This week I'm super excited to feature Molly Stern, mother of three and makeup artist to pretty much every Hollywood someone (literally, everyone). I first met Molly several years ago, through her husband David, who, for several years shared a table with me at our local coffee shop. David happens to be a writer, director and I've featured both him (and Molly!) here before. When I first met Molly I was struck by her incredible energy - warm, wonderful, the epitome of beauty, nurturing and strength. She's a sparkle, this one, and both her husband and her children carry within them the same kind of wonderful. It is a pleasure knowing them, knowing her.
GGC: Molly, hello! I love you! Lets talk makeup and motherhood, shall we?
Molly Stern: Hello, I love you right back. Yes please, let's discuss.
GGC: How long have you been in makeup? Mind telling us how and why you got started?
GGC: How long have you been in makeup? Mind telling us how and why you got started?
Molly: I started when I was a young pup at the age of 16. (I turn 40 next year.) It was a total fluke. I was walking around in the Century City mall in Los Angeles (where I'm from) with my boyfriend and wandered into a beautiful Japanese makeup boutique, Shu Uemura (not there anymore, boo!) in search of a perfect lipstick that matched my dress. I made friends with the girls there and eventually they hired and trained me. I fell in love with women's faces. Painting them and learning how to bring out what is inherently beautiful about them.
GGC: How long have you been in motherhood? Mind telling us a little bit about how and why you got started?
Molly: My oldest daughter was born on my Mother's birthday in 2005. I always wanted to be a mother. I love my Mother. She is a strong and inspiring woman. I was uber serious my whole life about wanting a family, and wouldn't date anyone really that wasn't a serious contender. I was always looking for my love, even in third grade. I would ask, "could this be my husband?" Then I met him, David, (my Mother fixed us up...) a week before my 30th birthday and we began trying to have a baby on our wedding night.
GGC: As a working mother of three children how do you manage your family time?
Molly: It's challenging on a daily basis for sure. I try to really be present and focus on the children when I am seizing family time, which is so hard as at times it feels like my i-phone is glued to my hand. We make an effort to always have family dinner, schedules permitting as David is also a freelance artist. But the saving grace is that we observe the Jewish Sabbath, (and the Black Sabbath of course), every week which is supreme, dedicated family time. We shut it down from Friday night sundown to Saturday night sundown every week. No phones, or tv. Just family meals and rest and games and walks. It's incredibly therapeutic and bonding. Love the day of rest.
GGC: I love that you were the sole punk-rock chick in an Orthodox Jewish school (more on that story, here). How did your formative years shape the woman you've become? The mother you've become?
Molly: My parents allowed me so much freedom to express myself when growing up which I think is a huge reason that I have been able to find success in careers that requires honest self expression. I hope to cultivate that same faith and trust in my relationship with my own children. I truly believe that one can do whatever they want with belief and support from others. I strive to develop and stimulate individuality in myself and my kids on a daily basis.
GGC: You work with some of the most beautiful women in the world, women that 99.99999% of us envy, try to emulate, even worship. What are some myths about celebrity and how, if at all, has it influenced, affected and/or enlightened you?
Molly: I haven't met one woman yet in my path, even the ones that are viewed as perfect by most, who doesn't struggle with the whole, not feeling good on the inside equals not feeling good on the outside. If one doesn't cultivate what makes them feel beautiful on the inside, it doesn't matter what our shells look like, we don't like what we see. Women are very hard on themselves. All women. It's painful to realize that we all share a very warped perception of ourselves. Even the women we admire. I have often said that the reason I am successful as a makeup artist is because of how I make the women I work with feel more than how I make them look. The thing to remember about celebrities is that it is a part of their job to look the way they do. They exercise more than most women do (sometime 2-3 hours a day), they get facials on a regular basis, many of them have their food delivered to them and it's not three big huge glorious meals. It takes extreme dedication and diligence on the part of the actress to maintain the body and face that they have. They sit in hair and makeup for 2-3 hours before we see them all dolled up. A lot goes into how they look. An average women does not have the time to dedicate to their looks the way an actress does, and the average woman shouldn't feel compelled to, it's not part of their job. What is admirable about these "beautiful" woman, is there dedication to being great at their job. That is what is empowering about them, not how glamourous they look.
GGC: How has motherhood influenced you as a makeup artist, specifically, as a mother of daughters?
Molly: I am extremely inspired to raise healthy daughters of body, mind and spirit. I also feel a great sense of responsibility for contributing to a very narrow side of what is considered beautiful. Women have to look beyond the concept that beauty is only skin deep. Our society has become obsessed with beauty and youth. I work hard to empower my clients to remember that aging is a privilege and the natural course of events, we are stronger and more dynamic with the life we have led at 40 than we were at 20 and there is immense beauty in that. I try to motivate my children to understand that there are ways to care for our skin and bodies on a consistent basis that will keep us feeling great, healthy and ultimately beautiful. Lastly I instill in my girls that their beauty comes from a heart filled with love, and that is what makes the outside look so good.
GGC: You've been responsible for some of the most glam and gorgeous red carpet faces. What are some of your favorite red carpet looks?
Molly: It's so hard to choose. I love getting a gal ready for the red carpet. It's always an exciting collaboration. I love the clothes, the jewelry, the hair. I've made a career of helping people play dress up. I am lucky that my clients are woman that like what I do, trust my sensibility and my eye that I will bring out something beautiful and sometimes fun in them. I loved Reese's makeup at her Monsters vs Aliens premier:
She wore an adorably slamming Rodarte dress. Super short and kind of fembotish. I kept her makeup very cool in tones and almost see through. I also loved Maggie at the Oscars when she wore Dries Von Noten and I gave her a bright neon cotton candy lip:
...But like I said, it's always exciting to work for the red carpet.
GGC: How has working in the "beauty" industry altered your perception of beauty?
Molly: That is such a hard question. I have always had an affinity for beautiful things, and that said, there is no firm definition of what constitutes beautiful. Working in the beauty industry is a mixed bag of emotions for me. There were times in my career when I would cry with guilt that I all I was doing in my life was making prettier people look prettier. Sometimes the vapid realities of this job hit me hard. Those emotions would then evolve into feeling very empowered when I realize that even "pretty women" suffer from not feeling good about how they look and that I am a voice of encouragement and love for them. One of my mantras as a makeup artist is: look for what you like in your face (and life) and focus on that. Enhance the features that bring you joy and spend less time trying to cover up or change what you don't like. With that shift, you will be shocked at the positive attention you get. People notice what you focus on, so keep the focus on where your confidence lies and dismiss your insecurities.
GGC: Beyond makeup you're also a painter and at one point, designed Haute couture as well as ready-to-wear for retailers including Barneys. How do your other creative outlets influence each other?
Molly: I feel very blessed to be able to tap into my creative self on a regular basis. I love this quote by the craft queen Anna Maria Horner: "I refuse to accept the notion that I should stick to one medium as a means of success, so I move from one discipline to another as a way of freeing up my process from becoming too rigid." The more artistry I put into one area, the better my work is in another.
GGC: There is a lot of dissent in the female community when it comes to measuring one's "success". What, in your opinion, makes a woman "successful"?
Molly: My mother always says that the definition of a "feminist" is that she gets to choose who she wants to be with no apologies. To me a woman is successful when she is fulfilling her personal goals, family, career, art, health, spiritual growth, all of the above, none of the above, lovingly without allowing anything to get in her way.
GGC: I love that so much. There's a Francis Ford Coppola quote I recently heard (and I'm probably totally botching it, but here goes...) about how it wasn't until he became a father that he became truly ambitious. Because, he HAD to be, he had kids to support! One cannot put off work when there are dependents to clothe, feed and nurture. And yet, it seems to be assumed by the majority that having children will make one less career minded...
Molly: The quote is great, as my ambition's purpose also changed with becoming a mother. I feel the need to succeed in my career for the example of what a human, in my case a woman, can accomplish if you work hard. My ambition now includes the necessity to provide for my family as well as the desire to raise my kids believing one must and can follow his/her dreams.
GGC: What/who inspires you as an artist?
Molly: On a good day? Everything... my son's expression when learning a new word, the sky, the buildings, the loving kiss my husband offers me. When I have to search for it? Painters, Egon Schiele, John Currin, Annie Kevans, Banksy. I love Anais Nin, her strength and power and poetry make me feel like I am important, even in my own little world... Anyone doing their work is inspiring to me. It wakes me up to see someone else's work. It encourages me have to make something, read something, feel something. I rely on other's creativity a lot.
GGC: What/who inspires you as a mother?
Molly: My husband. He is a born hero in the parenting department. He is patient beyond belief, he is inventive, and fun. He reminds me to lighten up, to laugh, to remember these children are ours to love and teach.
...Also my friend Stacy Gould, she has 5 kids, 4 of which are boys. She also has tremendous patience. I guess practicing patience and inventiveness awakens me. It takes a lot of both to be an inspired parent.
GGC: What's a typical day in the life of Molly Stern?
Molly: It starts with my 5 year old son whispering "mamma, mamma, mamma, mamma," over and over and over again until it seeps into my subconscience and wakes me up. For some reason he is always famished when he wakes up. Always. On my better days, I get up and exercise. I love to dance or practice yoga. When I begin my day connecting to my body I feel more productive and confident. Then it's morning duties, breakfast, getting the baby her Cheerios, finishing lunches and getting them off to school. On days when I work I could be off to any variety of jobs. I could head to someone's house to get them ready for an event which only takes a couple of hours or land in a studio for a photo shoot that lasts 10 hours. Depending on my schedule, I reconnect with the kids, sometimes not until dinner which is usually around 5:30pm. Then we diligently do bath and bed, reading bedtime stories by 7pm. This way we have the rest of our evening to hang out, read Girl's Gone Child, watch Master Chef, whatever we adults need to do in order to feel like well rounded humans, not just parents. Try to be in bed by 11p but on some nights it's 12 or 1am. If I'm not working, I try to do something creative, some sort of art project. Somedays I hit Target, the 3-4 grocery stores it takes to stock the kitchen etc... I am very blessed to have different days in a week. Very little monotony with a freelance career, and three kids. Every day is a new adventure.
Molly and her mother present: Kale salad!
GGC: What are some beauty must-haves for summer?
Molly: Sunblock sunblock sunblock. JOSIE MARAN Argan infused 40 SPF is my choice this summer. It feels great on the skin and really protects. I also love a bright lip in the summer. Something with some pop. Hot Orange, electric Pink, these colors look great with a sunkissed face and body. I think a fun waterproof eyeliner is a great summer beauty accessory as well. Pop a color you might not usually wear on the outer corners of the eye for something playful. NARS and COVERGIRL do them great, in fantastic color ranges. Keep your skin fresh and play up the eyes or lips.
GGC: Lets talk all-around bests. Lipstick? Mascara? Shadows?
Molly: My favorite lipstick of all time is a tinted lip balm by COVERGIRL called Lipslicks in Daring. It's the perfect shade for EVERYONE and feels great on the lips. My favorite mascara right now, is JOSIE MARAN Argan Mascara. I love both the black and brown. It's got a great brush and great staying power. As far as eyeshadow my personal fav is a NARS eyeshadow in the color Blondie. It's a perfect taupe. I use it for everything, a smudge on the lid, contour in the crease, I have even used it as blush.
GGC: Do you have any advice for novice makeup artists just getting started?
Molly: The best learning ground for me was the working at department store counters. There you are forced to learn how to work on all different types of faces, complexions, and personalities. This was a tremendous tool in discovering different techniques, and how to use varying formulas. From there, find someone to apprentice. A mentor is so important. Someone who can share their experiences and is willing to pass the gavel as it were. And remember, in the world of beauty, empowering your client is 80% of your job. Find what is beautiful about each client and strengthen those qualities.
GGC: Your happiness is palpable, contagious and totally MOLLY, where do you source your joy and what advice (if any) do you have for fellow mothers, creatives, women re: self-fulfillment?
Molly: That is incredibly sweet of you to say. First and foremost my joy is sourced from my children. They bring purpose and light to my everyday. I work hard on keeping my relationship with my husband fun and filled with humor. Lastly I am constantly reminding myself how important it is to take time for myself. I forget sometimes that I only had myself to satiate and fulfill my world for much of my young adult life until I turned into a wife and mommy. So I must respect that on (I try) a daily basis. My goal is to nurture some personal part of myself. That might mean getting a manicure, or drawing, or taking a walk alone around the block. Something that is just for me. Those moments bring me joy which I can then share with David, the kids, the women I work with etc. If we women have nothing to bring to the table the table falls apart.
Anyone out there have questions for Molly? On makeup? Motherhood? All of the above? I'll post a follow-up Q&A with your questions and Molly's answers (and perhaps a 'Molly does Makeup' tutorial vid thrown in the mix as well!) Fun, yes? In the meantime you can find Molly on twitter (@mollyrstern) and
Thanks for doing this, Molly. You're aces.