Beauty is Art: Interview With Celebrity Makeup Artist Janice Kinjo

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janice kinjo with glasses

Janice Kinjo

After a decade-long career, Japanese American Janice Kinjo has become one of the most sought after celebrity makeup artists, having worked with Mary J. Blige, LL Cool J, Drake, and Chris Brown. Her work has been featured in InStyle, LA Magazine, Trace, and Cosmopolitan and she is also a contributor for her expert opinion on products, technique, and trends.

Kinjo is currently working on a YouTube beauty channel set to launch in the near future and is gearing up for a busy upcoming holiday schedule which will include working with Mary J. Blige on national television appearances and Idris Elba on promoting the upcoming movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, set to release in theaters on November 29. AsianWeek recently had a chance to chat with this makeup artist about her background, her career, and all things beauty.

When and how did you know that being a makeup artist was what you wanted to do? 

My mentor Rudy Soeonayor is my inspiration. I met him during my first makeup gig which involved assisting my friend with a photo shoot. My mentor taught me skills, professionalism, and the ins and outs of the beauty industry. However, he got into an accident that prevented him from physically working in makeup again. I do what I do because he no longer can.

My decision to become a makeup artist wasn’t immediate. Initially, it was something that I just wanted to try but later ended up finding a passion in.

Who was the first celebrity you worked with and how did it feel knowing that you had finally reached this level?

The first celebrity I got the chance to work with was LL Cool J while he was promoting a fitness book.  Working with him for the first time was a surreal experience. Here I am in his car roaming around New York City. It was a position I never thought I would ever find myself in. It was a real big deal to me and a big boost in confidence. I actually still work with him today!

Janice Kinjo preps Grammy award winning rapper Drake for his Kodak commercial.

Grammy award winning rapper Drake’s makeup for a Kodak commercial was done by Janice Kinjo. Photo courtesy of Janice Kinjo.

What were your parents like? Were they the strict and traditional? How supportive were they of your career path you wanted to follow?

My parents were very strict when I was growing up,. In addition to all my academics, I took part in a lot of extracurricular activities that included Japanese school every Saturday and playing sports like soccer. My parents were under the impression I would get into politics after I got my degree in international relations. And initially, that’s what I wanted to do. When I decided that makeup was what I really wanted to get into, they would ask ” Are you sure this is what you want to do?” They were apprehensive but they were ultimately supportive of my decision. They didn’t believe that it was something I should do for a career. But now that they see what I do, they couldn’t be more proud.

What is your typical skin care routine?

It’s actually really simple. I wash my face every morning. I used to have bad acne so I would use organic face soaps. I would usually follow up with a cleansing serum. Then I would finish off with skin moisturizer.

What additional skin care advice do you have for a guy like me that is susceptible to acne?

When it comes to acne, the important thing to do is watch what you eat. Steer clear of greasy foods as much as possible. As far as skincare products are concerned, what you use will depend on skin sensitivity. I would highly recommend that you use almond soap! Also take care to watch where you put your phone. Especially in this day and age of touch screens where we touch get our fingers all over our phones then press them to our faces.

From magazines to film, how does your makeup usage on the people you work with change according to the media you are working in?

The real difference is that film involves more powdering than magazines especially now in this age of HD television. More coverage and powdering is needed because HD TV picks up everything. Without coverage and powdering, you’re more likely to look like you have grease on your face.

How much traveling, both nationally and internationally, does your job involve?

My job involves a lot of traveling. One month I’m in Italy, the next I’m on a domestic tour, or I’m in New York doing work.

Finally, what is the next step for you in your career? 

I want to be able to create something that deals with beauty, have my name on it, and released to the general public. Like a makeup tool. I also really want to travel to Asia and inspire people. Yes, we have strict Asian parents but I want to promote what I do while spreading the message of following your heart and finding your passions in life.

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