Picture Perfect Makeup
Photograph by Sarah Jordan McCaffery
David Nicholas is not amused by most of the beauty business, and he’s not ashamed to say so. “Listen, I’ve loved makeup since I was a teenager,” explains the renowned makeup artist, his voice lowering to almost a whisper. “But somewhere long ago, probably in my twenties, I realized how trend-driven the industry is. Obviously the point of those trends is to sell products and make money. I’m not about that.”
What he will happily admit to, though, is being a wholehearted advocate of beauty itself. And, more specifically, of highly personal beauty. Now, after having established himself in Boston for more than 35 years as one of the region’s most in-the-spotlight beauty creatives—his makeup brushes have touched everyone from celebs such as Ellen Pompeo, Tom Selleck, and Sarah Jessica Parker to most of Boston’s local luminaries—he’s now settled on the North Shore. He has moved his business, DNI Pros, to a gorgeous, luminescent studio at 18 Park Street in Andover.
“When I first came to town, I was a little nervous,” he says cheekily, but clearly in earnest. “Both my husband, David Glenn, and I thought… ‘Is this going to be Normalville?’” That knee-jerk fear was immediately allayed, he says. “Since we’ve moved in, we’ve been thrilled. Our clients have been all classes, all races, all genders. I was so happy to realize that as traditional as the area is, it can also be a little bohemian.”
That mix of new local clients joins a similarly diverse clientele from Boston and New York that follows Nicholas (he is a virtually unrivaled lash guru, after all). But what are they coming for, exactly? If he has anything to say about it, it certainly isn’t for his own personal stamp on their look; Nicholas prides himself on working with each client’s particular characteristics. “Everyone has different proportions, and I find that so welcoming to work with,” he says. “Someone with a small face and wide shoulder width? What makeup artist would ever do the same thing for her that they would for someone who’s full-faced, like, say, an Adele? I do understand that the industry needs to sell products. But it’s the artistry and the person wearing the products that make them look good, not the other way around.”
He says this openly, even though he himself sells plenty of products as a businessman. At that, he chuckles. “I do, true,” he says. “But I’d rather help people understand an approach to their own beauty. If they feel best wearing a lot of makeup, then fantastic. If not, then I don’t think people need that many products to look great. They just need to stay on top of everything and tidy up. Helena Rubinstein said it best,” he says, “when she said, ‘There are no ugly women, just lazy women.’”
But your average woman looking for a makeover or just solid self-maintenance advice is hardly the only client Nicholas works with. He works with plenty of men, too, about how they can strategically use cosmetics to look better—not heavy-handedly, but, as he again calls it, to tidy up. And for decades he’s exhaustively volunteered as a pioneer in the development of reconstructive and corrective makeup application, donating his time to help burn victims and clients with skin disorders and facial scars.
So what, in the end, ties all of those myriad demographics who sit in his seat together? “Everyone is different,” he says. “You have to understand that. And they have to understand that. But my favorite clients are those people who know it’s not about how you look,” he says. “It’s about how you feel about how you look.”