Troy Jensen: Elle Macpherson's Go-To Guy Talks Making A Statement With Color

The colors, the textures, the breathtaking glamour…it takes a moment to understand what Troy Jensen did exactly to create a look, almost like analyzing a gorgeous, intricate piece of art.

A global makeup artist and noted photographer, he is responsible for creating unforgettable looks. Lucky us, he called during a break on-set to share incredible stories and provide detailed tips on how-to get glam. 



What is the simplest way to create a flawless complexion?

A. As a professional makeup artist, the way I use makeup is different than a woman doing her makeup for everyday. It’s different makeup when you’re not going to be under hot lights for 16 hours. To create a healthy even-looking complexion, I tell a lot of my clients to mix their foundation with a little bit of moisturizer or serum and make their own kind of tinted moisturizer. It gives a little bit of color to the face. Then to touch up areas or imperfections, use a natural concealer. Two I like are Elizabeth Arden Flawless Maximum Coverage Concealer and Jouer Cosmetics Age-Repairing Brightener. Jouer’s brightener comes in great colors; you get more of a glow from it and it counteracts darkness under the eyes. In California, especially, they like to look tan and healthy all year around, so it’s easy to use makeup to create that glow.


At just 16 years old you did your first celebrity shoot with Farrah Fawcett and you used Revlon makeup. Do you still use the brand now?

A. The line has completely changed now. The line has changed and evolved so much, but I still use it. People are surprised when I have Dior and I have Chanel and I have YSL, and I pull out my Revlon ColorStay Foundations and I love them. They are so perfect for set.

When I photographed Kim Kardashian, we went to Mexico to shoot her calendar, and she wanted to be really tan. I told her it would be better for me to do it with makeup, so don’t worry about a spray tan. I did her in a Revlon ColorStay Foundation in a color called Caramel or Mocha, I can’t remember which one, but it was literally six shades darker than her skintone and I covered her from head to toe. I threw her in the water, I put oil on her, she was in the pool…it didn’t move, it did not come off. It’s amazing. To give a bronzing to your skin when your going out, you can put some on your legs to give them some color and even them out. You can layer it; you don’t want to slather it on too thick. You want to kind of build the color and really blend it into the skin. It’s amazing.


You work a lot with Elle Macpherson. On blondes with warm complexions, what are the products you like using best?

A. The thing about Elle is she has been a supermodel for so long that she knows her face so well. She knows what works for her, so I have to be able to come in and give her new colors. I love to do a shimmery, taupey, champagne eye on Elle. I don’t need to do a lot to her face; the camera loves her face. You look at her face and look at her and think, “I can’t believe this woman is almost 50, I can not believe it.” For the shimmery, taupey, champagne eye I do on Elle, I love to apply shadow with a damp brush. It’s sort of a wash of shimmer on her, not chalky or smokey. There’s one actually by Revlon that I love; it’s from their shadow collection Revlon Diamond Lust, I’m not sure if they still make it, but it’s a beautiful champagne color. Cream shadows also give the same effect; I love Jouer Cosmetics Creme Shadows. It’s just those pale, shimmery, feminine colors that look so good on her. Instead of using a bronzer on Elle, I’ll do it with the foundation. I’ll warm up the skin evenly with a foundation. She’s always tan because she spends a lot of time traveling, so whenever I see her she already has a really healthy glow.


At times, you use very bold color and nothing you do looks garish. What is your secret?

A. For me, I love color so much. I relate it to a designer loving fabrics. I love products and I really love textures, shine, the way something feels to the touch, and the way it looks. When I think of a color, I think of celebrating that color. I really want to make a statement with that color, so I don’t need to use it on the lips and then do something with the eyes and the cheeks and so on; then it can look like too much.

I use my intuition to make a lot of my choices when I make a beauty decision for someone. I really trust my instincts. I think it’s about that balance. Knowing how to balance something and leaving something undone helps to make a statement. So your thinking you’re seeing something, but it doesn’t look too much and maybe my choice was that I didn’t do something. Not what I did do, but what I didn’t do. Maybe I didn’t fill in the brow, or maybe I didn’t put on too much foundation, or maybe I didn’t use any color on the cheeks just the lips or just the eyes to make the statement. It’s often what you don’t do, not what you do, that ends up being genius about the look.


Many celebrities are known for their signature looks. How do you approach suggesting changes and innovations?

A. I go through this with many of my clients, like Jennifer Lopez, who is known for the JLo look. Same thing with Elle, they have very signature esthetics. I find it very challenging to come in and not have to transform them or prove something, but simply help evolve their look. I told Jennifer this when I did her for Harper’s Bazaar Japan, “I can do JLo makeup if you want the sheer, beigey, creamy JLo glow, but this is my opportunity to work with you, Jennifer Lopez, and I want to do Troy Jensen.” She looked at me and said, “well, what do you want to do?” That’s my opportunity to make a statement and to make the right choice. I did a beautiful blue aqua eye and wing tip liner, and this was before Lindsay Lohan did the bio pic of Elizabeth Taylor, and before Liz become the “it” icon right now. I feel she is a very big trend right now and this was well over a year ago. I was just really vibing Elizabeth Taylor at that time, and I told Jennifer, “I want to do something very Elizabeth Taylor with you, but in a modern way.” I have some confidence with my ability because of my experience and my expertise from being in the business. I have a huge library of looks in my head and it’s sort of like a mathematical equation; I know this plus this plus this will result in that look.


What eyeliners do you like and what is your trick to making eyes pop?

A. I mentioned this before. I do use a lot of liners, but the way I define and sculpt the eye is with wet shadows. I may use the liner as a base, but I’ll go over it with a wet shadow and narrow brush. I may use blacks, browns, bronzes, purples. As an artist, I paint and create a look like I’m painting a picture. The way I do a face, I literally paint the color and product on the face or on the body; it’s just my technique. What looks like a lined eye is most likely painted on with a damp brush and eyeshadow.

I have an eye that I call “The Troy Jensen Smokey Flare.” It’s like a wing-tipped eye from that era of the 60’s of Sophia or Ursula Andress, where the eye was sculpted in a wing shape. It’s a look that I feel makes any woman beautiful. I created this way of doing it where it’s not so perfect or precious. I use a softer brush, because the whole idea is to create a wing tipped eye to get that glam lift but also look soft and a bit undone. I use a soft brush that is narrower, that’s actually a blending brush. When I dampen it, the brush hairs come together because they’re wet, but still soft. I just use bottled water and dip my brush right in the bottle.

You want to make sure the shadows you have can be used wet or dry. Sometimes if they are talc based, the pigment will separate if you get it wet. If you have a talc based shadow, it looks good in brown or black, but if you get it wet, it will turn gray. So if you want to use darker shades, you need to make sure they can be used wet for this method. I use a lot of different ones. I have every palette from Chanel, YSL, Dior, Jouer, and Girlactik has some really great pearl finish shadows I like to use wet.


What is the key to create a look like this bold red lip you did on Rachel McAdams?

A. When I create a look, I think about color, but I also think about personas or types and people who have influenced me. This look with a shimmery eye, whether it’s gold, silver, or champagne, where the eye is sort of pale and shimmery and then a bright lip, it’s a very smart blonde girl look, a Grace Kelly look. When you look at Grace Kelly, she looks so strong, intelligent, classic and chic. With Grace, the color was about her mouth. She wasn’t a Sophia Loren or Marilyn Monroe; with them it was about the eyes. To me, Rachel is such an intelligent woman and easy going and she loves makeup and she’ll try new things. With this look, I wanted to create a brainy blonde beauty look. I think that entire look was Dior. It's a white and silver shimmer I used for the eyes. With the lip, I wanted it to look sheer but bright, so I applied the lip color with a bright pencil and then padded on the lip color with my fingertip so it really stained her lips. Then I went over it with a clear gloss, so it doesn't look heavy. I didn't want to do retro red lip with her. It was just about making that statement highlighting the eye, the lip and then just a beautiful lash. On the cheeks, it's just a very subtle pink. 


You reference many beauties of the Hollywood golden era as inspiration. What’s your favorite film from that time period?

A.Sweet Charity” with Shirley MacLaine has a club scene where she finds herself with Ricardo Montalban and the models and the dancers and the makeup is out of this world. Also, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Marilyn Monroe movies, Marlene Dietrich, Sophia Loren movies…I mean there are so many. I have them all. I have quite a library of books, magazines and movies.



You’ve said that you never forget the valuable lessons you’ve learned along the way. What are some of these lessons?

A. There are so many. I’m a freelance makeup artist, so basically what that means is that I never really know where my next job is going to come from. I mean I know I am going to work, but I’m not going to punch in and punch out on a regular job. A person in that situation tends to get stressed out about what they need to be and who they need to be. I’ve learned not to compromise who I am and what I do. Some people may love it and some people may hate it, but that’s not really why I do what I do. It’s not for the reviews. What’s most important is, did I give my ultimate creative best and was my client happy? Those two things are the most important. Once it goes out in a magazine, video, red carpet or whatever, people may start picking it apart. I have been responsible for very successful beauty looks and I’ve been responsible for looks that have been on the worst dressed list. I did Björk when she wore the swan dress to the Oscars. First the critics attacked the dress, and then they attacked the hair, and then they attacked the makeup even though the makeup was very simple. When people get on a bandwagon, it’s the way it goes. I could’ve been crushed and thought, “oh my god it was the Oscars, it’s Bjork, my life is over,” but no, it’s part of her story and therefore it’s part of my story. I look back on that time and I remember meeting Bjork in her hotel and her showing me the dress for the first time. I actually didn’t understand that it was something she was going to wear, I thought it was something she was going to carry down the red carpet; I didn’t really get she was going to get into it!


When Björk put the dress on did you think it was something cool and unique that would make a splash?

A. Absolutely. She had two dresses that she showed me two or three days before the event and she said “I have this one.” She showed me the white swan dress and I said “ok, what’s the other one?” She pulled out a black swan dress and I said, “you should definitely wear the white swan,” (laughs). So when referring to a valuable lesson, I learned not to be hard on myself as an artist because what is most important is the experience, not the reviews.


You have a wonderfully creative website. What do you feature on it?

A. When I redid, I wanted to put something online that showed my work and wanted something that separates my beauty work as a makeup artist from my photography. I wanted to really focus on being a makeup artist again and focus on what I’m passionate about, which is beauty, products and information. When you have information that your excited about, you want to share it. I will always be involved somehow in the Internet, whether it’s something I’m doing personally or something else. I’m working with right now. I first met them when I was a keynote speaker at The Make Up Show in L.A. and New York. They had a completely different premise for the site. We started talking about ideas and I said if they were willing to change the concept to a beauty site that can offer amazing products, then I would offer tips and trends and inspire people to create looks based on what’s on the red carpet and runways. It’s basically been a labor of love and I seem to take on a lot. It’s a big project and we are having a lot of of fun incorporating some of my clients, models and friends. I am also getting involved with lines that I work with, like Girlactik Beauty, Three Custom Color and other beauty lines too. I want to use lines that are in my kit and that I believe in, more niche lines that maybe millions don’t know about but are growing and are quality products.

Known for his remarkably star-studded roster of celebrity clients, Troy Jensen has worked with Elle Macpherson, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Bjork, Salma Hayek, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rachel McAdams, Catherine Denuve, Megan Fox, Nicole Scherzinger, and Mary J. Blige. Troy has an intense passion for illuminating the beauty in every face he touches.