Jaci Lee has had a fascination with makeup for as long as she can remember. As a young child, she would watch with tenacious curiosity as her grandmother put on makeup, wondering why she opened her mouth while applying mascara and smiled a big smile while sweeping on blush.
When it came time for her first year of high school, Lee set out to explore the world of makeup and start answering some of those questions for herself.
“I would just sit in my room and do my own makeup and play around with different looks,” she said. “There wasn’t access to all the makeup tutorials online like there is today, so I just expressed myself however it felt right, and over the years, I started to get more artistic with it.”
After high school, she got a job at a beauty salon in Manchester, where she started her apprenticeship program toward earning her cosmetology license. After a couple years there, one of the stylists Lee had worked with in the past invited Lee to be part of her team at 5 Diamond Salon, a new salon she was opening in Manchester. Lee agreed and made the move, completing her apprenticeship at 5 Diamond shortly after.
Now in her third year at the salon, Lee fills a variety of roles, including working the front desk, assisting other stylists, tending to her own clients and going with the salon owner to do hair and makeup at off-site photo shoots a couple times a week.
Lee works with all kinds of clients, from brides and bridal parties to working professionals and regulars who come in for a simple face of makeup or quick false eyelash application before a special event or fancy night out.
When she meets with a client, the first thing Lee does is look at their skin type, skin undertones and eye color and talk with them about what type of makeup they use at home, what outfit they’ll be wearing and what kinds of colors and styles they’re open to.
Her signature technique, she said, is centered around skin with a clean, no-makeup look and eyes with dramatic eyelashes that make the eyes pop.
“I know contouring is a huge trend right now, but I really like to keep the focus on the eyes and make them stand out as much as possible while keeping the skin more natural and dewy looking,” Lee said.
While she enjoys doing regular beauty makeup, Lee said her favorite kind of work is doing hair and makeup for photo shoots of fashion models from Boston.
“I love to do those editorial looks, like the type you would see on the cover of a magazine,” she said. “It’s a lot different from beauty makeup, because you can get really artsy with different colors and shapes and create abstract looks.”
Lee is currently expanding her skill set by learning how to do eyelash extensions and airbrush makeup.
As for winning the “Best” title as Best Makeup Artist in the Hippo Best of’s Best Thing We Forgot to Ask About category, Lee said she never saw it coming but is touched by the support of all those who voted for her.
“I think people can see how passionate I am about [doing makeup] and how much I love what I do,” she said. “It’s pretty surprising, to be honest, but so awesome.”