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Last fall, Patrick Ta found himself embroiled in a controversy that shook up the insular world of celebrity makeup artists. In an article on E! that explored how the process of becoming a makeup artist for high-profile clients is different in today’s Instagram age than it was 20 years ago, veteran artist Pati Dubroff dragged him for allegedly doing makeup for free in exchange for the right to Instagram the celeb’s look. “I'm appalled when I hear about it because it's people like Patrick Ta that are sabotaging the entire industry by doing that,” Dubroff was quoted in the article. “You know, lucky for him that he can afford to do that but the rest of us have to work for a living.”
Old school and new media makeup artists alike began responding on — where else? — Instagram. Ta, 26, weathered the storm and stands by using the photo-sharing platform as his de facto portfolio. “Honestly, Instagram helped my career so much. Most of my clients found me through social media — just me posting about my makeup,” he tells me. “I think it’s so amazing that Instagram gives us a platform to showcase our work for the world to see it.”
Ta’s work shows up frequently on the faces (and Instagram feeds) of Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, various Kardashian sisters, Chrissy Teigen, Shay Mitchell, and Jenna Dewan Tatum. He was also recently named a La Mer brand ambassador, right before the luxury brand launched foundation and new concealers. During a recent stint in NYC, where Ta was meeting La Mer customers at Saks Fifth Avenue, he talked to me about what it’s like to prep A-listers for the red carpet, the delightful antics of Chrissy Teigen, and the semi-anal strategy he uses when posting on Instagram.
Usually a celebrity’s dress is chosen several days before a big event, at which point a group text starts between the stylist, makeup artist, hair stylist, and celeb, where everyone throws out ideas and inspiration pictures. Ta says that for Chrissy Teigen at this month’s Grammys, however, it wasn’t so straightforward.
“We thought we knew what she was wearing, then she had a fitting the day of, and she changed her dress three times,” Ta says. “The makeup look changed, of course, because the dresses were completely different.”
It takes about two to three hours for Ta to do a celeb’s red carpet makeup look, but the preparation begins well in advance, starting with facials several days beforehand. Shay Mitchell, owner of the world’s most perfect skin, sees LA skin guru Shani Darden. In the absence of having access to (and the funds to afford) LA pros, however, Ta says the best thing you can do is exfoliate several hours before you even think about doing your makeup for a special occasion.
“I hate when you put makeup on and you can see dry skin. I hate it! Scrub off all the dry skin,” he advises. (If you can’t afford La Mer, Nip + Fab’s Glycolic Fix Scrub is less than $10.) And put on lip balm well before you start doing your makeup, he adds, so that it has time to absorb and soften your lips before it’s time to go to heavy-duty lipstick. Finally, to get a glowy look, mix a drop of face oil into your foundation before applying.
Obviously La Mer products figure prominently in Ta’s regimen, and his clients are the beneficiaries of his relationship with the brand. In fact, Ta says that Teigen used La Mer’s The Concentrate, which costs a whopping $785 for 3.4 ounces, on her belly while pregnant to prevent stretch marks. On an outdoor shoot, she got dirty and was asked to take a shower, but refused, saying that she had La Mer all over her belly and it was too expensive to wash off. And no, she doesn’t have any stretch marks. (Please do not run out and buy $700 concentrate, though. First of all, La Mer comped her a bottle every month. Second of all, stretch marks — and whether or not you get them — are mostly due to genetics. Topical products won’t do much, if anything, to prevent them.)
Several clients currently have Ta “on hold” for Sunday’s Oscars — and while confirmations won’t happen until a few days before the show, he expects to be working on four faces in total. It can be quite challenging to plan for multiple clients in such a short span of time, though. Ta says that for New York Fashion Week one season, he spent $400 in cabs in one day traveling uptown and downtown to prep clients. And Oscars night doesn’t end for him once his celebrities hit the red carpet, either: Ta says that the Vanity Fair after-party is equally important from an exposure perspective, as the celebs who attend are photographed just as maniacally.
Of course, all of this will eventually end up on his Instagram page — and Ta has a strategy when it comes to posting photos. Not only does he consider which colors will pop in individual pictures, but he also thinks about his page as a whole. “I have a theme on mine. I like to post a close-up, then a faraway shot, then a close-up, so overall it looks like a nice page,” he laughs. “I wouldn’t ever want to put three close-ups together. But I’m crazy.”
In any case, that “crazy” approach has earned Ta 620,000 followers (and counting). It probably doesn’t hurt that, to hear him tell it, “I am so lucky because all my clients are so beautiful.”