How a Pittsburgh Native Went From Home Makeovers to Red Carpet Premieres
Brett Freedman has been creating flawless looks on some of show biz’s best faces since the mid-1990s.
Armed with more brushes than Van Gogh, Brett Freedman works tirelessly to create beautiful masterpieces — on some of Hollywood’s best faces.
The Monroeville native has always envisioned glam looks for celebs, even while doodling on old covers of The Enquirer as a boy.
“I would draw on Joan Collins, men, women, it didn’t matter; they all got a makeover. I loved pink. Everyone got pink lips and cheeks, and indigo and silver eyes. My looks were subtle and classy,” adds Freedman, 55.
After decades of perfecting his craft, Freedman is sought after by many of Hollywood’s best to complete their look, whether they’re about to grace the red carpet or step in front of the camera for a photoshoot or interview.
He has also created his own line of affordable cosmetics, Brett Glam Beauty, that focuses on his specialty — eyebrows. He also serves as a glambassador for FarmHouse Fresh, skincare products he preps his clients’ skin with.
Academy Award-winner Jodie Foster, who starred in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs, which was largely filmed in the Pittsburgh area, shared in a statement for Pittsburgh Magazine: “There’s nothing like Brett’s hand in the natural look department. He understands skin and brings that freshness without piling on a ton of makeup. He’s got snap instincts that know how to change small things quickly to give a whole new look. Because he’s great with hair, too, he can play with different periods and references. Honestly, I’m not a makeup person, but Brett brings out the dress up fun in me.”
Always an Artist
Freedman says he always knew he would be an artist like his father.
“My dad ended up owning a catering company when he bought an old church in the ’70s and turned it into the Mellwood Party Center,” Freedman says. “There would be two weddings there on the weekends, and I used to help out there. It’s now getting a new life as a production space called Sunken Bus Studios.”
At a time when it was taboo for a teenaged boy to work with makeup (he would borrow mascara and other staples from his neighborhood friends), Freedman continued to push the boundaries and never gave up shooting for the stars.
“I never really focused on academics because I knew I was going to be an artist,” he adds.
He started by transforming his shy gal pals into fashionistas in his makeshift Glamour Shots studio in the basement gameroom.
Experimenting with makeup in the 1980s meant bold colors, thick, sweeping lines of blush (rug burn blush), big hair and lots of lace.
“I was really into Madonna,” he recalls. “I would take my high school gal pals, put hot rollers in their hair, use lace hair ties and give them makeovers. Then I would put up a red backdrop and use an industrial light to take their picture. Back then, we went to the mall to drop off our film and waited anxiously for an hour for them to be developed.”
The Gateway High School and Art Institute of Pittsburgh graduate also recalls reading his sister’s Teen magazines and having his own skincare regimen.
Though his parents, Jess and Reda Freedman, initially hoped he would choose a different path because of those taboo views at the time, he notes they became his biggest allies and have been incredibly supportive through his career.
Pursuing His Career
Freedman began working as a rotating makeup artist at both Kaufmann’s and Horne’s department stores Downtown in the late 1980s, and was one of the few men to do so back then.
He eventually landed a lucrative position with an advertising agency following graduation from the former Art Institute, but makeup always had its way of finding him. He would do makeup for photography students’ photoshoots and “word got out that I could do makeup.”
“I would also do weddings in the Pittsburgh region. I wasn’t even trying and the phone would ring for different opportunities. So I thought, ‘What if I lean into this and just do it?’”
His first paid gig as a makeup artist was a photoshoot for a plus-size shop in Monroeville.
“I got $50 and we shot it in someone’s condo in Churchill,” he says. “That’s how the makeup career began. After that, I started working for a Glamour Shots knockoff in Dormont called Image Makers where we turned housewives into hookers with lots of rug burn blush and pink, frosted lipstick!”
In 1991, Freedman read an article in Allure magazine about makeup artists doing photoshoots on the beach in Miami that also highlighted male hairstylists.
“I told my family I was going to move to South Beach, get a studio apartment and work at a makeup store on the beach,” he says. “They were concerned, but I had this feeling of why not? There’s gotta be something for me there. So, I moved to Miami in 1992.”
When Freedman arrived in The Magic City, he told everyone he was a makeup artist and did any job that came his way — even makeup for Black Tail adult magazine.
Freedman notes he became familiar with styling eyebrows while working in the makeup store.
“One of my coworkers asked me if I wanted him to do my brows, and I said I don’t do that. He said we will just clean them up. The brows really change the look. Then he said, ‘Let me give you some advice. Learn how to do eyebrows and do them because a lot of artists are afraid.’ So I did.”
While working with models in Miami, he was mentioned in an Allure article on eyebrow grooming, which garnered attention and landed him an agent.
He began getting deals with companies such as Revlon and Lancôme, and started doing commercials, along with models’ makeup.
In 1996, Freedman decided to relocate once more to Los Angeles.
“I visited California with my family in 1980 and we toured Universal Studios. I remember riding the open-air tram and seeing everyone working on the lot, going in and out of the studios, and I thought, ‘I want to live in Hollywood!’”
Early in his Hollywood career, he did models’ makeup for Fantastic Sams posters and covers for TV Guide.
“That was impressive to my parents because they could see that in the grocery store,” he says. “My mom also went to the Fantastic Sams in Monroeville and told them her son did the makeup for the posters. It was fun seeing their reaction to pop culture then.”
Freedman recalls his agent telling him he needed more actresses in his portfolio to make it in Hollywood, noting that it would help to get actresses from “Friends.”
“Now I do Lisa Kudrow’s makeup and even did her makeup for the ‘Friends: The Reunion’ that aired on HBO in 2021. Everyone I work with, I’ve worked with for years. They’re all my favorites in different ways.”
Some other early clients were Sharon Lawrence of “NYPD Blue” for McCall’s Magazine and Courtney Thorne-Smith of “Melrose Place,” whose publicist began sending actors and actresses his way.
He has since enhanced the beauty of Patricia Heaton, Mariah Carey, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marlee Matlin, Sarah Silverman, Taylor Swift, Anna Camp, Kirsten Dunst, Britney Spears, Reba McEntire and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Creating His Brand
Freedman eventually decided it was time to branch out and create his own line of cosmetics. Brett Glam Beauty products mainly focus on eyebrows (of course!), but he also sells lip gloss (GLOSS-A-HOLIC) and balm (Dr. Kiss).
“I felt that there was a hole in the market with eyebrow products,” he notes. “I created a very pale blonde and a very gingery red in my line.”
He acknowledges that creating the line was tough because he doesn’t consider himself to be a “natural businessman.”
“It turns out creating the makeup line, naming the products and demonstrating how to use them is only about 4% of the process. The hardest part is you don’t know what you’re doing for like a year and a half!”
Freedman is thankful his line took off because when the pandemic hit, he couldn’t do makeup from 6 feet away. He also doesn’t know if he can “run around with my makeup box forever.”
“I always had this feeling that my career would end and I wouldn’t be the flavor of the month. I wanted to do something that I could age into.”
Freedman says he is fortunate for the success he has had and eventually learned to step back and enjoy life. He married his husband, Andrew, in 2019. The couple has a puppy and soon plans to adopt a child.
They also plan to venture back to the East Coast this summer to visit family. Freedman is excited to return to Kennywood for the first time in years and discover some new restaurants.
What makeup tips does Freedman have for those who may only dream of stepping foot on the red carpet?
“It depends on how you want to move through the world. If you don’t want to wear makeup, don’t. There’s no cookie-cutter face. I will say now is an exciting time for makeup. People are being really creative with different looks,” he says.
He adds most working women want tips on looking fresher and less tired. This look can be achieved with a tinted moisturizer with SPF, a light foundation that is matched to your upper chest/breastbone, curled eyelashes (even if you don’t use mascara), a luminous blush and lip products in pink, peach or mango hues.
“When we get older our skin starts to lose its vibrancy and our lips get paler,” he notes. “Those juicy hues will help freshen your look.”
And the key to on-fleek eyebrows?
“Get a pencil or a powder that’s a bit lighter than the hairs, and fill in the spaces behind them. I also recommend doing a little of one brow and volleying back and forth between them to notice any holes you might be missing. I also think everyone would benefit from an eyebrow gel. Brush them up and out to make them look fuller for a more wide-eyed look.”
He recommends going to a store like Ulta or Sephora, finding an associate sporting a look that you like and asking them questions.
“Whether you want a look that’s just me, but a little more vivid or want to look like a Kardashian, they can help you find what you need to complete that look,” he adds.
Two rules he lives by: asking clients what doesn’t work for them and always making sessions fun.
“You want them to feel like they’re in the driver’s seat,” he adds. “I’m just there to make them look like them.”