How I Got To Be…A Makeup Artist and Entrepreneur by Sonia Kashuk

Sonia Kashuk

There are countless talented makeup artists, but very few who also possess the entrepreneurial skills required to take their talent to the next level. Sonia Kashuk has an empire to prove she's one of the select few.

Kashuk has a long history in the industry having worked on editorial shoots for the likes of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Allure, Elle, and Glamour and having collaborated with Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, and Betsey Johnson for their runway shows. She also spent nearly a decade working with Aveda as their cosmetics creative director. All the while, Kashuk's entrepreneurial spirit was itching to break out. So, with a mix of drive, determination, and a little bit of chutzpah, she simply picked up the phone one day and called Target…the rest is history.

We spoke with Kashuk to find out a little bit more about how exactly she made her way to the top as one of the leading female makeup entrepreneurs.

The Fashion Spot: When did you first discover your passion for makeup and decide that you wanted to pursue a career in cosmetics?

Sonia Kashuk: In the early 80s while I was working as a stylist on a video for the song Funky Town. The makeup artist didn’t show, so I filled in and the rest is history.

tFS: Do you think it's important to go to cosmetology school or is on the job training most valuable?

SK: At the time you had to be licensed to be a makeup artist, so I did go to school but on the job training is definitely the most valuable.

tFS: Have you always been entrepreneurial?

SK: Always! I was always a free spirit. You can ask my mother, I was the most difficult child to raise.

tFS: What are some key traits that you think someone looking to start their own business should have?  

SK: Be fearless and enduringly passionate. Nothing happens overnight, it’s blood, sweat, and tears.

tFS: A lot of makeup artists I’ve met wear more or less no makeup day-to-day. Is that the case with you as well or do you find yourself constantly testing out your products?

SK: During the day if I am going to be in the office, I don’t wear makeup because we are constantly testing products. When I venture out into the world, I do still love applying makeup. I am a believer of “there is a time and place for everything.”

tFS: These days, makeup has become seasonal with an increased amount of brands coming out with limited-edition products. What’s your take on that as a makeup artist on one hand and as an entrepreneur sitting atop a beauty empire on the other? Just because it’s spring do we really need to be wearing coral – shouldn’t we just stick with what looks best?  

SK: The beauty industry coincides with the fashion industry, therefore it’s all about seasonality, so you’re always going to have your core basics and then your top trending hits. No, you don’t have to wear coral – it’s more of a mind set. Spring/summer brings out color, a certain freshness of the season, but at the end of the day, no matter what, you should look your best and feel comfortable in what you apply. That’s why there are so many great nude and neutral universal colors that work throughout any season, any time of year.

tFS: What are some key things you learned from your time at Aveda? Do you think all aspiring makeup artists should get some corporate work under their belt?

SK: While I was working as a makeup artist, I always did some type of consulting on the side, so I’ve always had the art and commerce working in conjunction. That’s all I know. I don’t think all artists need corporate backgrounds.  Some people are just into makeup as an art form and others are into the business side; it depends where long-term interest lies. I always knew I wanted to be in the business of beauty, not just the art of makeup.

tFS: How have things changed since you did runway makeup? Would you ever go back to doing something like that?

SK: I don’t think it has really changed that much other than the corporate sponsorship aspect. In the past when I was doing lead makeup for shows, you were hired by the designer to personally collaborate with them on an aesthetic, but now it’s more about a corporate advertising position. Even still, the frenetic pace, the excitement and energy, it’s all very inspiring. I love teamwork and I’ve always enjoyed doing shows, so I would definitely do one today if asked.

tFS: How did your partnership with Target come about?

SK: Through a phone call – I picked up the phone and told them I had a great concept for them. It was during the immergence of all the makeup artist brands in the luxury sector and I thought this was an ideal opportunity for Target, who has always been cutting edge, modern, and so aesthetically driven.

tFS: These days, brands across the board would kill for the opportunity to partner with Target, but that wasn’t necessarily the case when your partnership started. What made you go mass despite your background working with luxury designers and on glossy shoots?

SK: I wanted to partner with Target because I knew they would understand my aesthetic and bring the best possible products, so that all women could have access to high-quality, affordable products. There was no compromise because I was going to mass and I loved being the first makeup artist at mass with truly luxurious products.

tFS: We’re seeing a lot of cosmetic brands launching lately that are not developed by entrepreneurs who have no background with makeup artistry. What’s your take on that?

SK: There’s always room for a great idea!

tFS: Is there one thing you know that you wish you had known when you started your career?

SK: I feel so blessed and it’s been a wonderful journey, but I realize now the more I know, the more I don’t know.