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By: Grace Gavilanes

If you’re into makeup and beauty, you most definitely have heard of Angel Merino aka @mac_daddyy. The former MAC employee is now a sought-after celebrity makeup artist with an Instagram that boasts 1M+ followers and a YouTube channel that’s 159K-followers strong. Before Merino made a splash in the beauty industry, however – even launching his own makeup line, Artist Couture, in recent years – the Latinx makeup guru found his first passion in dance, which he still practices to this day.

Merino, who's a big fan of Vital Proteins Collagen Water because “it’s easy, effective and makes my life better,” will lead a FREE Saturday morning dance class at The Grove in Los Angeles (RSVP HERE). But before he does, the beauty influencer took time out of his busy schedule to chat with Lively about his career, how he cares for his skin and his advice for aspiring business owners. 

Keep reading for the exclusive interview.

Interview with Angel Merino aka Mac Daddyy

angel merino

Lively: I read somewhere that Christina Milian was the catalyst behind your success. Can you share a little more about that?

Angel Merino: It was the first Beautycon ever and they had this VIP event the night before Beautycon was supposed to happen and it took place at the YouTube space. They had a panel that was about chasing your dream job. Christina [Milian] was on the panel and after the panel was done, we were doing press photos and I just so happened to be the next person behind her to do press photos. And then she turns to me and says, “You’re so pretty” and I said, “Oh my God, you’re so pretty!” We had this little conversation literally as people were taking photos of us. And then she was like, “What’s your Instagram?” and I gave her my Instagram and literally two days later, I had an email from her assistant asking if I was available to do her makeup for HGTV. It was my first production job, my first time ever working on a set like that with a celebrity. That really is what set it off. 

L: And you’ve been working with celebrities since then.

AM: Yeah, I worked with Christina very closely in the beginning of my career a lot. She was one of my girls that I would do consistently for different things. Through posting her work and her posting my work and tagging me, there were other celebrities – she connected me with Mel B from the Spice Girls; I was doing a lot of stuff with her and America’s Got Talent. It was definitely that one thing that set it off. It gave that stamp of approval or credibility if you know what I mean. 

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L: From personal experience, being a first-generation American myself, it's hard to meet parents’ expectations of what success looks like. How did your parents deal with you wanting to pursue a career in makeup?

AM: I basically grew up with my mom. My parents divorced when I was really young, so my mom pretty much raised me. She has always been supportive; she’s always been my biggest cheerleader. Anything that I wanted to do – whether it was karate or tee ball or taking a dance class – she was always down for it. I always excelled in school. My high school years, though, were a little rough because I was really involved in a lot of extracurricular activities. So, I was in yearbook, choir, cheer, I did dance – I did all of these different things and really exercised my creative assets. I was just like, “I don’t know. I just don’t know if school is for me.” I obviously went to college because [my mom] wanted me to but I just felt like it was a waste of time for me at that time because I was paying all of this money to be there and I wasn’t really there. I was physically there but my mind was doing a trillion other creative things. I finally was like, “I don’t know what I’m going to do but I know that this isn’t for me.” I dropped out and she freaked out and she was really mad at me. I told her, “Look, you just have to trust me. It’s going to work out, it’s going to work out.” And now that she sees how big it’s become and the brands that I work with, like Vital Proteins, she feels very proud and I think she’s at a place right now where she understands that I took a chance on myself and I believed in myself because that’s what she always inspired me to do. And it ended up paying off.

L: Parents ultimately just want to see their kids happy. In terms of your makeup line, when did you decide in your career that that was the next big step?

AM: So, I left my regular 9-5 – I was working at MAC at the time – and I left there in 2013 because I was starting to get a lot more work because of social media. I worked on the red carpets, with celebrities, and that started to take over and I decided I really wanted to dive into this. While I was really submerged in that space and really actively working, I was finding that I really needed to mix a ton of different things to create the look or the impact that I wanted when it came to products. Finally, I decided I needed to maximize the fact that I have this platform. There are people that look to me for advice when it comes to makeup. Just being able to review things and talk about things. I just needed to make something.

And I literally sat on my computer one day just Googling everything I could about makeup companies and makeup labs. I literally picked up the phone and started calling all these different labs and asked a trillion questions. I probably annoyed everyone. That’s kind of how it started and that’s really how I started to create and be creative. I was able to create things that I felt were missing in my kit. And I felt if this is missing in my kit as a makeup artist, I’m sure there are a ton of other makeup artists that feel that way. Specifically, with my following, they’ve all kind of seen me from the beginning when my makeup brand wasn’t anything to the growth and the process and the evolution – we’re sold in Sephora now. It still trips me out a little when people come up to me and are like, “Oh my God, Illuminati is my favorite highlighter, or your lip gloss is my favorite.” It just makes me think, wow, you really do connect with people and can make a difference in people’s lives. It’s been the most rewarding thing. 

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L: Do you have a dream celebrity you want to work with?

AM:I have two but my first one is Jennifer Lopez because I love her. She’s literally my goals and aspirations of everything I ever wished, in some capacity, that I could do. My second one is Ariana Grande only because I actually already did her one time – she was looking for a makeup artist to work full-time with her and go on tour with her. They ended up going with somebody else … I want to do her again because I feel like when I did her back then compared to what I know now, it would just be amazing. 

L: Is there a makeup product or tool that’s under-appreciated?

AM: I feel like skincare is really under-appreciated, especially when it comes to makeup. It makes such a difference in how makeup is going to look and how it’s going to wear. I think all of my products are very under-appreciated as well. Everyone needs to be using my highlighter and everyone needs to be using my blush. Just saying.

angel merino instagram

L: How do you wash your face and take care of your skin?

AM: I never stay loyal to one brand. I definitely have my staples that I always go back to, but I mean, as an influencer, I get so much product that I challenge myself to try new things. With skincare, it’s a little bit harder because you have to consistently use a product for a longer period of time to really see results. Makeup is more of an instant gratification. I keep multiples cleansers in my shower. I started to use a new Murad cleanser. Before that one, I used a Lancome foaming face wash. I have different exfoliants that I keep in my shower, so I’m definitely always cleansing and always exfoliating on a daily basis. That’s the key to success.

I’m always about serums. I literally have a trillion in my drawer. There are some that I travel with. I started using, and I’m halfway through the bottle, it’s this Dior serum that’s called Youth Plump filler and it has the most beautiful texture. It makes my skin feel so hydrated and so plump. I love it so much. Dr. Peter Thomas Roth has an amazing vitamin C serum that I love. I love Glow Recipe products. I try to mask a few times during the week, whether that’s an overnight mask or a sheet mask. I am definitely always cleansing, always using serums and always moisturizing after that. Definitely always need an eye cream. I, myself, have just turned 29 and she’s really quickly approaching the 30 mark. Now more than ever, I’m like, “Okay! I need all the eye cream I can get.”

L: Do you have any advice for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps, not just in terms of makeup skills but business savvy?

AM: There are going to be a lot of times where it’s really going to suck and a lot of times where you’re going to doubt yourself and a lot of times where you’re just going to be shook at the things you’re doing. But you just have to stay passionate. You have to remember why you started it. I would just encourage people to find what makes you different. Find what’s going to make you stand out amongst the rest because the reality of it is this is a really saturated community, so it’s about finding what’s the thing that makes you unique and special. Everyone has it and everyone is different. It’s about bringing that forward and really being an authentic person when it comes to who you are and what you stand for. I think that really goes a long way.

 Photos: @mac_daddyy/Instagram