A Spanish Makeup Artist on American Beauty Risks

Noelia Lopez, the face of Maybelline in Spain.
Noelia Lopez, the face of Maybelline in Spain. Photo: Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images

Gato (né Ruben) Zamora sees things differently. He’s from Spain, where beauty tends to be more understated, and as an official makeup artist for Maybelline, he travels the world to paint the faces of models and celebrities alike. The Cut caught up with him in New York to learn about the Spanish approach to beauty, the makeup trends worthy of our attention, and why everyone calls him a cat.

How do you approach a face?
There are two things that are important for me. First, I look at what parts of your face I want to enhance, and then what parts of your face I need to conceal. There are women that are really gorgeous and they don’t know it. Why? Because they have dark circles or they are using the wrong foundation. So I start covering the skin tone, the dark circles. After I finish covering the things I don’t want to see, I start to think, Okay, she has beautiful lashes, she has beautiful eyebrows, but the lips are amazing. So I look for the perfect, natural color to enhance her lips.

What current beauty trends stick out to you?
If you see the collections like five years ago, the women tried to be sexy, powerful, like a superwoman. But right now all of the beautiful collections show the romantic side of a girl. Women don’t need to be the sexy girl at the party — they just want to be cute. It’s the Chloé effect showing the beautiful, natural look. They don’t care to wear makeup that looks Paris Hilton pink, but matte, soft pink. Everything is becoming more relaxed and natural. They are starting to get used to primers. All of these things that help you look your best.

Contouring seems to be a divisive trend. What’s your stance on it?
To look like the most sexy girl in the world takes too much time, and no one has that much time.

Right, but do you feel frustrated when nonprofessionals try to teach contouring via social media?
It’s tricky. When you follow the trends from people who aren’t professionals, they’re showing the trends with a camera and specific kinds of light — it’s not real life. I don’t think it’s frustrating, though. At least they’re talking about makeup. Makeup is now so famous. You can see all the channels, all the Instagrams focused on makeup. And these bloggers are a big part of the success.

Speaking of bloggers, which are your favorite to follow?
I don’t really follow anyone. I check Instagram maybe once a week. Also, I have my own style, and I don’t want seeing someone else’s work to affect my own style.

How is the approach to makeup different in the U.S. than in Spain?
You guys take risks. In Spain it’s much quieter. We like very flawless foundation. If we choose any lip color, it’s going to be our lip color for a very long time. In America you don’t feel bad if you wear big fake lashes on the subway going to work. That happens in London, too. There are places where you just feel more free. In Europe it feels like women try to be more chic than trendy.

One thing that is very curious is that in America women try to look bronzed. They don’t care if their foundation looks orange or a different color. It’s funny because I think it’s about the culture. Americans have cultivated the “healthy” look, but it’s so difficult to look healthy when you work 24 hours.

Lastly, what kind of name is Gato? I know it means cat in Spanish.
I used to go to the roof of my house to read magazines when I was a kid. My real name is Ruben. People used to say, “Where is Ruben, the gato?” And then everyone started to call me that, the kids in my school, and even my brothers. So it’s hard for me to introduce myself as Ruben when everyone else calls me Gato.

What’s your go-to product?
I love Dream Velvet foundation. It’s a foundation that stays well when the weather is cold. It stays perfectly when the weather is humid — it works in every kind of climate. It’s really one of my favorite products. It also works with all skin types because the formula is based in water, which hydrates dry skin but doesn’t make oily skin greasy since it’s oil-free.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

A Spanish Makeup Artist on American Risk-Taking