There’s a new kid on the block and he’s taking the creative world by storm. We had the pleasure of sitting down with makeup artist Marcelo Gutierrez to talk about everything from artwork to adversity. Hailing from Bogotá by way of California, Marcelo landed in New York City at the ripe age of 20 with two suitcases and a burning desire to tell stories. Five years later, his strikingly unique and innovative makeup artistry is storming the scene on international runways and aspirational magazine covers...and he’s only getting started. Read the full interview below to learn more about Marcelo’s evolution as a gay man, a makeup artist, and a creative genius (our words, not his).
ABLE: Tell us a bit about your background and your family.
Marcelo: Art has been running through my veins since day one. My mother is a sculptor and my father is a painter, so I grew up in an extremely creative environment. My parents both studied in Naples, which is where the inspiration for my first name was born. We’re Columbian, but they felt deeply connected to the Italian culture, so that’s what the name is all about. At first, I followed in their fine art footsteps. I enrolled at California College of the Arts, where I studied painting and performance art. I began to infiltrate the fine art scene in California, but it wasn’t long before I realized my passion was in the process - the storytelling - above all else. I listened to my gut, stepped away from painting, dropped out of school, and headed to New York City with two suitcases and no idea what was next.
ABLE: Sounds like a movie! Tell us more...
Marcelo: It definitely didn’t feel like a movie. I was 20 and had no money, contacts, or plan. I just knew I had to figure out a scenario that would allow me to create, collaborate, and tell stories through compelling visuals.
ABLE: So how did you land on makeup?
Marcelo: To be honest, it wasn’t on my radar at all. I hadn’t been exposed to the notion of makeup as a career. I was doing a bunch of different entry level jobs in the world of film and fashion. I was hired to work behind the scenes on a GAP shoot, steaming clothes. It was far from glamorous, but I was down to do anything and everything in the creative realm that I could get my hands on. I remember being on set and looking over at the models in hair and makeup. I thought to myself “that makeup artist is definitely making more money than I am,” so I decided to give it a go. I was confident in my fine art skills and realized rather quickly that makeup was just another form of painting, but with the face as the canvas. And the rest is history.
ABLE: Ok, but how did you get from steaming clothes to being featured in PAPER Magazine? We want to know everything.
Marcelo: Like every artist I know, I had spent endless hours over the years researching, scrolling, and squirreling away references. I’ve always been inspired by everything from art history, to cinema, to everyday life. I was saving these still and moving images for something, I just hadn’t known what that was until I embarked on this adventure and tapped into my archives. I gleaned inspiration from these visuals and began approaching anyone who would listen, telling them I wanted to get involved in makeup and asking for a chance to collaborate. I was lucky to be given a chance by Mark Carrasquillo, Mary Wiles, and Pat McGrath. Before I knew it, the tables had turned and I was the one being approached for jobs. Instagram has definitely played the biggest roll in getting my work into the world. It’s the way most of my clients and collaborators have come across me and my work, and I love how universal and inclusive of a platform it has become. I owe a lot of my success to digital discovery. And timing. Timing is everything.
ABLE: Speaking of your clients and collaborators, can you speak a little bit more about the way you work?
Marcelo: Collaboration is so important to me (and to artistic expression in general). Every time I have a new project in the works, I do my research and ask a million questions. I’ve noticed that a lot of people just read a shot list the night before and show up on set without any real interest or exchange in advance. For me, it’s imperative to connect with photographers, set designers, directors...literally anyone who is willing to connect. I want to know about their inspiration, their vision, their other work - all of it. In an ideal situation, there’s a beautiful exchange of words and images that come together to create an amazing final product. It’s about more than creating an eye-catching look. It’s about contributing to a compelling visual story.
I feel strongly about the fact that nothing magnificent is created unilaterally. I believe in the universe when it comes to who I collaborate with. I’m not aggressive when it comes to seeking creatives. It’s all about human connection. I find myself drawn primarily to female and LGBTQ photographers. It’s not that I have anything against straight men, I just don’t jive as effortlessly with them for the most part. I’m sure it has something to do with growing up as a homosexual and feeling misunderstod and marginalized by my male peers.
ABLE: Ooohh. Can we talk more about that? It is LGBT History Month, after all.
Marcelo: Absolutely. I’ll start off by saying I was extremely supported by my family. My parents have always been beyond loving and accepting of everything I was and am. I used to wear dresses around the house when I was little and they were all for my self-expression. It was the outside world that posed a problem. From a young age, I can remember being constantly humiliated by the kids in school. Luckily for me, it was never physical, but the emotional abuse and public humiliation ran rampant.
ABLE: How did you deal?
Marcelo: To be honest, I remember feeling like they were the weird ones. I knew nothing was wrong with me, so I would just tell myself “they must be upset I’m so much cooler than them,” and keep it moving. I never formally came out, so that wasn’t a big pain point or revelation for myself or my family. They all saw and loved me for who I was, and I didn’t bother convincing anyone who didn’t.
ABLE: Thanks for sharing. I’m sure your story has and will continue to inspire those dealing with insecurity or any level of abuse stemming from their (awesome) differences. Let’s talk about the future. In five short years, you’ve made major moves in the makeup game. What’s next on your career agenda?
Marcelo: I love makeup and I feel incredibly fulfilled by the work I’ve been doing. I’ll do makeup for as long as I can, while remaining open to other adventures, mediums, and industries. At the end of the day, as long as my work is centered on storytelling, I’ll be happy. I want to dive deeper into filmmaking at some point in the near future, so you can definitely expect some of that.
ABLE: We can’t wait to watch your continued success and creative/professional evolution. Anything else you want to share?
Marcelo: Thank you so much! Yes, actually. I’d like to wrap by saying that whoever is reading this - young, old, queer, straight - if you’re feeling trapped or uninspired, don’t be afraid to make a move. Never stay comfortable or complacent. Disrupting your current situation and stepping into the unknown can be incredibly liberating.
Another thing I’ve always found helpful in finding the courage to make a move or take a risk is reading iconic biographies. So many “stars” have faced such immense adversity. From Oprah to Elvis, there’s some really encouraging narratives out there. So do your research and stick to your guns!
ABLE: Amen. One last thing. What’s your superpower?
Marcelo: I am ABLE to REINVENT.