Celebrity Makeup Artist Alexx Mayo on Inclusivity in the Beauty Industry

Plus, why referrals matter both in the world of weddings and celebs.
alexx mayo cover
AB+DM Studios for The Knot
Esther Lee - Deputy Editor, The Knot
by
Esther Lee
Esther Lee - Deputy Editor, The Knot
Esther Lee
Deputy Editor
  • Esther is the Deputy Editor of The Knot. She currently leads all content on The Knot Wellness, focusing on financial, relationship, and mental wellbeing.
  • She oversees The Knot's travel vertical (honeymoons, destination weddings, bach parties), as well as overarching features and trends.
  • She proudly serves on the Advisory Council of VOW For Girls, focusing on ending the injustice of child marriage around the world.
Updated Jul 25, 2023

Like wedding professionals and vendors, celebrity stylist Maeve Reilly, makeup artist Alexx Mayo and hairstylist to the stars Kim Kimble all know what it takes to pull off a trendsetting and provocative look. Though they work behind the scenes, they're rightfully featured front and center on the cover of The Knot Fall 2023 Issue.

There were two distinct moments when celebrity makeup artist Alexx Mayo knew he was on the right path. Both involved billboards. "The first time was in my home state of New Mexico, on Interstate 40," recalls Mayo. "There's a huge billboard owned by this local jewelry company. I remember seeing that all the time as a kid. It featured beautiful women wearing Southwestern jewelry and it was captivating. Years later, my work was featured on that billboard for the same company. Seeing my mom react to it and driving past something I've seen my whole life was the first time I had an 'I can do this' moment." Little did Mayo (pronounced "mah-yo" over "mayo") know, his work would someday be in the billboard hall of fame: New York City's Times Square. "That's when we really jumped the scale from a billboard in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to New York City. My first time going to the city, I was 22. Every little thing was like the movies. Even getting to New York was a dream come true, because it seems so far away from my world. People where I'm from don't go to New York." He adds, "I made it. I did it."

Since then, Mayo has experienced numerous pinch-me moments and career milestones. He is the principal on Lizzo's glam team and the beauty professional credited behind a few of Tinashe's and former client Mariah Carey's sultriest looks. "I look back and see where I started," says Mayo. "Having this intense imagination, I overcame a lot of hard circumstances to get to where I am now: moving to LA and manifesting this life for myself. I feel very grateful to be where I am and to have done some of the things that I've done. I always talk about this on social media: dreams really can come true, because they have for me."

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At 15, Mayo decided makeup would be his chosen path. "I lived in a trailer with dirt roads. There was no cement, no grass. It's the middle of the desert," he remembers. "I used to spend so much time in my room dreaming of being a part of Hollywood and makeup." He imagined being behind the scenes on MTV's Making the Video or doing makeup for magazine photos. As many of his dreams have come to fruition, "There have been a lot of pinch-me moments."

There is a through-line between the three makers in this story. Those who succeed in showbiz will tell you it starts with a vision, followed by action. "As a teenager, I did a lot of journaling, and then it evolved into visualization and having quiet time with myself." But, he notes, "The difference between a dream and a plan is action. You can dream and want something all day long, but you have to break it down. That's what I did." Mayo has been relentless in the pursuit of his career.

alexx mayo comments on lizzo's look for the 2023 met gala
Getty Images

"I've always been a person who doesn't take no for an answer," he says. "As far as my work goes, I've been told so many different things. A lot of people can be defeated by that. But it really fueled me to hone in on my craft."

The beauty world has become more inclusive since Mayo joined it, with sizeable shifts in consumer demand. "Drugstore makeup is more accessible now in so many shades," he reflects. "I didn't have that when I was younger." He's noticing it among couples too. Mayo is building a world, albeit one focused on beauty and expression, and he works with couples of all backgrounds. The artist himself lives with his partner of six years. As Gen Z enters the world of weddings, personal values and inclusivity are important for couples when hiring a vendor team. Similarly, Mayo's clients reflect his values. "I've been lucky to work with some of my favorite people," he reflects. "I had the pleasure of working with Mariah Carey for about three years, and that was so fun. We just laughed and had such a great time getting ready. I've also worked with Kimora Lee Simmons, who was one of my idols growing up. I've worked with her daughters as well, Ming Lee and Aoki Lee. I worked with Tinashe for about five years on all of her music videos, covers for her albums...I've been really fortunate."

One similarity between the world of weddings and celebs is the power of referrals, says Mayo. "Word of mouth is a huge part of my career. When I first started getting into the industry, I was working at an online magazine," he recalls. "It gave me a chance to work with other professionals and network with photographers and hair and makeup artists. People on a shoot notice how you adapt to the client, whether that is someone who doesn't wear a lot of makeup or who wants to experiment and do something edgy and editorial. A makeup artist can set the tone for the photo shoot and help execute the vision."

So what came about from his shoot with The Knot? Mayo says that on his sets, Beyoncé must be played. "Kim Kimble and I had a moment on the shoot," Mayo says as he breaks into laughter. "I got to show her my moves and I wonder, who did them better?"

Explore more of Alexx's work by picking up the Fall 2023 issue of The Knot Magazine. Subscribe here.

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