Timothy MacKay is a makeup artist and groomer from New York City who is akin to working with celebrities. Timothy has a wealth of experience working behind-the-scenes on commercial, film, and television productions. He has worked alongside Olympians Michelle Kwan and Nastia Liukin as well as actresses such as Samira Wiley of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Quincy Brown, Ne-Yo, Glenn Howerton, model Lisa Ramos, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, and actress/singer Ariana Debose of “Donna Summer the Musical” fame. Timothy has even glammed up rapper T.I. and Victoria’s Secret models!

Timothy truly enjoys his work and doesn’t mind spending long hours on a set since he views it as an opportunity to make connections with people. Moreover, Timothy values the ability to make every client feel their best and he tailor-makes every look to best suit their bone structure, features, mood, and personality!

Timothy recently discussed his profession via an exclusive interview.

Makeup, business, and styles

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your talent for makeup and how did that lead you to the entertainment business?

Timothy MacKay (TM): I saw my first MAC store after being in NY for less than a year and felt captivated by the glamour of the girls working inside. I had never done makeup before but I got this strange calling that I had to be there.

I thought it would be an after-school job (I was between my freshman and sophomore year in college when I applied) but it changed my life. They gave me a week before I had to come in and show them my skills and for whatever reason I was more dedicated to learn than I ever had been about anything. I practiced on a few friends who gave me tips on how they did their own makeup and somehow got myself hired!

Within three years I was doing makeup for fashion week and three years after that I left MAC to freelance. I knew fashion isn’t where I wanted to stay and production/entertainment was, so I networked the hell out of myself through connections I’d made over the years and got myself here.

MM: You have worked on some very famous people, so how did you get the top rungs of this business?

TM: Honestly it sounds so cliché but it’s really just through people I have met along the way! I’ve been doing makeup for almost nine years now and I am always sure to make the very best impression, be the best version of myself, and stay genuine. I’ve gotten hired by celebs simply because I didn’t know who they were and treated them like normal people!

MM: What are some of the most memorable celebrities and locations that you worked with?

TM: I’ve worked with Samira Wiley since her first season of “Orange is the New Black.” She had no idea her publicist had even booked her a makeup artist and was taking a nap when I knocked on her door. Her roommate woke her up to tell her I was there and she fell out of bed, banged her knee, and was extremely humble upon meeting me.

It’s been years now and we still have a genuine connection, even though she no longer lives in NY unfortunately. She has taken me to many red carpets, an Entertainment Weekly party, and many studios. I feel like she really helped me feel comfortable around celebrity environments.

MM: How long can a single shift on a set be and have you any fun behind-the-scenes stories to share?

TM: I’ve been on set for 14-16 hours at one time! And it feels like longer because a lot of it is waiting for the cameras and lights to be set up and blocking to take place before filming even starts. One amazing experience was about a year ago on set for Entertainment Weekly. Essence Atkins walked into the makeup room for an interview she was doing and I began to touch up her makeup.

I had met Essence when I was about 11 years old in my home state, Rhode Island, while she was dating my big sister’s friend, Ron (who is also in the film industry). She was at his family’s party of some kind and I came with my sister, so excited because I LOVED her on the Disney show Smart Guy. She was so kind and sat with me for about an hour just answering my questions about being on the show. A year ago, I was 26, so 15 years later I am powdering Essence, and nervously asked, “do you remember 15 years ago in Rhode Island, talking to a little boy at your ex-boyfriend Ron’s house?” Her eyes LIT up like she had seen a ghost and put her hands over mouth in shock. I said, “That little boy was me!” She leapt out of the chair and couldn’t believe it!

She gave me a huge hug and FaceTime’d someone and had me repeat the story to them. She was so sweet, just as I’d remembered her, and there’s a photo of us from this day on my IG. Small world!

MM: You do both hair and makeup, so are any styles particularly fun to work on?

TM: I specialize in makeup and had to learn light hair for some production jobs that only hire one person to do both. I love giving women loose, messy beach waves, and bright/beautiful glam. I definitely don’t hold back when doing makeup, but I have a sharp taste level that leaves all my clients happy! The trick is to make a ton of makeup look seamless and natural to the client’s face/energy. I don’t just look at a client’s features; I get a vibe from their style and personality/energy and the makeup I blend on them just melts in seamlessly with who they are.

I am told I make them feel like the best version of themselves and that makes me so happy.

Cosmetology, celebrities, and career goals

MM: What kind of cosmetology education do you have and how much do you attribute your success to your schooling versus your own creative flair?

TM: As I mentioned earlier, I never went to cosmetology school! I just faked my way into a MAC store by the calling of God and learned from TRUE trial and error (lol). I remember having customers very upset with me and I literally just had to act confident and fake it until I made it. I am asked now to speak at cosmetology schools, such as MUD, and fashion camps and I’m honest with the students, but encourage them to learn as much as they can in school as it’ll only make it easier.

I do suggest, however, working in cosmetic retail once out of school so they can get constant practice on different skin tones and personalities.

MM: If you could work with any celebrity, or on any show, what would be your “dream assignment” and why?

TM: I would love to work on a horror film! I have always loved scary slasher Movies my whole life and would love to be a part of the creation. Seeing how they film chase scenes and how intricate the sets are. I would also love to be the one to create the makeup look for characters in the film! Not monsters or anything, just reading the script and getting a feel for who the characters are and helping bring them to life!

MM: What are your major makeup career goals and would you like to talk about anything additional?

TM: I would love to become a positive public figure in the industry, whether that includes hosting my own show or writing a book or making a movie about my life. I’ve lived a crazy one filled with many wild stories/adventures and I’m still living them!