English makeup artist Kate Lee has become the go-to makeup artist for stars like Lily-Rose Depp, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Dakota Johnson, Anne Hathaway, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sienna Miller and Keira Knightley. But it didn’t start out so glamorously. “I started right at the very bottom,” says Lee. After moving to London to study fashion and makeup interpretation at The London College of Fashion, Lee got a job at the Shu Uemura makeup counter at Harvey Nichols department store. “I learned so much and held that part-time position for many years to support my early career,” she says. The years that followed took her to Europe, where she assisted notable artists like Val Garland, Linda Cantello and Carole Lasnier. “Val was my absolute hero and a true mentor to this day,” Lee explains. “The years I spent alongside her were what formed me as an artist. She really helped me to position myself and to see clearly which part of the industry I was most suited to.” Having a mentor was so important to the young makeup artist as she navigated the industry. “There have been many people who have helped me along the way—too many to mention, but I appreciate each and every one of them.”
A chance meeting with actress Kate Winslet before Titanic made her a household name was a big breakthrough for Lee in her burgeoning freelance career. “We were both babies and got along like a house on fire!” she says. “Kate taught me a lot about makeup and the industry and eventually she asked me to work on a movie with her. We are still friends and she has not changed a bit.” Since those early years, the breadth of Lee’s work has expanded from fashion shows to celebrity and editorial work. “I love the diversity of work that I am allowed and, as much as I love editorial work, red carpets are really my joy,” she says. “There is nothing I love more than helping someone to feel incredible, and I’m looking forward to returning to the red carpet circuit. I love seeing what people are wearing and their different interpretations of glamour.”
Here’s how the makeup artist spends a typical day.
6:00 a.m. I wake up naturally around this time. This gives me a few hours to gather myself before going about my day. I generally start with either meditation, journaling or a Peloton cycling or yoga class depending on my mood and energy level. I light some incense or a candle.
7:00 a.m. I sit with my two little dogs and drink a cup of French Breakfast Tea with a drop of oat milk. This sets me up for the day as I don’t generally eat breakfast.
8:00 a.m. Jump in my car and head either to a studio or to a client’s house to begin work. Sometimes I am heading to the airport to fly somewhere for a few days—it depends on the gig. Almost every day is different so I never feel bored!
12:00 p.m. For lunch, I grab a healthy green salad with some sort of protein and maybe a juice. I also always make sure I have a cooler in my car with water and coconut water. Avoiding sugar and staying hydrated helps me to maintain my energy throughout the day. I’m currently obsessed with a supplement called Lmnt. It’s an electrolyte drink mix, so I usually drop a couple of those in my purse to add to water during the day. My favorite flavor is watermelon salt.
2:45 p.m. I talk to my agent around this time every day to discuss my current jobs and up-and-coming projects. She helps me manage my time and keeps me on track.
6:00 p.m. I am usually finished with work by this time, but sometimes I work later. Add to that at least an hour drive home most days when I’m in Los Angeles, and it tends to be a long day. I like to listen to podcasts while I am driving. I am very interested in nutrition and wellness, so my favorite podcasts at the moment tend to focus on those subjects, but I also like to get my news via a quick 30-minute podcast.
8:00 p.m. I have dinner with my husband and then prepare my kit for the next day. That sometimes means repacking my kit for a specific person or just cleaning my brushes and sanitizing my set bag.
9:30 p.m. I like to get to bed early. I take a shower, read, wind down and go to bed.