Just five years ago, makeup artist Patrick Ta was working as a freelance makeup artist at an Arizona M.A.C. store. Now, nearly 900,000 Instagram followers later, the pro is one of the most trusted glam pros in Hollywood, with clients including Shay Mitchell, Blake Lively, Chrissy Teigen, Olivia Munn, Gigi Hadid and Kourtney Kardashian, to name a few. Most recently, he secured a gig as the brand ambassador for skincare giant La Mer and launched his own app, Flawless. Below, we spoke to Ta about his career, his favorite moments alongside his BFF Mitchell and what it’s really like to work with Jennifer Lopez.
How did you get your start in the makeup industry?
I’m self-taught. Growing up I would watch YouTube videos. I wish I did assistant work, but I didn’t get the opportunity to. Instead, I got a job at M.A.C. in Arizona five years ago. Being able to work with so many different types of people and having to do makeup super quick, I felt like I was able to learn a lot more by just trial and error. They don’t teach you anything at M.A.C. when you’re a freelance artist — they just throw you in.
When did you move to L.A.?
When Instagram came around I would post photos and selfies with my girlfriends and people started hiring me to do freelance work. In Arizona, I thought I was killing it, not even knowing what the makeup industry could be like in New York or in L.A. But I always wanted to move LA, I just never knew what for. I finally had some sort of reason to, and I made the move after a year working at M.A.C.
How did you land your first celebrity client?
It’s all thanks to Shay Mitchell. She loves makeup, so she would just scroll on Instagram and find people, and she said that she really liked the photos of makeup that I did on my girlfriends so she called me. That was my first celebrity ever. Back then I was obsessed with Pretty Little Liars, and I called my mom freaking out.
How did your career grow from there?
Shay really helped my career a lot because she’s a girl who loves makeup and she loves our glam sessions — she will sit there for three or four hours if need be. I feel like that is the best client you can have. Someone who likes makeup and really cares about it. They’ll actually let you do what you want to do. A month after that I met Gigi [Hadid] — again through social media — and she was becoming ‘Gigi.’ Most of the clients that I have today are the clients I met that first year. To be able to be a part of their journey and to grow with them, it’s the best part of being a makeup artist.
You and Shay travel a lot together. What’s your favorite memory with her?
She is one of the most fun girls to work with because she loves social media and she loves makeup. Every single artist that gets to work with her always says she is always so happy. Besides just our glam sessions working together, we get to travel together. I would say one of the most fun times I’ve had with her is when we went to Jamaica and when we spent New Year’s there on the beach and had the most amazing time.
You recently launched an app and website! What was the motivation behind it?
It’s a tutorial-based app and it has breakdowns of looks I’ve done in the past and products I use because people always ask me on Instagram what I use, and it’s hard to answer everybody. Now, it’s just easier to write everything down and actually share what I’m using and how I’m using it. Most people don’t write down what they’re using on Instagram. The tutorials are just cool makeup looks. I have a tutorial with Olivia Munn that’s one of the funniest videos I’ve done so far.
What’s been the most exciting part of your career so far?
I think doing the MET Gala three years ago. I have always been obsessed with seeing people’s dresses, their makeup and hair. That whole night is so magical to me. It’s the one night that celebrities come, and they let their team and their artists be more creative.
Did you have a dream client who you’ve now worked with?
Jennifer Lopez. She just exudes glam and just being in her presence is honestly the most amazing thing because when she is in the room, you know she is in the room. Everything about her is Jennifer Lopez. When you work with clients who have been in the industry for so long and have had the most amazing makeup artists working on them, they teach you too. Like, ‘Oh, this looks great, this doesn’t look great, use this product.’ I learn so much from my clients because they pick up techniques from other amazing artists.
What’s your favorite look you’ve created?
I’m still obsessed with the look that I did on Gigi for the 2015 MTV Video Awards. She was wearing this mustard yellow dress and she just looked so golden. That day was so much fun. All the girls that were in the Taylor Swift video got ready together, which as a makeup artist you don’t usually get to work with other people because you’re always with the client, hair stylist and the nail person. But this time it was like 12 girls all in one room and all their glam teams in this room and it was a mad house. Each girl had a stylist, makeup artist, a hair stylist — it was like glam wars!
If you could only use one product for the rest of your career, what would it be?
I just love setting spray. I think setting spray with makeup is great.
What do all of your clients ask for tips on?
How to contour and highlight correctly! I say if you don’t need to do it, don’t do it. Like if you don’t have to contour your nose, don’t contour it! Always start off like with the least amount. Use a product that is forgiving. If you’re looking for a bronzer, don’t use one with too much shimmer or has too much pigment. Just use a nice, soft, cream bronzer that you’re able to blend in and diffuse it.