Paul Ryan has strong opinions about makeup.
The Speaker of the House sat in makeup artist Jason Kelly's chair Tuesday morning before announcing Donald Trump as his party's presidential nominee at this week's Republican National Convention. Ryan had the beginnings of stubble—but he knew exactly what it'd take to get himself back into baby-faced shape.
"He said his 5 o'clock shadow comes in at 2,'" explains Kelly, owner of Cleveland-based J Kelly Face Art. "He knew he needed the full coverage foundation to cover it up. Some guys like letting the stubble show—but not him." Kelly's team says Ryan also wanted to brighten up his inner-eyes and powder on the top of his ears to hide redness.
Kelly is the official makeup artist for the RNC—a major undertaking involving four days lasting as long as 12 hours. Kelly and his two assistants have bronzed, concealed, and brightened nearly every speaker who has taken the stage. While Kelly loves experimenting with bold lips—he's currently into deep navy blues—and what he calls "Gaga-esque" shadow palettes, making the nation's most prominent conservatives camera-ready calls for a lighter stroke of the brush.
"I can make it look not theatrical, so it looks good on TV and person-to-person," says Kelly, who is also the makeup artist for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Makeup appointments last anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes, Kelly says, depending on each speaker's preference.
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst needed the full-body treatment. She took a spill Monday before going on stage to give her anticipated speech, so Kelly had to cover up the scrapes on her knees with a bit of concealer.
As far as the Trump family, most of them have come to the arena camera-ready. So, the only one Kelly and his team have worked on is Donald Trump, Jr., who Malone says was very chatty and charming. She notes Donald Trump's very tan son required the same dark makeup shade she wears.
If Kelly is called to do the Republican presidential nominee's makeup tonight before his closing speech, though, he's got a plan.
"I'm prepared if it does happen," he says. "I know exactly what he does to himself — the tanning bed, the spray tan, he wears the goggles and you can see the hyper-pigmentation around his eyes. What I'll do is use a slightly deeper color and blend it into his tan so there's not an abrupt contrast. I'm ready for it."
Kelly, a Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter, says he was thrilled to get the call from the RNC—in spite of his political leanings.
"Politics don't need to be discussed and, if they do come up, I can calm it down and just keep it light," he says. "I can steer the conversation more towards one that will end in shaking hands after. You can't let your feelings get involved in something like this or you'll never get hired again. Get in where you fit in and keep it light and do your job."
Kelly and his two assistants have even found themselves charmed by many of the politicians and celebrity speakers backstage.
"Paul Ryan was funny. I was wearing a Batman shirt and there was this running joke where he'd call me Batman," Kelly says. "I got a picture with him after. And the girls fell in love," he says about his assistants, Tamra Malone and Kristian Bailey-Gaines.
Bailey-Gaines worked on Scott Baio, getting a serenade from the actor while she powdered his face. "He started singing that song 'Sister Christian' because that's my name," the 27-year-old says. "It was easy to do his makeup—he has great skin."
Kelly adds, "Oh, she was playing it cool but she was a huge Happy Days fan, she loved Joanie Loves Chachi, so I could tell she was kind of freaking out."
Meanwhile W. Kirk Bell, the director of Regional Satellite and Radio Media, is preparing for any last-minute calls to appear on TV that he might get on day three of the convention. Sporting a pink-and-blue bowtie, navy suit, and GOP-themed elephant-printed socks, Bell explains that he's conscious of that overly made-up look.
"For me, lighter is better with makeup. I'm fortunate enough to be pretty tan already," he says, quickly adding, "It's not a fake tan; I have a place in North Carolina."
Kelly brushes onto Bell a powder with golden undertones to counteract redness, then layers on a bit of bronzer. Around Kelly's neck hangs a miniature fan he uses to cool down and to set false lashes for his female clients, as well as a colorful stack of credentials to get him through the four layers of security at the arena.
He adds a swipe of eye cream to Bell's pursed lips. Bell asks: "Is that going to puff them up or something?"
"Oh yeah," Kelly responds, "it'll give you the Lisa Rinna look."
The men laugh and, as Bell gets up from the makeup chair, he gives Kelly a firm handshake and says, "Thank you, sir."
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