It was a Tuesday afternoon, not long after lunchtime, in a printing factory in Dublin city on September 11, 2001, when the news filtered through the airwaves that a plane had struck the Twin Towers in New York City.
For millions of U.S, citizens, life would never be the same again, but for one Irish man the attack would propel him to pursue the American dream of his ancestors.
When I first meet Aidan Keogh, he is immaculately turned out. Dressed sharply with not a hair out on place on Super Bowl Sunday, this is one Irishman who knows how to look after himself.
Keogh, a make-up artist on the upswing in fashion crazed New York, started out working in education and development for MAC Cosmetics in the U.K. and Ireland before moving to the big city. His own private clients include the likes of designer Diane Von Furstenberg and reality TV star Kim Kardashian.
But how did a man from Cabra in Dublin end up painting some of the most famous faces in New York City? In a recent conversation with the Irish Voice, he explained how it all began.
“When I was younger I would always have these recurring dreams of high rise buildings, and to be honest I thought it was me wanting live the high life in Dublin,” he said.
“Little did I know the first time I landed in New York City I remember walking down around South Street Seaport and Battery Park and saying to myself, ‘This is what those dreams were about,’ so I knew I needed to make it happen.”
Keogh grew up alongside six siblings in Cabra, a north side suburb of Dubin. He describes his mother as a “superstar.”
“I wonder how ever she managed. I mean, she had her hands full. I always admired her strength, courage and sheer determination from a very young age, and to this day she still is my hero,” he said.
A printer by trade, the Dubliner had a yearning for something else in life. He wasn’t sure how his career would unfold, but one day he decided that it was time to get moving.
“I decided enough was enough when I realized I was working at a place that did not get the best from me and I did not get to give my best,” he said.
“The morning the planes hit the Twin Towers I remember listening on the radio and looking around the factory in Chapelizoid, Dublin and thinking, ‘Aidan you are not guaranteed tomorrow, why are you doing this?’ So I decided to make some changes.
“I had a friend who was a makeup artist and one day I said to myself, ‘I could do that,’ so she said, ‘Okay, we need to get you started.’”
His family was supportive of his newfound career ambitions, but he admits that his grandmother was skeptical at first.
“When I was starting out my grandmother said to me, ‘Aidan what do men know about makeup?’ And then when she saw my work appear on the fashion program Off the Rails on an Irish TV channel, she was suddenly ‘Aidan this and Aidan that!’”
Keogh got introduced to the fashion industry through MAC Cosmetics, for whom he currently works, as well as maintaining his private work with several high profile clients.
“I assisted one of Ireland's most influential makeup artists, Paula Callan O'Keeffe, and she was my mentor on editorial shoots and fashion shows while honing my skills,” he said.
After landing a coveted position with MAC Cosmetics in Ireland, his talent and ambition led to a U.S. opportunity with the global firm. In November 2006, he relocated to New York City where he is now based.
“What I love most about what I do is effecting people and opening their eyes to their own beauty,” he says.
“I like to look at it as enhancing what is already there, bringing out the natural beauty and highlighting features and bone structure that may go unnoticed every day,” says Keogh.
Working in the fashion industry in New York City and being constantly exposed to celebrities and influential people, the Dubliner likes to maintain a sense of normality as he explains he is not fazed by the famous people that seek his expert skills.
“I have to say, I'm from a very humble background and people are people!
“It doesn't matter if I am up in Diane Von Furstenberg’s multi-million dollar apartment or perfecting someone’s skin on the Lower East Side for a special event. They all get the same treatment from me,” he revealed.
Despite his self-effacing nature, Keogh reveals that sometimes he cannot help but be overwhelmed when surrounded by superstars.
One such occasion happened last September, when he was working backstage on famed designer Tom Ford’s women’s wear fashion show. The private show included celebrities such as Beyonce, Lauren Hutton and Daphne Guinness, as well as a host of top models.
“I am standing in the Tom Ford boutique on Madison Avenue, and I am getting model Joan Smalls ready for the show, and I look over my right shoulder and there is Julianne Moore having lashes applied chatting to Rita Wilson across the makeup station, and to my left is Beyonce being powdered down,” he recalled.
“I thought to myself, I am Aidan from Cabra in Dublin, here on Madison Avenue in New York City, and doing what I really enjoy the most.
“It all made sense. My reasons for leaving Dublin had been validated.”
Does Keogh think Irish women beat their American counterparts when it comes to make-up? He offers some insight into different cover-up habits they each possess.
“Some Irish women like makeup, they like to see it and know that it is there,” he says.
“American women prefer not to see it is there, but both know the importance of perfecting and enhancing.
“Although, having three sisters you learn that everything is not for everyone. My youngest sister loves makeup, and the others appreciate that it can be used as a tool and not as a crutch,” Keogh says.
Does the Irishman ever plan to move back to his hometown of Dublin? He hasn’t ruled it out and admits a summer house would be nice. But for now the bright lights of New York hold him captivated.
“I have a large family that just keeps growing so who knows, but for right now I have so many amazing things going on for me. I am busier than I've ever been, my client list is growing and the work keeps on flowing. If it's not broke don't fix it,” he says.
For more information visit www.aidankeogh.com.
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