Confessions Of Blake Lively's Makeup Artist

Twiggy, Cher, Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Cindy Crawford, and the entire Kardashian crew — the list of iconic faces makeup artist Kristofer Buckle has touched never seems to end. As close to an overnight success story as it gets, Buckle's career in makeup began on a train platform in New York City's Penn Station when he was just 18. Fast forward to today and he's one of the most sought after makeup artists in the world and has a cosmetics line that sold out just 45 minutes after launching, yet Buckle still remains humble to his punky beginnings.
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Here, he opens up to R29 about how his career took off, what goes into his signature makeup look, and what Blake Lively is really like to work with. The following interview was told to Megan Decker and edited for length and clarity.
From Penn Station To Vogue
"I was a punky kid growing up in the '80s. I wore a ton of very theatrical makeup. I was walking through Penn Station when I was 18, with my normal full face of makeup, and this random woman stopped me and offered me a job at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City as a makeup assistant. That was my entrance into the world of makeup. While I was working there, I met Patricia Fields, the designer who styled Sex & The City, and she asked me to run her makeup counter, so I did that on the side as well. But after a few years, I got tired of being a gypsy and working freelance at counters, so I took a stable office job as a booker at Oz Management in New York, the agency that represented Serge Normant, Laura Mercier, Francois Nars — like, every top artist. I was there for three years, until the day my life changed.
"Laura Mercier was on set, working on an American Vogue shoot with Amber Valletta and Kate Moss, and she needed an extra set of hands, but the agency couldn't find anyone to send her. So, Laura said, 'Just send Kristopher!' I was literally working in a cubicle under these awful fluorescent lights at the time, and I ran straight from there to the studio. When I arrived, Laura introduced me to Kate and said, 'We're doing a bronze eye and nude lip, use whatever makeup you can find.' So I did Kate Moss's makeup, just like that. And when she got on set, her makeup caught the attention of Steven Meisel, the photographer on the shoot. As a direct result of that first job assisting Laura, Steven booked me as a solo artist to do the makeup for the cover of Italian Vogue. That was October of '96 — and with that, I had a career instantly.
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"Looking back, it was interesting because the first and only work in my portfolio was the cover of Italian Vogue and a 20-page fashion story with Steven Meisel — literally, nothing else. I was in a cubicle, working in an office, and 20 minutes later, I was doing Kate Moss's makeup. Then a couple weeks later, I was doing the cover of Italian Vogue. Because of how fast my career took off, I never really had time to learn the dos and don'ts of the business — I didn't know where to stand on set or how I was suppose to present my makeup to a client — so I just followed my instincts. Actually, I think my innate punky, I-don't-give-a-shit attitude help me, because I took more risks than I would have if I had considered what I should be afraid of."
Courtesy of Steven Meisel
Making Art With Makeup
"What gave me momentum as an artist was that my work stood out, because it was in stark opposition of what was trendy at the time. In the '90s, grunge was all the rage — everyone was smearing grease paint all over their skin, rimming their eyes with jet-black pencil, and flat-ironing waxy pomade into their hair — it was a very deconstructed, unfinished look. So it was shocking when I did the cover of Italian Vogue, and Steven asked: 'What do you think you want to do with the makeup?' I replied: 'I just want them to look pretty.' I was so tired of seeing all the dark grunge. Instead, I gave the models alabaster skin, rouged cheeks, and berry-stained lips — and the cover got a lot of attention.
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"Despite my lack of industry experience, my own teenage experimentation with makeup was what taught me how to do everything. Back in the day, I would do all this crazy stuff, like shaving back my hairline, contouring my cheekbones, and over-sculpting my brows. When I began working with models, and later celebrities, I knew what to do because I had done it on myself. So, I shrunk down all those big, theatrical beauty concepts and techniques to fit within the realm of a woman's glamour — and that became my signature.
"I've never set out try to achieve a certain look, per se, but people tell me all the time that they know my work when they see it. I always ask: 'Well, what jumps out at you, exactly?' And they say: 'There's just a feeling of symmetry, strong bone structure, and a sense of glamour that's stops before being overdone.' And though it's subjective, that complement makes sense to me because I'm very detail-oriented. I don't approach each eye the same, because each eye is different. All those tiny, fine details, and all the steps, collectively make up the final product."
The Rise Of Celebrity
"Simultaneously, as my career was beginning, celebrities were gaining momentum — they were replacing models on the covers of magazines. I mean, I saw that as a managing agent, before I even started doing makeup. When I began my makeup career, I knew it was good business to steer towards celebrity and away from fashion. When you're working for fashion editorial, you're making a couple hundred dollars a day. When you're working with celebrities, you're making a couple thousand dollars a day. I've always considered my work from a larger industry perspective. Because once you sell your art, it's no longer art — it's business — and that's how I've always approached it.
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"My very first celebrity client was Glenn Close for Allure Magazine. I gained momentum with celebrities quickly after that, because what most people found difficult about working with famous women just didn't bother me. I wasn't intimidated by celebrity. I started working with a lot of actresses, because once your name is on the cover of Italian Vogue, all publicists are interested in you. So, publicists and people in the magazine industry started suggesting me for celebrity covers, and I began working for everybody — Twiggy, Ann Margret, Catherine Deneuve, Liza Minnelli, Cher, Madonna, Alanis Morissette, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, and of course, all the Kardashians."
Bonding With Blake
"I met Blake very early in her career, way back before The Traveling Pants series. I was doing her makeup for her first magazine cover, for CosmoGirl. I remember she was so nervous, and she said to me: 'I don't know what to do out there, I'm not a model!' So, I told her to look at me while she was shooting, and I stood behind the photographer, working model-like poses, and she just copied me. We bonded over that moment, and we've worked together since. It's been one of my favourite client relationships, because I've watched Blake grow over the past decade. And as some young celebrities change and transform not always for the best, Blake has maintained every bit of her personality. She's the same girl I met all those years ago. Her essence, her generosity, her levity, it's all the same. She's just this kind, conscientious person through and through — but her makeup leanings have changed a bit.
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"When Blake was new in the business, she was so excited about the exploration of makeup. She wanted all the bells and whistles — lashes, contour, an overdrawn lip — so we look back and laugh at those early Gossip Girl posters, because she looked very done. Now, her whole look is a lot softer — except, obviously if we're working on an event like the Met Gala.
"If you're in this industry as long as Blake has, you can't wear your makeup the same at every appearance. I keep the shapes that work for her, but adjust the textures so the look reads modern. For example, we've always worked to play up Blake's lashes. In the past, we've done that by piling on lots of black mascara. Now, we want to take the same approach to emphasise her eyes, but we do it by contrasting the lashes with an iridescent shadow, because that's more modern. We will also use brown mascara as opposed to black, she just prefers a softer lash now. Those tiny, micro-adjustments keep the look current and evolving.
"My formula for Blake's makeup is pretty simple. We both look at makeup as paint — it's all about the color and the texture — and she's not sensitive about what I put on her face. It could be $2 or $100. To start, I'll use my Kristofer Buckle Triplicity Foundation Stick in the shade Medium Warm. Then I use my warming power in both shades, light and deep, to highlight and define her bone structure. I'll contour her nose very lightly, then her cheekbones and sides of her forehead. I use my Brow Champion Pomade in Blonde to fill in and lift her brows. I use a lot of different eyeshadows on Blake. Same goes for her lips, but one of my go-to's is my Cashmere Slip Lipstick in the shade Bardot, which is a no-brainer because it's a pink she really likes. I'll usually use my Light Enhancing Duo as a highlight, down the centre of her nose and on her cheekbones. I mean, sometimes we will go more bold, but that's an easy look that we know will work. Blake's gorgeous, and doesn't need a lot of makeup. It's not just her face that's stunning, Blake just really radiates beauty in a visceral way — she's sunshine."
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