Makeup Artist Joanna Simkin Gives Your Favorite Stars A 'Natural Beat'

Meet the woman who gets Issa Rae and Amber Rose glam.

By Sowmya Krishnamurthy

Joanna Simkin is part of Oxygen’s digital series In Progress, in which we feature outstanding women throughout the year. Check out the series here!


Joanna Simkin gets your favorite stars ready for their close-up. Whether she's sweeping bronzer underneath cheekbones for a sunkissed glow, lining the perfect pout or dabbing highlighter to catch the light just right, the celebrity makeup artist gives her clients a truly, lit-from-within luminescence. With over a decade of experience, New York City-based Simkin has an impressive portfolio that features some of the most beautiful faces in the world from actress Issa Rae to model Amber Rose and singer Zayn Malik. 

"I love flawless and beat— but soft," she says. "People say, 'I love how you do it. I feel beat but I don't feel makeup-y at all. That's how you should look. Really, really, perfect but like you woke up like that."

Born in London and raised in San Francisco, Simkin doesn't have formalized makeup training and instead comes from the school of hard knocks, learning by doing. "Most of the stuff, you really learn on set," she says. "You learn it when you do it. I also learn a lot from my clients. If I see their makeup and it looks great, I'll try to adopt it to my style." After graduating from design school, she moved to New York City and was offered a role at Carol's Daughter in 2005. She was on the ground floor of the then-burgeoning brand. She greatly grew her Rolodex and ultimately ventured out on her own as a makeup artist in Los Angeles. 

#TBT to last years #MetGala #MaleGroomingMoment

A post shared by Joanna Simkin (@joannasimkin) on

In the early days, she adeptly leveraged Twitter to connect to entertainment industry insiders to book jobs and promote her work. Simkin's pluck and outgoing personality have continued to help her as referrals and word-of-mouth are intrinsic to a professional makeup artist.

Simkin's work graces the pages of Vogue, Cosmo and Porter Magazine and has been spotted on red carpets from the MET Gala to the MTV Awards. It's hard to pick her favorite looks but she points to Rae's Golden Globes appearance ("I smoked the top of her eye a bit but we kept it super clean. It was all about her skin. That was a great moment") and the avant garde look for Jay Z's 2009 music video for "On to the Next One." "We did this one shot where we covered the models' faces with rhinestones and that's been done since in so many different ways," she says. "Diamonds all over the face. It looked so fly, the way they caught the light."

Interest in makeup is growing at a breakneck speed, especially with the continued influx of beauty gurus on YouTube and social media. Look no further than the hashtags #MUA and #beauty on Instagram, with 28 and 171 million hits, respectively. Sometimes it seems that everyone is vying for the same look of being overbaked, ultra-contoured and chiseled to oblivion. Simkin resists jumping on the Insta-bandwagon and aspires for her signature look that she calls "a natural beat." "I have this thing against 'Instagram makeup'. You know the look: The cut-crease with the glitter, wing eyelinger, giant lash and the thick brow. The highlight contour. It's just not my style but I appreciate the artful skill and precision."

Love this shot of @lupitanyongo from the #PeabodyAwards #MakeupByMoi Hair: @vernonfrancois

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The converse "no makeup" look can be kind of intimidating too. So, what's a girl to do? This season, Simkin advises to stick to the basics. "That natural beat is what we should look for," she says. "It's really about perfecting the skin. My brows look great and my lashes pop to define my eye. That's really it."


[Photo: The Wall Group]

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