Rachel Goodwin is a leading fashion and celebrity Makeup Artist whose unique perspective on beauty has made her one of the most well-known artists of her time. From early training at the San Francisco Opera House to the runway backstages of New York City and Paris, to her current home in Los Angeles, her vision is as impressive as it is diverse. As a decades-long artist ambassador for Chanel Beauté, Director of Pro Artistry at NARS, and a content creator for brands such as Sisley Paris and Japan’s Koh Gen Do, Rachel’s talents cover a broad scope of media and platforms. Most recently, Rachel’s roles include co-founder of the highly anticipated Makeup Museum in New York City and host of her own beauty podcast Pretty Curious.
Why makeup? Was it something you always wanted to do or did it find you unexpectedly?
When I really think about it, makeup was my first love. I had a teenage mom and her love for fashion and beauty totally permeated my existence as a child. She was always experimenting and getting glammed up to go out with her friends and I would just watch in total awe. It all seemed like magic to me.
Can you remember your first makeup job? If so, tell us about that experience?
My earliest makeup jobs outside of retail were actually working on fashion shows at underground S&M and Drag clubs in San Francisco 90’s. It was a really experimental scene at that time and I was free to experiment with fantastical ideas. I loved all the glitter and the fantasy involved. I still do.
Congratulations on the Makeup Museum! How did the Makeup Museum come into fruition?
I have always been a major makeup history fanatic, and a friend of mine in the industry recommended I meet her friend Doreen Bloch (the Museum’s Founder) when she’d heard she was in the early stages of building out the concept for the Museum. I happened to be in Silicon Valley for work shortly after and knew she lived in Palo Alto. I decided to call her and ask if she wanted to grab a coffee together. The moment we started talking I felt like the Universe had just granted me the most magical gift. I quickly realized when I heard her vision that this crazy dream I had, could actually become a reality! I don’t think I’d ever even let myself dream that big before that day. It was total kismet.
How would you describe your makeup style? What inspires you?
My personal makeup style is fairly minimal these days but believe me, I’ve experimented with it all. I came of age in the 80’s when powerful colorful makeup was everywhere, so that was my resting point. I was a Punk and a Goth. I had my over the top technicolor moments in the 90’s. Makeup to me has always been about a feeling. A way to express your interior landscape. I’m honestly bored by makeup applied for the sheer sake of vanity, or seeking some kind of beauty ideal. The way it reveals a person’s insecurity always makes me feel uncomfortable. I want to learn something about the person by their makeup choices. I just love to witness incredible execution and imagination come together in any form it takes. That’s what inspires me
What advice would you give to makeup artists who are struggling to grow and are finding it hard to stay inspired during this time?
I can tell you as a person who has spent my life as a working artist, that if you choose this path, it will be a beautiful life, but will never be predictable. The highs are high and the lows are low, even without a pandemic! My advice for any artist right now would be to use this time to develop your eye, point of view and your knowledge for your craft. These are things that will take you out of the competition forever. Contrary to popular belief, creativity is not about the hustle. It’s about knowing how to channel your energy and about when to surrender to the muse. Use your time well and follow whatever lights you up at that moment, even if it seems silly. You’ll be surprised that you’ll never be short on inspiration!
In your opinion, what’s the hardest part about being a makeup artist that no one warns you about?
I think the thing no one tells you honestly, is that you will need a really resilient spirit to survive this business. This business is not for the faint of heart. You will face a ton of rejection and just as many ups and downs. Having a wonderful support group in place, from the beginning, is the key to maintaining a long career in my opinion. At least it has been for me.
What are your most repurchased products in your pro kit?
I am a MUFE fanatic and always have been. The richness and density of the pigments are always a go to for me for editorial, as well as when I do any kind of makeup on myself that I want to have major impact. Their Flash Palette and Face and Body Foundations have been in my kit since day one. I am also never without my Neal’s Yard Wild Rose Beauty Balm.
What’s your favorite vintage makeup item/makeup item from the past that you wish still existed?
For sure it would have to be Marilyn’s signature red lipstick, Guerlain’s Rouge Diabolique. It is no longer in existence, but they created a color called Red Insolence that supposedly comes very close. However, having the original shade would be my version of makeup artist heaven for sure!
How do you choose what products make it into your pro kit? Is there a process when you’re deciding what makes the cut?
Honestly, I hate to try things for the first time on set. It makes me too nervous. I need to play with them in my studio and on myself first before they land in my kit. It’s tricky to explain. It’s not something I consider that much really. I think some of it is instinctual at this point. I know quickly whether I like a product or not. It’s almost instantaneous.
There have been so many iconic moments throughout the history of beauty. Is there a moment or face that has significance to you or that holds a special place?
Seeing Donna Summer’s ‘Live and More’ album cover was a huge moment for me as a kid. I’ll never forget that moment, how her red lip gloss and eyeshadow sparkled. It was a total beauty epiphany for me. My eye for makeup has always been shaped by color and emotion, and very linked to music. I was completely obsessed with album cover art and MTV since I was like 5 or 6. Outside of that, the work of Serge Lutens for Dior and Shiseido, as well as Max Factor, on film stars like Carole Lombard, Greta Garbo and Jean Harlow, made me aware of the power of makeup before I even really understood that there was such a thing as a makeup artist.
Where can we find more information about the makeup museum?
If you are lucky enough to be in the NY area and you want to see our inaugural exhibition, PINK JUNGLE 1950s’ Makeup in America, you can visit us at 94 Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District. If you are like the rest of us and can’t travel at the moment, you can go to our Instagram page @makeupmuseumofficial or our website.