Megan Martinez was raised in the south Texas coastal city of Corpus Christi by a free-spirited mother who often dated abusive men. She endured physical and sexual abuse, grew up poor, and as a teenager, rebelled by getting tattoos and sporting a punk hairstyle. After both her mother and grandmother kicked Martinez out of their homes, she tried to make rent for on her apartment working minimum wage gigs. Eventually, she wound up homeless and dropped out of high school. But after struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, she found an outlet in make up artistry – which helped her get her life on a positive track.
Today, the 28 year-old is a an experienced celebrity make up artist, recognized humanitarian and owner of a cosmetics line that has drawn the attention of the likes of Allure, PopSugar, Teen Vogue, Refinery29 and HelloGiggles. She called her company Chaos Makeup to reflect her tumultuous but beautiful life.
We caught up with Martinez to hear about her life, makeup, puppies and work.
You started doing special events makeup as young as 14. Though it wasn’t necessarily something you were passionate about you obviously had a knack for it. What led you to work as a celebrity makeup artist and eventually launch your own cosmetics line?
I’m self-taught. I didn’t go to cosmetology school. I briefly attended a cosmetology program through school but dropped out because it didn’t offer makeup courses. It was just hair, nails and skin and I was furious.
In my late teens, I started applying for national gigs that I could do locally, such as makeup for Jay Leno when NBC was taping a show in the area, and Pitbull when he had a concert in South Padre Island. That led to Dr. Phil, CMT, NBC, MTV, VH1 and Kanye West.
I did makeup for publications such as Surfer Magazine, Volcom, Inc., and Vogue. By then I was in my early 20s and my back wasn’t feeling good to the point where it became unbearable. I got checked up and found out I had osteoporosis and my Multiple Sclerosis was getting worse and worse.
I was thinking of the bigger picture. I can’t be doing this forever. After my assistant and I did a workshop on pressed powder highlighters I thought I might as well just start a cosmetics line. I didn’t know what to expect but thought I should at least try. I was roughly 25 [years old].
Can you talk about the launch of company?
It was stressful. I had to learn how to make makeup. If you’re from California or New York you naturally have a lab near you. Typically, if you want to start a cosmetic company you go through a lab and they make stuff for you. But we’re way the heck down here and there’s hardly anything in Texas, overall, for the type of cosmetics we need. We had to teach ourselves how to make things. Thank God, I naturally love chemistry and science. I had to learn more chemistry, more science, more biology and I had to learn so much about ingredients, oils and waxes.
Now we’re getting to the point where we’re having to upgrade our small-warehouse-turned-lab-and-office. We’ll probably hire more people and get a better place.
What is your vision for your future and that of your company?
I feel like I never really got a chance like a normal person does to ask themselves what they want to do when they grow up. Ever since I was little, I loved animals and wanted to save animals. The older I get, the more I want to be a humanitarian, an animal activist and an animal rescuer. When I first started Chaos Makeup I wanted to fund animal rescues, but I’ve found out how unrealistic it is to do everything I want to do. Eventually, I’d like to be able to donate a portion of my business proceeds to these causes.
All my life I’ve been told I wasn’t going to make anything of myself because I dropped out of school six months short of graduating.
Right now, we focus on animal rescues and aiding the homeless. We do any little thing we can get our hands on. We donate clothes to local shelters or drop off water or blankets directly to homeless people in the Corpus Christi area. They aren’t difficult to spot. This year I would like to get fabrics instead of blankets. Last time, I couldn’t get as many blankets as I wish I could and it really hurt to not to be able to give everyone a blanket. We give tampons and pads to homeless women. We find foster and adoptive families for rescue dogs.
I know there are an astounding number of people of suffering, and I can’t go to sleep at night knowing I’m not trying to do something about it. I know what it’s like to be poor and to have no one. It’s sad that a lot of people don’t really care about all the issues going on in the world, and that’s what makes me want to do something even more.
You are the only known makeup artist in the US recognized at the local, county, state and national level for their humanitarian work. In early 2014, you received Special Congressional Recognition from the United States Congress, Texas Senate Proclamation No. 203 recognizing your standing as a “treasured citizen” for your career success and inspiring story; a Commissioner Court Resolution from the County of Nueces for your “outstanding achievement” as makeup artist and entrepreneur; and a Certificate of Commendation from the City of Corpus Christi. Talk about the significance of these recognitions.
All my life I’ve been told I wasn’t going to make anything of myself because I dropped out of school six months short of graduating and because I came from nothing. It’s like everything was working against me. When the day came [that] I was recognized for my accomplishments I was proud. It shows you anything is possible and to always keep going.
How have your Latina roots helped shape the person and businesswoman you have become?
Music, particularly Tejano, played a big part in everything I’ve gone through. The only good memories I have from childhood are usually when it comes to my grandpa: he’s barbecuing and listening to Tejano music.
I’m really proud of being Latina. I don’t feel there are a lot of tattooed Latinas in my industry. I am part of a group of Latina women who are up and coming in this industry. Selena’s legacy – my favorite artist and influence – made me feel like I could do whatever I wanted if I worked hard for it and believed in myself.
What makes your makeup products different or special?
We care a lot about the ingredients and keep the quality 100-percent pure. They’re simplified and vegan-friendly but not tested on animals. They are natural. We can make different eye shadows and it still be the same type of base without using so many ingredients and fillers that aren’t healthy for you.
Anything else you’d like readers to know?
People with depression often think they can’t become anything and let that ruin their dreams. I have chronic pain I deal with every day and I’m on my way to being disabled. But it doesn’t matter if you have these things. I literally had everything against me and still made it, so don’t let life’s obstacles get in the way of your dreams.