Article by Joy Sewing Photo: Godofredo A. Vásquez, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer
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Aubrie Layne, owner of Lucky Cat Beauty Studio located in the Decorative Center, 5120 Woodway, Suite 9018 Photo: Layne, owner of Lucky Cat Beauty, poses for a photograph at her studio in the Decorative Center on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, in Houston. The art installation behind her was made by her friend Balushka, an artist who died of cancer recently.
Aubrie Layne credits luck with helping her land a dream job — as a national makeup artist for Laura Mercier — at age 20. She told everyone that she was 21, just so people would take her seriously.
For 11 years, the Houston native traveled the world demonstrating her skills for Laura Mercier, which was launched by Houston beauty mogul Janet Gurwitch and quickly become a global brand.
“Janet collected the best people from all of the beauty counters around the country, and the company had an extensive training program that was incredible. It was a glamorous job, but the travel was grueling. I was on a plane every week for 11 years,” said Layne, now 39.
She was promoted to global makeup artist, frequently traveling to Asia, New York and Paris for fashion shows. She worked alongside Mercier herself, marveling at the way the French makeup guru held a makeup brush. “Laura’s artistic skills were a step beyond anything I had ever seen. She talked with women in such a romantic way; you couldn’t help but be mesmerized,” Layne said.
She felt destined to be in the beauty business, growing up in Sacramento around relatives who were cosmetic sales reps for brands such as L’Oréal and Guerlain. Her aunt was an in-store model for Neiman Marcus, and Layne had worked as a fragrance model at age 16. That’s when she met Patti Rasmey, then a global makeup artist for Laura Mercier.
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Home: Missouri City Personal style: “punk-rock, grandma-style” Style heroes: Elaine Turner, Janet Gurwitch Must-have beauty product: Ellis Faas Skin Veil Foundation Beauty secret: Always see a pro for Botox. “I trust my plastic surgeon, Dr. Sanaz Hairichan, with my life.” Favorite designers: Balmain, Ralph Lauren Trend you’ll never wear: Cropped tops Need to purge from closet but can’t: A peach chiffon Diane von Furstenberg wrap gown Favorite food: Indian Travel spot: South America, Tulum Favorite restaurant: Urban Eats Drink of choice: Bourbon Movie: “Scarface” Favorite book: “Get your Sh*T Together” by Sarah Knight Hidden talent: Sewing and painting Backup career: Real estate agent or interior designer
“When I found out that you could do makeup and travel the world, I knew that’s the job I wanted to do,” she said.
She quickly absorbed everything she could about makeup, starting with the book “Making Faces,” by the late makeup artist Kevin Aucoin, who worked with Whitney Houston, Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford, among other celebrities.
Layne’s best friend, Levi Rollins, worked as a vice president with Laura Mercier. He had encouraged her to apply for the national makeup-artist job, relocating her to Houston. (Rollins is now the chef and owner of Urban Eats.) While at Laura Mercier, Layne fell in love with tattoos.
“I went as high as I could go at Laura Mercier before I started getting tattoos,” she said. “I’ve lost count how many I have now. I love the way they look.”
When Laura Mercier was sold in 2006, Layne left to work at Therapy Hair Studio in The Galleria Area, where she built up a large local clientele. At the same time, doctors diagnosed her rheumatoid arthritis. “I had a pity party when I first got the diagnosis. Then I realized I had a network of friends and doctors to help keep me normal,” said Layne, who was honored by the Arthritis Foundation in 2015.
Laura Mercier, Aubrie Layne & Levi Rollins behind three scenes for Harpers Bazaar Thailand
After a brief failed business partnership with the defunct Vanity Lounge in West Ave, Layne launched her own company, Lucky Cat Beauty Studio, which she said she started with just $500.
Layne specializes in brows and lashes; she offers an array of makeup products and services. She also shares beauty tips on her blog at luckycatbeauty.com. She recently teamed up with pharmacist Christy Ware to collaborate on a line of lipsticks, with a percentage of the sales going to the Arthritis Foundation. Many of the lipsticks are named after her noted clients: Lynn Wyatt, Janet Gurwitch, Elaine Turner, and Balushka, the late paper-floral artist.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, Layne, like many small-business owners, worried if she could survive when her business was forced to close in March. She has since launched a successful crowdfunding campaign, offering services via gift certificates, and she started making and selling masks made from Mexican dresses. She’s made about 110 so far.
The time at home socially distancing with boyfriend Gilbert Rodriguez, a financial planner with Wells Fargo, has been reflective, she said.
“I knew if my business did go under, I would be happy with my life.”
Follow Aubrie on Instagram @luckycatbeauty
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The Houston native covers fashion, beauty,and fitness, as well as other lifestyle topics. Joy has interviewed countless fashion designers and stylish celebrities, including Houston's own Beyonce, the late Oscar de la Renta, and more. She also writes about children's books and is the author of "Ava and the Prince: The Adventures of Two Rescue Pups," a picture book about her own rescue boxer dogs.
Joy started Year Of Joy, a nonprofit organization, to spread joy to children from underserved communities. In 2017, Joy was honored with the Houston Humanitarian award for her community involvement. Also, former competitive ice skater, Joy became Houston's first African-American figure skating coach while in college.
She currently serves as vice president of the Houston Association of Black Journalists.
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