10 Minutes with A.J. Crimson, Celebrity Makeup Artist

Working at The Magazine, Ferocia and I come face-to-face with some of the smartest, brightest stars in the Fashion and Beauty industry. Once they inevitably succeed, you have the pleasure of having been a witness to their triumphant journey to the top. A.J. Crimson is one of those people. 

At a young age, he's already accomplished what beauty industry-hopefuls dream of: He's a makeup artist for celebrities like Estelle, Fergie, Amerie and Letoya Luckett. He's worked on Vogue photo shoots like "A Brief Encounter," the fashion spread featuring Diddy. He is the co-founder of lip gloss line, Kissable Couture, with Forest Whitaker's wife, Keisha. And he recently directed his first video, Letoya Luckett's "Good To You." Oh and he can tear up a dance floor better than any man I've ever met!

For our ten-minute interview column, the beauty God opened up to me about working for Pat McGrath, partying at the Armani club in Milan and what it takes to get ahead in this business. 

Coutura: First, thank you so much for speaking with us! You have the dream job every make-up artist wishes they had. Walk us through a typical workday in the life of the fabulous A.J. Crimson.

A.J.: I normally wake up at about 6am, begin sending and checking emails, and organize my thoughts for the day. Especially if it’s a day where I know I’ll be on set. It’s staying in touch with my office all day through my crackberry. Lol!  My laptop is always on standby for use when I’m on breaks. I try to take a meeting about my projects at least once or twice a week.

Coutura: Busy bee. Working in beauty is not easy, but it certainly is rewarding. When did you realize you wanted to work in this industry?  How did you get your start?

A.J.: I think I have always had an eye for beautiful things, so my entry into the industry was effortless.  It wasn't until I landed in Los Angeles that I really began to carve a niche for myself.

Coutura: Eventually you landed a job working with the legendary Pat McGrath! What was it like working for her?

A.J.: It was a surreal moment.  The time spent wasn't long enough. I recall it was my first trip to Paris. I was living in Vienna when I got the call from my American agent asking if I could get there, Pat had a space for me. I didn't think I would make it on time so I almost didn't go.  But I couldn't stand to think "what if"... so I just went with the mindset that on time or late I will get there.  I will do a great job and will not be turned away.  I ended up getting to Paris early, worked the Christian Dior fashion show, and got booked for 6 other shows that week.

Coutura: I commend how you were able to seize the moment! That mindset paid off. What advice would you give to up-and-coming beauty industry hopefuls on breaking in the business?

A.J.: Make your own breaks; never let your expendables get in the way of your dreams. Be careful how you use the word “reality.” Reality is what you make it!

Coutura: You've certainly made your dreams a reality. You are the youngest founder and designer of a luxury cosmetics line EVER with Kissable Couture, your lip gloss line with Keisha Whitaker.  That's a huge accomplishment.  Do you see any other beauty product lines in the future? Makeup?  Lotion? Etc.

A.J.: Thank you. And yes, I'm currently developing [BeautyStatements]by ajcrimson.

Coutura: Keep us posted. I'm sure [BeautyStatements] will be as phenomenal as Kissable Couture. By the way, my fave shade is ELUSIVE, so sexy! What lip gloss colors from Kissable Couture will be hot for Spring?

A.J.: Our new shade GLAMOUR which is an exclusive for QVC.  Available on Friday April 16th at 7pm!

Coutura: What are a few of your favorite beauty trends from the Fall 2010 runway?

A.J.: Color, Color, Color!  The liner and definitely the bold lips.

Coutura: Name three beauty products you can't live without.

A.J.: Nutura Bisse - The Cure, Nivea- body lotion, Embryolisse. I love moisturizers!!

Coutura:  What are three beauty tricks of the trade you can share with us?

A.J.: 1) I love to add moisturizer to foundation for a great light spring summer foundation.

2)   Use a wedge sponge placed behind the eye lash against the lid when applying mascara.     This helps prevent ruining eye makeup.

3)  Give dull eye shadow more pop!  Lightly wet the tip of your brush swirl in eye shadow and apply!

Coutura: Great tips! Besides taking over the beauty industry, you recently directed your first music video, "Good to Me" by Letoya Luckett. Congrats!  What was that experience like? [Ed Note: Scroll down to see the video.]

A.J.: Thank you!  OMG I loved directing Letoya in this video.  I thought I would be nervous but I wasn't.  It’s just like working on one of my photo shoots that I produce. I know what I want when I see it. I have to get the shot in a certain time frame so the pressure is always on. The editing process was longer, but I loved seeing the possibilities. It was awesome! I love Letoya and everyone at MBK for giving me the opportunity. I'm really happy that Letoya’s fans LOVED IT!

Coutura: I am a huge Letoya fan and thought the video was so cool! What is your favorite music video of all time?

A.J.: Well I don’t know that I have a favorite video of ALL time, but I really liked Madonna’s – “Vogue.”This was just a great video in the 90's.  It was just a different video.  The quality was crisp and I loved the black and white concept.  The song was so alluring!

Coutura: Vogue is, and forever will be, a classic. Lol. What do you think of Madonna's heir, Lady Gaga video, Telephone? And by the way, I'm in love with Estelle's video, Freak!

A.J.: I love Gaga and the creativity of the video. I love that she pushes the boundaries, even if sometimes it is way overboard. But that’s why we keep watching and that’s what makes her great. I saw so many great references in this video. She raised the bar for music video quality, anticipation, and delivery. Everyone I know was waiting at 12:30am to see this video and was talking about it the next day.  Whether they liked her or not!

I had the best fun working on “Freak.”  I was able to paint Estelle in full on body paint.  Artists don’t usually have the opportunity to do that.  We did gold glitter lips and painted a mask on the dancers.  It was one of the most visual videos I have worked on with an artist.  We were able to have fun and get dirty!

Coutura: Speaking of having fun and getting dirty, I love that you're a bicoastal social butterfly, hanging out in NYC and LA.  What are your favorite restaurants/clubs in both cities?

A.J.: I love Soho house in New York in the summer. I also LOVE Juliet for dinner, Chef Kyle Williams is amazing!  For breakfast I can’t get enough of Mikes in Brooklyn. My favorite club in New York, I would have to say I spend many nights at GreenHouse. SL is going to be popping this summer! Maybe I’ll make a cameo when the weather is better. I really wish I could just fly to Milan every weekend and go to the Armani club. I have so much fun every time I go!

As for LA, brunch at the four seasons is a must and they have the best waffles.  For dinner, I would have to say Katsuya. I love their version of Chinese chicken salad clubs.  I have to be honest; I really don’t go to clubs in LA.  After you've been to a NY party or one in London, Paris, or Milan, there is no point.  LA is my place to relax, have fun with friends, and enjoy a private party in the hills, which are always invite only so start building those relationships.  Lol!

Coutura: LOL! So celebrity clients.  A music video.  A successful luxury cosmetic line... and it still feels like your career has just begun!  What's next for AJ Crimson?

A.J.: I'll be hosting makeup classes - April 24th in NYC, April 25th  in Philadelphia,  May 1st  in DC,  and May 2nd  in ATL.  I am also working on my book and will continue to work on my blog!

Coutura: Great! We'll be reading! 



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