity when someone is truly thinking and creating something that's outside of the box. I love Linda Hallberg. Her work is just so different—unique. And honestly, I'm also really moved by anyone who values kindness in their work. I think there needs to be more kindness in the world, especially in the beauty space. Let your beauty be the kindness that people feel from you. I hope there can be a return to that. Letting beauty come from the heart and from a place where we can encourage every look and celebrate others' beauty and success.
The looks you create are so incredibly artistic and transformative. Have you had any favorites over the years?
My Edward Scissorhands look is one of my all-time favorites. And it's such an old video. It's from 2009, and it's so poor quality. But I had such a blast creating it, and I know people had a lot of fun re-creating it, which I always love to see. I also love my original Barbie look which I actually wasn’t happy with at the time! [Ed. note: She's since created a new version.] But I posted it anyway, which just goes to show that sometimes imperfection or something you think isn't very good ultimately goes viral and people like it!
What about your everyday look? What products do you swear by on days you aren't filming?
Typically, if I'm not filming anything or not going anywhere, then I'm just not in any kind of makeup. I love the feeling of just having moisturizer on my face and like my skin is having the chance to actually breathe. That being said, I'm obsessed with the Tarte Frxxxtion Stick Exfoliating ($22). It looks like deodorant, but it has charcoal as the main ingredient and these little granules, which makes it great for exfoliating my face every day. I also really love drugstore micellar waters! I use them to remove my makeup, and then Urban Decay makes an eye makeup remover spray, which is awesome. It literally gets everything off of that delicate eye area. It's their Meltdown Makeup Remover Dissolving Spray ($28), and it's amazing.
Okay, last but not least, what are your three most life-changing tips for perfect makeup application?
1. What I learned when I was first apprenticing under a makeup artist was how it important it is to physically push your makeup into the skin and pores. If it's just sitting on top of the skin, it will never look like an even application. I always recommend using a Beautyblender ($20) to work the foundation into the skin and making this where you spend most of your effort.
2. In my opinion, lashes should always be the last thing you apply—they're basically the cherry on top! This way, you won't get any shadow or powder fallout on the eyelashes themselves, which can ruin the overall look.
3. Back in the day when I was apprenticing, the makeup artist who was mentoring me at the time taught me to put concealer all over the edges of the mouth before powdering and applying your liner and lipstick. It provides the perfect base for lip color because it prevents your natural color from showing through and altering the impact of the shade at all. Plus, it adds longevity and staying power.
To shop Johnson's top five must-have beauty products, keep scrolling!
Fullips Lip Enhancers
For the full how-to, check out the official Fullips tutorial. Essentially, you'll do like Johnson and simply suck on the tool to gain a fuller pout in mere minutes. No filler or painful injections required!
Yves Saint Laurent All Hours Concealer
One of Johnson's top product obsessions for a flawless face is this creamy, non-drying pick from YSL, which she praises for the thin yet perfectly dewy finish it delivers. In her words, "It's a miracle concealer." Sold.
Clinique Pretty Easy Liquid Eyelining Pen
This 24-hour-durable liquid liner takes the tricky guesswork out of creating the perfect cat eye. It's ultra-precise, so you'll get a saturated and sturdy sweep of color in one fell swipe.
Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara
A universal cult favorite for a reason, this beloved mascara formula is known for its power-packed plumping and elongating abilities thanks to its jet-black, collagen-enriched formula.
Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo
As Johnson iterates, framing your brows might arguably be one of the most important steps in your makeup routine when it comes to highlighting your favorite facial features. Therefore, she turns to Anastasia Beverly Hills' flattering powder duos for impeccable arches.