Daniel Martin makes minimal makeup look effortless, but it takes a lot of work to make it look easy.
Daniel wastes no time getting down to business. When Very Good Light reached out to the makeup artist (best known for Meghan Markle’s natural yet breathtaking bridal makeup) letting him know he was named as one of the 35 fiercest AAPI voices in beauty today and requesting an interview, he responded immediately.
“Are you free in an hour?” he asked. When Daniel Martin, world-renowned makeup artist and global director of artistry and education at Tatcha, is free, you’re free. Period. Considering I’m not the Duchess of Sussex, my calendar was, unsurprisingly, wide open.
Daniel’s quickness to say yes is ironic considering his makeup style is frequently praised for its delicate and deliberate restraint. The recent “skinimalism” trend, which started in skincare but has slowly trickled into the world of makeup (see Fenty’s two most recent launches: Eaze Drop Blurring Skin Tint and Bright Fix Eye Brightener Concealer, both lightweight serum-like textures with minimal coverage), can be traced directly back to Meghan Markle’s “no-makeup makeup” wedding day look three years ago.
It’s impossible to underscore how truly groundbreaking her makeup look was at the time. Back in 2018, Tarte’s Shape Tape was the best-selling concealer of the year and James Charles’ rainbow-colored Artistry Palette had just come out in collaboration with Morphe.
Considering this important context, Daniel’s beautiful expression of minimalism in 2018 on the year’s most Googled celebrity was a brave, bold choice.
It’s Daniel’s conviction in his authentic style of makeup artistry that makes him so revered, especially in an industry that typically rewards those who follow the trends set forth by the all-powerful algorithm. His consistency and dedication to elevating natural beauty to ethereal, otherworldly levels have been a centering force when makeup trends veer too far from expression and into appropriation. Daniel honors the inherent beauty of all of his clients, from the biracial Meghan Markle, to Jessica Alba, proud Latina, and Korean-American activist, Chloe Flower. This is how acceptance of racial identity in ourselves—and others—is won.
Very Good Light (spontaneously) caught up with Daniel Martin to discuss his experience growing up Asian across different continents, how his identity has evolved over the last year, and his profound impact on the beauty industry.
Growing up Asian all over the world
Daniel is biracial: his father is French/English and his mother is Vietnamese. He grew up in different parts of the world, spending time in Central America and Asia during his youth, and then back to the states. Immersed in diverse cultures from a young age, Daniel says he didn’t experience racism until he became an adult and visited South Korea.
“It really wasn’t until then that I realized, wow, I am actually looked at differently from people that look like me,” he recalls. “That in itself is a whole other issue of colorism. There’s a lot of racism within the Asian culture.”
His Caucasian-sounding name, Daniel Martin, undoubtedly gives him certain advantages over his non-biracial Asian counterparts, but he admits it’s also led to incorrect assumptions that he’s adopted. It’s a cruel, strange speculation for someone to doubt the legitimacy of your very being based on a fact that is so core to that existence: your name.
Biracial folx are all too used to feeling like a “racial impostor,” unable to answer the inevitable question of “What are you?” not only to others, but also themselves. Daniel is a perfect example of how being biracial doesn’t limit your identity; it broadens it.
“If anything, this past year has just made me realize the voice that I have to be able to speak up, take chances, and stand up for those who can’t,” he says.
Daniel Martin’s cultured upbringing set the stage for him to play a major role in the global beauty business. Experiencing doubt from strangers over his personhood has led him to become more vocal when it comes to social and political causes affecting underrepresented populations.
“I’m the first Asian American to be global director of a US-based beauty brand,” says Daniel. “It’s definitely enabled me to find my courage and my voice to stand up and when something’s not right, to say something.”
As a biracial Asian man in a predominately female industry, Daniel has faced his fair share of catty gossip and cutthroat competition in the beauty and fashion world. However, in response to the rise of anti-Asian sentiments over the past year, he’s also seen the beauty and fashion community has really come together to help take a stand against Asian hate. Witnessing this has helped Daniel understand and value camaraderie in ways that he never had before.
“It was really incredible to see all of us unite,” says Daniel. “There’s a bit of competitiveness in the beauty and fashion world, but this year really broke it down in such a way that we could all rise above the ego [and address] this humanitarian crisis.”
The fight isn’t over yet, and it’s important to remember to celebrate and stand behind Asian Americans not just during AAPI month, but always. For Daniel, the first step in becoming a better ally is empathy.
“Each one of us has a different story,” he says. “Really put yourself in someone else’s shoes and look at it through a different lens. This is a human rights issue, at the end of the day.”
Building and sharing confidence
Daniel has made a name for himself on red carpets, runways, and beauty campaigns perfecting the subtle art of natural, luminous makeup. A true master of his craft, Daniel has spent years honing his signature style, but he’s always been quick to share the best tips and tricks for achieving the “no-makeup” makeup look he’s now famous for.
While some artists choose to keep their techniques and favorite products a secret out of fear that they’ll give away all their best advice and subsequently rendered useless, Daniel is generous with both his knowledge and time, as I learned in our spontaneous conversation. His strength of character and willingness to help others learn and grow is what catapults his creative vision to new heights – while taking everyone else along for the ride.
“I think once you understand your value and purpose, whether it’s in your work or life, that’s the moment where you gain the confidence and strength to share that,” he says. “It takes a really secure individual to reach that point where nothing is a threat and you can share your knowledge.”