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Who I am and who I’ll be
Makeup artist Rachel Goodwin went from working with top musicians like Bjork, Courtney Love, Gwen Stefani, and Marilyn Manson to celebrities like Emma Stone, Renée Zellweger and Brie Larson. She shares her skin care ritual favourites, and individualistic approach to beauty.


19/99      When did you start doing makeup? How did you get into it? 

Rachel Goodwin       I started really young. I never had any other aspirations besides being a makeup artist. I discovered that it was an actual occupation when I was 15. When I graduated from high school I immediately started to look into ways that I could get into the industry. I was living in San Francisco at the time, and there really wasn’t much to speak of in terms of the industry in the Bay area. I started at the San Francisco Opera House, where the head of the Makeup Department taught me technique. So I started in theatre makeup and that translated into high fashion, avant-garde makeup. From there I did my first movie, Til Death Do Us Part. Since the movie was about a family of morticians and took place in a funeral home, I had to learn how to apply post mortem make up which was a whole other craft. Then in the 90s I started working at the MAC counter in downtown San Francisco. At that time MAC was new and it was a phenomenal brand that had such incredible ethics. I was a radical kid, really into the punk scene, did my own thing, had crazy hair and piercing. MAC was really embracing everybody and everything, and if you wanted to work at their counter, you could look any way you wanted to. So as wild as I looked, I could be paid really well, and be a part of this really inclusive company who believed in all of the same things I did at the time. I was at the height at the Russian Red and Twig phase, it was crazy fighting off the lines; it was like being a bouncer at a nightclub. It was really an incredible experience to be apart of that; the two Franks owned it at the time, who I think were really visionaries. Then I was invited to go to their concept store, MAC Pro in New York and that really changed my life. The store was all about MAC makeup artists working with other makeup artists to create the product they wanted for editorials, and shows. Basically any makeup artist in the industry would come and tell us what they needed, and we would create it for them. It was a really exciting time. Say Pat McGrath came in, and wanted a creamy yellow shadow for the Versace show, we’d work with her to make it, or say Linda Cantello would come in and tell us what she wanted for a show and we’d put a package together based on that. It was just for artists. So all we dealt with all day were the upper echelon of the artist world; I got introduced to every hero I ever had. It just transformed my life. 

So that was the late 90s, and I ended up moving to LA in 2001; I had been coming out for jobs here and there and I was shocked that the makeup industry was not very well known at the time. I was out here and started getting booked a lot on music shoots. I was really into music; and at the time MTV was still really big and there were big budgets to create cool videos. I started working with Kim Bowen, she kind of plucked me up, on all of these music shoots. She wanted really avant-garde makeup – I worked with Bjork, No Doubt, Marilyn Manson and got to do these insane projects, over the top videos. I loved that work so so much. I got to do all that theatrical stuff which was really my vein of gold. When I was starting in San Francisco, I would do makeup at the S&M clubs and drag clubs down south of market; I got to do whatever I wanted, just expression. Anytime I could get into a room to create and paint, and do something radical, or something compelling or create a performance, I was there. 

19/99       France is a love of yours; do you find notable differences between French & American approaches to makeup? 

RG        What I love about France in general is an unapologetic love for art, femininity and the role that beauty plays in a woman’s life. There is enjoyment there, there is pleasure there, and that is what I think American women miss out on – is the pleasure of it. And without the pleasure of it there is no skill that can come. It is really with the pleasure and enjoyment of it that you are doing it and practicing it that the skill comes. I can’t tell you how many interviews I’ve done where people are looking for hacks, and that is a very American approach; to really go the other way and try to get the results without being present in the process. I have never been about that and I feel like the French really understand that. When they eat something they take pleasure in it, they don’t wolf it down; there is a knowing and understanding of the joy in the act. And that is how I see beauty; the ritual is everything, being able to pass on the luxury that that is – the small window of time that you are present to putting on your makeup and taking it off. And French women get it right. 

Photo via @rachelgoodwinmakeup Photo via

We’ve been told so many things that nobody knows what is right for them anymore. And that is the part that bothers me...It is important to recognize the individuality.

Photo via @rachelgoodwinmakeup Photo via @rachelgoodwinmakeup

19/99        Can you take us through your daily beauty routine; morning & night?

RG        I have two small kids and as soon as they came I understood why women want a 5 minute face. The thing is for me, is that the time I take to get ready sets me up to be a better mom, and sets me up in the right mental state for the day, because I feel better in my skin when I take that 10 or 15 minutes to do my makeup. In the morning after I get up and give the kids breakfast I will take that 10 minutes; my favorite thing to do right now is a mini facial massage. I’m obsessed with Victoria Beckham’s Cell Rejuvenating Power Serum she did with Augustinus Bader, so I will put that on and then use either the Jillian Dempsey tool, or I love this new Knesko roller, for about 5 minutes. Then I do my makeup which takes about 10 minutes. It is nothing complicated. I have this little alter I’ve set up to do my makeup at; with everything set out really beautifully, my brushes and products, I have pictures of things that matter to me that make me feel connected, I have things from my grandmother, things that make me feel uplifted. I have essential oils that I put on and take three deep breathes before I do my makeup so I am fully present. So even though it is a short amount of time, I am just there for it. And then I move on with my day and I feel like I can embody the best version of myself when I do that for myself. 

19/99       I’ve definitely noticed a difference not getting ready in the morning during COVID and how that changes my whole day. 

RG        Totally, and sometimes you’re just not there and that is okay. What is important is to honor where you’re at and what is right for you. We’ve been told so many things that nobody knows what is right for them anymore. And that is the part that bothers me. I have been in a position for so many years where I could give advice to so many women, and I’ve always hesitated to be absolute because it is really an individual experience on what makes her feel great. For some it is just a lip, for others it is a full face, for other women they feel totally beautiful without anything and just want skincare. It is important to recognize the individuality. That is why I love what you guys are doing because I think it really stresses there is no right way, there is only what is right for you. And that is not great for selling products because people want to be told definitively what to do. And it is a really tough one because I realized, especially working at a makeup counter in my youth, that with makeup women often just want to be told, they don’t want questions, they want answers. And it is a really hard one because I have never subscribed to that belief. 

19/99       Do you feel pressure to look a certain way? 

RG       I feel like I did when I was younger. It is funny I guess I do and I don't. I grew up in the late 70s and early 80s, and my earliest imprint of what I saw in the media was a lot of gender bending and wild stuff going on. There was David Bowie, Annie Lennox, and Boy George; every boy looked like a girl and girls looked like boys but it was not discussed in the way it is today. People weren’t talking about Boy George being gay, Boy George was a pop star and there was no mention of if he was gay or not. It was socially acceptable to look and express yourself however you wanted. I always thought that makeup was about finding out about different parts of your personality. For as long as I can remember I was just trying to express myself and I didn't’ really think about it as trying to look good – I wanted to people to know what I was feeling inside on and I expressed it on the outside with makeup. I was never thinking if a boy would like it or not, I just wanted to express how I felt. So thank goodness I didn’t come to ‘I should look a certain way’ in my youth. But I know a lot of girls do, especially with social media. There is a template for what beauty is now, and I escaped that somehow. 

19/99         Yeah there now seems to be a strive for uniformity and constricted version of beauty that we are seeing. 

RG        Yeah, it bums me out. That is the hardest part of social media for me. I am so about expression and authenticity (I know that word is over used). I really love individuals and personal style. Witnessing the embrace of uniformity in beauty is so disappointing; I thought social media would have nurtured the opposite. But it actually has done the thing I thought it wouldn't do which is nurture this really limited version of beauty in a stringent way.  

19/99      Does the term ‘Age Appropriate’ mean anything to you personally? What about in your work? Do you hear this from clients you work with? 

RG         I hate that. I hate age appropriate. I don't like the way that sounds. I don’t feel age appropriate – I probably seemed 90 when I was 12 and I’ve always embraced my old soul vibe. I’ve always felt like it was another way of making women feel like they had to be in a box about what they could express. And for me it is all about expression. I love those women who you see and they don’t give a fuck about whatever. Women who have crazy style, radical style, women like Tilda Swinton, who are completely lead by their whim and what feels right to them. Those are the kind of women that excite me. And you can see people saying of a woman a certain age, ‘oh is that appropriate?’, but who cares if you think it is appropriate or not, as long as I do. Hopefully that term will start to move. I think we are living longer, we have a different way of being in the world these days, and I don’t think age is going to be seen as much in the future. 

I think a lot of women don’t know who they are, until their late 30s, and to all of a sudden have the most incredible time of your life taken out by ‘is that appropriate’ it’s like, ”Fuck you, who gets to tell me that?! I am feeling my absolute best and your going to tell me it’s not okay?” - no. When it comes down to it the obsession with youth in our culture comes to advertising because if brands can get young people to be loyal it will be more sales dollars. But really there is a whole group of women, and people in general, who are being completely ignored. And those are the people that have a critical mind, are thinking of different concepts, and have a sense of identity, and they are being ignored. 

19/99       What makes you feel beautiful? 

RG      When I make someone happy, when I see that I have actually had an effect on someone that lights them up. Being with the people that I love, cooking for them, celebrating them. A Sunday night dinner with my family is when I feel most content and happiest.  

19/99         Do you think there is a point where we stop growing and learning? 

RG       No. That saying ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ is such bullshit. You have neuroplasticity in your brain that can be rewired until the day you die. You can choose to not grow and evolve if that is your thing, but if you want to learn and grow you can. You can become someone who you don’t even recognize from the year before. That is what is so amazing about identity in general; you decide what your identity is and your life follows suit. You can decide you are this person today, and then you become that person. But if you just decide you are this person and you are never changing then that works too. My hope is that I am changing and growing till the day I die. My husband and I have been together for 26 years. I have been about 10 different people since we’ve been together and so has he; he isn’t the person I met and I’m not the person he met. When you look at your life in a linear fashion you look back and can think I am not the person I was last year, or, I’m sure, right now a lot of people are finding out they aren’t the person they were three months ago because of the crazy time we are in. So I think that change is your life force in motion. Hopefully you’ll always change till the day you leave this planet. 

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Who I am and who I’ll be