Makeup Kit Breakdown with Kevin James Bennett

Internationally known in the beauty industry as an educator and product expert, two-time Emmy Award winner Kevin James Bennett is highly regarded as the go-to guru for all things makeup and product knowledge. Kevin began his career in retail cosmetics where he worked exclusively with luxury brands. It wasn’t long before Kevin established himself as a fashion, print and celebrity artist and became an icon in the industry. After branching out into the world of television, he has since been nominated for 5 Emmy Awards, winning two in the category of “Outstanding Achievement in Makeup”. It’s no wonder why Kevin is one of the most sought after experts in the industry, with his tell it like it is persona and sassy (sometimes controversial) insight that the public craves. After launching IN MY KIT in 2005- the first online cosmetic buying guide dedicated to professional makeup artists- and following with the IN MY KIT Facebook Group launch in 2013, Kevin’s insightful and often cheeky reputation has gotten the attention of major publications including Vogue, Glamour and Elle.

It is for this very reason that The Makeup Show is excited to have the makeup master behind so many brands, Kevin James Bennett, present in this first time keynote, ‘Makeup Kit Breakdown‘. He will offer his assessment of what every artist should be carrying in their kit, as well as review the essentials for every media format, in order to help artists separate their “needs” from their “wants”. He will break down the ingredients in your favorite products, offer advice on the significance of formulation knowledge as a pro tool, demonstrate the process of editing a kit for efficiency, and offer insight on what the actual must-haves are for the makeup professional, in order to help artists build their perfect kit. In this one-on-one interview with Kevin, The Makeup Show got an inside look into Kevin’s career, what inspires him and what his must-haves are for his own personal kit.

The Makeup Show: How and when did you get started in the beauty industry?

Kevin James Bennett: My career began when dinosaurs still roamed the earth (kidding….well, maybe not). I worked as a freelance makeup artist in department stores like Saks, Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, and Barneys. There is no better training ground for a new artist than working in retail. I got to practice all day, every day, on all ages, all face shapes, all skin-tones – AND get paid for it.

Although many clients visit makeup counters to play with the latest colors and trends, most are motivated by a need to feel better about themselves. I noted the psychological power of makeup and used it to my advantage. I became a successful retail makeup artist because I asked probing questions and then listened carefully to my client’s needs and aspirations. I realized that a full “makeover” (I hate that word) wasn’t always necessary and that sometimes all it took was a simple upgrade in appearance to elevate a person’s self-esteem and bolster their confidence.

This ability to extract pertinent information helped me enormously when I began working with private clients, brides, photographers, art directors, and producers.

TMS: Who/What has inspired you throughout your career?

KJB: Most artists claim being inspired by fashion, music, nature, architecture – I’m far more basic.

I’ve always been mesmerized by actresses. My obsession began with the incredible black and white head shots of Garbo, Dietrich, Hayworth, and Bacall from the golden age of Hollywood. Then there’s the legendary beauty of Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. And let’s not forget the bombshells, Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Ann-Margret and Raquel Welch. If you want beauty to be your business, how could you not be inspired by images of these gorgeous women?

BUT – it was the pioneer of modern, feature enhancing makeup, the legendary Way Bandy, who secured my desire to become a professional makeup artist.

TMS: How does your makeup application differ on your clients for print versus television?

KJB: In this HD world, basic beauty makeup application, for photo or video, should be the same. Subtle (or dramatic) changes in your application will determine the final effect you want to create  – not the media format. A proper makeup application must look credible to the human eye, in-person, BEFORE digital enhancement. I am not a fan of makeup artists who do sloppy work, troweling on far too much makeup, then relying on photo/video filters and Photoshop to correct their lack of proper technique.

FACT: If filters strong enough to make the Grand Canyon look smooth and flat are used to correct your work, you should not be paid. Get educated, correctly, and PRACTICE before you consider charging a fee.

TMS: What do you look for in a makeup product that makes you comfortable to add it to your kit? What are your five must have makeup products that you need in your kit?

KJB: I carry a tightly edited kit, so every color cosmetic must be extremely stable, highly pigmented and have the ability to be transformed or combined with each other to create new products.

My “Must-Haves” are all high quality and professional grade.

Highly pigmented foundations and color creams (Dermacolor, Supracolor, RCMA).

  • No-Color Powder (RCMA Loose, Kett Sett Pressed).
  • Highly pigmented pressed colors (Viseart, Kryolan, Ben Nye).
  • Highly pigmented pencils – Kohl and wax-based (OCC Makeup, Kryolan, Make Up For Ever).
  • Durable setting sprays (Skindinavia, Blue Marble Selr).

TMS: Why do you think it is important to have a Pro-only event like The Makeup Show?

KJB: I think events targeting the professional community are very important. The information and education available at these trade shows is worth far more than the price of admission. It’s also a great opportunity to have an one-on-one conversations with representatives from professional brands.

TMS: What has been the driving force in your career?

KJB: Survival.

TMS: Is there a particular work/experience that you are most proud of?

KJB: I guess I should say being nominated and winning a few Emmy Awards? But I honestly feel you’re only as good as your last gig, so typically, I’m  proudest of my latest accomplishments. I know too many artists that rely on past achievements to validate their worth – but what validity do those past glories represent if your current work hasn’t evolved beyond those achievements Shouldn’t we always challenge ourselves to reach higher…to always excel? The day I stop trying to top myself, is the day I retire.

TMS: What tips do you have for students and makeup artists that are early on in their careers to help them create such a great level of success as you have achieved?

KJB: It’s not only about the artistry and catching “a break.” You must treat your career like a business, and YOU are the product being sold. Running that business successfully includes marketing, networking, accounting, advertising and most important – continuing education. Every successful hair stylist I know takes at least one class a year. Whether the education is provided by a salon or they pay for it privately – they realize a consistent upgrade in skills makes them more marketable and keeps them ahead of the pack. Makeup is no different. If you want to compete for jobs at top levels, you NEVER stop training.

TMS: What is your favorite part about being an educator at The Makeup Show and what can we expect from your keynote ‘Makeup Kit Breakdown’ at the show in NYC?

KJB: There are many incredible artists in our industry, but creativity and artistic aptitude don’t guarantee you’ll be a competent educator. I’ve been blessed with the ability to train others, and events like The Makeup Show provide a great platform to reach many more artists than I would in a workshop environment.

This “Makeup Kit Breakdown” is something I’ve only shared in private workshops. Lots of artists know “what” I carry in my kit. This presentation allows me to geek out and delve much deeper into “why” I carry particular items. Participants will learn how formulation creates adaptability, durability, and allows greater creative freedom.


TMS: Why is it so important to continue to educate and inspire the next generation of working artists?

KJB: Let me begin by stating, I have very little respect for artists who stand in front of a class and claim they “can’t give away all their secrets.”

If you’re terrified that someone is going to take work away from you because you’ve shown them your techniques – then you shouldn’t be an educator.
But, some artists are greedy and want to cash in on education, without delivering the goods.
FACT: Every artist, including myself, have developed our techniques only after studying the work of artists we admire and wish to emulate. They have generously provided us with the information and inspiration to evolve into our own distinct style. As educators, it’s our responsibility to do the same, and pay it forward.

In Closing…

I’ve been blessed with an incredible career, and I feel it’s my duty, as a senior artist and educator, to share those years of experience and hopefully motivate artists to realize their full potential. I thank Shelly, James and the entire Makeup Show family for this opportunity to help prepare and inspire another generation of makeup professionals.



 -Gabriela Guevara

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