How many makeup artists can boast 100 covers of “Essence” or 142 covers of “O” magazine? How many makeup artists can say that they have enhanced the faces of of Halle Berry, Michelle Obama and Beyonce Knowles? Reggie Wells can. Reggie Wells can also say he was Oprah’s makeup artist for 21 1/2 years.
Reggie has seen four decades of makeup. He is also a published author having written a book on makeup tips and his experiences with his rich and famous clients. He has also earned a master’s degree in higher education and is currently preparing a new reality show with a twist.
Reggie has a remarkable story to share, and plenty of experience to back it up. He shared it with me quite candidly along with his fabulous sense of humor and wit.
Reggie, besides doing Oprah’s makeup for over 21 years, who else’s faces have you touched?
I’ve been doing this for 23 years, so there’s no name you can come up with back in the ‘70s and ‘80s that I haven’t touched. Halle Berry, Beyonce Knowles, Michelle Obama…
When did you start doing makeup?
I came to New York in 1975. I got started in the business. Most of my colleagues aren’t here anymore, but I did open the door for a lot of black artists.
So we have a large drag community in New York. Have you ever painted drag for anyone?
OMG, no, I haven’t. Well…
Do you have any drag tips?
No, I don’t, and I’ll tell you why. I was so embarrassed; a drag queen over 15 years ago asked, “Can you do my makeup?” I said, “OK, I’ll do it.” Well, that was a whole different genre.
Yes it is.
That is, it has nothing to do with real people. It’s the most exaggerated thing. It’s like creating a whole different thing. It has nothing to do with their face. Some queens do it almost like a clown look, while others take their time. But I hail to them; it’s a totally different art, and I don’t think we know how to talk about it. We don’t even know how to separate it. But they are as big as any top-rated makeup artist. There are drag queens that do some great makeup. I think they should have their own contest.
Oh, but they do!
But the rest of the world don’t know that. I put them on a pedestal.
Yes, they paint for hours.
That’s not my category, but I applaud them all the time.
You know, I recently interviewed Bianca Del Rio and…
Get out of here. Del Rio?
She was fun.
Have you ever interviewed the girl from “Orange Is the New Black”?
Well, she is the essence of intelligence. She’s gonna do something for the transgenders. I’m thinking she’s gonna walk away with that Emmy.
I’ve interviewed a couple of transgendered people. Amanda Lepore – she was amazing!
Well, there’s a world out there that people don’t know about. I’ve always been scared of them. I think we all start off with this phobia. My best friend in high school, we did everything together as buddies. Then one day in the tenth grade he tells me, “I’m dropping out,” and I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Reggie, I have to put on woman’s clothes.” You see, we don’t get it as homosexuals. I said, “Well, Gregory, stop putting them on.” He said, “No, you don’t understand. I can’t.” It was the hardest thing for me to understand. I even had to go try on a dress to see what it did for me. He put me into a world that I didn’t understand, but I felt sorry for that, and I have to speak on that because a lot of people don’t know that homosexuality is converted in so many degrees.
And I don’t understand these men that won’t tell their wives that they go both ways.
I agree. I think that the wives should also have the opportunity to do whatever she wants as well.
Exactly! And who knows, she might say, “Well, bring him out here too!”
I remember a girl looked at me one time and said, “Who’s that man who keeps coming around with you?” And I said, “Let me answer that. I just had sex with him, and now he’s about to have sex with you.” She said, “OMG!” I’m writing my memoirs now…
It was very hard for me growing up because I didn’t have information. There was no counseling, there was no gay clubs, my father didn’t understand. But I just kept being me. I had to kick a lot of ass when I was growing up.
Now it’s a little chic to be gay in high school.
At least in New York.
Oh, OK. It’s much better now. It was said, my parents didn’t know what to say, but thank God I was able to put it all aside, therapy and just press on, press on. I’m writing that book as we speak. I’m in the last portion of it, but then always something pops up. I’m trying to end it as late as I can. That’s the real holdup.
Is there anything new in the makeup industry?
I invented my own, sort of deluxe compact called “Clockpot.” It’s a little smaller than a CD. It opens up, and there’s one for the face, and there’s one for the lips, and there’s one for the eyes. I was inspired by Oprah, for when she traveled. I said to her, “One thing I’m going to invent for you is a compact that you can put in your purse and be able to touch up. I want you to touch up at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock.” By the time you get to 9 o’clock, you might as well go to bed and have sex. It’s so unique, and the world hasn’t seen it yet. It’s gonna cost a million dollars to make. I didn’t take a regular mold. I actually invented it so that it was designed right.
Thank you, Reggie! We’ll be looking forward to your memoirs and your new reality show to be aired shortly.