How a Celebrity Makeup Artist Manages a Hectic Award Show Season

Ash K Holm
Ash K Holm
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If you've ever wondered how Ariana Grande manages her perfect cat eye or how Khloé Kardashian's contour game is always so on point, the answer probably lies in the skill of their shared makeup artist, Ash K Holm. Holm, a Los Angeles-based celebrity makeup artist and Ipsy chief makeup artist, is responsible for glamming some of the most famous people in the world, including stars like Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, and Shay Mitchell, to name a few.

Touching the faces of some of the most well-known celebrities in the game before a big red carpet event or award show isn't just about showing up the day of with a case of makeup in tow — it takes time, dedication, and, most of all, preparation. "My kit is constantly being customized for my clients," Holm tells POPSUGAR. "I have two makeup travel cases that live in a Rimowa travel luggage and include multiple sets of my Spectrum Sculpt brushes."

Before her luggage is even packed, Holm says that for big events, she always checks in about the client's wardrobe and hair as well. "I'll usually go to the stylist first and ask what they are wearing because from there, I can figure out what's going to work best with a gown or look to make it a moment. Then I'll see what the hairstylist is doing because I don't want the hair to overpower the makeup or vice versa, and then I can decide if I need to scale back with certain features on the face."

Ash K Holm

After she and a client settle on a look, when the day of the event actually arrives, Holm starts with her usual morning routine: coffee followed by a daily meditation. "I've been doing this for years, and it allows me to start my day calm and centered," she says. For award shows, she typically arrives on location around 9 a.m. with her assistant. "Every 'glam room' is different. Sometimes I'm in a hotel room, vanity room, or even a studio," Holm says. Once they find out where she'll be doing makeup, her assistant sets up her kit and lights, which takes around 15 minutes.

The number of clients Holm takes on for large events typically revolves around the location where her clients are staying, because the more spread out everyone is, the less time she has to get to everyone. "I can do up to four people if they're staying at the same popular hotel, otherwise I feel most comfortable when I'm doing two to three. If you're driving around trying to get to the next person, anything can happen, and the quality of the work can go down."

Plus, when it comes to big events, all of her clients are typically vying for the same time slot — the window closest to the actual event. "A lot of celebrities want the same timing so they can be as fresh as possible, and it makes it really challenging to do multiple. It is possible, and I do it all the time, but they just have to be OK with getting ready early and then sitting in their makeup," Holm says. Her fix for this is to heavily lean on her assistants. "I have two assistants, and I leave one of them to stay for hours with [one client], and then I take the other assistant with me to the next [client]."

Ash K Holm

No matter the location, the client, or the start time, once everything is set up, Holm always starts with a moisturizing skin-care routine. "I always start glam with skin prep, which allows the skin to fully absorb the products while I work on creating the eye look," she says. Once the eyes are done, if everything is going according to plan, she starts in on the complexion, brows, lashes, and lips.

However, although she does her best to prepare for every possible scenario, there are times when things just don't go as planned. "Even if you've already discussed something with a client, they could go rogue the day of [with a new makeup idea] and completely throw off the whole game plan, so I have to be ready for any and everything." Because of this, Holm says she always has backup looks in her phone ready to go. "I do my own homework and research on someone and their face shape, and I come up with looks and have albums in my phone for each person." That way, Holm says, she's always ready with something. "I think that's what separates me from a lot of celebrity makeup artists; I overprepare. I like to hold myself to a really high standard of professionalism."

"You can't overthink it; you honestly can't think about it at all. You just have to go into 'go' mode and just put the makeup on."

When situations arise where she has to pivot quickly, Holm says she takes it in stride. "You can't overthink it; you honestly can't think about it at all. You just have to go into 'go' mode and just put the makeup on," she says. "Even if that means cutting corners and skipping steps." If she's faced with a time crunch, she's learned a few tricks to help her speed up the process. "When I'm in a pinch, I'll grab the Buxom Cosmetics Power Line Plumping Lip Liner ($21) because it's extremely pigmented and has all-day wear, and it naturally plumps up the lips. I'll fill in the entire lip with that, and I may just put a little gloss on top instead of doing my normal three steps on the lips." In some cases, instead of doing a full layered false lash look, she opts for a quick strip lash instead. She's also come to rely on the Kiss My Lash But Better Collection ($12), which she says she loves for how versatile they are. "My clients love those lashes. I'm able to customize any lash look for any style, and it looks seamless."

No matter the circumstances that arise or the quick changes she has to make, Holm finishes every client the same way. "Before my clients leave for their red carpet, I make sure to give them a touch-up kit to help control shine and make sure their lips are on point."

Although every event is different, Holm loves what she does — even through the mayhem. "Every day for me feels like a fast-paced environment, but I love finding comfort in the chaos."