Speaking with an expert: Celebrity MUA and Smashbox Pro Artist, Lori Taylor Davis

For two decades, Lori Taylor Davis has been at the helm of one of the world’s most recognised cosmetic brands – Smashbox Cosmetics, an Estée Lauder Company – as everything from Account Coordinator to Lead Artist to Director and Global Pro Artist/Pro Relations. Her work is superlative and her enthusiasm for her craft is world renowned, so when I was given the chance to grab coffee with her at one of my local cafes, it was an immediate yes!
In Auckland to meet with artists and the press, the born and bred Los Angeleno was like a breath of fresh air, and I couldn’t wait to quiz her on an incredible career…

You’ve been at Smashbox for 21 years, that is an incredibly long time to be with one brand. What drew you to them, and kept you in there for the long haul?
I have always loved what Smashbox is and what it stands for, and when I was working on counter as a young artist their branding and philosophy just blew me away. And definitely the studio (Smashbox Studios in LA) aspect was a huge draw, it was a first for a makeup brand – one developed in a studio in collaboration with the artists.

And you started freelancing with them originally, right?
Yes. And in my first month I was flown to Las Vegas to work on the makeup team for the Divas Live show, it blew my mind. Whitney Houston, Cyndi Lauper, Faith Hill… I mean what? After that, they had me.
It was a small brand then so you could wear a lot of hats, and I loved the opportunities that provided. I got to have a small say in what was being produced and how it was applied, and now I get to watch the brand evolve as technology evolves. It’s like I walked in the door twenty-something years ago and just never left!

Like myself, you’ve watched the industry grow from just a couple of disruptors – Smashbox and MAC – to a never-ending parade of indie makeup brands showing up to make their mark. Do you find that exciting?
I find it exciting, because when I first started working in makeup it was all very cookie cutter, and it wasn’t that fun. The representation was nearly non-existent, and if you couldn’t find a product for you straight away then you had to pretty much give up. Now there are so many different voices and so many different spotlights. I do worry though that with so much out there it’s hard to cut through the noise, there is almost too much choice. And there’s a new trend every five minutes, I don’t know how the average person is supposed to keep up.

I worry about the safety levels of some of the TikTok trends!
Yes! I know a lot of it is about entertainment and shock factor, but there has to be a voice of reason. And they make it all way too complicated.

The #lattemakeup trend is basically just a liberal use of bronzer.
Precisely, it’s like Naomi Campbell in 1990… been there, done that. And the only reason it was a trend at the time is because all the makeup available then was neutral tones and browns! Having said that, it will introduce a new approach to people who use TikTok as their makeup bible, as opposed to old Kevyn Aucoin and Way Bandy images.

I have been playing with the Always On Skin Balancing Foundation (above), which I love! It’s skincaring makeup but also longwearing, which is a tough ask. Was it the kind of formula you had been looking for in your kit?
Smashbox Studios really is our testing ground, and I worked really closely with product development on this one from an artistry standpoint. They are like scientists with a thing for colour, and I’m a makeup and colour person with a thing for science! The colour range and the ease of choosing colour was one hundred percent what I’d been looking for, and the longevity is incredible. It also needed to perform in the studio and in everyday life, that was a non-negotiable.

What is your preferred way to apply it? I read that you’re all about a hands on approach.
A lot of that is because of my age (laughs), twenty years ago we didn’t have a beauty sponge or a dedicated foundation brush. Having said that, for me, some products just work so well with your own touch – they really lend themselves to fingers. On social media people go on about your fingers not being hygienic, but really? I guarantee I was ash hands a lot more in one day that someone will wash a makeup brush! Or a sponge!

We’re heading into what is destined to be a super humid summer over here, are there any artist tips you can offer for ensuring you get the best wear time out of your makeup – including this new formula?
This foundation has what’s called a Balanced Boost Complex, which is full of adaptogens that help it work as a kind of thermostat for whatever is going on with your skin. It’s made to adapt accordingly in the case of environmental aggressors, hot lights, harsh winds, humidity… this means it wears just so well in any situation.
For other products, I swear by a setting spray, which is the new powder. I love an alcohol-free one (like the Photo Finish Endurance Breathable Setting Spray, above), and a great one will make your makeup bulletproof and feel so comfortable as opposed to tight and dry.

Do you have favourite Smashbox picks right now?
I think that if you had to name one thing that Smashbox does best, it would be skin. So my favourite products are always ones related to that, it’s the most important part of makeup. Primer and foundation are my two essentials – I love the new foundation as it does so much. I also love a great blush for a wash of colour, and I’m obsessed by the Smashbox X Becca partnership which again, is all about skin. The Under Eye Brightening Corrector (above) is incredible, and addresses an issue that so many people have but can’t find a solution for – now they have one!


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