Things were very different when I spoke to Mario Dedivanovic at the Lowes Regency Hotel in New York City last December. Dedivanovic, joined by his team and his mother, gave me an emotional first look at his collaboration with Sephora, the same retailer where he started his makeup career 20 years ago. For the collaboration, Dedivanovic curated a 14-piece brush collection inspired by his decades of expertise. The timing of the collaboration was precious to Dedivanovic, who at the time had just given an emotional speech at the American Influencer Awards about self-acceptance. “I have a strong connection to Sephora, and I really feel like they saved my life,” he told me.During our conversation, the influential makeup artist let me in on his ultimate goal: launching a makeup collection of his own. “Without the X,” as he put it, referring to his history of collaborations. A tight-lipped Dedivanovic couldn’t share more details, but he promised that the collection, a culmination of his 20 years of artistry, would be worth the wait. Fast forward to September 2020, and while the world has shifted dramatically, Dedivanovic has stayed true to his vision. His first-ever makeup brand, Makeup By Mario, is officially launching at Sephora on October 1. This time, instead of swiping and swatching the luxe collection in person, he excitedly shared the products with me over Zoom. “I invested everything I have into this collection,” Dedivanovic said to me tearfully. “I didn’t take on any investors, so if this doesn’t work out, I’m going back to my parents’ house.” Dedivanovic’s passion shines through every detail of his first collection, which features a core line of products that will appeal to both professional artists and everyday makeup lovers. There are multiple eyeshadow palettes, with velvety powders that range from shimmery olive to matte dusty rose; multi-purpose highlighters in flattering shades of gold, silver, and rose; and eye primers, pro brushes, and makeup remover wipes to apply (and take it all off) with ease. “This line is all based on my techniques and philosophies as a makeup artist,” he says to me. “I wanted these products to feel easy to use for artists and non-artists. It was important for me to bridge that gap.”Each item in the collection is outfitted in sleek white packaging, a decision Dedivanovic made for style and cleanliness. “We wanted the products to feel elevated and fit in your palm, almost like the iPhone,” he says. “I also wanted to make something easy to clean, and that will encourage you to keep clean because of the nice white packaging.”Unlike Dedivanovic’s past collaborations, creating his own company from the ground up was the most demanding and rewarding experience of his career. “With collaborations, there are point people who handle everything, and you brainstorm and give your opinion,” he explains. But for his brand, Dedivanovic was tasked with being both the pro-makeup artist and CEO. “I had to build a team from scratch, and a lot goes into bringing things to life,” he says.While there’s a lot at stake for Dedivanovic, personally, there’s much to look forward to. Next week, he plans to take his mother — who immigrated from Montenegro to provide a better life for her children — to see the products on Sephora shelves for the first time. “All of this originally started with me wanting to do something to make her feel proud,” Dedivanovic says. “To make her feel like she came to this country and all of her sacrifices were worth it.”> I didn’t take on any investors, so if this doesn’t work out, I’m going back to my parents’ house.> > Mario DedivanovicThough family is a major driving force for Dedivanovic, he also credits his Master Class students for fueling his passion to launch the line. Throughout his career, these students have sat transfixed as Dedivanovic shared his techniques with them (often using longtime client Kim Kardashian West as his model). “I thought about my students every single day throughout this process,” he says. “It’s so important to me to help elevate their artistry in a quicker, more functional way.”It will also be the first time many of his celebrity clients will be seeing Makeup By Mario products in the flesh. “I’ve been using them [along with other products] on my clients for a while now secretly,” he says. “I am very superstitious and didn’t want to spoil or jinx anything while I worked on it.”For Dedivanovic, reaching this massive milestone only motivates him to keep climbing. “It’s surreal that the day has finally come, but it’s exciting to think about the future,” he says. “Getting to the full-circle moment isn’t the end. It keeps pushing me to reach for my goals, which is to create, teach, and inspire people to go after what they want.”Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?