By Barbara Mulligan
One day, less than a decade ago, Jenna Menard ’03 sat down with a Lafayette career counselor and, after a bit of probing, began talking about what she really liked to do.
“I said, ‘well, I do my friends’ makeup a lot,” Menard recalls. “She kind of laughed and asked, ‘well, why did you come to Lafayette?’”
Menard, then an honor student with a major in psychology and a minor in Africana Studies, found herself explaining that she did value her education, but also enjoyed making friends look and feel good about themselves, and that she took her role seriously.
“After [the counselor] got over the shock, she searched the data base and found information about alumni in related fields,” Menard says.
Following up on that information with phone calls and emails helped launch Menard into a career as an internationally sought-after makeup artist. She has worked with such celebrity clients as Kate Winslet, Taylor Swift, Uma Thurman, Sofia Coppola, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and photographers including Annie Liebovitz, Arthur Elgort, and Juergen Teller.
Menard’s artistry has appeared in Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Elle, to name a few, and she has worked on advertising campaigns for Abercrombie & Fitch, Nautica, Ralph Lauren, and many more high-profile clients. In October she worked on the ad campaign for American Eagle Outfitters, which will be out in Spring 2011. These days, she’s represented by an agent, frequently fields interview questions from fashion reporters, and displays client lists and photographs on her high-end web site (www.jennamenard.com).
Still, Menard is quick to point out that her career began modestly, with a summer internship at the former Tony and Tina Cosmetics in New York City.
“It was a small company,” she says, explaining that she mainly assisted staff in the office, but one day was sent to an event sponsored by the international cosmetics chain Sephora. “Now, when I look back, it was a minor event, but to me, then, it was a huge turning point.”
There, Menard saw makeup artists in action and spoke to people who encouraged her to think about joining their ranks. When summer ended, she returned to Lafayette to begin her senior year, intent on getting her degree because “I didn’t really know that the makeup artist path was going to work out.”
She needn’t have worried. That year, she landed an informational interview with Academy Award-winning costume designer Ann Roth, arranged by Barbara Rothkopf, wife of then-Lafayette President Arthur J. Rothkopf ’55.
“She grilled me,” Menard says, “not in a mean way, but she wanted to know why I was interested in makeup. By the end of the interview, she realized I was going to go to New York and make it happen if I could. She realized I wasn’t just a girl who wanted to play with makeup and dress up.”
By June 2003, Menard landed an internship assisting makeup artist Bernadette Mazur and her staff on the set of The Stepford Wives, starring Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick.
“I was able to see how a major feature film was created,” she says. “I watched all those makeup artists at work for three months. But when it was over, reality hit.” Without a paying job or even an internship, she found herself working at a Macy’s makeup counter—and not liking it.
So, after two months, she quit to begin a freelance career. With the completion of a few jobs, she compiled a portfolio and began showing it around to photographers. “It didn’t take long for my name to circulate,” she says. “I was reliable. I showed up on time, I was always prepared, and nothing was too small.”
And then, Menard says, she hit a huge stroke of luck: a last-minute call to assist renowned makeup artist Dick Page at a fashion show. She arrived within 15 minutes, introduced herself, and got to work, without having time to think about the implications.
Over the next few years, Page called Menard to assist him at a variety of events, including several European shows. “We became friends. He was an amazing mentor and is still a friend of mine.”
Now she has her own business and, after working nearly nonstop, she’s found herself with assistants of her own, traveling the world, and working with major celebrities and photographers.
“Each job and each experience built on the other,” she says, adding that her psychology degree has certainly not gone to waste. “I’m literally in people’s faces all day long … The thing I love about doing makeup is how it transforms people, not only aesthetically but also how it makes them feel.”
Menard still has a hard time believing how her life and career have turned out: “I never thought that this is where I would be right now,” she says. “It was always my plan to do the best at whatever I was doing. I just kept working hard, and I’m still working hard.”