At the age of 15, makeup was more than just cosmetics to this then aspiring makeup artist. It was a way out of gang violence in Southside, Chicago. I sit down with Stephanie to talk about growing up in a rough neighborhood, how she got her start in makeup, moving to Los Angeles at seventeen and tips for flawless skin.
Stephanie Navarro is a testament that hard work and determination pay off. Having grown up on the border of Southside, Chicago, in a predominantly Mexican immigrant town, Pilsen, Stephanie could easily have let herself be consumed by her circumstances and environment. “There was a lot of gang violence. A lot of drive bys,” explained Stephanie when she talks about her town, “I had a lot of girlfriends who all lost their brothers from gang related violence.” By the age of fifteen, Stephanie found herself hanging with the wrong crowd, in trouble with the law and close to dropping out of high school freshman year. She says finding makeup turned her life around.
“I met a boy when I was 15 and he was in college. He was producing his first student film and he asked if I wanted to intern in the makeup department. I wasn’t good at it. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I just loved it. I got so motivated. It gave me a reason to move forward; a goal. I started working with other little production companies and I basically went from ‘fuck up’ to finding something that inspired me.”
“When it comes to skincare I think it’s really basic. If you’re eating well, sleeping, drinking a lot of water, you are going to have good skin.”
Navarro set her sights on moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the beauty industry. “I took extra classes to graduate from high school early and moved out here in January after I graduated. I was seventeen. The first two years were just crazy. I was poor. I lived in Sherman Oaks and worked at a Denny’s across the street from my apartment. I was going to cosmetology school during the day, forty hours a week, and then I’d come home and work the graveyard shift from 9pm to 4 or 5am. I really thought about moving back home, but I wouldn’t give up that easy so I stuck it out. I graduated from cosmetology and makeup school and ended up getting my first big movie gig.” Since then, ten years have gone by and Stephanie has made a name for herself working on films, TV shows, and commercials. She’s the first thing that comes up when you google “makeup artist Los Angeles,” which is how a lot of new clients find her.
When asked about her success, she says it’s all about persistence. “I took every job I could. I worked hard. I’m always learning. One thing my dad always told me is ‘hang out with people you can learn from.’ He grew up in Compton and had losers around him. People he had to cut ties with because they weren’t good influences. When I was younger I didn’t have good influences around me. But now, those words are how I live my life. If you’re not an inspiring or a positive force, you’re not in my life.”
“I basically went from ‘fuck up’ to finding something that inspired me.”
A positive mindset shapes all aspects of Navarro’s daily life. “Right now, I’ve been meditating for fifteen minutes every day when I wake up. If I don’t meditate, I’ll write instead, about what I want for the day or what I feel about yesterday. And then I’ll go out for a morning run.” A routine she says contributes to her glowing complexion. “I feel like running has really helped my skin. It stabilizes your hormones, elevates your mood and sweating is good. When it comes to skincare I think it’s really basic. If you’re eating well, sleeping, drinking a lot of water, you are going to have good skin.”
But if you don’t have flawless skin, quite yet, Navarro shares her tips for faking it until you make it. “To create the look of flawless skin it requires a lot of layers,” explains Stephanie. “First I exfoliate with a glycolic pad. I use Cane + Austen Miracle Pads. It’s especially good for people who don’t have smooth skin. Then I go in and color correct. Next is foundation and I apply each layer by blotting with a sponge. If you use a brush it will disturb the layers and won’t cover as well. Stippling and blotting work to cover imperfections. But for an every day flawless look, I love dewy skin. I like the liquid highlighter from Becca in Opal. It makes you look like a Victoria’s Secret model; dewy, bronzy all over. There’s another one from Stila, it’s a shimmery tinted moisturizer. It’s so pretty. Sometimes I’ll put that all over a model’s face.”
-by Amy Chang
Photographed by author