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Vincent Oquendo
Credit: Derek Kettela

“You don’t dare talk glitter when you first walk into a room,” says Vincent Oquendo, who works with style stars like Gigi Hadid and Winnie Harlow. He likes to set an upbeat tone with positive conversation and a Beyoncé playlist before broaching out-of-the-box ideas for the day’s look. When the vibes are right, “then we can discuss glitter,” he says.

Vincent Oquendo
Credit: Judith Light and Winnie Harlow. Getty Images

Oquendo honed his ability to read a room — and a client — when he worked in Saks Fifth Avenue’s cosmetics department in New York City during college. He’ll never forget the day years ago that legendary makeup artist Pat McGrath came up to his counter while she was shopping for her kit. “I gave her my spiel, and she bought what I showed her.” When McGrath left, her assistant told Oquendo whom he had just met, “I looked her up, and it opened a whole new world for me,” he says. “I resolved to work with her one day.”

After years of building up his portfolio by doing test shoots for models (“I worked for free for so long!” he says), the self-taught makeup artist landed a spot assisting McGrath at photo shoots and fashion shows for Anna Sui and John Galliano. “I remember tears of joy running down my face as I was powdering the models at Galliano,” he says. “I felt like my dreams were coming true.”

Vincent Oquendo
Credit: Working with model Martha Hunt. Courtesy Vincent Oquendo

Oquendo spent the next five years learning from McGrath and then slowly began branching out on his own. Though he contends that there’s no such thing as a big break, Oquendo’s red-carpet work picked up after he prepped Jessica Chastain for a magazine cover shoot in 2012.

In the years since, he’s developed a reputation for bold, colorful looks, painting smoky eyes on Hadid for the cover of Adweek, navy blue lipstick on Hailey Bieber for the Brit Awards, and showstopping glittery lids on Harlow for the Cannes Film Festival.

Now Oquendo has partnered with Maybelline New York as U.S. brand ambassador to help spread his message. “They’ve given me a voice,” he says. “I stand for a lot more than just creating beautiful looks. Half my job is doing the makeup; the other half is building up a client’s confidence so they can feel like their best self.”

For Skin

Preparation is essential, says Oquendo. He applies hydrating patches then evens skin tone with a foundation that has skin-care benefits like SPF.

Vincent Oquendo
Credit: Courtesy

To buy: SiO Beauty FaceLift set, $50/4 patches; siobeauty.com

Maybelline New York Dream Urban Cover Full Coverage Protective Make- Up, $11; walmart.com

For Eyes

Instead of eye primer, Oquendo often uses long-wear cream shadow as a base for lids.

Vincent Oquendo
Credit: Courtesy

To buy: Maybelline New York ColorTattoo 24 Hour Eyeshadow in Golden Girl, $7;walmart.com

For Lips

To offset colorful eye shadow, neutral lips are key, says Oquendo, who layers gloss over a satin-finish pencil.

Vincent Oquendo
Credit: Courtesy

To buy: Nars Satin Lip Pencil in Isola Bella, $27;narscosmetics.com

Chantecaille Brilliant Gloss in Modern, $36; nordstrom.com

For more stories like this, pick up the October issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Sept. 20.