Renowned makeup artist Reggie Wells, famed for his nearly three-decade stint as Oprah Winfrey’s personal makeup artist, passed away on Monday at the age of 76, succumbing to natural causes in his hometown of Baltimore, as reported by The Baltimore Banner. Wells, an artist with a diverse clientele, including Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, and Aretha Franklin, left an indelible mark on the beauty industry. His talent earned him five Daytime Emmy nominations, with a win in 1995, for his exceptional work on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Wells, born on December 2, 1947, as one of seven children, hailed from Baltimore. He pursued his passion for art, graduating from Baltimore City College and the Maryland Institute College of Art before making his mark in the makeup industry. Initially working at makeup counters in department stores, Wells swiftly climbed the ranks, securing positions at prestigious magazines like Glamour, Life, Harper’s Bazaar, and Essence.
It was his work with Oprah Winfrey for a cover shoot at Essence that proved to be a turning point. Winfrey recognized his talent and brought him to Chicago in 1990 to serve as her full-time makeup artist. Wells, often referred to as an astute observer of human behavior, created makeup tailored for Black women, using foundations and powders initially formulated for lighter skin tones. He collaborated with lighting technicians to ensure his clients looked their absolute best.
In 2000, Reggie Wells shared his expertise in his book, “Face Painting: African American Beauty Techniques From an Emmy Award-Winning Makeup Artist.” His dedication to highlighting the beauty of Black women and his innovative approach to makeup garnered widespread acclaim.
Returning to Baltimore in 2016 to care for his ailing father, Wells continued his mission to empower women through makeup. He provided makeovers for local women, coupled with professional photoshoots, embodying the lessons he learned from Oprah. In a 2017 interview with The Baltimore Sun, he expressed, “What I learned from Oprah is why I am doing this today. I’m doing this for the forgotten people of families. I’m taking unknown mothers and grandmothers and giving them the type of makeovers that Oprah would give.”
Oprah Winfrey herself paid tribute to Wells, describing him as an artist who used his talents to create beauty on any canvas. She fondly recalled their shared laughter during the makeup process and praised Wells for his ability to find humor in unlikely experiences. Reggie Wells’ legacy extends beyond his remarkable career, as he leaves behind a lasting impact on the beauty industry and the countless individuals he touched with his artistry and compassion.