A Sit Down With Sarah Bandy: Makeup Artist to the Stars

Emma Welborn

“People were becoming famous overnight. We were young and just having fun being artists; it was the renaissance of creativity,” said Sarah Bandy, a celebrity makeup artist in New York City from the late ‘60s to early 90’s.


What once seemed a lucrative job became Bandy’s lifestyle, a lifestyle that introduced her to many young, aspiring models like Christie Brinkley and Cindy Crawford. But when Bandy first left her small town in the South, she escaped to the city without “any inkling as to what [she] was doing.”


Bandy started out working as a teacher, taking skincare classes on the side, and was the head of the fashion department at the school where she taught. Soon enough, she started collaborations with beauty lines for Johnson and Johnson, an American pharmaceutical company. At the time, she was one of the only white women developing makeup tailored for women with darker skin tones.


Bandy then started getting calls from women requesting her to do their makeup, and she started her own private clientele. “It just happened; it’s just amazing,” she said.


Bandy also attained a position doing the makeup for Clairol Hair Products models, whose images were on most of the hair color boxes in stores. “This is how I got to know all of the now-famous models. Clairol always got them first!” she laughed.

ext, Bandy continued working her way up and expanded her private clientele. She started working as a makeup artist on shoots for Talent Company Magazine and then for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. Bandy also worked on makeup for runway and Broadway shows.


“I remember doing makeup for Broadway shows, and I would get to watch the rehearsals in the big theatre, and I would be one of the only people in the audience. It was just magical, truly amazing.”


But Bandy’s ideal setting was working one-on-one with private clients. Her favorite story takes place in Egypt: “I was working with Madam Sadat, the first lady of Egypt, and I was traveling with 16 other Egyptian women on camels through the desert, and it was absolutely fantastic. We were going over sand dunes carrying all of our supplies, me with my multitude of makeup bags. But they were the most amazing women--we had a blast.”

Bandy’s private clientele consisted of many A-listers. For example, Bandy worked with hotel queen and socialite Leona Helmsley, whom she considers  to be “absolutely lovely,” despite her negative media portrayals, and Twiggy, who she thought was “just so adorable and cute.” Bandy also worked on shoots at the White House for Betty Ford, the 38th first lady, and worked with Andy Warhol and photographers Patrick Demarchelier and Neil Barr. She also judged Miss America pageants alongside Cheryl Tiegs. One of her closest friends was actress and model Rene Russo; she would do her makeup and they would run around the city and attend church together every weekend.


Bandy claimed that the key to the business was loyalty. She explained how models are just as self-conscious as anyone and how it was her job to make them feel beautiful. Her go-to makeup look consisted of soft colors: “You can tell someone is new at the job when the model has too much makeup on, as the camera picks up everything. When in doubt, use less.”


Her favorites? A brown eyeshadow and rosy lips. “Makeup has to be balanced. There is a reason for where everything is put on the face. Let the bones guide you. Eyebrows are the most important, and they are where the most mistakes are made. Just get your pencil and do some small, short strokes. Never use too much bronzer, and always curl your eyelashes. The old-fashioned eyelash-curlers are the best ones. The best mascara is Lancôme. Ask all the models, that is what they use,” she said.


Bandy revisits the city often, longing for her fast-paced days in the makeup world. “Those were the best days. We always had so much fun. You can never take yourself too seriously. Makeup today is not as good as it was back then.”

BeautyEmma Welborn