This Valley Fashion Spotlight features Kevin Sturm, a makeup artist with amazing skill. Having worked with him on a few different shoots, I can say that he is professional, easy to work with, and completely focused on making the model(s) look their absolute best. He is a perfectionist who works quickly and produces great results.
Raised in the Chicago area, Kevin is just one of several fashion-industry types (models, makeup artists, designers, etc.) transplanted from Chi-town to Phoenix. As a photographer, I have worked with more people from Chicago — that now live in the Valley of the Sun — than from any other major metro area.
I asked Kevin about his background, growing up, and his opinions about fashion; the Phoenix fashion scene in particular. He was gracious enough to take the time to give us a glimpse into the torrent of color that splashes through his mind.
Michael Wells: Location (what part of town are you in)?
Kevin Sturm: East Mesa! Hey!
MW: Home town?
KS: Streamwood, IL (30 minutes from Chicago).
MW: How long have you lived in the Phoenix area?
KS: A little over 2 years now.
MW: What is a great memory from your childhood/teenage years?
KS: Winning pre-teen model of the year at the IMTA in Los Angeles!
MW: Proudest moment growing up?
KS: Surviving the torment that I had to face EVERY day from elementary school all the way to high school. Being gay, I would hear those homophobic slurs EVERY day at school. Being taunted on my walk from school to home. People trying to fight me, people throwing garbage at me. Even my “best friends” were embarrassed to be with me. Yet, I never wanted to change myself, I just figured hiding & ignoring myself was a better option. So I would just keep walking and try my hardest to ignore everything. It was literally a nightmare that I never thought I would have to face terms with. Until I finally started to accept & love myself inside and out and realized this world is such a bigger picture than negative people and their actions. I would always remind myself (and still do) that I was put on this planet for a purpose and a reason. And it’s crazy because the moment I loved myself for who I REALLY was and not ignoring to be… I found happiness and peace. So I finally loved myself enough to fight back one day. Yeah, I won & also was suspended… But my integrity was renewed by a million. If it wasn’t for my ONLY creative outlet (makeup) which I was able to give my all to, I may have never found myself. But thank you, cosmetics!!!!!
MW: When did you realize you were first interested in beauty/fashion?
KS: LOL! I’ve always been so intrigued by beauty and fashion… At age 6 I would literally throw my mom’s heels on with her bubble dresses from the 80s (Can’t forget the hot pink blush & lipstick) and go to all of our neighbor’s homes and do little runway shows… I LOVED creating that fun magical energy… And I knew that that’s exactly what I wanted to do in life — Creating that beauty that transforms into an undeniable magical energy.
MW: Was there a point where you decided to specifically focus on makeup?
KS: I ALWAYS knew that make up was an art that I wanted to be a part of. It’s crazy to think that even when I was 5 years old I would take my mom’s mascara to thicken and darken my eyebrows. (Nobody ever knew) LOL. But in more of a professional manner I was 16 years old and became involved in drag… The powerful feeling of all relief and problems in the world would always disappear the second I would start to apply my cosmetics. And I knew at that time… Makeup is my f***ing passion. I live for it, I breathe it. It’s what I was sent on this planet to do.
MW: What products do you use and recommend?
KS: I’m a cherry picker when it comes to cosmetics and skincare products. There are so many different skin types and tones that some brands are better for one than they are for another… For that, I LOVE the NARS cosmetic line, as they implement skincare mixed into their cosmetics and have a shade for EVERYONE, and they truly respect different skin types from the most dry skin to the most oily… They’ve definitely got you covered!
MW: How would you compare the Phoenix fashion scene with other markets that you may have worked in? Phoenix has been playing catch-up to other major cities in fashion for years. Do you, as I, see fashion in Phoenix as a renewed effort that is building momentum and starting to rival the markets in other big cities? Please explain.
KS: Oh my god, YES! Phoenix is turning into a giant melting pot that is connecting and reinventing different city’s fashion cultures. It’s SO exciting to see this beautiful city grow into such a diverse fashion & beauty playground where there aren’t many limits. And of course, I’m excited to be a part of it!
MW: Are you familiar with any local designers? If so, whose work do you enjoy most? If not, who are some of your favorite “big name” designers?
KS: I LOVE Roberto Cavalli. His major modernization of classic looks is impeccable. I could spot his work from a mile away. I love any designer who has a stamp of recognition to their brand’s essence.
MW: After being down for a few years, Scottsdale Fashion Week is returning in 2016. Do you think that it will benefit the Valley of the Sun to have both Phoenix Fashion Week and Scottsdale Fashion Week, or do you feel it will be somewhat redundant?
KS: The more the merrier! I respect the two shows as they both partake in different seasons. It gives all designers a chance at completely different looks.. Some are better in one than the other.. So I believe that it gives people in this industry more of a chance to shine!
MW: How would you explain your personal artistic style? Classic, edgy, experimental, etc.? Do you just do makeup, or are you in to other areas of cosmetology and/or fashion in general? Do you have anyone whose work inspired/inspires you? Not just a hair/styling artist, but maybe you get inspiration from Van Gough paintings, or David Bowie songs?
KS: I’d say my personal style is right in the middle of classic and experimental looks with a dash of androgyny. And what truly inspires me is “contour art.” No… not the makeup contour photos you see all over Instagram… If you’re not familiar with contour art… you need to Google it! It shows emotion through texture and lighting/shading and outlines. It truly makes me think on how I can show emotion through cosmetics and how to captivate my designer or model’s story. Everything needs a story. It adds depth to the art. Without depth in art it’s almost like a rose without its’ thorns & petals.
MW: What other areas of fashion are you most interested in?
KS: Personally, despite being a makeup artist, I’d LOVE to get myself back into modeling for photo shoots. Yet at this point in time, I know my passion and strong suit is makeup.
MW: What about plus-size models? Do you feel that the time is right for them to be mainstream / catwalk models? Do you agree that some plus models are photographically stunning and should be given every opportunity that other models get (magazine covers, featured articles, designer endorsements, etc.)? Or would you prefer that modeling in general should be mainly reserved for models size 6 and under? (yes, I am finding out that some models that are a size 6 are being passed over because they are plus-size.)
KS: We are all human, we’re all different shapes, sizes, colors… And that’s beautiful. We need to embrace it more often. It’s extremely important to show off the world’s differences in art to inspire others. I mean, that is what this entire industry is based off of… Inspirations and inspiring others… Why should we stop at size 5? It’s not realistic nor should that be the norm.
MW: Most memorable / proudest moment as a professional?
KS: There are so many! I love when a client and myself are able to make such a strong connection to the point where they become a higher level of themselves. It’s not about winning an award or a paycheck to me, it’s about being in the moment and creating a masterpiece that elevates the current energy to a level of euphoria each and every time. I truly give my all to every project that I’m involved with.
MW: Perfect way to relax after a long hot day:
KS: I’d probably throw myself back out in the heat and lay by the pool with a margarita. LOL (Don’t forget that SPF!)
MW: What are some of your hobbies / pastimes?
KS: I love going to concerts! Nothing like a well put together show!
MW: Who is your favorite movie / actor?
KS: FAVORITE movie of all time is Requiem for a Dream and Interstellar! The emotion is un-real in both!
MW: Favorite concert / musical artist?
KS: The legendary Christina Aguilera!
MW: If you are a reader of books, favorite book and author?
KS: I love art books. I own every Kevyn Aucoin book and open them daily. Not even playing! LOL
MW: What advice would you give to anyone in the fashion industry? In your opinion, what words would help people new to the industry who are trying to find their way?
KS: The journey of finding yourself is never ending. Don’t EVER feel you’re not worthy enough. The world wants to see what you have to offer, it’s just up to you to make it to the world! Oh! And don’t be skurred [sic]!!
Kevin Sturm can be reached for booking or general info at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, text him at (480) 369-6861. You can also follow him on instagram: www.instagram.com/vekdnabeauty or friend him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kevin.sturm.940