Carmindy, Part Two: Oops, Celebrities and Ruining Her Career

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When she was in Toronto recently to promote her new book, Crazy Busy Beautiful (HarperStudio paperback, $12.99), Carmindy gave me the dish on her celebrity-client history, ruined career, and her makeup collaboration's future in Canada. (Click here for part one of our chat.)

Have you had any "oh, geez" moments?
"Oh, yeah. I don't remember the magazine, but there was a photoshoot out in the desert and the photographer wanted me to paint this girl a deep bronze colour. I remember I had a bunch of different products to choose from and I chose an oil-based product -- huge mistake because we were in a the sandy desert in 120-degree heat. I spent two hours bronzing her head to toe, she walked out into that heat, the wind picked up and blew sand all over her body and stuck to the oil-based bronze and then the heat melted it right off.

"But what the photographer remembered was how incredible she looked when she walked out, so he actually had me do that again in the future for a studio photoshoot, which was a controlled environment with air conditioning. Even though it didn't work in the desert, he remembered how good she looked when she first stepped out."

Who was your first celebrity client?
"Kathleen Quinlan was one of my very first, then Cindy Crawford after that. I did Kathleen for a black-and-white film noir coffee-table photography book. We turned her into a 1940s movie star, so I really got to paint her up, which was really fun and different and unique."

What did celebs mean for your career?
"It wasn't my favourite, to be honest. What I loved about photoshoots was the travel. I liked being in the trenches out on a location. Celebrities were studio work. It wasn't very interesting to me, it wasn't life-changing. There was a certain look they always wanted to stick with for their image, so it wasn't fun to me.

"When a woman walks in and she's lost 100 lbs and she's at a crossroads and doesn't know which way to go, sitting down with her and teaching her how to celebrate her beauty and watching her just transform into a flower and go forward in her life in a positive way -- that is rewarding."

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What was your first on-camera gig?
"I'd just moved to New York, and Revlon, which owns Almay, was looking for a spokesperson. I didn't even know what that meant. I walked into the office and the woman behind the desk who did the publicity interviewed me. She'd interviewed all these top makeup artists in New York and here I was this fledgling, but I walked in and had that confidence she was looking for on camera. So she decided to hire me as the Almay spokesperson, and we did a test market, like a morning show in a city that doesn't get a lot of traffic. She took me to Tampa, Florida, and I was so nervous that the night before this appearance, she took me out and got me a little drunk on margaritas because she figured it would loosen me up, and the next day when I walked on camera, I just nailed it and had the best time doing it. She was the first person who put me on camera and she's one of my best friends today."

What came next?
"They put me on a tour and I went cross-country promoting the brand. Then Bath & Bodyworks hired me as their spokesperson and Maybelline hired me as their spokesperson, and then I would get these TV pilots and then 'What Not to Wear' came knocking."

You've said WNTW changed everything for you.
"'What Not to Wear' was life-changing for me in terms of my career, my message and where I was going to take the Carmindy brand. Up until that point, yeah, I had a great time travelling the world doing photoshoots for magazines and talking about great products and being an expert, but what made me different from any other makeup artist out there? When anyone wanted natural looking or clean beauty, they would hire me. I was known for doing natural, clean, healthy, beautiful, shiny real skin.

"When I started doing WNTW, I realized, 'Omigod, these women, even with all that information out there, have no idea how to embrace their natural beauty and make themselves look incredible.' I could offer them tips and tricks on how to look real, and then, with what I did growing up -- my affirmations and mirror mantras -- here was a way that I could actually affect women. I could change their attitudes, help build their confidence, because of the way I did it. I could relate because I come from the same place. A lot of the makeup artists out there are touting tips on how to look like a celebrity, or how to look like a supermodel, but I knew what insecurity was all about, I knew how to overcome it, and I also had the tools to do it, so WNTW was the most beautiful thing for me.

"So I quit doing celebrities and I really don't do that many photoshoots anymore because my focus became women. Everyday women with jobs, kids, lives, savvy women, smart women, fabulous women that need just to look their best, not like somebody else."

Sounds like you've followed your passion rather than map out a career path.
"Absolutely! When WNTW first went on the air -- we're going into our 8th season! -- it was before all of the reality and competition shows, it was one of the very first makeover shows of its kind. I remember when I did it, it felt so good, yet everybody in my industry, the top people in the NY fashion industry all told me I was making a huge mistake and that I would ruin my career. I remember one fancy-pants hairdresser who will remain nameless sat me down and said, "What are you doing, it's totally cheesy, you're going to ruin your career," and now look. Everybody is trying to get on television, every clothing designer, every supermodel, you name it, everyone's trying to get on TV. I followed my gut because it wasn't about being on TV, it was about what I was doing and the message I was making.

"And being on this book tour, whenever I meet women, they say the same thing to me: you change people's lives, you make them feel so good about themselves, and that to me is worth all of it."

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I have to say I prefer the US version to the Brit, which doesn't focus much on beauty.
"We are more attached insecurity-wise to our beauty. That's what the last couple of seasons [were about], and especially this season is going to be focussing on. Why do we feel insecure, where did it stem from, was it from childhood, was it a bad husband or bad boyfriend or mean friend or bullies in school who said 'you have a big honker of a nose,' or 'your eyes are beads,' or 'look at your fat lips,' all these things that stick with us forever. And with this show, when we talk about the makeup portion, we can really dive down into those insecurities and start erasing them, so it's very therapeutic. People get really attached to their hair too, and there are reasons -- they can hide behind it. It's very interesting, people's personalities. That's what draws people into this WNTW."

When is Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy going to be available in Canada, already?
"I've flown up there three times to talk with the head of Coty Canada and meet with Shoppers Drug Mart. And Shoppers is really, really interested, so we're just kind of thinking about launch strategy and all that good stuff. I'm pretty sure it's going to be here in the next year or so."

What's new with the line?
"I've got these new eyeliner pencils called Forever Stay Eye Pencils, waterproof gel in the richest colours you've ever seen. I modelled them after Make Up For Ever's and put them out at a drugstore price. When I created the line, I took all my favourite products that I love, love, love, and just improved upon them. Those were the pencils I was using before mine, and I still use a lot of their colours because I don't have their shade range. They just have the most epic shade range, especially for the 80s kind of colours. Wild and crazy ones -- yellow and pink -- actually their company just sent me that big giant pencil palette, it has every colour. It was the best gift ever."

Why did you put powder puffs inside the caps on the loose powder?
"We were being creative. Loose powder can be messy -- there are a lot of times where you want to hit your forehead nose and chin. You can lock it on, flip it over, take it off, then powder your forehead nose and chin in a flash. Use brush to get into nooks and crannies -- what I was finding was that I would dust it on, but before I left I might be a little shiny on forehead nose chin so I would just hit it with the puff, dingdingding and then I'm done."

I'm still surprised at how long it's taking to come to Canada.
"We need everybody to call Shoppers Drug Mart and demand it! Like I said, I've met with the buyers and they're really into it. We don't know what the delay is. When we first launched in America, they wanted to see how the brand would do before making a decision. I think they're 'are Canadian women going to want it?' and I'm like, 'Yeah they're going to want it because I'm getting e.mails every day saying when's it going to be here, when's it going to be here?'

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Carmindy image courtesy of Harper Collins. Product images courtesy of Coty. A version of this story appeared in the Metro News. Next post: win one of five copies of Carmindy's new book (contest closes next Friday May 21).