"Why do you want this job?"
Because under capitalism I am forced to sell my labor in order to subsist.
Baby l o v e me lights out…
THE PROFESSIONAL: REA ANN SILVA
The beautyblender® creator talks about her hot pink wonder.
Few beauty tools are lauded in the industry like Rea Ann Silva’s beautyblender®, the pink, egg-shaped sponge designed to effortlessly blend makeup for an airbrushed effect. We spoke to the creator, CEO, and professional makeup artist about her brightly-colored creation and its rising celebrity status. BECKY PEDERSON
You studied fashion in college. How did you move from that world to beauty?
I graduated from high school early and I think my mother feared I wouldn’t go back to school. She knew I had a passion for fashion so she introduced me to FIDM, which was a new school at the time, and enrolled me into the fashion design program.
As a college student from a working class family, I needed to support myself during school. I got a job doing perfume modeling on the cosmetics floor of a department store in downtown Los Angeles. During that job, I realized that walking around and spraying perfume on people was the equivalent of having a contagious disease, which made for a very long workday.
During one of these very long days, I met a girl who worked for a makeup counter. She noticed I did my makeup very well and asked me if I was a makeup artist. While I don’t condone lying, I was desperate to get away from spraying strangers with perfume. So, I lied and said yes, and it changed the course of my life. I have now been a professional makeup artist for 25 years.
You eventually worked your way onto television shows, where you had the idea to create beautyblender®. What was that eureka moment like?
I was hired to be the Department Head Makeup Artist for one of the first television shows ever shot in high-definition. The show starred four leading ladies with four different beauty routines. I realized airbrushing would provide the most natural and perfect application finish for high-def. My challenge became keeping the looks consistent throughout the day without having to drag a big airbrushing compressor around. Through trial and error, I found that using an edgeless sponge was the most effective way.
Most makeup artists branch out by developing their own line of makeup. Why did you decide to dive headfirst into developing makeup tools instead?
I believed tools were an area that needed the most reinvention. So many of my peers went on to create amazing makeup lines…so at the time, I didn’t feel that the world needed another makeup line!
I decided to start by reinventing the makeup sponge because it was the most recognizable tool—but interestingly, it was never designed to actually apply makeup. Previously, it had been designed to either fit in a compact or to be cut into triangular shapes (the triangle is the cheapest and easiest shape to make). The idea was simple for these companies at the time. They were able to keep cost low by telling the consumer to throw away after one use and then replenish.
After over 10 years of working every day, I started to be concerned about how much sponge material I was sending to our landfills. Multiply that by how many artists and consumers are also contributing…it made my head spin! That was the moment I knew my contribution to the makeup world would be to create a reusable cosmetic makeup sponge.
When you first started the beautyblender® brand, what was your vision? Has your vision changed since you first launched?
When I first started, my vision was to only sell to makeup artists. Something amazing happened along the way when they started to disappear from the trailers and makeup tables—they were being swiped by clients who wanted one! That’s when I realized I needed to change my strategy and introduce the beautyblender® method of makeup application to the world.
When was the moment you realized beautyblender® was going to be a big deal?
I still have a hard time realizing this. I feel humbled that it is as popular as it has become. Honestly, the biggest landmark in my beautyblender® journey—and probably the most important turning point so far—has been to see my little beautyblender® sold in Sephora stores all around the world. I think that’s a makeup artist’s biggest dream come true. But the honest truth is that I try not to focus on whether it’s a big deal. It’s kind of scary.
I have to ask: Why did you make it hot pink?
When I was creating beautyblender®, color was not something I focused on. I focused on the performance. In the process of getting it made, one of the labs sent me a sample in a box with a note saying, “Please do not look at the color; just test the material.” When I opened up the box, I saw this neon, hot pink color and it just made me smile. I thought to myself, “Why can’t a cosmetic sponge be something other than white, beige, or peach? Why can’t it stand out? Why shouldn’t it stand out?” So pink it was.
How is the pink one different from the black and white ones? And what’s up with the little green ones?
After the success of my original beautyblender®, I wanted to create one that was more masculine; also, I wanted to pay homage to my fellow professional makeup artists that supported and helped me create this success. Black seemed to be the perfect color, as it is my favorite color and also the wardrobe of most makeup artists. The black beautyblender® (ProBB)’s performance is exactly the same as the pink one, but when using highly colored cosmetics such as self tanner and long wear makeups, you won’t see the stain that it leaves on your beautyblender®. The white one (PureBB) was created to fit a need by estheticians for a product free of dyes—and aesthetically, it fit their skincare environment better. The little neon green ones (micro.mini, the mini beautyblender® with a laser focus) were created to fit in the smaller areas of the face because not everyone’s face is sized or shaped the same. I also wanted to create a tool that would help the professionals contour and highlight without leaving racing stripes.
You also developed a palette called surface.pro. Can you talk about the inspiration behind it?
I realized that color matching was a huge challenge for everybody. By creating a transparent palette, we are now able to check our makeup mixes without applying them to our skin, perfecting them before we apply. It’s the process professionals use. I decided to add the storage wells because this is also a technique professional makeup artists use to save their custom mixtures for next time. There’s a lot more to talk about but this interview would go on forever!
On that note, one last question! Do you see beautyblender® expanding into a line of other makeup tools?
My goal for the next five years is to secure our position as makeup’s best friend. I have several ideas in the works right now that support makeup application, tools, and a few other things I cannot mention or I’d have to kill you!