Location: Queens, NY
Marital Status: Divorced
Education: Berger Institute of Production Technology
FOF Jennifer Snowdon knows a thing or two about makeovers. When she was 40, she and her husband divorced. She had to quickly find a career to support herself and her children. At the time, she was working as a salon receptionist but had passion and talent for art. “A few things kind of came together that led me to realize I could reinvent myself as a makeup artist.”
Her mentor, her brother, her boss and clients at the salon all chipped in to fund her training at a top-notch makeup school in to Florida.
“There were times when it was really hard but I started out on this career journey because this was my talent. I knew I had to make it work.”
And after fifteen years, she did. Today, Jennifer has a résumé full of A-list celebs such as Ellen Burstyn, Amy Poehler and Melissa Leo, that she’s prepped for the big screen. Her “makeup mentor,” Kerrie Plant-Price, worked on the Sex and the City cast. Jennifer predicts a recent project, a movie called Gun Hill Road, will be among next year’s Oscar nominees.
Where are you from?
What brought you to New York?
I wanted to live here since I was 16. When my husband got a job at Steinway Hall they moved our family here. Finally, I had my dream!
Do you have children?
I have two sons—31 and 30. One lives in New York City and works at the restaurant, Minetta Tavern. My other son is a country boy. He lives in Connecticut and is training to be a butcher.
Is your family artistic?
My grandmother was an oil painter. When I was a little girl we had a cottage on a pond south of Montreal. For ten summers, my grandmother and I would go out on the lake in a rowboat, I’d row and she’d paint. I joke that I had 10 years of floating color theory.
Were you always artistic?
I started sewing when I was 8 years old. I designed a structured jacket for my boyfriend at age 20. I didn’t think about going to school for art though. It’s one of those things that was too close to my face to see.
How did you finally end up at art school then?
I decided to take an art class at 21. I walked in and there was a live nude model. I thought, ‘I’m not prepared, I’m not good enough to do this.’ The teacher got up and read from a book called the Zen of Seeing: ‘It doesn’t matter what happens on paper, you’re here because you are learning to see.’ I just let everything go and could not believe what I drew. The next year I enrolled in art school.
How did you transition from art school to makeup?
After art school, I realized I didn’t want to just make up things in my head and put them on paper. I wanted to solve problems with art. I got married, had kids and had all these little side businesses I could do from home. After my husband left me when I was 40, I needed to work full-time to support my family. I was working as a salon receptionist at the time and that gave me exposure to this idea of a makeup artist as a career.
What was your first big career break?
I studied with a spiritual teacher, Dr. Kenneth Mills from age 21. He was a Renaissance man—a lecturer, poet, painter, clothing designer and had a touring choir, “The Starscape Singers.” They were coming to the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York and I agreed to help out backstage. He said, ‘Jennifer you’re doing our makeup,’ and I just burst out laughing. I didn’t have makeup with me and I hardly wore makeup myself.
Did you do it?
Yes. I did the makeup for all the men in the choir. I guess I did okay because the next day I got a phone call that Dr. Mills was going to be interviewed by ABC anchorman, Rolland Smith and they wanted me to do their makeup. It turns out the interview was filmed on one of the first high-definition cameras. This was in 1994. I loved it.
Were you formally trained as a makeup artist?
I found a makeup school in Florida called The Berger Institute of Production Technology, which had a great reputation. Dr. Mills, my boss and all the customers from the salon helped pay my tuition. My mother babysat my children and my brother was in advertising so he bartered my airfare. I’m so lucky!
How did you get connected with the celebs and major movie productions you’ve worked on?
I’d meet great people, they’d enjoy working with me and introduce me to other great people. It was all networking and word of mouth.
What project (past or present) are you most excited about?
Last summer, I was the lead makeup artist on Gun Hill Road, a movie about a Latino family from the Bronx. It was very well received at the Sundance Film Festival. It won’t be out until the summer but my prediction is it’s going to win an Oscar.
How do you like your new gig as a beauty guru on FabOverFifty?
I love it. I meet a lot of women who haven’t worn makeup most of their life and now they want to enhance themselves but don’t know how to do it. I like answering their questions and sharing what I’ve learned… I learn in the process.
What is your philosophy on beauty?
Beauty is an outward expression of your inner intention.
What products do you use professionally?
I love the line of high-definition makeup by Make Up For Ever. Everything in the line has round molecules in it since square molecules show up on camera. I use it for movies, weddings or any situation where the person is being photographed.
What products do you use on yourself?
I use high-definition foundation by Make Up For Ever, and the Color, Glimmer and Glow Boom! sticks by Cindy Joseph. I use a little smudgy black eyeliner and Blinc mascara by Kiss Me. The mascara washes off with a little tepid water and I never get makeup meltdown.
What’s your skincare routine?
I use a line called Alchimie Forever. I also do a little microdermabrasion at American Laser. It leaves a glowing complexion.
How would you describe your style?
Very edgy and artsy. I like vintage clothes and one-of-a-kind accessories.
Where do you shop?
Agabhumi in Stamford, Connecticut. They have the coolest, most unique accessories. For vintage, I like Angel Street and the Housing Works thrift store in New York City.
Do you have any advice for women over 50?
‘Make it up true.’ By that I mean find your uniqueness and don’t be afraid to express it.