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Over the past few years, Mary Phillips has become one of the most in-demand makeup artists in Hollywood with A-list clients including Kendall Jenner, Kim Kardashian West, Hailey Baldwin and Priyanka Chopra Jonas — just to name a few. Known for giving stars her signature airbrushed complexion and ultra-long lashes, Phillips has delivered countless unforgettable celebrity looks that provide us with some serious makeup inspiration.
To celebrate the Tweezerman’s 40th anniversary, PEOPLE caught up with Phillips — who was named the brand’s newest ambassador — to talk all about her new beauty gig and what it’s really like working as a high-profile celebrity makeup artist.
“I’m so excited to be partnering with Tweezerman because I’ve had tweezers in my kit from day one,” Phillips says.
Read on to hear more from Phillips about her partnership with Tweezerman, the craziest place she’s done a star’s makeup and more.
PEOPLE: When did you realize doing makeup was your calling?
Mary Phillips: When I was little I would watch my mom do her makeup and it really fascinated me. I loved to paint and had an art easel, so I would stay there all day painting. When my friends would come over, I was like, “Let’s do your hair and makeup!” I had no idea what I was doing makeup-wise but it was so fun to me. At the time I had no idea that it could be a job. My dad’s a chiropractor and I remember one of his clients was a makeup artist for movie stars. I was like, “That is what I’m doing!” I don’t know if my parents were too thrilled in the beginning but they have always been very supportive.
How did you start working with celebrities?
MP: I started assisting [makeup artist] Eugenia Weston. She’s an amazing brow artist and I worked for her for about three or four years and just did brows in a salon. I was assisting different makeup artists too and learning from them. I was lucky enough to grow up in L.A. so I was able to work for free and assist different people. Eventually if the makeup artists went out of town I would do their makeup for them. People would recommend me to a client so it was really through word-of-mouth.
You said you’ve always kept Tweezerman tools in your makeup kit. What are your essentials?
MP: I keep the Slant Tweezers, the Point Tweezers and the Lash Assist in my kit. If you’re not familiar with the last one, it is a little tool that you use to apply false lashes. I also love the Lash Curler. I’ll always curl the lashes, even if there’s no mascara on. It’s such a game changer.
What’s your secret to achieving a flawless-looking, luminous complexion on your stars?
MP: I actually went to aesthetician school because I wanted to learn as much as I could about the skin. I had skin issues when I was growing up so it was really important to me to learn about it. I want to give people the gift of beautiful skin. So I always start with a lot of skin care products — I love ones from La Mer like the Cleansing Micellar Water, the Renewal Oil and the original Creme de la Mer. [Phillips is an ambassador for the brand.] Sometimes I will even go in with an illuminator before foundation.
You work with some of the most photographed women in the world. Do you ever get nervous about taking makeup risks?
MP: I feel like no matter what you do, a lot of people are going to love it and you’re going to get people who don’t. I am always vocal about that with whoever I am working with. I’m like, “Look, this is risky. I’m into it, let’s do it. But I’m just saying we are going to get a lot of haters, but if you’re down, I’m down.” If it’s something we’re on the same page about, then we’re good to do it.
How involved are your clients in glam sessions?
MP: It’s definitely an open conversation. I’ll give my opinion, and then I’ll ask my client what they think. Some of them will come to me with exactly what they want or a stylist will send me pictures of the fitting and say, “I think this will look beautiful.” It’s not just about the makeup — it’s about the hair, the styling, it all coming together.
Which one of your stars usually has the most clear vision of what she wants her makeup to look like?
MP: Kendall [Jenner] knows what she likes. She knows what looks good on her, which I love, because I appreciate when people know what they want.
What’s one of your favorite celebrity makeup looks you’ve done?
MP: I did Kendall for the People’s Choice Awards last year and we did that really cool floating green liner. It was so funny to me because I was like, “We’re going to get murdered for this. People are going to hate it.” But we loved it. People are always bringing that look up and it made me so happy how much everyone really liked it.
Where’s the craziest place you’ve done a star’s makeup?
MP: I remember one time I was at this little FBO [fixed-base operator] in Germany and I was doing J.Lo. Our plane was delayed so we took over a little tiny office and I did her makeup in there when we were about to get on this little propeller plane. I think we finished the whole look on the plane. There’s been so many weird places, especially when you’re doing music videos. There’s nothing that could shock me if someone was like, “I need you to do makeup right here!”