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A Moment of Zen: Top Hollywood Makeup Artist Kristi Fuhrmann-Kerr Shares Her Secrets for Working with A-List Celebrities

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Photo by Julia Evtushenko / Shutterstock

Known for working closely with Hollywood A-Listers like Carson Daly, Kelly Clarkson and Adam Levine, this top talent shares what tricks she has in her bag.

As host of The Voice on NBC, the last thing Carson Daly needs to worry about is a hair out of place, a shiny forehead, or wondering where he left his makeup case as he’s discussing the upcoming segment with Adam Levine or one of the other celebrity judges. And for 17 seasons and counting, he hasn’t had to, thanks to his personal groomer and makeup artist Kristi Fuhrmann-Kerr, who’s carved out an exciting and successful more than two-decade career working with Carson, as well as some of the biggest names in entertainment along the way.

So often the backstories of people who work directly for and with the biggest stars in Hollywood are about how they essentially stumbled into the gig—a combination of good fortune and great luck aligning for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“That’s something that I feel is a main reason I have done well, because I never really took myself too seriously or tried to work with stars per se,” Fuhrmann-Kerr told Iconic Life inside a recording studio at KABC Radio in Los Angeles, hours after wrapping up a taping on the Universal Studios lot for The Voice. “But it it’s fun and rewarding for me now because I’ve now been around so long that there are times where I don’t see a certain celebrity I’ve worked with in the past for a long time, and I end up coming full circle with them. That is one of the things that is really cool, and it’s something that happens with longevity in a career. It’s funny, because so many of them I remember they all had dogs together years ago, and now everyone has babies. It’s awesome to see.”

Kristi Fuhrmann-Kerr Makeup Artist

So often the backstories of people who work directly for and with the biggest stars in Hollywood are about how they essentially stumbled into the gig—a combination of good fortune and great luck aligning for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not in Kristi’s case. She always had a passion for makeup. She was good at it and ending up in a career she’s done so well in was always part of her master plan, even as an eight-year-old kid growing up in Northern Virginia.

“It was the only thing I ever really wanted to do,” she told us. “I have an essay from the fifth grade where I wrote that I wanted to be a celebrity makeup artist in Hollywood or makeup artist for movie stars. I used to watch the credits go up on the TV screens after the shows, and I’d see Max Factor’s name show up when I was watching I Love Lucy with my grandmother. I would think, ‘he’s got lipstick at the drugstore,’ and I would just make that connection. I would read magazines like Sassy Magazine and really any fashion and beauty magazine I could get my hands on, and always look at the credits to find the names of the makeup and nail artists. I always knew that this definitely was my destiny, and really the only thing I ever considered.”

It was the only thing I ever really wanted to do,” she told us. “I have an essay from the fifth grade where I wrote that I wanted to be a celebrity makeup artist in Hollywood or makeup artist for movie stars.

Much like the career paths of the stars and celebrities she worked with over the years, Kristi had that rare characteristic that allowed her to chase her passion and not care what anyone thought about her path. It helped having supportive parents who didn’t mistake her passion for a pipe dream, and she told me the only real opposition she ran into was from a high school guidance counselor who probably didn’t even know careers like this existed, because before Kristi came around, they didn’t in the town Kristi grew up in.

Her first step on this unchartered career pate was to beauty school in West Virginia. She also sought out apprenticeships that prepared her to eventually make the leap to New York. One thing that allowed Kristi to eventually land the big break she was looking was a drive and willingness to hone her skills and be as well-rounded as she possibly could be. She made connections, sought out the respected people in her craft, and then got to work.

Carson and Siri Daly

She did whatever it took, and had no problem grabbing the less glamorous gigs like shampooing hair at salons. She attended hair shows and went to makeup classes in her spare time, learned to cut and style, and paid her dues with freelance gigs in and around the Big Apple. Her talent and drive aligned at the right time with a job at MTV, where she worked for four years before connecting with the new host of a live music show there called TRL, that taped in front of a loud and excited crowd in the middle of Times Square.

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Actress Molly Sims
Nick and Vanessa Lechey

“We had no idea at the time what it was going to be such a big show,” she told us. The day-to-day excitement and rush of watching some of the biggest musical acts of the past quarter century was an exciting and alluring perk. Eventually something not connected to show business drew Kristi to a new challenge and chapter in her life; she fell in love. Married life would take her to LA, where there would be ample opportunity to continue what she started in New York. One of her first gigs in Los Angeles? Working with another future star TV host with an affinity for music shows.

“As soon as I told someone I was moving to LA, I got a job as the guest makeup artist of “On Air with Ryan Seacrest.” Her first gig in Hollywood brought to her core group of friends in LA and led to work on American Idol with Seacrest. Shortly after, Daly and his late-night talk show on NBC relocated to Los Angeles as well, which meant Kristi and Carson were re-united on the West Coast.

Drake on VMA red carpet

As glamorous as the industry Kristi works in may appear to viewers, being a celebrity makeup artist is often times stressful and cutthroat. There are no lifetime contracts or guaranteed salaries. Kristi has to continue to prove herself and hustle, but it’s paid off for her, as her talent and reputation eventually led her to the music video sets of some of the biggest recording artists in the world. She’s worked on multiple videos and productions with Drake, including his collaborations with DJ Khaled, Lil Wayne, Rhianna and Molly Sims. She’s developed relationships with major stars like Kelly Clarkson and Nick and Vanessa Lachey. Now, after 25-plus years in the business, her office is places like the makeup rooms at Warner Brothers, NBC and Sony, as well as some of the most expensive yachts in the world working with Drake in Miami. But no matter how many A-List stars Kristi works with, or how many hit shows she’s been part of, she doesn’t take anything for granted. Deep down Kristi is still that same eight-year old girl in Virginia who knew one days she’d be working on the fringes of fame when she grew up.

Tom Zenner is a regular guest columnist for ICONIC LIFE as he interviews fascinating people from his glamorous, celebrity-filled world from his vantage point living in Los Angeles. We’ll profile those style makers and trendsetters right here.

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