Mario Dedivanovic: From "Humble Beginnings" to Kim Kardashian's Makeup Artist

Bonnie Mills | Courtesy of Mario Dedivanovic / Getty Images
Bonnie Mills | Courtesy of Mario Dedivanovic / Getty Images
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Welcome to Big Break, where some of the most influential figures in the beauty industry reflect on the moments that made them — from the good to the bad and everything in between. Here, celebrity makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic shares how he got his start in the beauty industry and became the go-to makeup artist for Kim Kardashian before launching his own namesake brand, Makeup by Mario.

Mario Dedivanovic is known as the man behind Kim Kardashian's signature look and has been her key makeup artist for more than a decade. Before he secured himself as a staple on the star's glam team, though, he had what he describes as a very sheltered childhood.

Born in the Bronx, New York, to Albanian immigrant parents, Dedivanovic grew up in a basement apartment in a building his father was the superintendent of. "We had super-humble beginnings," Dedivanovic tells POPSUGAR. "There wasn't really much beauty around where I lived, and I was always attracted to and sought beautiful things."

He would often ask his father to drive him around Westchester just so he could look at the spectacular homes and immaculate landscaping. His mom worked as a housekeeper in Manhattan and a cleaner for L'Oréal's office, and when he wasn't in school, one of his favorite activities was to tag along to peek at the apartments she visited.

As an employee at L'Oréal, his mom often brought home products from Maybelline New York and Lancôme, which enticed Dedivanovic. "I remember hiding in the bathroom, closing the door, and opening the medicine cabinet, and there was this little L'Oréal eyeshadow duo with a clear top," he says. "I remember opening it because I was so intrigued — I wanted to touch it and feel it." Still, he never did for fear of being caught.

Bonnie Mills | Courtesy of Mario Dedivanovic / Getty Images

He continued to admire makeup from afar until the day he stumbled into Sephora when he was 17. "I walked in not knowing what it was; I remember going through their revolving doors and I was overwhelmed," he says. "I was like, 'Oh, my god. This is where I want to work.'" Then his mom quickly whisked him out of there.

Soon after, he went to the library to apply for a job at the retailer, but having previously only worked as a busboy, at the grocery store, and at the Bronx Zoo, he didn't hear anything back. It took months of cold-calling any executive that he could find a number for to get hired as a fragrance consultant at a Sephora branch opening up in Flatiron.

"They just put me at the door, and we had those really fancy black suits and a black glove on one hand," Dedivanovic says. "And I would just say, 'Welcome to Sephora,' 'Welcome to Sephora,' every two seconds, every time someone walked in."

Then, one day, a woman shopping for a new lipstick asked his opinion on what shade to buy. "I just remember, for a moment, thinking, 'Well, I'm not allowed to do this. I should ask someone else to do it,' but then I just went," he says. She tried it on and immediately loved it.

"That essentially launched my career in makeup," Dedivanovic says. "It was the first time I actually felt confident about something that I wanted to do in life. At that moment, I had found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life."

Having been raised to believe that there's no place for men in makeup, Dedivanovic was scared to pursue it fully, let alone tell his family. That's when he hatched the plan to become a brand founder like many super-successful professional makeup artists before him. He felt that if he became a makeup artist and a businessman, his family would understand his career choice. "I thought that would maybe make my mom proud, or maybe make it OK that I was a makeup artist," he says.

Bonnie Mills | Courtesy of Mario Dedivanovic / Getty Images

In those early years, he would go to the library every day in search of freelance makeup-artist gigs around the city. Eventually, he became a regional makeup artist for Lorac Cosmetics, which allowed him to meet people in the fashion industry. "I would do these test shoots with photographers to build my book," Dedivanovic says. "Then, I eventually scored my first agent when I was 21."

Things started to pick up until he realized that the fashion industry wasn't for him. Instead, he went back to freelancing and eventually found himself working backstage for Miss USA and Miss Universe.

Dedivanovic was still hiding his career from his family, pretending he was working in fragrance. They didn't find out until they found the shoebox he had in his room where he was building a makeup kit. "Long story short, I took the box, and I ran away from home."

Workwise, things snowballed from there. Around 2006, he got his first two celebrity clients: Gina Gershon and Natasha Bedingfield. "I loved it," Dedivanovic says. "I just knew that was what I wanted to do because I loved the glamour of it."

Then, in 2008 came the opportunity to work with Kim Kardashian. Their first meeting almost didn't happen.

Courtesy of Mario Dedivanovic

His photographer friend called him last-minute and asked him to do her makeup for the cover of Social Life Magazine, a Hamptons-based publication. But Dedivanovic had a prior engagement already booked, so he declined. "I didn't know really who she was."

It wasn't until his friend begged him that he decided to try to make it to both jobs, starting with the Kardashian gig. "I just remember seeing her with no makeup on, and thinking, 'Oh, my god, she's the most beautiful woman I've ever seen,'" Dedivanovic says. "Her face, from day one, just inspired me like no other. I feel like it was meant for my hands."

While Dedivanovic was doing her makeup, Kardashian pulled out a camera and started taking selfies, explaining it was for her blog. After the shoot, she loved her look so much that she asked him to take her shopping so she could bring the products back to her makeup artist in Los Angeles. "I was freaking out, because I'm like, 'Sh*t, I'm already late to the job, and I'm going to really be late now.' But I couldn't say no to her," he says. "That was the beginning of our relationship."

Thereafter, every time Kardashian was in New York, she'd request Dedivanovic to do her makeup. It didn't take long for her to start flying him out to LA to work on "Keeping Up With the Kardashians."

Getty | Stefanie Keenan

"I did a lot of manifesting and writing down things in books. And strangely enough, a lot of it happened."

At this point in his career, despite becoming Kardashian's go-to makeup artist, Dedivanovic was still very much behind the scenes. That didn't change until she asked him to film a tutorial with her for YouTube. Shortly after it went live, Dedivanovic was exiting the subway and his phone started to blow up with notifications from her followers. "That video, to me, was such a pivotal point in my career," he says. "It was the very beginning of the Kim K [and] Makeup by Mario situation."

The rest is history.

"I did a lot of manifesting and writing down things in books," Dedivanovic says. "And strangely enough, a lot of it happened." Including his dream to create his own makeup brand, Makeup by Mario.

Although Dedivanovic started to get serious about launching Makeup by Mario in 2017, it had really been in the works for about 20 years. He always knew that was the end goal, he just didn't know when he'd be ready. "I wanted to build a name for myself before I did this, because, I think for my own insecurity, I wanted to feel worthy."

Courtesy of Mario Dedivanovic

Toward the end of 2019, he met Alicia Valencia, the brand's global president and an industry veteran, and together they created the first product, Master Metallics, and pitched the line to Sephora.

"We were planning on going really small — just a couple of products and launching in a few stores," Dedivanovic says. "But after the presentation, Sephora was like, 'No, no. We want a gondola, and we want you in every store.'" His first reaction was to panic and think to himself, "How the heck are we going to do this?" but they made it happen. Shortly after, in 2020, Makeup by Mario launched in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. "It's such a blessing."

Despite crossing his biggest goal off his bucket list, Dedivanovic feels like he's just getting started. "Having the brand, I feel like I almost started my career over again," he says. "I have so many more dreams. I'm constantly manifesting."