Molly Stern is a force. Upon meeting her you immediately feel as if you have known her forever, her warm demeanor and outgoing personality so infectious it’s hard not to smile in her presence. But Molly isn’t just a friendly face, she is a serious powerhouse in the beauty world, where she is a celebrity makeup artist to some of the biggest names in the business, including longtime client Reese Witherspoon, who she works with personally and on Big Little Lies and who often makes an appearance on her Instagram. And maybe you remember Cara Delevingne’s over-the-top striped look at the Met Gala? That was at the hands of Molly Stern, who not only drew a stripe across the supermodel’s face, she even painted her legs to match the Dior couture ensemble. “I’ve always been a fan of playing with and using makeup as a creative expression,” says Stern.
For Molly Stern, a career in beauty seemed to always be in the cards. “My mother was super into buying the newest cosmetics,” she says of where her passion for makeup derives from. Stern held her first job in the industry at the age of 16 when was hired at the Shu Uemura boutique in her local mall. Since that first job, Stern has become a go-to for A-listers, along the way amassing a loyal following of more than 50k on Instagram. And in addition to her enviable client list, there is her impressive project list. To wit, Molly Stern’s work on Big Little Lies garnered her an Emmy nomination, while her makeup on the Disney film A Wrinkle In Time is forever immortalized in a signature Barbie doll—arguably every woman’s childhood dream come true.
What is your age, and where do you live?
I’m 47 and live in Los Angeles.
How did you start working with Reese Witherspoon?
I met Reese very early in my and her career on a photo shoot. We got on very well from the start. We have a similar sense of humor and in our connection and love for family and empowerment.
You also work on her show Big Little Lies—tell us about the experience of working on a show that has so much buzz around it.
It was the first time I have worked on something that was beloved by so many. It felt amazing to be a part of a show that has such a far reach and that so many people connected to.
What’s it like working on a set with so many strong female leads? Does that translate into the beauty on Reese at all?
Working with the female cast on Big Little Lies has been a completely unique experience. The most exciting part of it has been witnessing their continuous pride in working together on such a great project. It translated in the beauty in the sense that we chose a strong lip color to match the strength in Reese’s character, which subliminally I think was a reflection of who she is as a person—a strong leader with a wicked wit.
You created model Cara Delevigne’s Met Gala look which was outrageously amazing and bold—how did you decide on that look?
Working on Cara’s creative team is one of the greatest honors of my professional career. There are no artistic boundaries, and there is so much trust from her that I really get the chance to push my creative expression. The finished look was inspired by her couture Dior jumpsuit and the theme of the Gala.
Is there a current makeup trend you’re loving?
I’m not a huge follower of beauty trends. I’m all about great skin that you can see through makeup. I hope fresh skin is making a comeback. I also love playing with color wherever it’s possible—a bold, bright lip or a mascara with color, any way you can utilize makeup as a fun accessory. I love using beauty products to enhance features and make women feel good—that should be the trend we follow.
What’s the best part about your job?
Connecting with women and making them feel good and empowered.
What are the three things you always have in your beauty kit?
A good concealer, a good cream blush, and a great mascara.
What about in your own purse?
Same as above, except personally I need to add an eyebrow pencil. The ’90s really did me in.
What is your personal beauty regime? Is there anything special we should be using or doing?
As I’ve matured, I’ve gotten really into skin care and utilizing the application of it as a time to nurture myself and get a little bit of self care. I prep my skin, then I add a little concealer or foundation to anything that is uneven or needs some highlighting. Lots of cream blush. I think it’s the cosmetic equivalent to the fountain of youth. I fill in my brow, curl my lashes and apply mascara. Then I finish off with a lip color. I like to mix it up every day. Some days it’s a red; some days it’s a nude. Sometimes matte. Sometimes glossy. It’s always treated like an accessory. How can I make the color and feeling add to my look on any given day?
What are a few of your favorite makeup products?
Do you have a new favorite beauty product?
I love the Epicuren Sooth Dermal Repair Balm as a night cream. I wake up glowing. I have also recently fallen in love with Chantecaille Faux Cils Longest Lash Mascara. And I am crazy for the KosaSport Hyaluronic LipFuel.
What is your advice on applying makeup as a woman gets a little older?
Less is more. Just like when we were younger and we put on makeup to look more mature, that doesn’t ever stop. Too much makeup ages us. Keep it fresh! And go brighter than you think. Women over 50 get caught in beauty ruts, and for some reason always settle in the cool-blue-somewhat-neutral-berry tone. It makes the lips look blue, aka cold, aka dead. Brighten it up!
Same things in terms of skincare as one ages: What are the most important things to do or use?
When it comes to skin care, layer it. Take the extra time to massage in a serum and add things like vitamin C or rose oil to make the experience more luxurious and nurturing.
Do you have one beauty hack that really works?
Smiling eliminates frown lines.
Where do you go for inspiration?
Art museums, music, vintage fashion magazines and loving hugs from my kids.
You’ve managed to create a really cool social-media presence as well with a great Instagram. Why do you like Instagram as a medium, and how do you make it work for you and your career?
I try and use the platform only for inspiration and motivation. I look at it to encourage me or spark something in me, and I try to put out material and content that inspires or motivates others. When it makes me feel bad or pressured, I take a break.
You are a working mother—do you have any advice on how you manage to balance it all without feeling like you’re missing out on something all the time?
A good friend once told me to seek harmony versus balance. Balance insinuates that everything holds equal weight and importance. That’s not the case. On any given day my family’s needs might outweigh my work, and on some days my work needs my full attention, so I just try and be as present as I can and give each situation my best.
Do you have any family traditions?
When my husband and I married we agreed to keep a Kosher and Sabbath-observant home. I am very proud and grateful to be raising my kids to have a strong connection to Jewish traditions.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever gotten?
Three healthy kids.
Your biggest recent splurge?
A first-time trip overseas for my family.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
To heal pain or to fly.
What’s your go-to outfit?
A black T-shirt, a Levi jean and sneakers.
If you had a warning label, what would it say?
Caution: May encourage you to have better self-esteem and like yourself more. Also, can be spicy.
Molly R. Stern
For over 30 years, Molly Stern has been a trusted artist and influencer in Hollywood, known to emphasize and enhance what is uniquely beautiful about each woman she touches. Her inspiring nature, creativity and humor has captured and engaged a social media audience of over 50K followers. Molly Stern has been recognized with numerous industry accolades. She was awarded Makeup Artist of the Year at the prestigious Hollywood Style Awards, and her outstanding makeup on the acclaimed HBO series Big Little Lies was nominated for an Emmy. A couture piece from her cult apparel line, m.r.s., was selected for the Goddess exhibition at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The stunning makeup Molly Stern created for the Disney blockbuster film, A Wrinkle In Time, was immortalized in a collectible signature Barbie doll line by toy manufacturer Mattel. Her #LOVEyourself mantra led to the collaboration with renowned jewelry brand Sarah Chloe.