Born and raised in the Bay Area, Kimmie Harding is already making her mark in the beauty industry. The makeup artist marries her lifelong passion for aesthetics with a dedication to the craft. Even as a young girl, the 26-year-old was already honing her skills by practicing on any willing subject, from her mother to her dolls.
Breaking into the competitive spaces of Los Angeles and New York is no walk in the park. Despite an early setback—being rejected from a mall makeup counter job even after attending cosmetology and Makeup and FX school—Kimmie persisted. She advises those entering the industry to remain resolute in the face of rejection, sharing that her own experience with the initial “no” has turned into ongoing partnerships with the same brands that initially turned her away.
One of Kimmie’s distinguishing traits is her multifaceted approach to beauty. Steering clear of the industry’s pervasive “one size fits all” ideology, the MUA adopted a personalized method. She advocates for a more inclusive approach, recognizing that everyone has unique features worthy of celebration.
In terms of her aesthetic, Kimmie cites a myriad of inspirations. From the glossy pages of fashion magazines to the pulsating beats of her favorite songs. Her creative process is a rich tapestry sourced from platforms like Pinterest, editorial shoots, and even the music industry. With a client list that includes notable names like Iris Apatow, Sarunas J. Jackson, and Alexis Braun, her portfolio speaks volumes.
Below, Kimmie Harding chats with us about how she became a makeup artist, who inspires her, what’s in her makeup bag, and much more.
For those who are unfamiliar with you, can you tell us more about yourself and how you became a makeup artist?
I am 26 years old, and I’m originally from the Bay Area in Northern California. As a kid, I was always asking my mom to do her hair and makeup. I remember doing my own hair for school and events as early as five years old. I’ve always had a strong interest in beauty.
I had toy makeup kits and dolls whose hair I would cut. I even gave my Build-A-Bear a haircut, thinking it would grow back, haha. I realized from a young age how looking my best made me feel my best, and I was always looking to make others feel that. I’ve always found it very rewarding to help someone else feel beautiful, and that’s really how this hobby turned into a passion for me.
Growing up, what was your first experience with the idea of “beauty”?
My first experience with beauty growing up was really a concept of “one size fits all.” You would do this step, then the next, and then the next. Oftentimes, when you would buy an eyeshadow palette, it comes with steps and tells you where to apply. Now that I’m experienced in makeup, I know that one size definitely does not fit all.
Everyone has unique features that make them beautiful. There are so many different ways to apply makeup, and you have to play with products and find what works best for you and what you are most comfortable with. The idea that there is this perfect template to follow is very silly to me now. Makeup is so much more inclusive now. I think there is a product out there for everyone, and I love that the industry is growing in that way.
Let’s talk about the early stages of your career — what were those moments like, especially considering how competitive LA and New York can be?
In the early stages, I was very excited and felt ready to take on the world. As I put myself out there and tried to establish myself in LA, I started to feel less and less confident. I was really shocked by the competition and how many people out there were already so successful, and just comparing myself to the talent around me, I felt like maybe I wasn’t good enough. I even tried to get a makeup counter job at the mall and was turned down in my first interview.
I felt overqualified for that position even at the time because I went to not only a cosmetology school but a Makeup and FX school called MUD, and had work experience in beauty sales. I felt a huge knock on my self-esteem and really questioned if maybe I wasn’t good enough. My advice to MUAs just starting out is to not let rejection knock you down. Let it motivate you. Rejection is a part of everyone’s story in this industry, and it will happen a lot.
The same people who told you no will one day tell you yes. The tables turn very quickly if you believe in yourself. The same makeup brand that wouldn’t let me work at their retail store now sends me free products to use on my clients. You will hear no 1,000 times before you hear one yes, but one yes is all you need in this industry, so take it with a grain of salt and don’t be discouraged. Never stop believing in yourself, and do not compare yourself to other artists. Get comfortable and confident in your own style, and you will find people who love your aesthetic and will want to work with you because of it.
Your looks are incredibly detailed and highly creative. Where do you find your inspiration?
I usually find my inspiration on Pinterest or Instagram. I’m very inspired by editorial photographers who really create a strong concept and feeling with their work. Also, in fashion, when I see a cool outfit or design, I immediately see what makeup and hair look I would do with it in my head. music is also a big one for me. Watching music videos and hearing songs I love will quickly spark a creative idea.
Some makeup artists prefer a maximalist approach, whereas others tend to lean more into a soft, natural-looking makeup look — where do you find yourself? How would you describe your aesthetic?
I consider myself to be somewhere in the middle. I love glowing beautiful skin and enhancing your natural beauty, but I am truly inspired by self-expression through makeup. Creative, edgy, innovative looks that really showcase your individual style and personality. I would describe my aesthetic to be fun, edgy, and playful, but underneath all that, there will always be a clean and fresh beauty makeup worked into it.
With that being said, what products will we find in your makeup bag?
In my makeup bag, you will always find a great moisturizer. Healthy skin is the first step to beautiful makeup. I prefer to use Kiehls, you can never go wrong there. You will also always find my Simihaze liquid highlighter. It has such a beautiful texture and glow that really looks like your skin, which I love.
Also, a cream blush. Right now, I’m big on Tower 28, and for powdered blush, the Nars Orgasm X looks absolutely stunning on everyone! Plus, a Fenty lip gloss, can’t go anywhere without that. These are my staples for a healthy everyday glow, and I would say I use all of these products on most of my clients, if not all of them.
In terms of trends, is there anything you’re obsessed with at the moment, and why?
For trends, I’m loving the bleached brow moment. I love that people are really starting to go out of the box with their makeup and not afraid to just go for it. Very edgy, cool girl energy. I’m here for all of it. I also love “Euphoria” inspo and how the makeup on that show allowed others to have more fun with their makeup. Adding face gems, a glitter liner, or a pop of color is always a fun way to show your personality in your makeup look.
I’m curious to know, who else in the industry inspires you? Either on a personal level or in terms of their approach to beauty?
I have many artists I’m inspired by. It’s so hard to narrow it down. I will say I am very inspired by people who aren’t afraid of not being liked or popular on social media. Real artists who are authentic and original and create their own aesthetic. I think it’s very brave to be so original and put yourself out there, and oftentimes, when you do, then all of a sudden, everyone is trying to recreate what you did, and it becomes a trend.
I’m very inspired by people who aren’t afraid of being different in this industry. It really takes a lot to share your art with the world, especially when it is unusual. So, thank you to all of the artists brave enough to be themselves. You’re my biggest inspiration.
Over the past year, you’ve worked with some exciting clients, including Iris Apatow, Naressa Valdez, and more. What’s been the biggest pinch-me moment in your career?
I’d say the biggest pinch-me moment I’ve had this year was working with V Magazine. I grew up in the late ’90s and early 2000s when everyone had magazine subscriptions, before social media, when this was the main way to follow your favorite celebs and fashion trends. I had always had so much respect for V Mag and never imagined one day I’d open one of their magazines and see my work.
It really is such an honor to be in the same room with some of the most creative minds in fashion and beauty. Working alongside Nicola Formicetti, Lady Gaga’s main stylist, Stephen Gan, editor in chief at V Magazine, and Justin Bieber’s hairstylist, Florido Basallo truly was a pinch-me moment. A surreal moment to work alongside such talented humans.