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She is known as the “top makeup artist in Union Square” on Yelp and is frequently called upon for weddings, fashion shoots, film and a variety of occasions. She is famous for calling a face her “canvas” and creating glowing complexions. Her favorite events to do makeup for are Proms and Weddings, as her prime concern is “creating a great experience.” Prom is all about young girls who, many times, have never been made up before and she truly enjoys seeing their smiles when they see the finished product. “I’ve been able to make someone’s day – it’s priceless.”

Its 3:15 in the afternoon and, just finishing a makeup lesson for a client, Whitney is whizzing across the Bay Area to pick up her 8 year old son from school. She is a vision of effortless chic and you can pick up clues about her just from what she’s wearing: smooth hair, glowing face, a dark pout…and an Adidas tank top. “Is that an Adidas tank?” I ask her, smiling. She laughs and says yes. “My brother is sponsored by Adidas so we get everything by them, [but] I’m actually a Nike girl – I wish they would sponsor me!” Whitney comes from a serious sports family. Her father played thirteen seasons for the 49’ers (she’s a diehard fan), her brother coaches for the Eagles, her younger brother plays as a wide receiver and her sister is the Director of Premium Seating for the Raiders. From a young age it seemed this might have been her path too. She was an athlete, excelling in track and basketball and earning scholarships for college, but when the time came to go to school, it just didn’t seem to be what she wanted anymore. “Something wasn’t right,” she said. Her mother stepped in and gave her one week to figure out what she did want to do. Somehow, despite her tomboy persona and little experience with makeup (growing up, she wasn’t allowed and had to sneak putting it on) she decided to give being a makeup artist a try.

“What inspired me had to do a lot with myself but also colors I know women are always looking for.” No matter what our complexion is, women are united by the desire to feel beautiful, sexy and unforgettable.

A week later (Literally. One week later.) she found herself in Los Angeles attending the Joe Blasco Makeup Academy and six months after that she was back in San Francisco working for Neiman Marcus at the Bobbi Brown counter. There, she was able to really gain experience in her art, at times even working alongside Bobbi Brown herself. “That’s when I really grew to love makeup.” As the years passed, that love kept growing until she began to dream of working for herself and creating a brand of her own. I ask her what made her decide that was the route she wanted to take. Working at a makeup counter, she explains, you’re restricted to using that brand’s products exclusively, and as her website says “not all products are created equally.” Whitney wanted to cater to her client’s individual needs, using what was going to showcase them best.

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Looking ahead, Whitney has been busy developing her own makeup line, W. “My whole thing is simplicity”, she says. With an affinity for packaging (she collects beautiful perfume bottles), she is making sure the products look as amazing in their box as they do on your face. Her first products will be a line of 10 lipsticks and about 10 foundations, working closely with a chemist to achieve foundations that are “semi-matte but also extremely hydrating…anti-aging as well.” “What inspired your first line of colors?” I ask excitedly. “Personal experience.” When working at department stores she noticed that if an African-American was standing at a counter, people automatically associated it as being a line geared towards darker complexions. She also pointed out that 95% of her clients are caucasian, with only 5% being other minorities. So in the spirit of inclusivity, for this first line, she went for the classics: “What inspired me had to do a lot with myself but also colors I know women are always looking for.” No matter what our complexion is, women are united by the desire to feel beautiful, sexy and unforgettable. “Every woman has to have a red lip, I don’t care who you are,” she says with a confident mixture of sass and conviction. We can expect a range of moods from a bridal pinky nude, to deep plums and electric pink.

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Our interview coming to a close, I can’t resist asking her: “You have five minutes to get ready before leaving the house, what do you do?” Her response is quick and sure “Oh – Eyebrows!” (I say an internal “yes!”  because there is no way I EVER leave my house without making sure mine are flawless) To her they are the first thing you notice on a person’s face. “When I don’t have my brows on I’m Whitney, [when I do] I turn into, like, Beyonce,” she says laughing. Brows on or not, her glowing personality certainly lends a helping hand.

W will launch in Spring/Summer of 2016, in the meantime you can get your flawless complexions and power-house brows by scheduling Whitney for your next event at: http://whitneyharpermakeupartist.com/appointments/.


words by Chelsea Duran | photographs by Kari Humphrey