Hector Espinal, Global Makeup Artist of the Fenty Beauty brand, picture done at the Hot/Cold studio in Al Quoz, Dubai. Photo: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News Image Credit:

Fenty Beauty’s global make-up artist Hector Espinal is in Dubai to make history with label boss Rihanna, as part of the brand’s first ever beauty talk.

Espinal and fellow global make-up artist Priscilla Ono will join Rihanna on stage on September 29. The charity event — all proceeds go towards Dubai Cares — will take place at a yet undisclosed location, with most details being kept under wraps.

“It’s the first time that Rihanna will be doing this, and it’s the first time that all three of us are going to be in the same room, creating magic,” Espinal told Gulf News tabloid!.

“Everything else is a major surprise. It’s going to be amazing and definitely historical, not only for the brand, but for us as make-up artists and also for Dubai.”


Rihanna caused a worldwide frenzy when she launched her brand, Fenty Beauty, and 40 shades of foundation for different skin tones last year. The pop star’s products flew off the shelves and stores were scrambling to restock within weeks. Fenty became an overnight beacon for inclusivity in the industry. Meanwhile, Espinal’s social media notifications went berserk.

“We were sold out worldwide. When I [first] got the job, I had 6,000 followers on Instagram. When I started getting [more] followers, it became so much that it burnt the battery on my phone. I was like, ‘What did I just sign up for?’ Everything happened so fast. We literally just shook up the whole entire beauty industry.”

Espinal, a Dominican and New Yorker, has since had time to reflect on Fenty’s impact and popularity through his own family.

“My mom, I always remember her saying, ‘I’m medium beige.’ She’s like, ‘Oh, send me the foundation medium beige, the Fenty one.’ And I’m like, ‘Mom, what the [expletive] is medium beige?’ She’s like, ‘That’s my colour, medium beige.’ It doesn’t work like that anymore. People were being boxed in,” said Espinal.

With Fenty, “it’s not about the number. It’s not about the fact that we have 40 foundations. It’s about having four families: light, medium, tan and deep. And within each family, you have a cool, a warm and a neutral. That’s the point of difference,” he added.

“[Rihanna] is so involved and she’s super into being like, ‘Let’s try this product, and if it doesn’t look good on all 40 models, then we need to change it.’ That’s genius. Because everybody feels included, everybody feels like there’s something for them.”


Prior to his role with Fenty Beauty, Espinal’s illustrious list of clients included Rosario Dawson, Marc Jacob, Kristin Cavallari and Cardi B for Rolling Stone. But when Fenty Beauty came knocking, he still had to beat out thousands of make-up artists to land the job.

To his advantage, he had met Rihanna before. As a Sephora make-up artist for eight years, Espinal had touched up Rih’s make-up at Paris Fashion Week. She later invited him to work on FentyBeauty.com.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, she remembers me. I’m so popular, you can’t tell me nothing, I’m going to be famous. Rihanna knows who I am, do you think Rihanna knows who you are?’” said Espinal, laughing.

But he had no idea what he was getting into. In just four days, they had to cast 5,000 people and match them to Fenty’s 40 foundations. From the 5,000 people, they narrowed it down to 40 models and had less than a week to pull off an extensive campaign.

“It was a six-day shoot, 14 hours each day. We had to do the 40 foundations, all the Killawatts, all the Match Stix, all the Shimmer Sticks, the Gloss Bomb and the red Stunna Lip Paint. In six days,” said Espinal.

Espinal then had to audition for his current role at Fenty. He went up against some of the industry’s best make-up artists.

“It wasn’t supposed to be as big as it turned out to be. Somebody leaked that she was looking for a make-up artist, so it became this huge thing,” said Espinal.

“It was great, because it was so intense. We had to do camera interviews. I would walk into this room and there would be 25 people sitting down in one chair, shooting questions left and right.”

It came down to three finalists: Janet Jackson’s make-up artist Preston Meneses, Priscilla Ono and Espinal.

“I called my mom and told her, ‘Turn off all the candles, I’m not going to win. Get up, stop praying, it’s not going to happen,’” said Espinal.

Then came the biggest shock of all: Rihanna was the model for the final round. It was nerve-wracking. But a sweet and talkative Rih quickly put Espinal at ease. A month later, he landed the dream job alongside Ono.


Espinal finds it hard to pinpoint what a day in his life looks like now; it changes all the time. But how does it feel to have Rihanna as a boss?

“It’s rewarding,” said Espinal. “Two weeks ago, I was in her house, and we were all there, having breakfast. I was texting one of my best friends, like, ‘Oh, I’m at Rih’s house.’”

His friend ribbed him about being on a first syllable basis with Rihanna, then had two words for him: Life goals.

“She’s so sweet and humble and very welcoming. I text her and I’m like, I wanna have a kiki, I wanna have fun… [But] I know she’s still my boss.”

For anyone who wants to follow in Espinal’s footsteps, his advice is simple: don’t give up.

“The only reason I am where I’m at is because I’ve made so many mistakes,” he said. “In this industry, you need to have ten backbones — and they’re all going to get broken. Find your passion, who you want to be, whatever your niche is. Master that, and then master everything around it.”




“Her basic has not changed, thank God, which is the Fenty Face. That’s her signature look — a soft matte base, beautiful foundation, contour highlight, a soft gloss and mascara. From there, she’ll be like, ‘Let’s try an eye, let’s pop a lash, let’s do a lip.’ So, it changes drastically.”


“The skin in the winter tends to get a little more dry, more dull. People are like zombies, because it’s so cold, you don’t have that beautiful summer tan. Definitely your contour is necessary, keep that warmth to the skin. And I think highlighting makes your skin looks fresh and hydrated in the middle of the coldest time of the year.”


“I have to say Instagram brows. Like a boxy, concealed, all-around brow. Let it go. Rih likes to define the tip, but it still looks good, because it goes with her face shape. But imagine my brows on Rih’s face. Just follow your natural shape and embrace it.”


Tickets for Rihanna’s beauty talk with Hector Espinal and Priscilla Ono range from Dh1,000 to Dh7,500.