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Erin Parsons on How She Got Started in Makeup

How Erin Parsons Turned Her Love of Vintage Makeup Into a Career

Image Source: Courtesy of Erin Parsons

Bella Hadid's graphic cat-eye, Karlie Kloss's glass skin, the next-level lashes you see in Maybelline commercials — they all have one thing in common: Erin Parsons. The internationally-renowned makeup artist has been in the industry for over 15 years, but her journey to becoming one of the best in her field didn't come without it's share of struggles. In fact, her love of beauty stemmed from a very tumultuous childhood.

"I wasn't even allowed to wear makeup," Parsons tells POPSUGAR. "I used to steal my mom's all the time and try to follow what I saw in the magazines." One form of escapism that Parsons could never get enough of was movies. "I had this little, old TV and we had Turner Classics. So I would watch old movies all day long."

Parsons became familiar with some of her biggest muses during those moments. "I would see beautiful, glamorous women like Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, and Justine Baker, and I would just want to recreate that Old Hollywood glam," she says. The stars aligned even further for the artist when she moved to New York in 2008 and secured a gig working with Dame Pat McGrath. "Years later I asked Pat why she chose me and she said, 'I could see that you really wanted it,'" Parsons recalls. "'You were a hustler and you loved makeup.'"

After being with the "mother of makeup" for seven years, Parsons went out on her own as an independent artist — then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. "I was only on my own for about three years," she says. "Then when everything shut down, no one knew if we were ever going to be able to do makeup again, so I started doing social media."

If you've ever come across Parson's profiles then you know how quickly you can fall down the rabbit hole. From teaching about the ingredients used for makeup in ancient Egypt to beauty tutorials with a vintage spin, Parson's presence is like a fun mix of the Discovery Channel and TikTok. "I have this obsession with the history of beauty," Parsons says. "From the old movies I used to watch to the books I read during the pandemic, I had this need to experiment with everything I was learning."

This obsession led the artist to a hobby that she still practices today: sourcing vintage makeup. "It all comes back to Marilyn Monroe for me," Parsons says. "I had such a connection reading about her and we shared similar childhoods, and I became obsessed with learning about the makeup that she used." As a result, Parsons would research everything she could about the star including the mascara and lipsticks that she used. Then, she realised she could actually own the items.

"The very first vintage product I sourced was the Maybelline Cake Mascara," Parsons says. "It wasn't the exact one that Marilyn used but it catapulted me to continue the hobby. Then I then went on to own Mae West's wig and eyelashes and that's what really started the full-fledged journey to collecting celebrity-owned, vintage makeup products." That first moment was full circle for Parsons, as she now works with Maybelline as the brand's global makeup artist.

As for the future, Parsons wants to become the Anthony Bourdain of makeup. "I would love to have a TV show where I travel the world and understand the history behind certain ingredients and teach people about what I find along the way," Parsons says. "But on a general, more macro-level, I would love to see more makeup-artist-created brands. They just get the formulas on another level."

Fittingly, as an amalgamation of her all her passions, Parsons is working on creating a beauty museum. "It's a physical space that people can come and visit and it's also a non-profit organisation that will be dedicated to my mom," Parsons says. Full details are still forthcoming, but the project holds a special meaning to the artist so she is eager for people to learn more. "This project has really been like a form of therapy for me," she says. "I can't wait for everyone to really experience it."

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