Meet the Makeup Artist: Aspen McKenna

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Local makeup artist, Aspen, is no stranger to the fashion industry, and here at Got Beauty, we’re positive she will continue to pave the way with her innovative and creative contributions for many years to come. We were able to steal her away for a conversation and get an insider’s POV of what life is like behind the scenes in the fabulous world of fashion.

We've read a bit about you already in City Weekly. The trajectory of your career is pretty impressive. Tell us a bit about what inspired you to get into makeup and what you love most about it.

I had been on a creative marketing path previous to the 2008 economic downturn and when the contracts for marketing events came to a stop, I needed a different way to use my creative talents and still be able to feed my dog.  I've always loved art (painting and sketching), so the tools of the trade of makeup just made sense in my hand.  I love learning more and more about what makeup can do and how far I can push it and stretch it to the limits of my imagination.  I also teach at the Taylor Andrews Academy in their makeup program and I love that.

We asked Aspen what a typical day on the job was like, and unsurprisingly, we found that a day in the life of a makeup artist is anything but typical.

I spend a lot of time prepping for a shoot.  I usually have several projects going at once.  Right now, for example, I'm working on an AMF collection, a NAHA submission and several other large shoots for this fall.  I also have corporate contracts that I work with often.  Some days are spent face charting, meeting with clients, on shoots or teaching.  Every day is so different that there really isn't a typical day.   

What is the greatest and/or most bizarre experience you've ever had at a shoot?

Okay… so I was doing makeup for this family shoot (airbrush cosmetics), and the mom had just had this new baby.  The baby had that baby acne stuff, so she asked me to airbrush over it, so I did.  And this spot. And that spot.  By the time I was done airbrushing all the spots for this new mom on her newborn, I had airbrushed the entire child.  I almost died.  My most shameful moment as a MUA - airbrushing a newborn baby. :)

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Working her way up, Aspen has collaborated with a wide range of popular names in the fashion industry, including the international fashion magazine En Vie.

En Vie is an international fashion magazine that I have worked with several times on publications.  They send out general themes for upcoming issues, and I go through and see which of the themes the photographers or designers would really love.  I then usually sit down and talk out the shoot and get the details down.  For My Fair Ladies, there was no specific issue or publication we were working for; we wanted to simply make something beautiful.  Naomi Leu Photography did such a beautiful job on these images - shes a wonderful photographer! See her flickr profile here.

Is there any go-to soundtrack for a photo shoot these days?

Mine is the Pandora station for Ellie Goulding or Adele.  Both have great energy and keep things light, but can also be intense when needed.

Aspen has been known to incorporate wild ideas into her work. More recently, we spotted one of her models sporting hot pink eyebrows (which happened to be our very own POPS Sweet Cheeks Blush color, Hydrangea!).   

I used one of the Pressed Eye Shadows, Snow White, and one of the Sweet Cheeks Blushes, Hydrangea.  I used Hydrangea for the eye lid, brows, cheeks and lip color.  All the highlights are the Snow White shade.   I love POPS shadows because they have an ideal amount of pigmentation for anything I want to do with them.  I can add them to the base of any other makeup and really expand their use. As for the eyebrows, I was working with the model, Erica Van Noy, on an earlier shoot, whom had recently gone platinum with her hair, but not her brows. I told her if she went platinum on the brows as well, I would do something creative and conceptual with them.  She did, and I decided on playing up the light creamy colors of her skin and hair with soft pinks. I love using makeup in unexpected ways and seeing what else they can do.

Your childhood crush was...

Soleil Moon Frye from Punky Brewster and Alyssa Milano from Who's the Boss.  I wanted to be them -- Does that count as a crush??

Makeup isn’t her only artistic passion: she informed us that she makes a great deal of the clothes and hats she uses in her photoshoots by hand.

I love making things to shoot - it gives me the creative control to get the idea out of my head on into a camera. I randomly decided I wanted to make a hat, so I went online and bought all the millinery supplies I would need.  I mentioned this to Liberty Blanchette, another local makeup artist, and it just exploded from there. Between the two of us, the entire outfit was all custom made for both girls  I ended up making the skirts, and Liberty made both corsets in three days.  The idea for the ribbon on the feet was discussed before, but I wasn't sure it was the answer until the whole outfit came together, and it just seemed perfect.

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What is your spirit animal?

Oh, definitely a butterfly.

You're living the dream. What advice would you give to other people who want to get into the industry?

Continuing education.  Always keep learning.  Our industry is always evolving and becoming new - be prepared to change what you know is true based on the expansion of the industry.   Take all the masters classes you can and always remember where you came from and the people who helped you to get there.  Build your business contacts with integrity and honesty and always be prepared for anything.

Is there anything else you'd like to talk about before we close?

Thank you to everyone involved with this series -  Naomi Leu PhotographyAlli Tuttle on hair, Kate Lewis and Erica Van Noy modeling, Liberty Blanchette for the makeup on Kate and corsets.  This was a great team and we had a great time making this amazing series!


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Keep your eyes peeled on or on her Facebook page for updates on her most recent work!

Photos published in the August edition of En Vie.

Photos: Naomi Leu
Hair: Alli Tuttle
Model: Erica Van Noy
Erica's Makeup: Aspen McKenna
Model: Kate Lewis
Kate's Makeup: Liberty Ann Tatafu Blanchette
Custom wardrobe by Liberty Ann & Aspen McKenna

Posted by Jenevieve Hubbard

Director of Marketing/Creative Genius



in the gb studio