News & Runway

Fashion Industry Insider: Cynthia Rose, Make-Up Artist

Cynthia Rose is one of the fashion industry’s preeminent make-up artists. Her work has appeared in the pages of Marie Claire, Vogue Bambini, Modern Bride, and she has worked with Marc Jacobs, Rock & Republic, and Mulberry, among many others.

The Fashion Spot: Was there ever a point in your life when you were struggling in your career where you had the opportunity to do another job that was more stabile and safe, but you decided to stick with your passion? What made you stay with it?
CR: It’s not that I was offered something more stable and safe at one point in my career, I think I’ve always been confronted with the opportunity to take the easy road. I quit a very nice, cushy job as an optician to be a make-up artist, and I make the choice everyday to stay one. Being a freelance artist is not as glamorous as one may think, and I could go back to working in an office at anytime. I was very good at what I used to do, and I have no doubt I’d easily find a job in an office with a nice salary if that’s what I wanted.
What keeps me in this field is that I know I am doing exactly what I want to do, and I am afforded the luxury of choice. I choose my clients. I choose my schedule. I say when I get time off, and if I want to take the month off, like I did last month to travel, I don’t have to ask anyone. I am only accountable to myself.
tFS: Was there a defining moment when you knew this career is what you had to do with your life?
CR: I had toyed with being a make-up artist for years, after buying a Kevyn Aucoin book in my early 20s, but I never knew how you started a career like that. It’s not like you fill out an application. When I moved to NYC from Hawaii I knew that that was the path I wanted to follow, but again, I had no idea how someone became a makeup artist. So I went and got a job much like the one I had back home, as an optician.

The very first job I had in NYC had me working on major film sets putting contact lenses in A-list actors’ eyes as part of the make-up department. I knew that was a sign that I was clearly on the right path. This is what I was meant to do, and after telling the amazing make-up people I was working with that I essentially wanted their jobs, they took me under their wing and gave me the best advice, and almost gave me an entire kit when the film wrapped. And that was it. I knew that I was given the tremendous gift of an obvious sign, so I quit my job, and I’ve been a make-up artist ever since.

tFS: Was there a time in your life where you felt like you accomplished what you have sought out to succeed? When was it, and how has this changed your perspective on your future career goals?
CR: I never really sought to do anything other than be a freelance make-up artist. I never set a goal of say – doing New York Fashion Week, or doing Paris Fashion Week or working for Vogue. I do hope I never become complacent. I’m grateful for the awesome path I’ve found myself on, but I’m not about to start patting myself on the back.  Not yet, at least.

Photos courtesy of Kristina Wilson.  Cynthia Rose’s website is at