BY ANGELA BARBUTI for OUR TOWN
At 14, Nicole Bryl started as a makeup apprentice for her mother. At that time, it would be hard to imagine that one day she’d be traveling to Washington, D.C., as a makeup artist for the first lady.
To say she has many notable clients is an understatement — with names like the Rockefellers, the Hilfigers, NASCAR’s France Family, Princess Charlene of Monaco and Queen Noor of Jordan. But her focus as of late is on Melania Trump, who she calls a “dear friend” and “one of the most beautiful women to do makeup for.”
When she is not beautifying others, she is working on her skin care line, which she created in her kitchen. It can be found at SoHo’s Thompson Chemists, which she said she chose because of its “mom-and-pop shop” feel.
Tell us about growing up in New York and your experience at the Rudolf Steiner School.
The Rudolf Steiner School was the perfect school for me because it was small enough to have personalized attention from the teachers and also encouraged creative thinking kids, which I was. The Upper East Side was truly a pleasant area of New York City to grow up because it was family oriented, calm and safe. Then, when I graduated high school, I attended Fordham University at Lincoln Center, so I moved over to the West Side for a few years. From there, I went back and forth, West Side, East Side, but I’m definitely an uptown New York City girl at heart. Growing up in New York City is a very unique experience unto itself. It actually is a great place to grow up because although you may not have a backyard or be able to ride your bike on the sidewalk, you have Central Park, which is an amazing place to play. I never felt deprived from any kind of activity and was always involved in a lot of cultural activities as well. We had the Metropolitan Museum right by where I grew up, the Guggenheim Museum too.
Tell us about your trip to Paris as a teenager and how it shaped your work.
When I was 16, one of my best friends’ mom was Roxanne Lowit, who was a very famous fashion photographer, known for her behind-the-scenes shots. She invited her daughter and me to go to Paris to trail her behind stage at a lot of the shows. So we went; it was summer vacation. And her daughter Vanessa and I had a great time. For me, it was very exciting, because I was exposed to all these icons who were revered in my mind. Lots of beauty and the highest fashion you could imagine in Paris. For me, I was on air. She was also very good friends with Paloma Picasso. We spent a lot of dinners and private time with her and she used to talk to me about her vision on things, like beauty and art. That definitely shaped my own vision of how it should all go. She was instrumental in my ethics and way of thinking, so I was very grateful for that.
How did you start working with celebrities?
I started working with celebrities in high school because I had been doing makeup diligently and started getting work right away. People just started recommending me for things. So at first it was things that came through my mom. From there, I would just go on this shoot or that shoot and people were happy with the work and continued on with that.
Tell us how your work with Melania Trump came about.
Eventually, after many years in the business, I started working with Kathie Lee Gifford, who is probably one of the most generous and kind people I have ever had the opportunity to work with. She is very good friends with Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, and was invited to Melania’s baby shower which was held at FAO Schwarz, to interview Melania before her son Barron was born. I was with Kathie Lee that day, so she brought me along for the interview. At the shoot, Melania had mentioned to Kathie Lee that she liked her makeup, so Kathie Lee, who is always so generous of spirit, called me over and introduced me as her makeup artist and suggested to Melania, “You should use Nicole. She’s great.” Melania and I said hello and quickly realized we actually had met several years prior on a commercial shoot and she asked me to please give my information to her assistant. They called me soon after the baby was born for a “People” magazine family shoot. And that’s how it all began that I started working with Melania, 12 years ago.
What has your experience been like working for the first lady?
I’ve been with her for 12 years and it’s always been a great privilege to do her makeup and be a part of her family. They’ve always been very kind to me and generous and nice. When this whole new time came about, with the campaign and then they won and then she became the first lady, it was actually just a natural transition into the new position. It wasn’t anything that we hadn’t done before, because I had been with her all that time.
Tell us about creating your product line.
One of the things I have always done as a makeup artist is to take lots of different products and mix them together to formulate a custom blend for people’s skin when I would do their face. So over time, all the companies and major brands would send me lots of products to try. If I liked it, I would put it in my kit and maybe talk about it. Some of the products that I was mostly drawn to for skin were Vitamin C based. And I loved them, but felt they were a little watered down and a little bit too chemical-ey. So I liked the effects of vitamin C and what it contributed to the skin. I just wanted it to be more potent and less filled with chemicals. So at some point, I turned to my own kitchen, which I’m sure so many have, and started formulating things for myself with actual pure vitamin C, and started opening capsules. And because I knew the chemistry of a lot of different products, I started I mixing and formulating it.
What are your future plans?
In terms of makeup, I have my core clients. And I go back and forth to DC obviously to work with the first lady. As a makeup artist, she is my number-one priority right now. But I have some other clients who I see who are also really incredible, like Ariana Rockefeller and the NASCAR family and a few others. I’m fully committed to my VIP clients. So in terms of makeup, the expansion is I’m pretty much committed to catering to the needs of those core clients, especially the first lady.
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