LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA––Maxi. Who is Maxi? Maxi is just -- well -- Maxi! Based out of Los Angeles, California, Maxi travels the US and points beyond doing make-up for various stars of the Rap and R&B music biz as well as various television and film celebrities. This nearly 30 young man is racking up frequent flyer miles faster than the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. A full-time make-up artist for nearly 10 years, Maxi describes his career as “successful for six years; three years were like walking through a desert without water and infested with fleas in the burning sun.” According to this self-described male version of a fat Penelope Cruz, miraculous things started happening. “Once I just stopped struggling so hard to make it, things just started happening.”
Maxi has done more than just Rap and R&B videos. His work encompasses tons of magazines including Detour, Next, Paper, Bikini, In Style, B.E.T Weekend, Latin People, Essence, Teen, Maxin, People, Teen People, Marie Claire and more!
Maxi’s celebrity client list is jaw-dropping long and includes The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eminem, Kiss, Ludacris, Randy Travis, Timberland, Limp Bizkit, Creed, Michelle Branch and Master P; actors Jon Lovitz, Fran Drescher, Christina Applegate, and Maria Conchita Alonzo; and sports stars Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Plus he has worked on many films and television shows as well. Just how did this brunette boy-wonder wind up in LA-LA make-up land?
Maxi grew up in suburbs of Los Angeles -- the Inland Empire city of Fontana. He worked at Wendy’s and Taco Bell and kept getting fired. He played with make-up as a hobby, doing make-overs on “my mother, my neighbors, and any stranger walking by. I would revamp them for no money. I gave about a thousand ‘E Entertainment’ makeovers just in Fontana!” Maxi figured that he wasn’t intended to work in the fast food industry “so God sent me to LA”.
Once in Los Angeles, Maxi needed a job –and fast! After some thought about what kind of employment to seek, Maxi started doing make-up because it was the one thing in which he really excelled. “When I put my focus into make-up, I just went forward. I assisted a well-known artist and soon realized that I just wasn’t assistant material. I always thought I would do it differently –and better-- even if it wasn’t true. I held my tongue for six-twelve months, and then I started shopping agencies.”
“When I first started, I needed a portfolio. I did ten or twenty photo tests in a very short period of time. I did all the test models with two foundations, two powders, 2 lipsticks and one eye pencil. I mixed everything to create custom shades. I custom blended everything because I was ‘broke as a joke’ and couldn’t afford anything. It was all Maybelline and it worked!”
After getting agency representation, Maxi didn’t work on a regular basis immediately. Not one to waste his time, Maxi took some classes along the way; special effects make-up classes to get a feel for use of some prosthetics. It turns out that he uses these techniques in creating character make-ups in videos. He also decided to go beyond just make-up and learn about doing hair.
“I realized that I could be more marketable by doing hair. I apprenticed with another hair dresser but I didn’t learn much. I got to scrub a lot of scalps but I really didn’t learn anything but I can give a ‘great’ scalp massage and shampoo. I gathered most of the training and knowledge by observing hair people on the sets. I asked questions and watched what they did really closely. Then I practiced with a brush and an iron. I did six years of ‘training’ this way (on various shoots and sets) and learned everything I could from those hairdressers on the sets.
“Now I can say I am equally strong with hair and make-up. The people who hire me are so happy that they did. They get the bonus of a great make-up artist and hair stylist and designer all in one package. Since I do all the hair design for the jobs I take, I stay pretty busy. Unfortunately, I don’t press and I don’t ‘row’ (cornrow). So I bring a hair person on the shoots. It’s either Candy for Hair or Smooth Operator (Los Angeles), for those duties.”
Most people have never heard of you, Maxi. How did you get started?
MAXI: “I started doing make-up and hair with a strange goal: as a white, overweight man, I wanted to conquer the world of people of color. I wanted to work in the Rap and R&B music world. People never realized that I specialized in people of color. What it took was for me to start working. Eventually people started to realize that I could paint circles around most make-up artists. Some make-up artists don’t approach the men and women of color correctly. Black and other skin tones aren’t just one color, but about 100 colors. I worked hard to master this particular segment of the make-up world. It took a while for both the clients and me to be comfortable with doing people of color; for me to stand tall and head high. Now I am known for working with people of color. The phone has started ringing and hasn’t stopped!
“Every job I went on, it unfolded like 10 more jobs. I didn’t realize that it was word of mouth. It’s so not just make-up. It’s the client wanting you because you can work well with people. It’s being personality-savvy. If you have a lousy personality, they do not care how well you do makeup. No one wants a bitchy, nervous or introverted make-up artist. If you are, then alter slightly and you will get a job (baby!)”
1st Hold: Working on people of color is not new, but it’s also not the easiest specialty to master for a white man.
MAXI: “There have been instances where I have been on the phone talking to someone and they would suddenly say ‘Are you white?’ I say, ‘yes I am.’, launch into my resume. I explain why I am so good. I am much better than good; I am GREAT!
“I was advised not to ‘limit’ myself to just the ‘people of color’ market. I think that people of color are about half the entertainment market; that’s more than enough work for me! I prefer to work with people of color because the people are more fun; they are more flavorful. I can be more creative; use more color; and ‘go there’ with makeup. It’s an art form. Dark skin is almost indescribable. A person can do so much more: reshape, restructure, and give it new form. It’s just not possible with people with white skin. I am not anti-white. I just want to focus on the people of color segment.”
1st Hold: What’s your specialty then in this market then?
MAXI: “I have probably done more music videos than anyone else on the planet. I don’t take time to get to print much any more. The people who I work with are hard core rappers. My client roster includes Eminen, Dr. Dre, Nelly, Scarface, Ludachris, Wu Tang Clan, Little Bow-wow and Musiq Soulchild. I just did Michele Branch in a video as well. So I cover the entire spectrum: men, women; black, white and every color in between. I have conquered the Rap and R&B music worlds, yet I am the least likely person to be on a Rap video set. The Rap music world is thought to be homophobic and they aren’t. The male rapper doesn’t care about who works with them as long as the girls in the video look super-hot.”
1st Hold: So what turned the corner for you?
MAXI: “My first *really successful* music video was the rap video, WU TANG CLAN “Triumph”. I don’t know if it was me being the center of attention or sticking out like a sore thumb, but it felt like home on that set. The entire thing felt so good. I did a bunch of other videos after that. I got such a great vibe from that WU TANG CLAN video--I can’t put it into words.
“My goal changed to focus on the Rap and R&B music. I didn’t know if it would be difficult to be accepted and embraced by others. The obstacles that I faced were not something that I could have foreseen. Once I was sure that the Rap world and people of color were my forte, I found it easier to get work. Basically, I am a white queen in a Black hard-core world, and now I am totally accepted. People *expect* to see me; are glad to see me. I am part of that world. I am one of the only white faces at the BET awards and the SOUL TRAIN awards and that’s cool with me.
“These people accept me for who I am. It could be me in pigtails and glitter on my eyes and rappers accept that. White people are more concerned about what I am, what I look like. I have been told to alter or tone down my appearance for the sake of the client. This just isn’t an issue with the Rap and R&B music world. I would have to not be me on those other jobs. Now I can be exactly who I am.”
1st Hold: What did it take for you to get to this particular stage in your career? You must have been in the right place at the right time!
MAXI: “I have managed to attach myself to producers and directors, and one music video director in particular. I just have this tight relationship with certain people and they know me and they keep using me over and over. I am attached to artists like Nelly and select directors like Marc Klasfeld and the Malloys. I have worked with most directors in music. I learned that the way to further my career is not just via word of mouth and good work but also through loyalty.
“Part of getting where I am today is meeting and knowing the right people. There are two people who really were really influential in my career. One is director Marc Klasfeld of RockHard Films. He made a lot happen for me. I would do any of his videos just for the opportunity to work with him. I have to credit a lot to him. Nearly a quarter of all the great videos are done by Marc.”
“When I started, I didn’t even have a book. Crystal Wright was introduced to me by Cheri Combs who tossed me the jobs she didn’t take. I don’t know what Crystal saw in me… I didn’t think there was much to see. But she took me under her wing and developed me. Crystal sent me to magazines the day after she signed me. Crystal Wright was a big factor in how fast I got my book put together. Because of that one introduction, I was able to pull a book together and thus have something to show directors. So between Crystal and Marc, I was able to turn the key on the door to success. They are the *turning points* in my career.
“Plus I work with amazing artists like Nelly. I did the 2001 Grammy Rap Video of the Year, ‘Nelly Ride Wit Me’. Now I do most of Nelly’s videos whenever I am free. I love working with him.
“Life is really good right now. I am true freelance artist. I don’t need an agent. I do it all myself. I no longer seek work: it all comes to me. I pick which jobs I want. What I need is a manager to handle all the paperwork and contracts.”
1st Hold: Wow! That’s so cool. I think people dream of being in that position! What’s the fee schedule at this point in your career?
MAXI: I get $2500 per day plus expenses right now so I am doing pretty well, but I am not at the top of the charts yet. The ‘star’ artists get $4500 per day plus expenses and a lot more! Aucoin got even more—but we all know that! I want to be at the top of the heap! At the time of this interview, Maxi’s next major job is the Lady of Soul awards He gets to make the girls gorgeous for Nelly’s live performance. During the course of the interview, he had been in New York City doing a Reebok commercial and a Tom Jones (Wyclef Jean is producing his latest work) video with Marc Klasfeld as well as another video the day after we finished speaking. This man is incredibly busy—phenomenally so, but there’s a question here to be asked. Does he have a life? What about things beyond make-up and videos and the other side of the coin?
1st Hold: What do you do for fun?
MAXI: “I do have a life outside of all this. Anyone else would think I live this double life. I am literally a dash ghetto and a dash glamour-puss and sometimes I shun things in between. I love to attend ghetto fabulous events or a premiere or magazine party or an awards show after-party. Mainly my life revolves around my child, my baby-- my mini dachshund, Filly. I treat Filly as though she were a real person. She gets fed real human food with a dash of dog food in there as a snack. What I eat, she eats and both our weights fluctuate dramatically.”
1st Hold: What’s your favorite place to hang out?
MAXI: “In Los Angeles, my favorite place to hang out is Hollywood Blvd. If you don’t look up, it reminds you of New York City. When I am in New York, I just roam the city and never see the same thing twice. I love New York City! My heart and soul belong to New York! However, there’s a lot more work for me in LA! So I am here.”
Where does Maxi go from here?
MAXI: “Literally, I just go with the flow. I let I my career take me and every once in a while I make a decision here and there. I eventually want do a make-up line. It would be a fabulous line basically for people of color. I have lots of interests. I want to do films, writing and lots more beyond make-up. But make-up and hair are my first loves. It’s what I will always do. I just can’t and won’t give it up!”
There is so much more to Maxi than this interview. He isn’t just a make-up artist for guys or just Rap and R&B artists or just people of color. It isn’t just a case of who he knows that gets him work, although that helps. What really cuts ice is that Maxi is amazing at what he does. His make-up artistry work is totally immaculate and what’s great about it is that it’s virtually undetectable—the hallmark of a great artist! His work on men gives them a well groomed appearance and its hallmark is that it isn’t obvious.
The work he does on women is phenomenal. The “Funky” page of his website shows you just how far one can push the color envelope and what creative genius hides behind the laughter and smile of this uber-make-up artist! Check out his website www.maximaximaxi.com and take a look at the creative imagery of the site. The opening head was designed and done by MAXI!! Talk about incredibly talented! His talent goes beyond the color of one’s skin.