Gabrielle Alvarez MUA Temp Photo

Makeup Artist Gabrielle Alvarez On Her Favorite Work, Social Media, and More

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Gabrielle Alvarez MUA Temp Photo

Working in makeup is about more than just the application — it’s about understanding the person you’re working with, their needs, their story, and their expression through the art form.

LA-based MUA Gabrielle Alvarez has built a career out of this understanding. With nearly a decade in the industry, she’s not only made a name for herself as a highly skilled makeup artist but has also embraced the rise of social media, turning what was once considered a hindrance into a tool for growth and connection.

Starting from her days at MAC in South Carolina, Gabi’s talent was immediately recognized by those around her. Encouraged by her boss to pursue her dreams, she made the brave move to Los Angeles without knowing anyone. Luckily, the makeup artist’s focus on texture and color over coverage quickly set her apart.

Gabi’s perspective on the evolving beauty industry is refreshingly candid. The shift from a time when social media presence was frowned upon to now, where it’s an integral part of her career, has been challenging but rewarding. It reflects a broader change in the beauty world, with a new focus on realness and authenticity over manufactured, overly-produced content.

Her aesthetic, self-described as having a touch of “grit” and emphasizing the natural beauty and texture of the skin, resonates with clients ranging from celebrities to social media influencers. Ahead, we spoke to Gabrielle Alvarez about breaking into the industry, building a social media following, what’s in her makeup bag, and more.

For starters, can you tell us a bit more about yourself and how you got started in makeup?

Yeah, so while I was in school, I was just kind of searching for myself. Obviously, I’ve been a painter, a sculptor, and a photographer my whole life. My mom is a photographer, so I thought I was going to school to learn her trade and maybe become a photographer as well. Because I do enjoy it. But yeah, I was just really finding it hard to find my niche. I could not find the thing that really made me passionate. Then YouTube makeup just started popping off where girls were doing tutorials all the time.

I was like, “Oh, this is kind of fun.” It was like a light bulb clicked; it was just, “This is for you. You have to do makeup.” So I started working at Mac while I was in college. That got me doing everyone’s skin. All races, all ages, all genders, and everyone’s makeup. It was really, really helpful for me to learn that. I had an amazing boss who was like, “You gotta get out of South Carolina. You’re too good. You have something here that you need to develop.” So I just wanted to really challenge myself and move to LA. I didn’t know anyone, but I was like, “Let’s figure it out.”

At what point did you decide to pursue make-up as a career?

I think I was 20 years old when I figured that out. It was right after my sophomore year of college. That’s what really propelled me. I was like, “I’m so young and I know what I want. I have to go for it. I can’t just sit around.” So that really motivated me to not just take that feeling for granted and really go to the extreme, move here, and leave my whole life behind.

I read that you have nearly a decade of experience. From your perspective, what do you think has changed most about the beauty industry?

I think it’s that social media has just become super embedded in everything we do. Especially in the makeup industry where before, because I was on social media, it was, “We don’t want to work with her because she’s not from the industry. She’s not from a school or something.” It was very much, “If you’re on set then don’t bring out your phone, and don’t do any BTS.” It was very behind the scenes and silent.

Now, I’m getting booked because of my social media presence, and I’m being filmed for behind the scenes. I need to show up looking cute for all my jobs. It’s such a big shift. At the beginning, around 2016, 2017, 2018, it was, “No, we don’t want you to be a social media person.” Then now, this shift is here, where it’s, “We want to see that, and we want to exploit that, essentially.”

As a makeup artist, you’re in this really interesting position where your work is incredibly visible to brands and other creators, which wouldn’t be possible many years ago without the help of social media. Can you talk about how your online presence has contributed to your career?

Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s just really allowed a lot of eyes to be on me that you would never get to experience, which is awesome. You know, just random people finding me, and we end up working and doing a music video together. It’s just insane how it works. But yeah, I think the way I like to do social media is just staying really authentic and real and not overproducing or overdone because that’s the kind of stuff I love to see.

So I just really like to put out stuff that I enjoy as well so that it really aligns with me because, you know, I think a lot of what beauty is to people in this industry is, “Oh, we’re gonna do a trend, or we’re gonna do a transition for TikTok or catchy sound.” That, to me, is so manufactured, overproduced, and inauthentic that it has never resonated with me. So I do feel like I try and stay really true to who I am.

Sometimes it’s, “That’s not gonna get you viral” kind of thing. It’s just, it’s this horrible place to be in where it’s, “We want to see you produce and make content that is profitable. But at the same time, it’s really generic and really boring.”

From celebrities to some of social media’s favorite creators, your work is honestly amazing. How would you describe your aesthetic?

What someone has recently said to me is they always feel my work has a little bit of grit to it. I like to have a little bit of that rawness come through, and that realness kind of shines through every piece that I do. I like real skin. I love people’s natural beauty. I like to just emphasize things, so for me, I appreciate texture and color more than coverage and complexion.

While we’re on the topic, what advice would you give to other MUAs?

Yeah, I mean, I think that you have to stay vigilant on your connections. You need to understand that everyone you meet is a potential client or connection, and you need to treat them with respect and be kind and nice. Because I think in this industry, they’ll sniff you out pretty quick if you’re not going to be a real vibe to hang with. Honestly, I think that’s mostly what this industry is; people want to sense your energy, and they want to make sure that you’re gonna be a good team worker.

I think that really comes with honoring every connection you have, and everyone that you meet on set. You can’t get your feelings hurt just because they don’t appreciate your work. You need to be professional and understand that everyone’s working towards something cohesive.

That being said, what are some of your go-to makeup products at the moment?

I work with a lot of indie brands, so some of these products have products that not everyone knows. But there’s this brand Auric, and they make a filter — a glow filter for the skin, and I love that. I live and die by that. It makes the skin look great, and you don’t even have to add coverage, so that’s cool. I’m loving right now waterproof paints from Half Magic. They’re affordable for a makeup brand, I love their paints. Also, I really love Denessa Myricks; she makes really good blush palettes.

What do you feel like is missing in the industry?

I always think there are going to be little holes because everyone has tiny niche things that we’re missing. I was having this conversation the other day about brows. There’s a ton of brow products on the market, but there’s not any markers that come out matte. They’re always really shiny.

So I think that there’s always going to be tiny improvements to make. Then I think that the emphasis on creative makeup is still at its base level, and we can only go bigger. So I’m really wanting to see people get more creative with color and texture.

Earlier this year, you launched a collection with Ready-Made Jewelry. How do you think jewelry and accessories can complement a good makeup look?

I mean, I think that having a little 3D aspect in makeup is always really cool. That was what inspired me with the piece, just adding hardware to the face to make it look fresh. We see that coming really hardcore right now with rhinestones, metal studs; I just think that there’s always a way to add more to the makeup to really pop it off. That was one of the ways that provided a simple elevation, still adding that unique quality to a look.

Looking back at some of your recent work, do you have any favorite looks in your portfolio?

Yeah, I actually just recently published my favorite thing I’ve ever done, which was a collaboration with my best friend. She’s a glass artist, she blows glass, and she created these custom glass pieces for the face and body, and we got to shoot cool makeup with them. It was for no money, and it was my favorite thing. You know, that’s what really thrills me: stuff that I can do freely and not have to worry about the client, and we can collaborate on a vision that’s beautiful and unique. I was super grateful for the opportunity that she wanted to do this with me.