If you don’t know makeup artist Joyce Bonelli by name, you undoubtedly know her work. The face painter has transformed everyone from Playboy centerfolds to Nicki Minaj to the reigning queens of reality television (yes, I’m talking about the Kardashian klan). Bonelli’s signatures — lush Bambi lashes and flawless skin — have become bonafide obsessions the world over. Now, the pro is primed to disrupt the beauty industry yet again — this time with a “full-on” line of eponymous makeup, false lashes, and tools, which she gave a sneak peek of during Paris Fashion Week. And since she’s a go-big-or-go-home kinda girl, Joyce Bonelli Cosmétiques is scheduled to launch in 2018 with 58 SKUs that encompass everything from makeup to tools to skincare. (Hair products are the next frontier.) Just don’t expect to find products that contribute to that over-the-top Instagram aesthetic, a beast Bonelli undoubtedly helped to spawn. “[Tutorials] are fun to watch, I will admit that,” she says, citing Jeffree Star as a personal favorite. “I just don’t know if I would actually wear a lot of what I see.” Instead, her range focuses more on “natural” beauty. Take, for example, the product she debuted backstage at Ben Taverniti Unravel Project: Glass Gloss, a clear, multi-use formula you can use on lids, eyes, cheeks, and even in your hair. “We’re doing an android look, the makeup is super minimal with high shine,” she explains. “Glass Gloss looks fabulous over a matte-finish foundation.” (Glass Gloss, along with her Glitter Scrub Enzyme Mask, will drop in seven weeks ahead of the full collection.)
Now, before you roll your eyes and cite the fact that the face painter is famous for giving Khloe Kardashian a “nose job” with her strategic contouring skills, know that Bonelli is redefining the way the term “natural” is used. “I think that people hear natural beauty and they think no makeup, so I definitely want to clear this up,” she explains. “I put a lot of makeup on [my clients], but it looks flawless. The contour is there, but it’s not in your face like the phenomenon on Instagram. Which is fine, but the way I do makeup is a little less direct.” The goal of her impending range is to “accentuate everyone’s natural beauty” via the same techniques she’s used time and again on Kourtney, Kim, Khloe, Kendall, Kylie, and Kris. “That doesn’t mean no makeup, it’s just how you do it,” Bonelli says. “There’s going to be a lot of information on how to make it happen and how to make your skin look flawless. And yes, there’s lot of layering and lots of contour.” Anyone who previously thought “natural” meant a dab of concealer and a quick coat of mascara can breathe a huge sigh of relief — those chiseled cheekbones and fluttery falsies aren’t going anywhere anytime soon if Bonelli gets her way. And based on the maquillage maestro’s past successes, we have a feeling things are going to pan out in her favor. “If I want something, I always get it,” she says. “I’m willing to do the work that it takes to make it happen.”
While that statement comes off as confident, cocky even, Bonelli’s star-studded career didn’t just land in her lap. In fact, celebrities and Hollywood glamour weren’t even on her radar thanks to a “sheltered” childhood in a “right-wing, Republican, Christian family.” She wasn’t even allowed to watch TV, save for Mister Ed and Disney classics like Old Yeller. Raised on twelve acres of oak trees in Santa Clarita, California, she was only exposed to what her parents deemed appropriate, which meant spending a lot of time in church. “I think he wanted to take his kids away from the crazy,” says Bonelli of her dad, a “wild artist” who essentially went off the grid and raised his brood in a dome (yes, really) of his own design. So how did this church-going girl go from “sneak watching” The Munsters and not celebrating Halloween to being a makeup artist for television’s most famous family? Well, as Bonelli says, some things — like that eccentric artist gene — are just in your blood. And that, coupled with determination, can foil any well-laid family plan. “In eighth grade, I told my parents I was going to be a makeup artist — I was thinking special effects and that whole thing,” says Bonelli. “I was their worst nightmare!” By tenth grade, she was taking an aesthetician course at night on top of her regular school work, track, and cheerleading. “That year really kicked my ass,” she laughs. After that, her parents allowed her to finish high school via a home study program, after which she attended the Make-up Designory school to study animatronics, special effects, and character makeup.
It was a chance meeting on a photoshoot, however, that would change the course of Bonelli’s life. “Kim and Kris were talking to me about how they were shooting a pilot for a show. And I was like, ‘Oh, okay, everyone is doing a show.’” At the time, she was committed to The Girls Next Door, where she painted the faces of bodacious Playboy bunnies and Hef’s ever-expanding circle of blonde bombshell girlfriends, but Bonelli kept in touch with the Kardashians. She would become an unofficial sister when she started working on the second season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. “They’re really like my family,” she says. “Sometimes, I feel like these girls were raised the same way I was, and that’s how I relate to them and admire them.” Here, Bonelli shares the lessons she learned from the Kardashian family, the secret to seamless, selfie-ready skin, and how beauty helped her power through one of the toughest moments of her life.
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Lesson #1: Time is money.
After keeping up with the Kardashians for so many years, Bonelli has picked up quite a bit of business acumen from the famous family, but she credits her own father for her determination and relentless work ethic: “My dad taught me that you work for what you have — nothing is handed to you. And if something is handed to you, what can you do with that? How can you turn that into an empire?” As for the lesson the pro learned from the ultimate matriarch, Kris Jenner: “Be consistent and never be late,” says Bonelli, who did the momager’s makeup every day at 5 a.m. before anyone else in the house was even awake. “I’m glad that she appreciated that I was always on time and always there for her, day in and day out.”
Lesson #2: Don’t settle for anything but perfection.
When it comes to building empires, the Kardashian women have taught her a thing or two about laying a strong foundation and conquering the world. In addition to the importance of a spray tan (“You just feel better, like your body is contoured, and you look good in pictures,” says the makeup artist) and reshaping your hairline via laser hair removal, Kim, “the beauty queen herself,” schooled her on the concept of consistency when they lived together for a year and a half. “I was there in the beginning when people were like, ‘Oh, they’re famous for nothing,’” explains Bonelli. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me? I could never keep up with them — it’s like being on tour.’ The reason they are who they are today is because those girls worked their asses off and they’re consistent at it. They work every single day.”
Kim applies that same sense of determination to her workout routine, which Bonelli says she does every day at four or five a.m. regardless of how early her day starts. And in addition to her come-hell-or-high-water fitness regime, the makeup artist revealed that Kim is also a perfectionist: “She’d have a stylist come to look at clothes and try stuff on, and then they’d clean up and reorganize the closet. Later, I’d hear the metal hanger hitting the rod as she reorganized everything again. There’s something to be said about someone who is that attuned to every detail. It was already organized, but she needed perfection.”
Hugh Hefner is similar in that “not one hair could be out of place” when photographing a centerfold, and if “an object in the background was off from his perspective” they would often re-shoot — “and this was before digital,” adds Bonelli. “I learned so much about lighting as well as angles and provoking the best shape out of your body.”
Bonelli followed in her famous clients’ footsteps regarding her own line. She started working on the project three years ago, but decided it “wasn’t up to par,” so she scrapped everything, “completely switched gears,” and started again from scratch. “I’m not busting out some licensing-type makeup where you just put your name on it. I’m really creating every single piece in my line,” she says. While slapping her signature on a lipstick and calling it a day is undoubtedly easier, Bonelli says she’s not interested in that. “I’m looking for perfection and that’s been the hardest,” she adds. “What I’m launching is my thing and it’s so special that I’m not even tripping.”
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Lesson #3: Natural Beauty Starts at the Base
“I’ve been told my beauty signature is flawless skin — it’s contoured, but it’s flawless,” says Bonelli. Despite multiple layers of makeup, one product she never piles on is primer. Instead, she relies on skincare to set the tone prior to foundation. Her go-tos: under-eye patches for hydration, face masks (like those from La Mer and her forthcoming Glitter Scrub Enzyme Mask), and Ruby-Cell stemcell airbrush serum ampoules to “neutralize and moisturize” in lieu of a primer that can cause makeup to “coagulate.”
Lesson #4: Build Up in Layers and Blend Like Your Life Depends On It
“I do thin layers of everything,” explains Bonelli of her technique. “There’s a lot going on, but you can’t see it right away.” That now-infamous “nose job” of Khloe’s is thanks to a “super light” contour. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, there are two lines down her nose,’” says Bonelli. “It just accentuates and brings out the bridge of her nose more. You don’t really see exactly what’s happening, you just know that she looks different.”
And she plans to teach the masses how to look “snatch”— starting with blending. “Blending is everything,” the pro explains. “It’s kind of like if you give yourself a blow-out: If you keep drying for five more minutes it almost looks like you used a flat iron.” While Bonelli appreciates the inventiveness and great lengths people have gone to blend properly, she still reaches for a sponge to lend skin a dewy finish and a brush to set makeup in place. “I guess it’s become a thing where people try anything — and I mean anything — to blend foundation. It’s a phenomenon and it’s so funny to watch,” she says.
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Lesson #5: Know Your Worth
Thanks to Kris Jenner, Bonelli says she learned how to present herself as an artist as well as capitalize on her talent. “You have to fight for what you’re worth and wait for the right opportunity,” she explains. “Don’t say yes to absolutely everything. You don’t want to oversaturate yourself — you want to be authentic.”
Lesson #6: Imitation Is the Highest Form of Flattery
“I think for two years before Kim had her platinum coming out party in Paris, Kanye was obsessed with my color and style and how it would go this way and that throughout the day,” says Bonelli of being the beauty inspo behind that now-famous front-row dye job that stole the spotlight at Balmain’s Fall 2016 show. “[Kanye] said to Kim, ‘I want you to do Joyce’s hair. It would be so dope — just for the weekend.” While Bonelli says Kim was a bit hesitant about the transformation at first, “she dedicated herself to it.” And the pictures alone were worth it. “We went to Kanye’s show together and there is a picture of us from behind and we are literally the same height, with the same size ears, with similar body shapes and bodycon outfits — we looked like twins!” she laughs. The one piece of advice she has for fellow blondes or anyone with lighter brows: “Tint them so that they frame your face and you don’t have to fill them in.” Bonelli goes to extremes by dying her arches black with Just For Men hair tint. “It’s truly the best!” she says.
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Lesson #7: Screw the Haters and Do What Makes You Feel Good
Even when Bonelli’s own family doubted her ability to make it in the world doing makeup, she proved them wrong. “Everyone in my family is a college graduate except for me and there was a lot of struggle,” she says. “I bought my first house when I was 19 and started building a real estate portfolio in my early 20s. That’s when my family was like, ‘What’s this makeup thing she’s doing?’ It took a while, but now they respect what I’ve done with my career and my brand.”
Daring to be different simply by being true to yourself appears to be the unofficial mantra of her impending beauty line. For Bonelli, “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t fake an all-over glow (she relies on Jimmy Coco for her spray tans and swears by Mary Kay Subtle Tanning Lotion), contour your nose, or sport cat ears and a Zana Bayne harness while casually baking cupcakes. In fact, it was a platinum wig and false lashes that made her “feel better” after giving birth to twins, an especially trying time. “My babies were in the NICU for five weeks, so that picture was of me during my 15th hour of trying to breastfeed. Kudos to anyone that has been able to breastfeed twins. Holy shit!” she says. “In that moment, my wig made me feel pretty. I know it’s vain, but we all have something that makes us feel good.” Bonelli’s line is for the “everyday girl or guy,” not necessarily what her lengthy roster of celebrity clients want on set at a photoshoot. “We all want to feel a little sexy and desired. It might just be a lipstick that you wear or an eyebrow gel that makes your brows you look perfect — we all have that one thing that we don’t leave the house without,” she explains. “I don’t really wear makeup, but I don’t go anywhere without my lashes because they are stuck on there like glue!” While not everyone can sport a set of falsies as big and bold as Bonelli’s (“I like them big, honey!” she says), “a little lip gloss won’t kill anyone.”