Meet Starr Blackshere, a beauty professional whose arsenal of skills includes makeup, hair, and specialized brow and lash services. In addition to her busy freelance career, she recently achieved her dream of opening her own makeup and brow studio, Blackshere Beauty, this past April. In this interview, she shares her journey of growth, adaptability, and evolution through artistry, entrepreneurship, and a keen strategy for success.
In The Beginning
Where are you from originally, and where are you based now?
I am originally from San Diego, California. I’m now based in Brooklyn, New York.
Do you remember the moment you first fell in love with makeup?
My earliest memory of falling in love with makeup was at 15 years old when I was finally allowed to wear it. I remember getting ready to go to a club named The Distillery. It was teenage night so you had to be 15 to get inside, and I wanted to make sure I looked old enough to get in without rejection. I also wanted to ensure I could be seen and noticed while inside the club.
I planned to beat my face with makeup, wearing mascara for the first time along with my grandmother’s Fashion Fair foundation and powder, her Borghese Cosmetics eyeshadows, and her MAC Cosmetics Clear Lipglass. During the process of putting on all the makeup, I realized the art of transformation. I saw and appreciated how makeup really allowed me to become whatever I wished to be in that moment and how flawless my skin looked. That’s when I fell in love.
In Hot Career Pursuit
What path did you take to pursue your career in beauty?
My start in the beauty industry was after I graduated from high school. I was 17 and already had a hair styling clientele so I immediately went to cosmetology school to get licensed. While in school, I felt I needed a job outside of the salon environment because I had an embarrassing experience when a client was referred to a girl at the cosmetology school who did hair as good as “his stylist” for $5. I was charging him $50 at the salon. He booked with me, not knowing the beauty school girl was me–his stylist. I was mortified when he walked in for his appointment. That’s when I decided not to work at the salon anymore until I got licensed.
I applied to work at the Jamba Juice in Hillcrest, San Diego. I loved the neighborhood, and I loved the idea of getting a free smoothie per shift, but I noticed my wrists getting fatigued from scooping frozen yogurt. I worried that it would damage my wrists too much for my future “makeup artist career,” so I told myself to pivot quickly and try to get a job at MAC Cosmetics. I told myself to “fake it till I made it” because I knew I was too young to sell myself on experience. I had to sell myself on vision and talent.
I practiced applying makeup on my classmate who looked very different from me to show I was versatile. Then, I used my charm to get an interview and within five months’ time, I was no longer working at Jamba Juice. I was hired as an Artist for the MAC store in Fashion Valley Mall. This was in 1999.
What was your first job experience like as a professional makeup artist?
Because I worked at a MAC Store in a high-end mall, I very much felt like a PRO. There weren’t many MAC locations back then, and the stores were only in major cities that had some sort of television, film, and theater industry. We also had many television professionals from Mexico cross the border to use their Pro Cards to purchase lots of makeup and brushes for their programming.
The Fashion Valley store happened to be the #1 location in the country at the time, so I demonstrated lots of makeup for many people who would often wait 45 minutes to get one-on-one help from me. There was definitely an eye-contact honor system there. Once you gave the person the “eye and head nod,” they knew they were next, no matter how long it took to get to them. So much fun, honestly!
Did you have any mentors along the way?
I was the youngest artist working at the MAC store when I started, so mentorship was all around me. It was of a more peer-to-peer mentorship. I would see more experienced makeup artists doing beautiful work on themselves and others. You can’t help but become a stronger artist. I would say MAC Cosmetics was essentially a corporate mentorship–the training, the beautiful products, and the other artists all helped me to advance. I am honestly still desiring a personal mentor for myself. Hopefully, that person will be reading this.
A Force of Creativity
What types of projects do you enjoy most?
I moved to New York in 2003 to learn editorial makeup artistry and become a famous makeup artist. Simultaneously, I sang professionally and did a lot of songwriting and music recordings. Because of this, I’ve always felt very connected to recording artists and respected their work and lifestyle. So, my focus has been mostly on projects with recording artists and television talents.
I also love models so much, but I realize my niche is working with people who are not professional models. I love working with anyone who appreciates the art of transformation–no matter how big or small–and allows me to problem-solve something for them, whether it be gorgeous skin, a fabulous brow, or pretty eyelashes to enhance their features.
What was your big break as an artist?
I honestly don’t feel it’s happened yet. I have had some truly incredible experiences, but I haven’t felt that “big break feeling” yet. I do think it’s coming, however.
You created four gorgeous looks for the 2021 Alcone Company Halloween campaign. What was the inspiration?
For the Glamour Ghouls shoot, my focus was to create wearable Halloween looks that are fun and colorful but still inspire beauty. I was also inspired by each model’s features to enhance their natural beauty while honoring the theme.
What’s your creative process and how do you prep for a project?
My creative process is to look within and ask myself what I’m into at the moment. Then I look outside–online typically–for references that enlighten and inspire me. I create mood boards. I love Pinterest for that. Then I cycle through a process of elimination, taking away the ideas that no longer work, and then build my imagination up from what’s left on the inspiration board. Next, I look for colors, products, and materials to support my ideas. In this shoot for Alcone, the eyebrow was the hero in my artistic presentation, so even though this was a Halloween theme, I created an eyebrow focus for each look.
How would you define your artistic style?
I define my artistic style as “Natural Glam/R&B Diva with Pop and Editorial sensibilities” I hope that makes sense and shines through.
Achieving the Dream
You’re also an entrepreneur. What inspired you to open Blackshere Beauty, your makeup and brow studio?
I’ve been entrepreneurial since I was a child. I’ve always enjoyed making my own money, and I love being creative. When I was a kid, I sold Hawaiian shaved ice with different flavors on my grandparent’s stoop in the summers. Once the ice cream truck driver became my regular customer, I realized I had a special skill of “selling ice cream to the ice cream man,” so to speak. That’s when I got my entrepreneurial bug bite. I always knew I wanted my own business, but I also knew I needed a serious education which I’ve sought out in many ways and experiences over the past 20 years in the industry.
I’m also a mother of two daughters, and I didn’t want to take on too much while they were very small. Before I had my girls, I flew to many countries and cities doing freelance makeup. Once I became a mother, I decided to use my hairstyling skills to create a stream of income closer to home. I built a little beauty suite in the second bedroom in our apartment. This allowed me to stay on the pulse with freelance work and stay close to home near my babies. I’ve also had a brow-shaping clientele in Brooklyn since 2008.
Now that my oldest is ten and my youngest daughter is eight, I feel more entrepreneurial freedom and flexibility. During the NYC shutdown, my husband and I decided to write our business plan and manifest a beauty business. My concept was to combine all of my expertise to offer our Brooklyn and beyond clientele the same services I give my celebrity clients while also creating a boutique hotel or chic salon environment where they can receive them.
I’ve always thought there needed to be a space where the non-celebrity can go to get the looks they see in the magazines, online, or on television in their own community. But they need to go to professional artists that understand that aesthetic and know the products and techniques required to achieve the results they desire. That is my goal, and that’s why we created this business.
In what ways does having your own studio differ from gigs as a freelance artist? Any Pros or Cons?
Working out of my own studio offers excellent benefits like providing more structure in my daily life, building more intimate and rewarding relationships with my clientele, and not having to run around with my heavy kit. I also like getting my money in hand right away without invoicing and then waiting to get paid. So, the frequency of pay is also a big perk for me.
The Cons are that I have to be more creative about how I post and promote my work because my clients are not typically celebrities, models, or influencers. This requires more creativity to grab attention to attract a new flow of business. We all know that if you post a well-known face online, you’ll get a lot of attention which turns into dollars.
Also, many of my clients don’t have the same skincare regimens, fillers, and face snatches as celebrities which makes a beautiful makeup application easier. But because I want all my clients to look flawless, gorgeous, well-groomed, relaxed, and expensive, I use my many skills and good products to bring out their “inner celebrity,” so to speak. It also provides an opportunity to educate and problem-solve for my clients, which is really fun for me. I can tell them what’s good on the market and help them enhance their lives through a positive self-image and techniques that save time.
What services do you offer at Blackshere Beauty?
The services we offer at Blackshere Beauty are all cosmetic services for the face. We are makeup artists that perform makeup artistry, permanent makeup, brow shaping, tinting, lamination, and eyelash extensions services. We also carry cosmetics retail, and we are now entering the phase of offering pro-artist training and educational courses.
What’s your personal specialty?
My personal specialty is making my clients look great every day. So, I begin with great brows and skin. From there, to me, the rest is all play. I’ve been doing permanent makeup for eyebrows for the past seven years–some know it as microblading–which provides an excellent solution for many people when performed beautifully.
We also offer a very, very cool gel adhesive method for eyelash extensions called Lynk Gel by Illumino Extensions–it’s such an incredible beauty service. The gel adhesive method is similar to when we changed from traditional nail polish to gel polish. The adhesive is more flexible, it is clear, has nearly no fumes, and holds the extension to the natural lash 20-30% longer than the traditional adhesive. An LED light is attached to the isolation tweezer used to cure the gel adhesive. So cool.
Words of Wisdom
Who are your ultimate beauty Icons?
My ultimate Beauty Icons are such a moving target. I get so bored with trends, so I’m always looking for what’s next, but I think that’s a good thing because it just means I’m usually ready to embrace it. So, with that said, I love iconic women and men who have shown me how to grow through the ages and how they evolve with time and age. These Icons for me are Tina Turner, Grace Jones, Janet Jackson, Madonna, En Vogue (the group), Karl Lagerfeld, Eartha Kitt, Sean Combs, Lenny Kravitz, Gwen Stefani, Solange, Beyonce, and Diahann Carroll.
Standout career moment(s)?
One of my most memorable career moments so far was when I stood at the foot of the stage watching Roberta Flack present Maya Angelou to a theater in South Carolina. I was balling my eyes out because I felt so accomplished to be on stage with such incredible writers. How the optics were for me: I did Roberta’s hair and makeup. I was waiting on Roberta and Roberta was waiting on Maya. Three generations of women doing their thing, making their mark. Was so dope.
Another was watching my client, Clive Davis, wait outside a dressing room on a bench like a perfect gentleman, awaiting Whitney Houston to exit her room to greet her. They were going to walk together to the area where he would present her latest album during her record release event. Shortly after that, Whitney was standing behind me in the doorway before her announcement, singing along to her new songs. I just froze and stood there. Not to distract her but to be present with her and listen. Such a gift.
Oh! And that time when Aretha Franklin looked at me from across the room and asked me to powder her. I nearly jumped on her lap.
I love the “fly on a wall” experiences where I have seen humanity doing its thing. I enjoy human relations. There are many other moments, but these stand out.
Any advice for aspiring makeup artists?
My advice to aspiring makeup artists is to learn how to work like a pro. Keep your tools and environment clean. Work under someone, or a few people, who can show you all the things you think you know but don’t yet have enough experience to see it all play out in real time. Give yourself time to grow. It will all pay off in the end. If you are actively working on your goals, your time is not wasted.
Aside from beauty, any other passions?
I am passionate about culture. I’m interested in taking my family around the world and learning what makes life cool for everyone else. I love the human experience, plants, and animals. I love seeing what grows in different climates. I’m that person that stops to see what leaves and foliage are growing in the new town I’ve landed in. It’s really random, but it’s for me.
Working in the beauty industry can present many moments of pressure. When I am in that space, I reaffirm my skills by telling myself, “I make everything beautiful.”
Thank you, Starr, for sharing your personal story and insights with the artist community.
We are truly inspired, and we wish you and Blackshere Beauty Studio continued success!
Learn more about Starr:
See all four of Starr’s gorgeous makeup looks in Glamour Ghouls Halloween Makeup by Starr Blackshere.