Q&A: Grace Lee, Lead Makeup Artist for Maybelline New York Canada

Grace Lee

The backstage glow-master answers our Proustian beauty Qs

As a mass communications student at Toronto’s York University, Grace Lee was looking for a part-time job when she landed a sales position at a Hudson’s Bay M.A.C counter. Little did she know it would open the door to a jet-set career of making up the world’s most beautiful faces. “I realized I could do this for a living,” recalls Lee, whose beauty skills are completely self-taught. It wasn’t long before her natural artistic ability and determination took her up the ladder at M.A.C, where she earned the coveted role of senior artist with the Global Pro team, regularly travelling from her home base in Toronto to fashion weeks around the world. “I thought I was going to lose my mind,” she says of her first major runway experience, a 2004 Vera Wang show in New York. “Being backstage at that level was a ‘pinch me’ moment.”

Now, as lead artist for Maybelline New York Canada since 2012, Lee keys every look—usually, more than 35 per season—at Toronto’s World MasterCard Fashion Week (the cosmetics brand is a major sponsor). She also regularly paints the faces of Maybelline’s celebrity ambassadors, including model and social-media star Gigi Hadid. Connecting with her own fanbase on social (@graceleebeauty has more than 11,000 Instagram followers), the makeup pro’s posts reflect a balance of runway, editorial and commercial work with media appearances, travel and time spent with her adorable young family. We cornered Lee backstage at her Toronto fashion week battle station to tap her for beauty wisdom.

What is your idea of perfect beauty? Beautiful skin, a really great brow and an awesome bright lip.

How do you look when you feel most like yourself? I have my eyebrows on.

If you could create a fragrance that encapsulated your personality, what would it smell like? A little spicy. I’m sweet, spicy and sassy, all in one.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received at a beauty counter? Makeup is about enhancing people’s beauty, not masking it.

What is your biggest beauty extravagance? Skincare, makeup brushes and foundation.


Grace Lee’s Beauty Picks

Which one of your signature techniques should every woman know? I’m all about creating natural-looking skin and that highlighting glow. My favourite trick is adding a bit of Maybelline Eye Studio Color Tattoo in Barely Branded, layered with Baby Lips in Quenched, right on the cheekbone.

Who do you admire as a living icon in the beauty world? Christy Turlington has been my number
one model for the past 20 years. I look at her in terms of how beauty should be—how she takes care of herself and her lifestyle.

What is your biggest beauty regret? I was a ’90s girl, so plucking my eyebrows. Huge mistake.

What is your anti-aging motto? Moisturize. Use sunscreen. And I mean, you’re going to age! Take it gracefully.

What do you deem a beauty crime? Overdrawing lips, where you can see the mouth moving and the lip liner [around them].

What do you consider an underrated skincare commandment? Massaging in your moisturizer. I love that!

If you could change anything about the beauty industry, what would that be? Changing people’s view of what is beautiful. Black, Asian, yellow skin—everything is beautiful!


This article was originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of Cosmetics magazine. For more, download our iPad edition.