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Beauty is Limitless, Interview with Makeup Artist Melissa Cunillera

Photo Credit: Cesarin Mateo

Melissa Cunillera is a New York City makeup artist whose passionate about beauty and the arts. In 2008 she made the decision to channel her creativity into makeup artistry. Since then her artistry has led her to work with companies like NARS, Morphe, Sephora and Mercedes Benz New York City Fashion Week.

Melissa also teaches makeup classes to women who like me want to learn the fundamentals of makeup artistry and the correct way of applying makeup. At her class not only did I learned how to apply my makeup, but I also learned about the best products in the market for my skin tone and that makeup it’s a form of expression to exalt my beauty and confidence.

WA: How old were you when you became obsessed with makeup?

MC:  I have been obsessed with makeup for as long as I could remember.  I have pictures of me when I was around 5 or 6 years old playing dress up with blue eyeshadow and red lipstick.  I remember watching my mom get ready and always wanting to wear makeup too.   When I got to High School, I started experimenting with makeup even more.  I think it was the Sophomore year in High School that I wore a dark purple smokey eye and someone asked me if I had gotten punched in the eyes…it was hysterical but that didn’t stop me from continuing to experiment!   It wasn’t until I got to college that I purchased my first makeup book by Kevyn Aucoin “Making Faces” that I REALLY started to understand the techniques behind it and placement.   I would apply makeup on myself and then I got really good and then I’d give my friends makeovers whenever we’d go out.  It took off from there.  

WA: When did you decide “okay, this is it, I’m going to be a professional makeup artist?”

 MC: People started telling me “you should become a makeup artist, you have style and you understand color.”  So it wasn’t until about 2008 that I began looking into makeup schools with the intent of furthering my skills. This was also wayyyyy before the start of YouTube makeup tutorials, so anything I knew it was because of the books I bought and from magazine articles and PRACTICE.  But in 2008, I couldn’t afford the makeup school, so I saved for 2 years until I could finally attend.  I finally got to take classes in 2010. 

 WA: How long have you been a makeup artist?

 MC: For 8 years off and on.  I say off because for the first couple of years I really doubted myself and really didn’t focus on building my clientele.  But in the past 3 years, I’ve really pushed myself and I’d say the past 2 years, I’ve grown tremendously and in the last year, I’ve networked and stopped being afraid of telling people that I was a makeup artist above anything else.   

Photo credit: Cesarin Mateo

WA: Where do you get your inspiration from?

 MC: I get my inspiration from other artists and from traveling.  When I travel, I observe how women do their makeup in every city and country and you learn how their different focal points are. 

WA: What do you love most about makeup?

 MC: I love that it’s a form of expression.  That even the slightest bit of makeup can transform a woman’s confidence.  It’s not about disguising who you are but enhancing your natural beauty.   

 I also love the science behind it.  Makeup is a composition of different ingredients and so is skin.  The skin has texture and understanding how different products aren’t made for all skin textures and knowing how it all works and blends together.  It’s also a color theory.  You have to KNOW and UNDERSTAND color because every skin tone has an undertone and every shade of foundation, eyeshadows, etc have undertones that don’t mesh well with every skin tone.  

WA: What are the three tools in your make up kit that you can never, ever be without?

MC:  Three tools in my makeup kit that I can never live without are:

My MAC 217 brush — this brush is a GAME CHANGER and I have at least 10 of them in my kit.  It’s a staple in every professional makeup artists kit.  A lot of companies have tried to duplicate this brush but there is no other brush like it.  It’s probably the most versatile brush there is.  You can do an entire face with this brush.  It’s sold as a blending shadow brush, but you can use it to buff out concealer, apply a highlight, powder, etc.  It’s limitless.

My NARS Yachiyo brush — this brush is incredible.  It’s soft, perfectly packed, it’s not dense and has the most precise tip for blush application.  I can’t live without it.

Beauty Blender — the beauty blender is a MUST in every kit.  It’s amazing not only to apply foundation but also to set the face with powder.  It’s also great to use after you set the skin with a mist to really have the products settle into the skin.

Photo credit: Cesarin Mateo

WA: What is your signature look and what sets you apart from other makeup artists? 

 MCI’ve gone through phases of looks where I go from wearing my signature look to not wearing makeup at all because I’m comfortable in my own skin.  But I alternate between these:

 A sharp thin winged liner with red lips

A clean face with red lips

Lots of mascara with red or nude lips.

 Red lips are my signature.  I have at least 15 different shades of red but I always, always go back to my staple red lip combo…

 My personality always sets me apart from other artists. This industry is incredibly competitive and catty but I don’t feed into any of that and people see that.  Every artist creates something different and also brings something different to the table.  

I also pride myself on being a very good listener, which makes people feel incredibly comfortable to speak to me.  I listen to what the client wants and I give suggestions and execute.  I NEVER take anything personally.  There are artists who get offended when a client doesn’t like something or wants to change something; I don’t.  You have to understand that everyone is different and likes different things.  If you’re able to listen, remain open and speak from a place of expertise, the client will feel comfortable with you.  There will always be difficult clients; but for every difficult client, there are 10 amazing clients that love your work and remind you why you love what you do. 

 WA: What are common mistakes women make while doing their makeup?

 A few common mistakes that people make

 They apply TOO much makeup.  Although makeup is a personal preference there is such thing as too much product on the face.  Any professional artist knows that a little goes a long way and you build up from there.  You’d be surprised that 2 pumps of a foundation are all you really need to cover the entire face and then you build from there.

 Not choosing the right colors for their skin tones.  Like I said, makeup is a personal preference but there are colors that compliment skin tones better than others.  There are undertones in foundations and powders and someone who is well versed in color theory will understand that.

 Not blending.  Blending is KEY to any makeup application whether it’s eyeshadow, blush, contour, etc.

Being hard on yourself when you make a mistake…it’s about enjoying the process and learning from those mistakes.  Just like I learned in High School never to use dark purple eyeshadow all over my lid again…hahahhaa

WA: Tell me the makeup products, every woman should have in her purse. 

 MC:  A lipstick that makes her feel confident. A brow pencil. Mascara

 You can conquer the world with the right lipstick.

WA: Tell us what a dream job as a makeup artist is for you? 

MC: For me, product development.  To see how the products are made.

WA: I know from working with you, that you also focus on giving back to the community as much as you can.  Can you share with our readers about some of the programs you are part of?

 MCI’m a firm believer in giving back to my community.  When I was going to High School prom, I had a mentor who helped me get ready for my prom and did my makeup.  That always stayed with me and so I wanted to be able to give back the same opportunity that was given to me to other women.  I started my Prom Initiative, 3 years ago with the hopes of glamming up young women who were unable to afford their prom makeup.  Last year, I partnered with a couple who run a youth sports program to make this prom initiative even bigger!  I tapped into my network and put together a glam team that offered free makeup, hair and manicures and their prom dresses.   The event was a huge success and we plan on making it much bigger this year.

 I also teach makeup workshops to High School girls.  I teach the importance of self-care and beauty as it pertains to self-esteem. 

Photo credit: Cesarin Mateo

WA: What is your definition of beauty? 

 MC: Beauty is limitless and there are no boundaries.  It’s a form of expression, who you are and how you feel about yourself really does determine how beautiful you feel.  The kindest hearts always radiate light. 

WA: Can you share with us the most important beauty advice you can give women?

 Confidence and Kindness.  When you are confident and kind everything looks good on you.  


WA: Your advice for young makeup artists who are just starting out and want to be at the top of the industry?

 MC: Be yourself, focus on what makes you unique and most importantly, practice, practice, practice.  It all takes time but success is defined by your own personal goals.  

WA: Your top 5 makeup products and why. 

 MC: NARS Concealers – I’m obsessed with these, I use both the creamy concealer and the matte ones.  They’re so easy to blend and you can even wear them without setting the under eye area.

 MAC Spice Lip Liner- I use this on myself and it’s also a staple for clients. It sets the tone for a beautiful nude lip.

 NARS – Cruella Velvet Lip Pencil – This is an absolute FAVORITE of mine.  I’ve been wearing this color for over 6 years and it’s a staple. 

 Bioderma Sensibio H2O Cleanser – it literally removes ALL makeup and refreshes the skin.

 Embryolisse Lait Crème Concentre  – I LOVE this moisturizer, it leaves the skin feeling supple and preps the skin for makeup.

WA: What is your favorite quote?

MC: “Love of beauty is taste.  The creation of beauty is art.”


Photo credit: Cesarin Mateo

You can follow Melissa:

IG: @makeupbymelissac14

Email: mubymelc@gmail.com

Website: www.makeupbymelissac.com

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About wendyang

Wendy Angulo is a New York City born Latina, raised in Caracas, Venezuela. Wendy is a mother, writer, lawyer and the founder of Wendy Angulo Productions, an organization whose goal is to support, encourage, and promote poetry and visual arts in the borough of Queens. Wendy, re-discovered her love for writing in the summer of 2011 after attending a spoken word event in Queens. She then joined the New York City Latina Writers Group where she has been an active member and has taken on the role as the organization’s Program Director. Wendy is an essayist who is currently working on her Memoir. She has read her work at several venues throughout New York City, including Nuyorican’s Poets Cafe, East Harlem Cafe, Sankofa Sisterhood, Camaradas and has been published in the online journal Mom Egg Review; she is a 2016 VONA alum and the sole creator/curator and producer of Canvas of Words, an art and poetry showcase that birthed of Wendy’s desire to bring the arts back to her beloved borough of Queens. Wendy continues to scout for new talent and build new connections to perpetuate the arts and strengthen the literary community.

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