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Career Profile | Lio Maldonado, Hair and Makeup Artist

CareerMaría Elena RodríguezComment
Picture by  Marcos Caballero/ Sky Lens Media  // Hair by Lio Maldonado

Picture by Marcos Caballero/ Sky Lens Media // Hair by Lio Maldonado

Every three months I go to my routine haircut with one of the funnest and talented persons I know: Lio Maldonado. I first met him back in 2012 when I walked into It's Miranda Salon in Guaynabo and asked for a hair stylist that liked to work on long hair, because I was so tired of hairstylists cutting my hair too short! (I bet we've all been there). They immediately told me "Lio is your guy!" And I've been trusting that guy for the last 5 years with absolutely no regret. 

He's the only hairstylist that I feel completely confident telling him to have fun with my hair. Plus, every time I sit on his chair, it's like I'm talking to a friend. We talk about hair, makeup, fashion and Beyonce, of course. But, I'm always mesmerized by all the advances in his career, by all the celebrities he's been booking and all the traveling he gets to do with them! He's living the life he loves and he has been achieving it by his talent and charm. I always knew I wanted to interview him one day for you guys and the day is finally here! 

What did you want to be as a child and why?

When I was a little boy I always thought I would be a cartoon animator. I loved drawing!

When did your interest in beauty and fashion start?

Lio and his dad // Pic provided by Lio

Lio and his dad // Pic provided by Lio

It's a funny story because I was never too attracted by beauty and fashion. I honestly started in this industry thanks to my dad. While I was enrolling at Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseño de Puerto Rico (EAP), I had to move from Hatillo to San Juan and my dad couldn't afford my entire tuition. So he randomly suggested I took a cosmetology course before I started School so I could work at a beauty salon in San Juan and help him cover my tuition. 

It was super weird and random to me, but once I started studying cosmetology I liked it, so I stayed. Even though I registered for my first class at EAP, I decided to stay in cosmetology school since I already had a job at a beauty salon. 

What was your first experience doing hair and makeup?

Since this was such a random decision, my first experience was in the classroom! I had never done makeup on anyone before. Even though I was always really good drawing and painting, I was terrified of doing makeup. 

What was Your first experience in a beauty salon?

It was at a salon in Arecibo, where I stayed for about 8 months. Once I started getting called for all these shoots in San Juan, I decided to move closer to the fashion scene. 

You grew up miles away from san juan's Fashion Scene. how did get your foot in the door?

Once I started studying cosmetology I was more inclined to fashion. I remember going to Walgreens and seeing a magazine called InFashion and knowing that's what I wanted to do. And I don't know how, maybe by faith, but my first job in San Juan was precisely for that same magazine! A friend of mine, who happens to be the brother in law of one of the Ecliptica designers referred me. We clicked and people kept calling me for their shows from that moment on. All by word of mouth! 

What did you end up studying?

I have a degree in barbershop. Once I started cosmetology school, I knew nothing about the beauty world, so I wanted to learn about everything! I decided to start by what I knew and liked less, which was barbershop. My plan was to finish barbershop and then start studying cosmetology, but I decided to stop at barbershop!

Then how are you so good at makeup?!

I learned my makeup skills from Youtube. I already had a good hand because I had drawing techniques. But I was terrified of makeup! I had no idea of what was a foundation or face powder... That's why I started with hair styling.

Makeup wasn't like I was used to with painting, it was a person's face! It doesn't get more personal than that.

Do you believe that formal education is i important in order to be a hair stylist or makeup artist?

It's all about practice. Whenever someone comes to me and asks me how I do this, I always tell them to be realistic with themselves about their art skills. It is much more about practice than theory. Unless when it comes to hair coloring! 

Who was your first celebrity client?

I don't remember clearly, but I do remember I was very excited when I first started having celebrity clients! ¡Me jayaba! I didn't care that much about having them in my portfolio. I really wanted to satisfy every single client and be nice to them so they would call me back and take me into consideration for other events. 

I really wanted to satisfy every single client and be nice to them so they would call me back and take me into consideration for other events. 
— Lio Maldonado

How did you end up at it's miranda salon?

When they called me I had several offers from other salons and I was really indecisive about which decision to make. But I remember that at one of the Ecliptica shows, Sandra Miranda (It's Miranda's owner) came over to personally make me the offer. I loved how spontaneous and fun Sandra was! Her vibes clicked with me instantly and once she showed me the salon, I fell in love with the place. 

Even though a lot of hairstylists switch salons quite frequently, I have stayed here because I love that we all get along great and the management is super flexible with my bookings. 

To what do you owe your success in the fashion industry?

Lio Maldonado and Annie Jo Galib // Pic provided by Lio

Lio Maldonado and Annie Jo Galib // Pic provided by Lio

I honestly owe most of it to Annie Jo Galib, who was in my opinion, the best stylist Puerto Rico has ever had. 

I still remember that she recommended me for one of my first photoshoots with Gustavo Arango. He told me to do something a vanguard, so I got inspired by an Alexander McQueen runway for the model's hair. But once Annie Jo saw the model, she screamed: "She looks like Frankestein's wife! Take that off right now. So ugly!" I literally started crying while undoing the model's hair.

I really though they were never going to call me back but the complete opposite happened. She was actually the person who introduced me to Kany Garcia! She's definitely my mentor. 

What have you learned about styling big celebrities like Roselyn Sanchez, Tommy Torres, Denise Quiñones, Giselle Blondet, Juanes and Kany García?

The most important quality a stylist needs to make it into the celebrity scene is to be discrete. You can't be a celebrity worshipper if you want to gain the celebrity's trust. You could be out of the game in no time! 

I try to please them as much as I can. They know how the celebrity world works, so whatever they ask for, I deliver. You have to establish your creative stamp, while still pleasing them.

The most important quality a stylist needs to make it into the celebrity scene is to be discrete.
— Lio Maldonado

You were April Carrión's hair and makeup stylist for the reality show, RuPaul Drag's Race. How has that experience helped your career?

I have known Jason Carrión since before he became April, so once he entered the RuPaul Drag's Race, he asked me to be his stylist. 

Even though it was all behind the scenes, it expanded my network a lot. The art of the drag queen or transformation is not very well known in Puerto Rico, so once I helped April in RuPaul, I've had female clients come to me, just because they know my work in the show! 

Lio Maldonado and April Carrión // Pic provided by Lio

Lio Maldonado and April Carrión // Pic provided by Lio

As a makeup and hair stylist with thousands of followers, what social media advice would you give an aspiring artist? 

Social media is the most assertive way to reach people. I can say 85% of my clients are people who know my work from social media. 

I used to have personal accounts where I would share some of my professional work, but it wasn't my priority. Just recently I opened a profesional Instagram account and a Facebook page that have helped me a lot. 

Also, sharing Facebook videos of my makeup transformations has been a huge boost in my career! I really didn't want to do makeup tutorials because I am really private about my makeup secrets, but I wanted to share videos of my work so people could see my artistic skills. I wanted to show that my job is #nofilter!  

What is your proudest moment in your career so far?

Working with L'Oreal as a Brand Ambassador is one of my proudest moments since it is one of the most complete and important brands in the world. 

Also being able to travel with Kany García is super huge for me. I'm so lucky to be able to travel doing what I love. 

What advice will you give someone who wants to make it as a hair and makeup and stylist? 

You better work bitch! Honestly, give it your all and be objective with your work. Go the extra mile, look at your job from another perspective and listen to people's opinion. It's all about image! It's very important for people to like your work. 

Who's your dream client?

Obviously JLo is every makeup artist's dream! But it sounds funny and random, but I would have to say Belinda. I used to love her face since I was a little kid. She's so gorgeous! 

Random facts:

  • Eye Shadow Palette - Urban Decay x Gwen Stefani (sold out!)

  • Highlighter - Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit

  • Lipstick - Zoe's Red by L'Oreal Colour Riche

  • Blush - Infallible Blush by L'Oreal

  • Brows - L'Oreal Brow Stylist Definer

  • Foundation - L'Oreal True Match

  • Concealer - Nars Creamy Radiant Concealer

  • Bronzer - I don't use bronzer.

  • Shampoo - L'Oreal Total Repair

  • Conditioner - L'Oreal Total Repair

  • Leave In - It's a 10 Miracle Leave In Plus Keratin

  • Hair Mask - L'Oreal Total Repair

  • Curls, Blow Dry or Straight Hair - Blow dry always!


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