There’s one name on everyone’s lips – both literally and figuratively – at Cannes: Vincent Oquendo.
Not only is he the man behind some of the most iconic beauty looks seen on the French Riviera has in recent years, but he’s also on the speed dial of pretty much everyone – Bella Hadid, Izabel Goulart, Elsa Hosk, and Winnie Harlow included. He also happens to be Shiseido’s North America Color Artist and is one of the humblest, most down-to-earth makeup artists I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing. I find Oquendo tucked away among rails and rails of glitzy gowns in a suite at the iconic Hotel Barrière Le Majestic Cannes, where he’s taking a (much needed) break from glamming up A-listers.
But Cannes is his happy place, and it’s evident from the incredible looks he has created over the past few years that it holds a special place in his heart. “Nothing is like Cannes in terms of the red carpet. The sunlight, the photographers, the energy – it’s just magic,” he muses. “I remember the first year I came, about five years ago, and I worked with Uma Thurman. She was just wow – that’s when I fell in love with it. I love this town, I love this festival, and the red carpet pictures are like no other in the world. I would even say I prefer it to the Oscars. It’s that amazing,” he says.
From his go-to products to how he creates his magical makeup looks and his predictions for the world of makeup, here’s what Savoir Flair uncovered during our exclusive chat with Vincent Oquendo. Take notes.
How would you describe the Cannes beauty look?
It’s super high glamour. There’s nothing like that Cannes glow, you know? The premieres are when the golden hour’s happening, and you have that combined with all the beautiful lighting on the carpet and the photographers – so many photographers! So, it’s such a 360º look. I wouldn’t say that this is the place to do something super edgy, I mean, save that for the Met Gala, but I think Cannes is all about high glamour.
On the first day, I’m finding my legs, but then I get to flex my muscles. It’s a matter of looking at a client, seeing what they look like, and playing it up – playing up their best selves, not trying to make them into something they’re not. I’ve seen careless makeup, where it doesn’t enhance. It’s like having the wrong underwear on. When you have the right underwear on, you feel amazing. It feels right, and it gives you that finesse. But when it’s not right, there’s something a little off but you can’t quite put your finger on it. You don’t feel comfortable or look your best.
How would you achieve that Cannes glow?
Some of my tricks? Well, I love to layer and tell a texture story. Shiseido has some amazing products, like the ‘Aura Dew’ highlighters. I just did a multi-textural metallic eye on Izabel Goulart. I used some of the silver powder shadows and the ‘Essentialist Eye Palette’, as well as the ‘Kajal InkArtist’. I love the ‘Tea House’ shade, it’s like this really beautiful warm, brown color, but it’s more matte, so it plays nicely when you put metallic shadows over it. You can really amp up the texture. So it’s about layering – putting the creams over the powders, and letting it bake so skin looks super, super glowy. That’s my formula!
How do you keep makeup looking so fresh under all those lights?
Prepping and priming are absolutely essential. I love the ‘Waso Clear Mega-Hydrating Cream’. I love it so much. It’s lightweight and super hydrating, and your makeup won’t separate if you have hydration in there. It’s also not too greasy, and that’s so important because when your cream is too greasy, it pushes out between makeup and the skin, and it gets cakey when you powder it.
I always find that when the cream under the foundation is too greasy, that’s when people look cakey. So prep is key! And baking. I love to bake. I just use a loose powder and my puff, and I bake under the eyes and into the forehead before misting to finish. Shiseido has the amazing ‘Ibuki’ mist – or you can just use rose water. I love that too.
What’s your favorite red-carpet look you’ve created?
Bella Hadid, Cannes 2016, in that red dress. It was a mad dash for me and Jen Atkin when we walked into the room! I always try and clear my mind when I go in because if I go with an idea in my mind, it never turns out to be that and it stunts my creativity. It was just a magnetic energy that day, and it translated beautifully. It’s one of my favorite carpets to date.
What’s your favorite beauty trend at the moment?
I feel like it’s a really exciting time in beauty right now. People are playing with colors and you have a lot of jewel tones, and we just didn’t have colored products before like we do now. Shiseido’s new ‘Control Chaos’ mascara has all these amazing colors like ‘Violet Vibe’ and ‘Sapphire Spark’. One thing that I’ve been doing lately is playing with colored mascara and layering colored eyeliner with it, too, so doing complete colored looks.
I did a bunch during Paris Fashion Week with Janelle Monae. I applied blue mascara and blue falsies, so it was completely monochrome, and you had all this texture and depth. We’re seeing it with other beauty brands too – Fenty has just launched all these colored liners. There are so many fun, adventurous, colorful pops on the face. I just love that. I just did a neon orange for Hailey Bieber for the Balenciaga show, and it was so cool. Those bright pops are fantastic.
Are there any rules when wearing these bright colors?
I think you should think of makeup as decoration. The days of being limited and boxed in are done. Even if you use one thing, like a violet mascara, just think of it like a piece of jewelry – like a fancy ring. Obviously, there are things like foundation that you should color match. But that being said, I think it’s about having fun with adornments like colored mascara or metallic eyeliner or fancy bright lipsticks. That’s why beauty is so exciting now; we’re seeing people take risks. There are no rules anymore!
What’s the biggest mistake you see people making with their makeup?
I don’t see a lot of things – there hasn’t been anything that is jarring or stands out. It’s just about what suits you and wearing it with confidence! I mean, I guess it’s not bad per se, but testing your foundation color is essential. And if you wear foundation, you should have more than one color. You have highs and lows to your face – you might be a bit paler under your eyes than you are on your forehead just because of the way the sun catches, so that would be the one thing. I use up to three foundations!
The face is so interesting. When I see women use just one color on their whole face, it looks strange to me because they’ve lost the depth. You don’t have to be a master chemist to figure out your highs and lows and, if you do find that troubling, maybe consider just using two shades of concealer and then a very sheer tinted moisturizer over the skin to melt it all together. I’ll often do that on my red carpet clients to keep their skin looking super fresh, especially here in the Riviera – you want the skin to look fresh! If it’s too heavy out here, you’ll see it, and it will separate because of the heat and the lights and everything. So less is more!
Where’s the craziest place you’ve done someone’s makeup?
In the back of a moving car. I did a full face of makeup on Hailey Bieber when she was going to the 2018 Fashion Media Awards in New York, where she was receiving an honor. She was wearing a green dress, and had gone to a show earlier with her husband. It was really hot and she had sweated off her makeup in between, so I had to do a full makeup look on her in the car. I had about 20 minutes, she was holding an iPhone light on her face, it was raining, the car was speeding – it was wild! It was like a dance; it was thrilling and terrifying at the same time!
What’s the best thing about your job?
The collaborative aspect of it. I get to work with celebrities and clients who trust me with their look. That’s their livelihood, right? And it’s collaborative. I know the film they’re in, the dress they’ll be wearing, and I see all the pieces come together. Makeup is often the last piece of the puzzle that slides in, so it can really make or break a look. It’s really the thing that finishes it off perfectly.
Even something simple, like if she’s wearing a Julian McDonald dress and it’s very sheer with lots of cut-outs and things, you have to shine up the body properly – make sure she’s bronzed all over. If the face is beautiful and bronzed and sun-kissed and luminous, the body should follow suit. Nothing’s worse than a shiny face and a dry body! It’s the attention to detail that’s the most exciting part of my job. And working with a brand like Shiseido – there’s such an attention to detail within the products, so it matches my style.
I really pay very close attention to textural nuances when I’m working with a client’s face. Every bit of shine, every bit of highlight, every matte part – it’s very strategic. Even though it just reads beautifully and naturally on camera, I’ve really placed everything with care and attention, and that’s why my clients like working with me, I think! I really think of the 360º look – how it’s photographed on an iPhone versus on the red carpet versus when they walk out of the hotel because, here in Cannes, you get photographed from the moment you leave the room. Even when you’re in the chair, we’re doing behind-the-scenes and all that. So this look has to photograph beautifully under every kind of lighting – there’s a lot to think about!
And the worst?
I have to say, every job has the good and the bad, right? But for me, the good far outweighs the bad. The only thing I’d say is a downside is that, although I get to travel so much and go to all these beautiful places, I miss my dog and my family. That’s the hardest part. But you can’t have your cake and eat it, too! Sometimes I cheat. I flew my mom out to Paris Fashion Week, and she stayed with me. It was her first time in Paris, and that was such a perk of the job.
I’ve been doing this for 17 years now, and session work for around seven, and I’ve hit a point where quality time and quality of life with my family is so important. I noticed that my work was better when I flew my sister into LA during awards season! It’s magic like that. And I get to share those amazing experiences with my family. I never quite understood why certain celebrities flew their family around until I did it.
What are three key products we’d find in your Cannes kit?
My Cannes kit! I like that. I’d have to say the ‘Control Chaos Mascara’ and the ‘Kajal InkArtist’ – specifically the ‘Tea House’ shade. It is waterproof, and you can use it in the water line. I’m obsessed with it. Oh, and the ‘Aura Dew’, which is a highlighter that comes in four colors. It’s not just a sparkle, it’s a milled pearl, so it just has this otherworldly shine. I layer that with satin-finish eyeshadows and cream highlighters, and even glitter! I did a Swarovski crystal appliqué in the middle of Iza Goulart’s eye last night. It was very cool!
If you’re someone who loves makeup and you’re reading this, push the boundaries and show your best self with it – whatever that self is!
What do you think will be big in the makeup world next year?
I think we’re going to stay along this path. It’s a wildly exciting time. Here’s the other thing: historically, when we’ve seen fashion go very avant-garde, it’s during troubling times in the world. That’s when people look to escape, right? So that’s when we see fantastical things in fashion. There’s so much happening globally in terms of current events, and there will continue to be things that happen.
People use makeup as a form of self-expression. Not to be bittersweet, but I think we’re going to see a lot of amazing, fantastic makeup and beauty moments over the next couple of years because people are using it as a way of expressing themselves, and it’s pushing the creativity. If you’re someone who loves makeup and you’re reading this, push the boundaries and show your best self with it – whatever that self is! Whatever feels good for you. It’s a call to action, in a way.
Complete the sentence: To me, beauty is…
Art. Art, fashion, and beauty go hand in hand – it’s your personal expression of self.