"I want to bring out the best in my clients," Mary Greenwell says. "It's about finding a balance."

By Dianna Mazzone
Updated Jun 21, 2019 @ 8:00 am
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Mary Greenwall
Credit: Courtesy

"A dreamy, creative child" from the countryside of Sussex, England, Mary Greenwell became a "hippie" teen whose carefree ways eventually sparked her iconic career. "I sort of ran away from my very English upbringing and went to live with friends in L.A. at 18," she says. "I was wild and free."

After working odd jobs in restaurants and galleries, Greenwell, then 23, followed a friend's suggestion and met with makeup artist Ilana Harkavi in New York. They hit it off, and one month after Harkavi gave Greenwell her first makeup lesson, she brought Greenwell to a magazine shoot with revered photographer Francesco Scavullo and let her take the reins. When she finished doing the model's makeup, Greenwell says, "Scavullo said, 'Perfect! Thank you, Mary,' and I burst into tears." With that unexpected success, "I knew then that makeup was going to become my life," she says.

Two years later Greenwell moved back to England and worked on her portfolio. She landed an agent, which led to bookings on shoots for Harper's Bazaar UK and Vogue. Relocating to Paris expanded her industry connections, and the supermodels of the era — Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington — soon became regulars.

But it was a mysterious summons to a shoot in 1991 that brought Greenwell her most notable client.

"We were told to look quite smart [on set] that day, and then in walked Princess Diana in her prime," she says. "That was a pinch-me moment." Greenwell went on to craft elegant looks for the royal and became her London-based makeup pro.

Mary Greenwall
Credit: Getty Images

She developed her light-handed approach and continues to produce timeless results for celebrities like Cate Blanchett, Lily James, and Amanda Seyfried. "The most important thing for me was creating beauty rather than being, say, a cabaret makeup artist," she says. "I don't want to do carnival makeup. I want to bring out the best in my clients. You have to highlight their features but [not make them] look like a painted doll. It's about finding a balance."

Get Her Signature Look

Step 1: This “almost transparent” tint allows skin to shine through. Greenwell uses concealer on top to build up coverage where needed.

Mary Greenwell
Credit: Courtesy

Chanel Water-Fresh Tint, $65; chanel.com. Giorgio Armani Beauty Power Fabric Concealer, $34; sephora.com.

Step 2: Greenwell eschews heavy contouring. Instead, she applies bronzer high up on the cheeks before dabbing highlighter over it, blending to avoid harsh lines.

Mary Greenwell
Credit: Courtesy

Glossier Haloscope, $22; glossier.com. Guerlain Terracotta Rêve d'Été Tinted Skincare Jelly, $43; neimanmarcus.com.

Step 3: For a natural effect, she lightly traces lips with liner before filling with a creamy lipstick.

Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat in Pillow Talk
Credit: Courtesy

Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat in Pillow Talk, $22; sephora.com.