In the age of Instagram® and celebrity glam squads becoming famous in their own right, Carmindy Kathryn Bowyer, a.k.a. Carmindy, is one of the original celebrity makeup artists. The 48-year-old What Not To WearTM star grew her career working with supermodels like Cindy Crawford and Heidi Klum in the ‘90s. However, she gave up the glamorous world of celebrity to help non-famous faces feel and look their best.
“Women have the right to know how to do everything that I was doing on shoots, which is the clean and natural look,” says Carmindy. She points out that it wasn’t until recently that magazines started spotlighting fresher, more realistic makeup styles; whereas it used to be more about looking like a celebrity. Knowing that most people just want to look like the best versions of themselves, she was inspired to create her own eponymous makeup line, Carmindy BeautyTM. “You are your own celebrity,” Carmindy insists. “I want to be the real women's beauty guru — I'm here for them. I want to listen to them and I want to give them what they need.”
If you’ve seen her on What Not To Wear, you know that her entire philosophy centers around the concept of the “five-minute face,” an abbreviated makeup routine that can help women gain confidence. “What Not to Wear really changed my whole trajectory because it gave me a platform to help women,” she explains. “I could help the average woman that is dealing with kids, or divorce, or weight gain or loss, or disease or illness, or milestone birthdays, and help make them feel incredible.”
Carmindy understands how makeup can boost one’s confidence, as her career all stems from her own insecurities of being bullied as a child. Here, Carmindy shares her story about knowing her calling from a young age, her own easy-to-follow makeup tips, and more.
Spotlyte: How young were you when you first realized you wanted to pursue a career in beauty?
Carmindy: I was 15 years old, so I was very young. But it was crystal clear. It was like this weird drive — I knew exactly what I wanted to do at that age.
Spotlyte: How did you know your path at such a young age?
Carmindy: When I was a really young kid — primarily in primary and junior high school — I was really bullied and teased. It was really difficult to deal with. But I had an amazing family. My mother was a watercolorist, and she would drag me to art classes as a little kid. I would always paint, and it would help me escape being bullied at school.
My mother and my grandmother used to be local models for department stores. There were these photographs laying around the house that I would see of these glamorous looks. Then, I started looking at magazines — my favorite was ELLE®, because back in the day, it used to be all these models, like Elle Macpherson, jumping on the beaches — being very shiny and happy. I was like, “Oh my God, the energy on these pages is amazing.” I started playing with makeup and having so much fun with it. And when I was 15, I had a friend whose dad was a Hollywood makeup artist on a TV show. And I said, “That's a job? That's so cool. That's what I want to do.” So at 15, I interviewed my friend's father, and I said, “How did you get into this business? What do I have to do?”
Spotlyte: What did he tell you?
Carmindy: He was like, there are these agencies in Hollywood. As soon as you're able to drive, drive up there and sign up as an apprentice, and do anything for free just to be on set. See what you get out of it.
Spotlyte: How did that inspire you?
Carmindy: I'll never forget it. This was right before Christmas, and my dad asked, “What do you want for Christmas?” I told him I wanted one of those Hollywood-style makeup mirrors, with the light bulbs and a director's chair. And my dad built that for me for Christmas. So, I started doing makeup on neighbors and friends. All of my allowance would go to the beauty supply store. I would get products and tear pages out of magazines and copy [the looks in] them.
Spotlyte: What was your first official job in makeup?
C: As soon as I got my driver's license, I got a job working at Merle Norman® Cosmetics at the Westminster Mall® on weekends. About a year later, I drove up to Hollywood and went to one of the agencies and did sign up as an assistant. I cleaned brushes, I got coffee, I got yelled at. But I was on set, and I was happy. All of this helped me deal with the bullying, because I was finding ways to make myself feel good without changing who I was. I used my mother's watercolor approach on how I approached makeup, because I love that soft, kind of fluid effect.
I realized that I was trained with an artist's eye. So when I looked at a face, I never saw what was wrong with them. I always saw what stood out that was beautiful, and I used makeup to play that up. And that helped me conquer my own insecurities. I just started doing this all the time — just practicing, practicing, practicing. I got fired from Merle Norman because I was doing too many makeovers and not selling enough product!
Spotlyte: How did you recover?
C: Talk about karma: the day that I got fired, I walked out of that store crushed. I went down the escalator, and there was a new store — it was a grand opening of a place called Clicks℠, which was the first Glamour Shots℠.
I walked in there and I said, “I'm a makeup artist,” and they hired me. I started doing face after face. I was doing the Hollywood thing on the weekends, and I was getting real women that were coming in Clicks, weekends after school, whenever I could. Real women were coming to me, saying things like, “I have an abusive husband, he doesn't love me anymore, we're breaking up, I want to look pretty. I'm taking these photos for myself.” That started this whole “beauty is a way of empowering” thing for me.
Spotlyte: What was your big break?
Carmindy: My big break was when at one of these Hollywood photoshoots, the makeup artist got sick. It was for a swimwear catalog with a company out of Miami. This is back in the ‘90s, when Miami was a fashion mecca, and everybody was shooting down there — Versace and everybody in South Beach. I did the job, and they fell in love with my natural look. About two weeks later, they flew me to Miami to shoot there! And when I arrived on the scene, I said, “These are my people — I’m never going home.”
By this time, I had graduated from high school. I called my parents, and I was like, “I'm not going to college. I found my calling. I'm out.” They were super supportive because they knew this was my passion, and they'd seen my drive. At 19, I had my own business called Picture Perfect℠, where I did makeup for weddings, and had my own private label makeup company. I would just buy private label products, stick my Picture Perfect logo on there, and sell it to brides. [My parents] knew that I was meant for this, and they didn't have to pay for college — so they were super stoked!
Within my first year or two in Miami, I was making more money than my mom was — and I was a kid. I lived in Milan for a season doing runways and magazines. I started getting tapped to be a spokesperson for different makeup companies, like Maybelline®, Bath and Body Works®, and Almay®, because I just happened to be very natural in my communication with women and talking on TV.
Spotlyte: Carmindy Beauty recently launched on QVC®. Why did you decide to exclusively partner with them?
Carmindy: For me, the QVC audience is my What Not To Wear audience, and those are the women I want to reach. I did not want my products to sit on a shelf in retail without telling a story, because the story is everything. That's what resonates. When somebody knows that you're in their corner, that is when you have brand loyalty. That also helps me get inspired to create products for them. Because I listen . . . I want to be a navigator. QVC gives that platform: you're in their living room, holding their hands, saying, “I got you, girl. This is how we're going to do it, and this is why it's easy.”
Spotlyte: So, what’s the best order to apply makeup?
Carmindy: I've done makeup for so many years now. Hundreds of thousands of faces, every skin color, every age, every walk of life. There was a basic makeup wardrobe that I always did first, no matter what shoot I did. I created the Carmindy Beauty Carmindizing Skin SystemTM 4-Piece Collection as a numbered makeup system. So you start with primer — you know how some are sticky and silicone-y? This one is very illuminating and hydrating. Then, you apply the foundation, and concealer on top. (To cover a blemish, you just dab it on, and then you blot the powder to set everything.)
[Then, there’s blush.] I've done my research, and historically, a woman is most beautiful when she is the most fertile. So when you have a glow and flushed cheeks, you look amazing at any age. I test my products with women who are in their 70s, because if it doesn't look good on them, then I don't want to make it. I want it to look great on every woman of every age.
Spotlyte: How can women who are starting to get older prevent makeup from settling into their fine lines?
Carmindy: You don't need to use a heavy hand with powder — that is what makes women look older. And a lot of women make this mistake with powder. I just saw it today on the subway going to a meeting in New York. You shouldn't pull or drag the powder over your face. Instead, blot it like you're using a blotting paper. My powder actually comes with a cushion sponge to apply. If you have oily skin, you can blot it all over, or if you have more normal skin, just apply to your t-zone and you'll look dewy and fresh.
Spotlyte: You're all about the "five-minute face." Walk me through the steps for quickly looking put together.
Carmindy: A natural makeup routine doesn’t have to take a long time. I created the 5-Minute Face® 5-Piece Collection, which is highlighter, eyeliner, mascara, blush, and lipstick. I actually studied the art at The MetTM Museum in New York City, and saw that in all of these paintings, the women had a gorgeous natural flush, so I wanted to recreate that color [for my blush]. A lot of women get nervous when they see the color, which is like a coral, but it's truly flattering on all skin types. For darker complexions, just add another layer and it's gorgeous.
Spotlyte: How do you keep skin looking dewy and glowy without looking oily, especially in the winter?
Carmindy: To look glowy and dewy, highlighter is the best thing. Mine doesn't have any [glitter] so you won't look like a disco ball. Just apply on the tops of the cheekbones, under the eyebrows, and in the inner corners of the eyes, and it will really showcase your beauty.
Spotlyte: Walk us through your skincare routine.
Carmindy: Skincare is super important. But I don't splurge on a cleanser — I use one from Alba Botanica®. And a little trick from my grandmother is that the best exfoliator is white sugar from the kitchen. A lot of exfoliators use apricot shells or products that don't break down, but sugar dissolves in water, and you can use it on your face and body. I like a squeaky clean face. You can get sugar packets at a restaurant or coffee shop on vacation, so you'll always be able to exfoliate.
A dermatologist is really important. I go to Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton in the city. I prefer a woman, because they understand our hormones and how we age. I've done Fraxel®. I like to be a guinea pig, so I can talk about these procedures with my clients. If I'm talking to clients about [one they’ve tried], I want to know about it, so I've tried just about everything.
Spotlyte: Have you ever tried injectable wrinkle reducers or fillers?
Carmindy: Are you kidding? I'm 48! But I like a [subtle] look. I've done injectable wrinkle reducers and fillers, and I think they are great. I have tried both and love [the results when they’re subtle] and not over the top. I get injectable wrinkle reducers in my forehead and around my eyes. I had filler done once and I liked it, but haven’t done it again.
[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face, including the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet; they should not be used more frequently than every three months. Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, both injectable wrinkle reducers and injectable fillers have potential risks and side effects. Talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. And learn more now by chatting with a trained aesthetic specialist.]
Spotlyte: You're based in NYC. Do you have any favorite places to escape the hustle and bustle?
Carmindy: I love Barry's Bootcamp®. I love the noise and the pace. I try to go there three times a week. I also meditate for five or 10 minutes every morning using an app. I'm an Aries, so I don't have a lot of patience. I also go to Inscape® in the city — it’s perfect if you need someone to tell you to breathe, like if you haven't taken a deep breath in a week! I like going there for some zen. I also like Higher DOSE® Infrared Sauna and AIRE℠ Ancient Baths in New York. Out of the city, I head to the beaches of Exuma.
Spotlyte: Do you believe in beauty from the inside out? What's your diet like?
Carmindy: I eat very healthy. I follow an anti-inflammatory diet — my friend Jennifer Esposito wrote a cookbook with anti-inflammatory recipes. But you know, every once in a while, I need pizza and wine! I consider wine a fruit, and I love tequila! I need a margarita every now and then, too.
Spotlyte: Do you get facials?
Carmindy: I don’t like to get facials. I recommend a great dermatologist and a diligent skincare routine. My skin stays on point and my derm can do better, more intense treatments like Clear + Brilliant®. If I feel like I need a facial, I usually do a mask at home.
Spotlyte: What’s your advice to aspiring makeup artists?
Carmindy: Aspiring makeup artists need to find their signature look. With social media, people are so focused on being someone else, and trying to copy someone else. You can get lost. You need to find yourself and your voice.