Katey Denno didn’t know the occupation of makeup artist existed until she was in her mid-twenties and was seated next to one at a dinner party. Denno, a social worker at the time, learned from her dining partner that “as an assistant I could travel the world, make three hundred dollars a day, and get to see things I never thought I would—and that the food on photo shoots was fantastic,” Denno recalls of the sudden revelation. “The next day, I called in sick to work and assisted her on a Nautica campaign. It was nothing like what I thought ‘work’ had to be.”
Denno had been (unconsciously) preparing for this vocation long before she set her sights on the beauty industry. “I was schooled on how to do makeup while I was a social worker in clinics serving HIV-positive patients,” she says. “My male-to-female transitioning clients showed me how makeup transformed them into the person they felt most comfortable being, and I was able to use makeup-talk and application as a catalyst for emotional transformation.” The experience also sparked her passion for green beauty (Denno uses only natural products). “It was the culmination of years of social work with patients with compromised immune systems and learning how to examine ingredients,” she explains.
It didn’t take long after that fateful dinner for Denno to get her big break. After only eight months of assisting, an agent at The Wall Group called her in for a meeting and said she was ready to go out on her own. Clients like Christy Turlington and a smattering of celebrities (Amanda Seyfried, Felicity Jones, et al.) soon followed.
Denno has since made a name for herself as a guru of all things green beauty, and she caters to an impressive roster of celebrity clients, including Amber Heard, Connie Britton, Chelsea Handler, and Mindy Kaling. Two years ago, she relocated to Los Angeles because of a high concentration of West Coast clients (not to mention the draw of the great weather). One of the artist’s favorite Los Angeles pastimes? Strolling through different neighborhoods and stopping to smell the flowers. “I find my inspiration in the subtle differences in shape, petal texture, and even scents,” she says. “They remind me of facial features and how makeup feels and smells.”