Name an in-demand movie star or superstar singer and chances are Damone Roberts has powered their faces, glossed their lips, or trimmed their brows -- if not all three.
His deft hand with makeup and eyebrow grooming has made him somewhat of a Hollywood legend. From Iron Man’s Robert Downey Jr. to music icons such as Madonna and Beyoncé, Roberts has built a multi-million dollar Beverly Hills empire out of his love of art, fashion, and all things beautiful.
Not bad, as he likes to say, "for a little gay, black boy from Oakland."
“I was always just this creative kid who loved beauty,’’ Roberts tells The Daily Beast. “What really did it was when I was about seven or eight years old and I saw Diana Ross on the television screen for the first time. I was so mesmerized by her beauty and by the fact that she had my skin color and was running the world in terms of dominating music and winning Oscar. I had to be in that world somehow.’’
His father’s work as a regional manager at Nabisco caused his family to move around the country quite a bit, but by the time Roberts was a senior in high school, he’d drawn a picture of Ross that won him a full art scholarship to Rutgers University.
“It was so great to finally be somewhere where everyone was unique and a little different," remembers Roberts. “I wasn’t the only one different. Everyone was incredibly creative in their ideas and their thoughts. I didn’t stand out as I had for most of my life and that felt good.’’
Even today the Northern California native arrives at work in his Beverly Hills salon each morning with a full face of flawlessly applied makeup, courtesy of years as a Mac makeup artist, along with a mass of shoulder-length curls. His signature hairdo, he says, is a loving homage to his idol, Ms. Ross.
“How can I make anyone else look fabulous if I don’t?’’ asks Roberts. “I take my craft very seriously and my clients know it. They pay well for it.’’ Indeed they do: a trip in Roberts's chair for just eyebrows in either his New York or Los Angeles salons will run you $125.00. House calls run $300 and above.
Roberts was busy perfecting his craft in eyebrows and makeup in the late 1990s when another eyebrow legend, Anastasia Soare, asked him to join her team. The woman behind the brows of Oprah, Sharon Stone, and Penelope Cruz already owned the most famous brow salon in Hollywood when she recruited him. "Anastasia took my skills to another level," remembers Roberts. “Before I met her eyebrows were just a part of the look I did for makeup. But Anastasia showed me that brows are frames for the face, and make such a world of difference in how a woman looks. I knew I’d found my little niche when I began to focus on making eyebrows the central part of my work.’’
After a few years in the shadow of the Queen of eyebrows, Roberts decided it was time for him to claim his rightful place as the eyebrow King. In 2003, he opened the Damone Roberts Salon, just blocks from his former employer in Beverly Hills and immediately began attracting many of her high-profile clients.
Anastasia wasn’t pleased. The brow King and Queen’s huge falling out resulted in a story aptly titled “Eyebrow Wars.’’ “It didn’t end well with Anastasia but I needed to move and grow as an artist,’’ admits Roberts. “We were very close, we’d spend holidays together and now when we see each other at functions, we say hello and that’s about it."
With names like Beyoncé, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Madonna filling his appointment book regularly, Roberts soon opened a New York location in 2006. "People said I couldn’t do it,’’ he recalls. “They didn’t’ see how a black man could be successful doing eyebrows in Beverly Hills. With a store right across from Neiman Marcus no less. Thankfully, my chair is never empty.’’
Roberts says that his technique of carefully studying each client’s facial features before he tweezes or waxes distinguishes him from others. “Women come in with magazine photos of Madonna, Megan or Beyoncé and tell me they want to look like them,’’ says Roberts. “I tell them they’re beautiful women in their own right and need eyebrows to match their exact facial shape. Not someone else’s.’’
With regular appearances on Oprah, Good Morning America, and TLC’s 10 Years Younger, it also wasn’t long before Roberts expertise in brow grooming was being sought by those of the male persuasion, including Channing Tatum and Robert Downey Jr. “A lot of men come in after their significant suggest it," he says. “Both Robert and Channing make their money off their faces so grooming their eyebrows just makes sense.’’
Though he’s tended to the brows of many of the world’s most famous women and men, there are still two people he’d love to get in his chair: First Lady Michelle Obama and Kate Middleton. “I’d love to reshape the First Lady’s brows and make them a bit fuller,’’ says Roberts. “For Kate, I’d like to thin them out a bit more. They are both incredibly beautiful women but I’m always looking for what more can be done to make them even prettier and add more frosting on the cake."