Hector Espinal Talks Inclusion in the Beauty Industry and Lessons He’s Learned from Rihanna

Hector Espinal, Global Makeup Artist for Fenty Beauty

After working as a full-time nanny and a cashier at Sephora, the career of Dominican-born New Yorker Hector Espinal skyrocketed into the stratosphere when he was appointed global makeup artist for Fenty Beauty, alongside Priscilla Ono, in 2017. Playing an integral part in the brand’s product development, beauty education, and revered artistry, he has travelled the world spreading the gospel of inclusive cosmetics, leaving a happy trail of shade-matched customers in his wake. We spoke to Espinal about the lasting impact he hopes to have on the beauty landscape, Fenty’s latest launches, and what it’s like working with Rihanna.

What is the most rewarding part about being one of only two of Fenty’s global makeup artists?

“For me, it’s seeing the impact we have caused around the world, not only when it comes to the beauty industry, but for the everyday woman. From the woman in Paris, in Dubai, in Spain, or the New York woman…the fact that everyone has a foundation is very rewarding. To see people coming up to us like, ‘Oh my god, I finally have a match’—the first thing that comes to my mind is, ‘How have you lived all your life?’ But my second thought is how gratifying it is being a part of this movement in the beauty industry. I know 20 years from now, people are going to say that Fenty Beauty made a difference.”

You’ve described the selection process for Fenty’s global artistry team as “American Idol but with makeup.” What do you think set you apart from the other candidates?

“I still ask myself that all the time. My mom always told me, ‘Don’t compare yourself to nobody and be who you are.’ At one point during the competition, I saw myself giving up because there were ten amazing makeup artists that made it to the finals. I came from SephoraSephora was my first real job, so I didn’t think of myself as being good enough to work with Rihanna. I would just look around and say, ‘We’re all here with a purpose, everybody’s creating their own way’. I had tunnel vision, I didn’t want to see what other people were doing or saying because I didn’t want to get distracted.

I think what set me apart was my personality. I feel like I’m a goofball, but I’m also very street smart. I think that’s one thing Rihanna and I have in common. We’re very quick with our comebacks, so there was a connection there.”

What have you learned from Rihanna in your time working with her? 

“So many things. One, she’s an amazing make up artist, and she taught me a different way of contouring. She likes the contour to look more lifted so it gives you the Maleficent look, which gives you that beautiful high cheekbone effect.

She also taught me how to really push myself to be a better artist. I feel like from the beginning when I started doing the beauty campaigns for Fenty Beauty to now, I see my work is completely different, and it’s because she pushes us.

Any look that we do needs to be texted to her for approval. She’d be like, ‘Oh I don’t like that, change that’ and sometimes, she sends it back six times. But what I’ve noticed with that is every time we’re creating different looks or something that I would never do in my life, so I’ve learned a lot from her.”

What are your go-to Fenty products? 

“Oh my god, I have so many. I do a lot of product development for Fenty Beauty. At the moment, it’s the concealers because I created themI mean, c’mon, fifty concealers and they can basically do anything you want. Foundation, contour, shadow… there’s endless possibilities. Second is a tie between the Match Stix and Gloss Bombit’s very hard to decide.”

What Spring/Summer looks or trends are you most looking forward to? 

“Women are always afraid to use colour since it’s a step out of their comfort zone, which is why we have these new interesting lip colours. We have these very over the top highlighters with different shades, hues, and tones. One thing I’m seeing is a pop of colour in your makeup, whether it’s a touch of colour in your highlight or on your lip, it’s the easiest way to introduce yourself to colour and feel comfortable with having that pop to boost your confidence. Makeup is fun, it’s not like a tattoo or a bad haircut—just take it off, try something else. It’s easy.”

Can you touch on your favourite new products from Fenty?

“We mentioned pops of colour—what we have here is an extension to our Killawatt highlighter; Wattabrat is a beautiful pink with a 3D glitter effect on the top, which gives you a nice candle light glow. Chillz, on the other hand, is a little more subtle. A lot of people are intimidated by using it like, ‘Oh my god, blue, I can’t do it’. It’s a great pop for the tear duct if you’re afraid of using colour. Use it as a lip topper, and pop it on the high points of the cheeks.

We also added three fun new shades for Spring/Summer in the Stunna Lip Paint. We actually worked on those colours for a year and a half, and we went to San Francisco and tried it on everybody in our headquarters. Stunna has a unique formula—a little goes a long way. It’s super pigmented, super long lasting, and it doesn’t dry your lips. One of Rihanna’s biggest pet peeves is a dry lip, she’s like, ‘Who is gonna be kissing somebody with dry lips? That’s so unsexy.’ The formula is very nice and soothing.”

Scroll through the gallery for the latest launches from Fenty Beauty.