Cover Feature

The Melody of Makeup: Angie Wells, Emmy-Nominated Makeup Artist and Musician

Photo courtesy of Jerelle Lee

Angie Wells, recording and makeup artists, lived in dual-worlds from a young age. During her career, Wells has produced two albums and thanks to her work in Hollywood on sets from “Harriet” to “Black-ish,” has racked up nine best-in-makeup nominations. These recognitions come from legendary names in awards shows, such as the Emmys, People’s Choice, Hollywood Makeup Artist, Hair Stylist Guild Awards and many more.

Wells lived for a brief time in the Chicago suburbs and although she wasn’t singing during these months, she was expanding her footprint in the world of beauty.

“I had my own small line of makeup,” explains Wells. “I was a licensed cosmetologist and an image consultant and I also had a business degree. I was even working with a few photographers in town, but I knew I wanted more.”

She began to ask herself some introspective questions. If money were no object, what would she do? “I answered, ‘I would like to move to LA and become a film and TV makeup artist.”

Wells equipped herself with Hollywood makeup knowledge through “Makeup Artist Magazine,” then flew out to LA and learned first-hand how the industry works. “I also reached out to Oscar-winning makeup artists such as Jeff Dawn for mentorship as well as one of the most prominent black female makeup artists in film at the time, Marietta Carter Narcisse, and they agreed to mentor me when I moved to Los Angeles,” Wells says.

Once the trip had finished, she applied to The Westmore Academy of Makeup then landed work with a friend on a promo shoot for MTV, finished school and got hired as the makeup department head for ten made-for-television movies for BET. For Wells, this was only the beginning.

From there, Wells went on to become the makeup department head for “Blackish,” “Mudbound,” “Harriet” and “Promising Women,” to name a few. She has also had the opportunity to work as part of the makeup team on season three of “Insecure” and the 2023 reboot for “Frasier.”

Each project requires a specific look to bring the characters to life and to aid in telling the story. While Wells and the director collaborate on each look, there are some major influences, such as the costumes, that play a role in the final outcome. “I enjoy working on period projects, so ‘Mudbound’ and ‘Harriet’ were also very special for me. I love creating looks that take the viewer back in time,” Wells says. “They were both physically tough shoots just because of the locations and weather but the finished products were very rewarding for me to see on screen.”

While these experiences skyrocketed Wells’ career in Hollywood makeup, she still yearned for music. This is no surprise, as both of her parents were avid jazz lovers and raised Wells with a particular devotion to jazz. From listening to the genre on vinyl with her dad to going to Philadelphia’s “Summer Jazz” series at The Dell, music was a part of Wells’ identity that she simply couldn’t ignore.

While still taking makeup jobs, Wells uses time to study, record and perform. Both of her careers require attention to detail, whether it’s in front of or behind the camera. “They [music and makeup] are two separate worlds. I’m in a different place on the food chain based on whether I am behind the scenes or not. It’s just the reality of the situation,” Wells says.

Though different, Wells must use creativity in each to turn inspiration into something tangible. From just a small tune, she can execute a song from start to finish, whether she’s listening to jazz, roots, blues or R&B. “It depends on which order the song comes to me. Sometimes I hear a melody first. Other times it’s the lyrics. I start wherever it comes to me and I go from there,” Wells explains. This process allowed her to create two albums, “Love and Mischief” and “Truth Be Told.”

“Truth Be Told,” her second album, is a general homage to life and living. “It was inspired by the truths we as humanity have in common like joy, love, desire and heartbreak to name a few things,” Wells says. The title track of this album was inspired by George Floyd.

Wells’ two professions often go hand-in-hand when she gets ready to go on stage. She enjoys doing her own makeup before a show. She uses the time doing her makeup to connect with the performance she is about to give. She will change her look based on the show she is doing or what her mood is that night. When she is not combining the two, her schedule is always full of one or the other.

“I love being on stage,” says Wells. “There is a beautiful exchange of energy that occurs between the audience and I when I am performing. I always say it is a symbiotic relationship.”

Outside of work, Wells still enjoys both makeup and music. “I really enjoy jamming with other musicians because it’s a way to be completely spontaneous with music,” Wells says. “I also enjoy helping friends with makeup tips or sharing information I have to help to bring joy to others.”

When Wells has time off from both, she spends time with family or decompresses with a bath, candles and aromatherapy. When asked how she does it all she replies, “In all honesty, I don’t know. I just do as best I can. It can be challenging at times, but it seems to work itself out as long as I set some personal boundaries,” Wells adds. Her family is extremely important to her and she makes as much time for them as possible.

For what 2024 has to bring, Wells plans to continue to work on both of her passions in music and makeup. Her new album is coming out later this year with a plan to tour and she is also finishing up a film that was shut down during the strike.

In her varied career experiences, Wells has a wealth of advice to extend to the next generation of musicians and makeup artists. According to Wells, it’s important to remember what she once asked herself. If money were no object, what would your career look like? By listening to the answer to this question, people will free their minds and see past the points of financial limitations. Wells also says that mentorship is key; know what you want to achieve, find someone who has achieved success, ask questions, be specific and follow through.

Going into  2024, Wells wants anyone pursuing a goal or dream to know this: “Be like water, if something seems to block your path, go around it, over it or under it but just keep going!”