Over the course of a career spanning three decades, makeup artist Nicole Bryl has spruced up Oscar winners (Sandra Bullock, Jack Nicholson and Mel Gibson), models (Hilary Rhoda and Cindy Crawford), royalty (Prince Albert II, Queen Noor and Princess Charlotte), crooners (Tony Bennett and Harry Connick Jr.) and a rapper (Snoop Dogg), but it’s likely the looks she created and will create for Melania Trump that will be most remembered. Bryl, a former theater student who followed her mother Rochelle’s footsteps into the beauty industry, started working with the incoming first lady almost 11 years ago on a People magazine shoot capturing her with her husband and new baby Barron. Since then, Bryl has helped Trump cultivate her patented mix of satiny, bronzed skin, dark rimmed eyes and shiny, muted lip colors. Radiant skin is of particular interest to Trump and Bryl as they’ve both been involved in skin-care businesses. Bryl is revamping her namesake vitamin C-driven anti-aging collection with the assistance of advertising agency LG2.
With the inauguration around the corner, WWD commiserated with Bryl about preparing for the big day, the decision by a few designers not to dress Trump and whether her high-profile client entering the White House makes her nervous.
WWD: What is it like when you work on Melania Trump? Do you talk politics?
Nicole Bryl: To be honest, we hardly ever talk about politics. I respect her privacy when we are together and prefer to catch up on how her wonderful son is doing in school, philosophical thoughts on life in general, the progression of my skin-care line, which she is always so supportive of, and fashion trends we’re both inspired by.
WWD: Are you already working out the details of Melania Trump’s inauguration look?
N.B.: When Melania’s creative team meets next week before inauguration, we will then see what she will be wearing for all of the events and collaboratively decide how the look will transpire. Until then, it’s all speculation. Sometimes things happen spontaneously in the moment, and this is usually when the magic occurs.
WWD: What do you think you are known for when it comes to the beauty looks you craft?
N.B.: I certainly spend the most amount of time on my client’s skin. Ensuring that there is always a gentle, flawless glow and that everything is blended perfectly is a skill I never tire of perfecting. I would also say I have a gift for customizing individual eyelashes quickly. When I was 22-years-old, I landed my first full-time makeup job out of university at a live TV show where every single host and guest requested individual eyelashes. Because I needed to be able to apply them quickly yet precisely, I developed this odd skill of being able to get those crazy suckers on fast.
WWD: Some designers have said they won’t dress Melania Trump. What do you think of their stance?
N.B.: I find it beyond ironic because, before politics became a factor, all major A-list designers from all over the world were dying to dress her. Melania Trump is undeniably one of the most stunningly beautiful woman on Earth and anyone who has ever met her in person or spent time with her also knows for a fact she is one of the sweetest, most elegant women, too. Creatives in the fashion world have always adored her. Why now because of their difference in political views with her husband would they, as artists, boycott? I’m sorry, but this just seems unkind. Thank goodness Melania doesn’t even in the slightest get upset about these things. She is impressively one of the most self-assured, self-confident women I have ever known, and the only one who gets flustered about this sort of talk is me and those who know her and care for her the most.
WWD: A first lady’s beauty and fashion choices are watched very closely. Do you feel pressure?
N.B.: I actually do not feel pressure. I am hired to give my best, and this is exactly what I’ll continue to try and do. What people may or may not talk about thereafter is out of my control, so I don’t stress about it at all. And since finding balance and being healthy is the number-one most important thing in life, everything else is just the icing on the cake. As Melania and I have worked together for so many years, I feel comforted when I’m with her, which is always a great advantage. I’m not all of a sudden nervous to do my job now just because her title has changed to first lady. I’m simply excited for her to shine.
WWD: Do you check out media and social-media commentary on Melania Trump’s fashion and beauty choices?
N.B.: I do look. One should always stay on top of what’s happening at any job to objectively see what works or even how you can make things better for next time. But I look at it as research and always keep a positive outlook. I also always look to see what kind of lighting there was at any given event. This helps when creating for the next time.
WWD: Since Donald Trump won the presidential election, how has working for the Trump family changed?
N.B.: I would say that the single most obvious thing that has changed is security. Now, you must be fully vetted and cleared to even stand near your longtime clients, work in their home and travel with them. This for sure has been an adjustment for me but, of course, I absolutely understand why this must be done and am happy to comply.
WWD: As Melania Trump steps into the White House, how do you think her approach to makeup will change?
N.B.: I believe the change in her image will unfold as time goes on. We are all experiencing this threshold for the first time together, so it will also be exciting for me to see how everything will evolve. One thing I am certain about, Melania’s beauty and impeccable taste will become iconic.
Launch Gallery: Q&A: Melania Trump's Makeup Artist Nicole Bryl