Some girls dream of being doctors or architects when they grow up. Not celebrity makeup artist Mally Roncal, who dreamt of becoming…a drag queen. Always obsessed with all things skin and beauty, this former pre-med major ditched medical school in favor of finding what she really loved, which was makeup. Today, Mally Beauty is an empire all of its own, and Mally Roncal is sitting pretty atop it all with her “gorjois” makeup line, Mally Beauty. Celebrity Parents spoke to Mally about her beauty line, finding balance, and why it’s important to listen when Life whispers at you.
Let’s talk about your background.
I was a pre-med major in college. Both my parents were doctors, and I grew up first generation Filipino. My mother was an ob/gyn, and my father was a psychiatrist. I grew up in a very loving and nurturing environment. I was drawn to being a doctor not because of the physical but because of the spiritual. I saw how connected my parents were to people, and how my mother treated everyone like a super star.
What kind of doctor did you want to be?
Ultimately I wanted to be a dermatologist. I knew that I really wanted to do makeup but I didn’t think that it was a real job. Growing up in NYC, I interned during the summers and I was always drawn to drag queens and eccentric people. Those artistic people were making it work for them. I met this makeup artist and I fell in love with him. He said, “I just made $10,000 a day for the Louis Vuitton campaign,” so I said, “I’ll take it!” [laughs] But I didn’t know that only a few get to that point.
What was it about makeup that attracted you?
Honey, I was a drag queen from the day I was born! I loved all of it; the hair, makeup jewelry, and playing dress up. I know that most girls do; it’s part of our DNA. But I loved things that seemed so boring, like concealer and foundation.
How did you take your first step to becoming a MUA?
Ignorance is bliss. I just believed. I will do everything I can do. I didn’t have an agent, but I did have friends in fashion. I said yes to everything. I did little jobs. Fitness models doing crunches, I did baby magazines, every music video in the middle of the night. I took everything as an experience to learn, to meet somebody, because you never know where your next connection or job will come from. I treated every job as a big job, and treated everyone like they were the creative director. You wouldn’t believe how many assistants who were carrying the sandbags are now the actual creative directors and call me to work with them.
Let’s talk about the handsome man here behind the lens.
In my early 20’s, I met this man named Phil Bickett. He was my mentor. I didn’t know anything. I was just this little makeup artist. I didn’t do billing; I just liked doing makeup. He said, “This is your business. You keep track of your taxes.” He truly taught me about the business end and with his inspiration, I did get an agent.
He opened your eyes to seeing yourself as a real businessperson.
Absolutely. I would do these great magazine covers with supermodels like Heidi Klum, Daniela Pestova, Yamila, and then I was being sent to Paris, Russia and Africa. I was working all the time. I worked with Emily Watson, and then I was asked to do this actress named Angelina Jolie for Hollywood Life. She walked in with these great eyes and lips. We hit it off, and she wanted to continue to work with me.
Many people would have been intimidated by that level of star power.
I put on a face of confidence, even when I’m nervous. My nervousness comes from wanting to please. I want that person to have the best experience ever when they’re with me. So yes, there’s nervousness. I do still get star struck. As much as I’m on TV, I’m still that little girl from Middleton, NY.
I had been traveling all over the world, working with Thalia, Kelly Osbourne—I was even on the show for a couple of seasons. I was doing spokesperson work for Revlon and Sephora and working with Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child and Beyonce.
Then I realized that I didn’t want this life anymore. You can’t keep up with doing every top celebrity and expect to have a life. I saw that the world was changing and TV was the way it was all going. I had never been shy, and my husband had an acting background, so little by little, I got used to talking in front of the cameras and not be nervous.
You then launched Mally Beauty in 2005.
I wanted to create a line that incorporated all of my secrets. I wanted it to be high performance and bullet proof. And I wanted to sell it on television. Everyone said I was crazy. But Phil and I just believed. We went on blind faith. I think that if you think too much about anything, you won’t do anything. So we worked on it. We worked out of our living room. It’s truly a family business. I never had a doubt in my mind that this is what I was supposed to do. You just don’t stop. Even now, I have times of wonder. I’ll think about what’s next, but I know this is not an end.
When I’ve seen you on QVC, I’m impressed by how you connect with people.
I love this too much to stop. I feel this is a gift that we’re giving women who love makeup. I want it to be an inspiration and make it meaningful. And I love that connection with women. Sure, there are lots of amazing makeup lines but I don’t think anyone talks to them like we do.
Let’s talk about the line.
Mally Beauty has been tested on the hardest-working, booty-shakingest women in the world! [laughs] It’s been tested on the stages of Madison Square Garden and all over the world. The line incorporates my tips that I spent years creating and techniques that I cultivated into products so you can get the results of what you see. It makes you look like you had a facelift, lost five pounds and had sex with Johnny Depp! [laughs]
You talked before about the naysayers. How did you get past that?
It’s important to listen to your gut and listen to the whispers. Being a mom, there’s nothing more important to me. Every time I feel like it’s too much, I think of those little people and realize that’s why I breathe.
How do you find your balance running a beauty empire and being a mom to three little girls?
It’s the greatest thing in the world. The greatest because people say you can’t have it all. I disagree; you just have to make it work. But it can be the hardest, too. There are those moments when you’re in a hotel and you hang up the Skype and cry.
On photo shoots, the celebrity is the star of the show, not usually the makeup artist. But you’ve become a huge celeb in your own right with a huge fan base of Mallynistas![laughs] My fans are amazing! I know every one of their names, when their daughters are graduating from college. I read everything that they write. I know everything that is going on in social media, and I’m the one tweeting and writing back on Facebook.
It sounds like you just make it all work.
We do. There are a lot of levels to this business, and we utilize everyone’s talents. Everyone pitches in. We will all do everything. We take out the garbage, we order food. We just do what needs to get done. I’ll do whatever it takes. And I love working with my husband, Phil. We parent together, and we’re best friends and business partners. But family always comes first. I’ll make sure that we’re set for dance class or that the girls’ dentist appointments are scheduled before I jump on a plane. It takes a village, but we do it all. Sure, I realize that we’re very blessed. That’s why I take a moment every day, sometimes 100, to thank God for all of this.