Oprah's glam man

The Baltimore Sun

Oprah Winfrey has flaws just like the rest of us, says her longtime makeup artist Reggie Wells. She's got a puffy upper eyelid and no bridge on her nose, not to mention poor foundation-blending abilities.

For 20 years, Wells, a Baltimore native, has been making one of the country's wealthiest women look like, well, a million bucks. Today, he will come home to show women here how they, too, can accentuate their beauty.

"...When I left [Baltimore], I left with a lot of dreams," says Wells, 60, who will be in town offering beauty workshops to help raise money for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an organization that works to fight breast cancer. One of those dreams was to become "one of the world's greatest makeup artists."

Wells graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art and taught art at Garrison Middle School in Baltimore. "I love Baltimore, and everything that I am today came out of the Baltimore experience," says Wells, who now lives in Chicago.

It was while he was living and working in Baltimore that he first contacted Winfrey, who co-anchored WJZ's 6 O'Clock News, and asked to do her makeup. He had never done makeup professionally, but he had practiced on 13 girls from his homeroom class who joined ("whether they liked it or not") the Grooming and Modeling Club he created at the middle school. Winfrey turned him down, saying she didn't need his assistance. Over the course of a few months, he called repeatedly and she continued to tell him that she didn't need his help.

Wells eventually moved to New York, where he went from working behind a makeup counter at Macy's to doing the makeup for celebrities such as Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin.

Then, in 1986, Wells was called in to do Winfrey's makeup for an Essence magazine cover. Because Winfrey knew his name but had never seen him, Wells asked everyone on the shoot not to tell her who he was.

He says that when he was done with Winfrey's makeup, she said, "I wish I could look like this all the time!"

"You could have looked like this five years ago," he said. After introducing himself as the man who had requested to do her makeup years earlier, Wells became Winfrey's makeup artist for magazine covers and personal engagements. In 1990, he became her regular makeup artist for The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Almost two decades later, Wells is enjoying reaching out to the fans he has accumulated through his appearances on the show over the years.

"That's my first love ... letting these women know there's no excuse for an ugly woman," he says. "There's no excuse for an ugly woman because we have so many things available now. ...It's just a wonderful, wonderful time to be living because you have all these things at your disposal. And I'm not talking about surgery."

Wells' workshops not only teach women his beauty secrets, but also help raise money for various cancer organizations. "I've done [makeup for] a lot of cancer victims in the past and I feel that they're inspired even more to beat this disease when you ... tell them how beautiful they could be and let them know that there are people that are willing to go out there and do things for these foundations," he says.

Wells wants every woman, cancer victim or not, to feel good about herself and find at least one feature that she loves and wants to accentuate.

"I want you to know things about you. What's the prettiest thing about you? What's the most outstanding thing about you? Is it your face? Is it your lips? Is it your hair?" he asks. He also wants women to pamper themselves, even if it just means doing something simple.

"I don't care if you're just putting lipstick on. I don't care if you just comb your hair a different way or wear mascara," he says. "I think every woman should do something." Still, he says, "It's not just learning how to put on lipstick ... it's also honoring the women of today ... celebrating them."


The workshops

Reggie Wells' workshops will be held at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. today in the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel. Tickets are $250; a limited number are still available. To purchase, call 410-764-9142 or go to thereggiewells.com.

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