How Aubrey Plaza’s Makeup Artist Kathy Jeung Achieved Her Bold Red Lip on ‘Saturday Night Live’

Variety will toast five Hollywood makeup artists (Alex Babsky, Kathy Jeung, Kelsey Deenihan Fisher, Allan Avendaño and Cedric Jolivet) known for setting red carpet beauty trends with staying power at the annual — and lively — Makeup Artistry Dinner on March 9 at Ardor Restaurant. But before the festivities, we sat down with each creator on Variety’s “Red Carpet Ready,” presented by Armani Beauty, to share behind-the-scenes moments, surprising inspirations and secret industry beauty tricks you won’t find on TikTok.

Creator Kathy Jeung‘s work has touched some of the most iconic moments of Hollywood history from Michael Bay’s “Got Milk” commercial (and several of his films) to David Bowie (Jeung did two of his music videos “The Stars Are Out Tonight” and “The Next Day” both directed by Floria Sigismondi).

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Jeung now works her magic on screen stars including Aubrey Plaza and Kaitlyn Dever, alongside modern pop standouts Pink and Rita Ora. She believes a swipe of the right bright lipstick can elevate any look — and mood.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Kathy Jeung: Learn from every experience and every job — and don’t take anything personally. Use any criticism as a way to figure out what worked and how you can do things better. The art of communication is just as important as the art of makeup.

What was your big breakout job?

I worked with Twisted Sister on “I Wanna Rock.” The first day they did their own makeup, and the second day they let me help them do the makeup, then I had to do all the kids. Most of the jobs that I did with music videos, I was the only makeup artist, no assistant. I had to do the star, the musicians, the talent, and all the background extras. Which was great training for me because, still learning, I got a chance to kind of work with a lot of different faces and different situations, climates. Situations that would call for me to be innovative on how things would work and last for a 20 plus hour day.

Break down Aubrey Plaza’s contemporary Oscar look at the 2020 Vanity Fair party.

With that beautiful white dress, I wanted to do something softly smoky that brought out a confident beauty. Her lips were a little neutral so there would be a contrast of lightness with a little bit of depth.

How about her bold look for hosting “Saturday Night Live” this past January?

That was an exciting night because it was the first time everybody would see Aubrey’s blonde hair, which she had [colored] for a movie. We decided a red lip would really pop. She carried it off perfectly.

How do you create a red lip that lasts for hours?

Trends come and go, but a red lip is always classic. Start with a long-lasting lip pencil, outline and then fill in the lip a little bit because that gives adhesion to your color — and adds extra staying power. A matte finish lasts long, but you can get the same effect with a glossy lip stain instead of a simple gloss.

When you’re doing something, like ‘SNL,’ don’t they have to wipe that lip off real fast right after?

When we did Aubrey’s run through at “SNL,” I used my long wear lip trick. The amazing SNL makeup artist [they takeover after the monologue] asked me what I used and that was staying on so long and I realized that I was using something that lasted unnecessarily long. So I switched it up so it would be easier to take off, but still left a little stain, which was okay.

You’ve worked with Alecia Moore Hart — aka Pink — for decades. How has her look evolved?

I met Alecia when she was 19 and she had this shocking fuchsia crew cut. I thought, “Who is this cool girl?” Bold looks are such a part of her character, which I love. For her latest “Trust Fall video, we did red eyeliner and red lips. It was more simple beauty — but still strong and fun.

What’s the one thing everyone should have in their bag?

A great lipstick. One quick swipe and you look brighter and more sophisticated.

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