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Interview With Carl Ray, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Personal Makeup Artist


Interview With Carl Ray, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Personal Makeup Artist


This past week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Washington, DC based celebrity makeup artist, Carl Ray who has been the resident makeup artist for George Salon at the Four Seasons Hotel for 16 years. Carl grew up a “Navy brat” living in such places as Naples, Italy, Robot, Morocco and Puerto Rico.The beautiful and diverse landscape, art, architecture and culture found in these regions deeply influenced him. He grew up with a passion for art and has worked with all types of media including acrylic, oils, watercolors, ink, pastels, silk screen, clay and even stone sculpture. Carl is self-taught. His first “client” was his mother whose makeup he began doing in his early teens. Makeup became his favorite media with which to work. He loves all aspects of makeup — color, texture, highlighting, shading, blending.

Carl is renowned for his work, and he has had the privilege of working with an impressive list of clients including actors, models, musicians and politicians including:  First Lady Michelle Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Natalie Portman, Claire Danes, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Elena Kagen, Sir Paul McCartney, Reem Acra, Stella McCartney, Anna Nicole Smith, Alanis Morrisette, Christina Millian, Melinda Gates, Mira Sorvino, Paula Abdul, Roseanne Arquette, Gabrielle Union, Katherine Heigl, Kerri Washington, Debra Messing, Keisha Wittiker, Natalie Portman,Julia Child, Vera Wang, Donna Karan, Paula Zahn, Ethel & Joan Kennedy, Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, Queen Noor, Princess Hussein, Stevie Wonder, Mikhail Gorbachev,  Kevin Kline, President Bill Clinton,and more.


The biggest honor of his career has been being First Lady Michelle Obama‘s personal makeup artist, responsible for all FLOTUS’ official appearances for the past four years. He recently did Mrs. Obama’s makeup for all the inaugural events including swearing in, parade and inaugural balls. He says that it has been the experience of his life and also humbling to be a part small but beautiful part of history.

Carl’s work has graced the covers and been seen in issues of: Vogue, Elle, Allure, Glamour, LHJ, More, WSJ, Ebony, Essence, Town & Country, Washingtonian, Bride & Groom, Engaged, Brides magazines. He’s also done makeup for Donna Karan, Escada, Gucci, Carolina Herrera, and Dolce & Gabanna fashion shows, as well as Vera Wang Bridal, Reem Acra Bridal, Oscar De La Renta Bridal, Monique Lhuiller, Rivini and Marchesa Bridal fashion shows.

Carl’s Favorite Spring/Summer 2013 Makeup Trends:

  • Fresh Clean Skin
  • Bold Eyeliner and Full Lashes (which he always loves)
  • Brighter Hues including a variety of blue eyeshadows
  • Perfect Nude Lips


LA vs. NYC vs. DC Makeup:

  • LA = Natural, Breezy, Beachy, Commercial
  • NYC = Bold, Sleek, Chic, Editorial
  • DC = Finished, Conservative and most improved!


Carl’s Daily Beauty Tips:

  • Cleanse and use a moisturizer with SPF built in or apply a separate SPF
  • Use a concealer for spot treatment
  • Curl lashes and apply mascara for an eye opening look.
  • Apply a bronzer to help skin to glow and look healthy.
  • Sheer lip color
  • Drink plenty of water and exercise


carl ray makeup artist dc

Claire Danes in Washington, DC for Capitol File magazine party. Makeup by Carl Ray.





Carl’s Red Carpet Makeup Tips:

  • Metallic eyeshadows
  • Fake eyelashes – individual or strip
  • Contour face and cheeks with a matte bronzer
  • Add a blush in creme or powder for a little pop
  • Use shimmer to highlight cheekbones, shoulders and décolletage
carl ray makeup artist dc

Example of Carl Ray’s bridal beauty work.

Carl’s Bridal Makeup Tips:

  • Play up one feature
  • If you play the eyes up / smokey (not too smokey), eyeliner and waterproof mascara and keep lips soft with sheer hues
  • If you play the eyes down, add a pop of color on cheeks and lips
  • Wear a face primer to keep makeup fresh and in place all day
  • Keep your makeup application between a day and a night face
  • Blotting papers are perfect for brides to get rid of  unwanted shine throughout the day without getting cakey.


carl ray makeup artist dc

Kerry Washington’s makeup for Capitol File magazine cover by Carl Ray.


Carl’s Favorite New 2013 Products: Carl is excited to introduce his new studio makeup line this Summer! Stay tuned!

carl ray makeup artist dc

Ann Hand magazine advertisement featuring Carl Ray’s work on Ashley Taylor Bronczek.

Charity closest to Carl’s heart / Philanthropic work/passion: Carl’s love for his two cats – a red and white long hair exotic named “Peanut” and a black short hair exotic named “Roman” – influenced his desire to support the Washington Humane Society’s Fashion for Paws event for the past six years. He has also contributed his event makeup services to Knock Out Abuse for the past eight years, as well as Walk This Way fashion show benefit for Becky’s Fund which fights domestic violence. Carl’s mother is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer, which has brought a personal connection to his fight against breast cancer through Men Against Breast Cancer.

For more information, please visit carlraymakeupartist.com.


In 2008, I launched AskMissA.com which grew from my personal blog into a site with 700 writers, covering the intersection of charity & lifestyle in 20 U.S. cities. With Charity + Life, I am going back to a personal blog where I can share my favorite things, and continue to shine a light on nonprofits, and cause marketing campaigns to inspire others to give as they live.

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