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Oprah’s Emmy Award-winning makeup artist is dead at 76

Wells skills with the makeup brush was also applied to icons Whitney Houston and Beyoncé
Reggie Wells (Image source: YouTube/TheGreatnessInYou)

Reggie Wells, Oprah Winfrey’s award-winning makeup artist for three decades, has died. He was 76.

Known as the makeup artist to the stars, including the late legendary Whitney Houston and Beyoncé, Wells was perennially considered the premiere person in his profession. He passed away from natural causes in his hometown of Baltimore , his family informed the public.


“He was so loved, so talented,” said one sister, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “He had a true impact on the industry and mentored a lot of makeup artists,” his niece added.

Mega-media mogul Winfrey held Wells in the highest regard due to his extraordinary talent with a makeup brush and his great sense of humor.


“Reggie Wells was an artist who used his palette of talent to create beauty no matter the canvas,” Winfrey said in an emailed statement to the Chicago Sun-Times. “For many years he was my makeup artist. He called me and everyone he considered a friend ‘Mary.’ He always made me feel beautiful. Ooo my, how we’d laugh and laugh during the process. He was an astute observer of human behavior and could see humor in the most unlikely experiences.”

Reared in Baltimore, Wells received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Maryland Institute College of Art and then began teaching in the Baltimore public schools. Following his hunch that greatness awaited him on the horizon, Wells moved to New York where his life was transformed. Working at makeup counters inside department stores, Wells secured a gig on Fifth Avenue doing makeup for a Jordache jeans advertising campaign. 

Not long after that, Wells met Winfrey when he did her makeup for the cover shoot for Essence magazine. The rest, they say, is history.

Not long into his tenure on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” Wells was traveling across the country and around the world with Winfrey as her personal makeup artist and confidante. He was so talented that Winfrey once invited him to give women makeup advice on an episode of her eponymous talk show. He would go on to win an Emmy for outstanding makeup on the show.

“He was as big as it gets in that world — a legend,” said close friend Roosevelt Cartwright who did makeup for guests who appeared on Winfrey’s show. “He did them all at some point . . . but his main client, his full-time client for years and years, was Oprah.” 

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