Troy Surratt: A glimpse into the life of a game-changing makeup artist

Troy Surratt Surratt Beauty The Makeup Show NYC 2014 James Vincent

My first post after covering a big trade show is usually a hodge-podge round-up of this and that brand, this and that experience, this and that, this and that. But I took a different approach to The Makeup Show NYC (TMS) this year, and it included more educational sessions, and a key note speaker I couldn’t wait to write about.

Above in the picutre is James Vincent, Director of Artistry for TMS, hosting a keynote session with celebrated, game-changing makeup artist, Troy Surratt.

Surratt discussed his journey into a long and full career as a makeup artist, the mentors that he met along the way, his close relationship with one of them – Kevyn Aucoin – and his new cosmetic line, Surratt Beauty.

I wasn’t sure if I would write anything coming out of the keynote, but I was so impressed with the vivid imagery Troy used to talk about his life that I wanted to share some of what he said with you!

As consumers, I feel like it’s cool to get a glimpse into what it’s like behind the scenes!

Who is he?

Troy Surratt is a makeup artist who has accomplished a lot in his career. Prior to launching Surratt Beauty, he had a contract with Maybelline, consulted for, launched the popular makeup line Tarte, and famously assisted makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin. Troy helped move the makeup industry into a new direction with sheer textures and shimmers when he was developing Tarte with Maureen Kelly. He was also one of the first makeup artists to contract with a brand, helping to pave the way for similar opportunities for makeup artists.

Troy said “pretty” is his work philosophy in makeup artistry and his favorite saying as of late is, ” once you find your path, you’ll never get lost.”

A train case, Barbie head, the Avon lady and Vogue

Troy grew up on a farm in Kansas – he jokingly (or not, lol!) referred to his tiny hometown as a “village” – and his passion for makeup goes back a long way. He was barely in kindergarten when he started showing a love for beauty!

He’d get into his mother’s train case of makeup, and he’d “put it all over myself,” he said. He’d do his brother’s makeup. “I was attracted to that train case,” he said.

He recalled at the age of four- or five-years old, car rides full of anticipation as his family would drive to visit his cousin Leann’s (or Leah Ann, not sure the spelling!) house. She had one of those Barbie Styling Heads and he loved playing with it!

There was even more anticipation when the Avon lady came calling. Troy said he knew the Avon lady – and he still remembers her name! – would leave the mini lipstick tube samples for his mother and he couldn’t wait for it!

He even remembers sitting on the steps at a church, pretending to make makeup by mixing things together he picked up from the ground.

His passion for fashion really started when he was around 10-years-old, he said, and he opened his first Vogue magazine. It was the issue with Nastassja Kinski and a Burmese snake, a photo taken by Richard Avedon (yep, I had to look up the spellings of all these names, did it on Wikipedia!) “It’s a dream of mine to own that photograph,” Troy said.

After discovering fashion, Troy thought he might want to become a fashion designer, and sketched illustrations.

He drew inspiration in the mid-80s from Boy George and Annie Lenox, and would put makeup on anyone who would let him, he said. His first opportunity in beauty was at the Lancome counter, an opportunity that came about after he did a stunning window display as part of his job in visual merchandising, and a woman who was a mentor for him at the brand wanted to do something for him. He said he wanted to become a makeup artist, and they started him on his career path.

Eventually he moved to New York City, at age 21. Working the counter at the Alcone store, he met Kevyn Aucoin. He went on to work with Kevyn, who became a great friend and mentor, he said. “I feel so lucky to have had that experience,” he said of his time working with Kevyn.

Surratt Beauty

Troy Surratt Surratt Beauty The Makeup Show NYC 2014
Flash forward to now. Troy has taken numerous trips to Tokyo, and is inspired by the Asian beauty products he’s purchased and brought back to use on clients.

Five years ago, he started creating Surratt Beauty, a line born of his passion for Asian beauty and innovation, what he likes, and gaps he felt there are in the current market.

The packaging is inspired by all the textures of makeup – it’s matte, shiny, shimmery and some pieces come in an ultra suede bag.

There are two things he said he considered when creating his cosmetics line: “Would I want to buy this?” and “Is it cool?”

Surratt Beauty powder products are made using a slurry process. Makeup is poured directly into plastic pans, removing the aluminum pan from the equation, and has the consistency of cake batter. Through slurry, the cake-batter/liquid evaporates, and leaves behind a soft, velvety powder.

I picked up the Smoky Eye Baton, one of the innovative products in the line that has a liner on one end and a spring-locked container of coordinating shadow on the other end. Perfect all-in-one smoky eye, Troy and James said. James said it’s very makeup artist-friendly to use, since it’s a two-in one product.

There as so much more to the session. There were tears when Troy referred to the bullying he dealt with in school, and his friendship with Kevyn. There were hugs with James. There was laughter with his stories and he was such a vivid story teller!

I wanted to share this because I find it fascinating to see the journey of someone in the industry who has come so far. I have so much respect for the makeup artist, whether they are doing bridal makeup, editorial, film or celebrity makeup. It’s such a great craft, and I wish I had their talent!

I was fortunate to run into Troy and meet him, and I asked him a couple quick questions, and he was sweet enough to pose with me for a photograph:

Troy Surratt Surratt Beauty The Makeup Show NYC 2014
Isn’t he handsome?

I know this was a bit of a different post, so thanks for reading! XO

What do you think of Troy and his story?!