ESUM Luminaries: Q&A with James Vincent

ESUM Luminaries: Q&A with James Vincent

Posted by Samantha Troy on Jun 8th 2023

ESUM 2023 Luminary James Vincent

Celebrating artists who elevate the beauty industry

We had the privilege of picking James Vincent’s brain on all things beauty. From his impressive start in the industry, his vast experience from glamming to developing, to his current endeavors and allyship; Vincent is an active member of the industry who works tirelessly to elevate and nurture other artists. He’s found ways to establish ritual and routine in his very busy life through REBELS & OUTLAWS and is here to offer advice on how to find your footing in this hectic industry.

Can you share how you began as a makeup artist?

I was always intrigued by old Hollywood films, horror movies, makeup brands, and musicians in album covers and music videos! In high school, I did makeup at a haunted house and through theater opportunities. However, in college, I started at the body shop and fell in love with makeup and skincare!

I was a punk in Boston and Providence and a club kid in Atlanta and NYC. The art and queer scenes were so vibrant then. I played with looks and experimented with makeup but I got my first real start when I was hired to be part of the team that launched MAC Cosmetics. Working for MAC opened me up to so many opportunities and I started to consider myself a true makeup artist. In the 90s when the brand was first launching in the US, I was part of the first wave of MAC artists which eventually gave way to celebrity and agency work. I started working with celebrities, then moved to NYC to launch Urban Decay and assist artists like Kevyn Aucoin and Dick Page. I've been doing makeup for over 27 years, primarily working in fashion, with celebrities, and the music industry, as well as having a hand in education and development.

The industry has evolved since we both started, what advice do you have for someone starting out today?

I think culture has changed our makeup industry in so many ways. From the way we learn about new products, find trends, and discover the people who inspire us, everything is different now. It has changed the way we build our kits and portfolios. Social media, immediate access to information, and global connection have changed the options available for education and has made interacting and sharing information so much easier. Social media has made influencing a hot topic and has been able to help artists and makeup lovers from all over the world build bigger careers or find new avenues to make money. Whether you see it as a positive or negative shift, social media has thrust makeup and artists into the spotlight instead of being behind the scenes. It is up to each individual to either use that as a stepping stone to building and sharing their work, or see it as competition to the traditional role and route of the makeup artist.

I tell all of my artists to create art and not get caught up in content. Develop your own aesthetic, find your own voice, and your own signature style. Share it with the world in a way that feels authentic. Build a portfolio and online presence that inspires you and is aspirational in who you want to be. Build a presence and platform that represents the best of who you are and what you do. Be yourself. Become an expert. Be original and find your community, mentors, and peers, who support you, see you, and inspire you to be your very best.

Your career and skills go beyond makeup artistry & education, can you share your role with THE MAKEUP SHOW?

I am The Makeup Show Director of Education and Artist Relations. I develop the education content and work with the team to create a show that has both heart and soul. I want to create an event that inspires, empowers, and allows artists to feel seen and included in our industry.

Outside of being a leader in the makeup community, you are a strong activist for the LGBTQIA community; what do you see as our greatest threat toward equality?

Dr. King said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." I do not take those words or quote Dr. King lightly. I have been raised to work for equality and justice – not just wish for it. I think one of the greatest threats is apathy. Along with the very real threats to equality like climate change, capitalism, socio-economic instability, unfair education, racism, sexism, and otherism, I think the fact that people do not have empathy or understanding for the world and people around them is the hardest obstacle to overcome. Educating people and letting them see the beauty in our similarities and the power in our differences is an important way to start the discussion and create change.

I think helping people become intersectional in their view of the world helps bring radical change and real equity. Intersectionality acknowledges that people have their own valid and unique experiences of discrimination and oppression. We must consider anything that can separate and marginalize us, like gender, class, race, ability, and orientation, and work to see each other as important, regardless of those differences. This can be done through changing our educational, economic, and social systems, just to name a few.

THE MAKEUP SHOW is debuting in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 24 & 25th. There has been some questioning as to why the organization is hosting in a location that does not support the LGBTQIA Community. Share the vision behind the reason.   

Producing any show requires months, if not years, of planning. We chose Nashville a few years ago as a place to bring the show because of the growing industry in Nashville. Its proximity to so many cities made it affordable to travel to based on the location. After we had chosen our dates, we saw Nashville Pride announce their dates for the same weekend! We were excited because of our long history of support and allyship with the LGBTQIA+ community. We could never have known that such an insidious political presence would bring such hate to our queer community in Tennessee. While we have pulled shows out of Florida and Texas due to similar laws. However, we had many queer, drag, and trans-owned brands and businesses, in addition to Nashville friends, ask us to come down and support. We are an ally above all and have always created a safe space for people to feel seen and heard. This year we will be active and engaged. We are partnering with several local businesses and activist organizations to raise money, support, and bring attention to these issues. As always, we stand proud knowing this is not a time to abandon our Nashville artists that can benefit from the spotlight and support we bring to this important cause.

ESUM is proud to support the community alongside the MAKEUP SHOW in Nashville and excited to exhibit the new ESUM ARTISTRY PALETTE SERIES. You have always supported ESUM since we launched our first brush collection. Do you have a go-to ESUM product?  

Oh my God, so many, it is Sophie's Choice! I use the brushes and tools in every application. The puffs are always attached to my hand. The new ESUM The Artistry Palette Series has become a must-have for me. Having such beautiful formulas and such a perfect curation of color and texture really allows me to do anything I need to do!  

In addition to all your many endeavors, you are also an entrepreneur; how did REBELS & OUTLAWS begin? I love the BACK TO BLACK and the JOY & SUCCESS candle, and a big fan of the PILGRIMS PRIDE Salt Body Scrub.

Thank you so much, that means the world. We make each product by hand and I want each to be special. I saw the beauty industry embracing wholeness, wellness, and community involvement more than ever. The world felt chaotic and I found my clients and myself needing some extra care. I wanted to use scent, color, crystals, and herbs to curate something special while helping prepare space and protect energy. Rebels and Outlaws Sacred Ceremony is an opportunity for creatives, caregivers, and cool kids to set up a sacred space and makeup station. It allows artists to establish and exhibit the perfect place to tap into the consciousness, conjure, and service clients with good energy and great product.  

 What’s next for James Vincent?

My focus after so many years in the industry is using my platform to help other artists find their place! I aim to help them develop their voice and artistry while creating safe spaces to make people feel seen and represented. That's what I hope to do with my art, brands, and clients I align myself with!

      Follow @jvincentmakeup