How Mario Dedivanovic Found Freedom In Sephora & Himself
Following his emotional coming out speech, Mario Dedivanovic is starting a new chapter — and launching his biggest project to date.
I'm sitting on a velvet green couch in a suite in the Lowes Regency Hotel in New York City when celebrity makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic cracks the door open and slips into the room in a cozy black sweatshirt, dark jeans, and crisp white socks. “Is it okay if my mom sits in on this interview?” he asks politely. “She just really wants to see how this stuff works.”
After settling his mom into a comfortable chair behind us with a bottled water, Dedivanovic slides next to me on the couch, tucking his feet into a pretzel shape and smiling. As our eyes connect, Dedivanovic looks visibly happier and more relaxed than the last time we met on a photoshoot a few years back. His energy is calm and confident, and he speaks freely — even shedding a few tears (along with his mom) throughout our conversation.
Just weeks before, Dedivanovic was honoured by his longtime client Kim Kardashian West at the American Influencer Awards. During his emotional 14-minute speech, which has since gone viral, he came out as a gay man for the first time in his life. "I had no intention of giving that speech," the 37-year-old artist tells me. "I was going through a tumultuous few weeks prior, and despite working so hard for that moment and manifesting it, I wasn't happy."
"Even though I was doing what I love, I wasn't happy because I wasn't being myself."
Dedivanovic, who had previously never told his family about his identity, says that fear stifled him from living his truth. "Even though I was doing what I love, I wasn't happy because I wasn't being myself," he says. At first, Dedivanovic debated ditching the ceremony altogether before he finally broke down to his mother and came out to her. "I was so relieved that she told me that everything will be okay," he says. "The next morning, I started typing on my phone and it was like my soul took over my body."
It was at that moment that Dedivanovic wrote his life-changing speech. "What started out as a letter to my parents ended up being a healing moment for me and my family," he says. "I finished writing and I decided, This is it. This is the reason I don't feel happy and I just got the courage to let it out." But Dedivanovic wasn't prepared for the outpouring of support he would get from fans and strangers.
"I've gotten thousands of letters and messages, many from Albanian people, thanking me for speaking up," he says. "This is something so common that many of us go through. I thought I would go to my grave with fear of being unloved and rejected, and it means so much to me that so many people around the world know they aren't alone in those same feelings."
Since his touching speech, Dedivanovic's entire outlook has shifted. "Every single day, I was living for someone else, to make someone else feel good and proud," he says. "I am now realizing that I have to make myself happy, which means taking that vacation, saying no to certain jobs, and no longer suppressing who I am." It's also given Dedivanovic an entirely new perspective on his work. "Because I was living in this prison in my head, it affected every facet of my life," he says. "Work included."
Dedivanovic now sees those barriers lifting, allowing him more freedom to pursue the projects he's passionate about — including his upcoming three-part brush collection with Sephora. It's a full-circle moment for the artist who launched his career as a greeter at the retailer.
"From the very first time I stepped foot into Sephora, this new world opened up and I discovered my gift," says Dedivanovic, who started working there when he was 17 years old despite pressure from his family to pursue a career in business or real estate. "I had to hide that I wanted to do makeup because I knew that my dreams would get shut down," he says. "If I didn't stand up for myself at that time, I would not be sitting here today."
Fast forward 20 years, and Dedivanovic is collaborating with the very brand that gave him his start. "I have a strong connection to Sephora, and I really feel like they saved my life," he says.
Dedivanovic, who has full creative control of the collection, has been working diligently on it for the past year. The result is a range of high-performance synthetic brushes with bristles that look and feel like real hairs. There's the Eye Brush set, complete with five tools for blending, detailing, smudging, as well as grooming brows; the Complexion Brush set, which has six different wands to master Dedivanovic's famous highlighting, contouring, and baking technique; and, finally, the Master Brush set, which has 14 pieces for every makeup application technique you'd learn at his famous Master Class.
As he shows me the line, Dedivanovic excitedly picks up a brush and glides it across my arm. I'm immediately impressed by the gentle, luxurious feel of the bristles — they're soft, dense, and look expensive. When he pulls a few out of the chic black-and-gold case to give me a makeup touchup, they blend my blush and eye makeup perfectly. (Though, the fact that Dedivanovic is the one doing the blending certainly doesn't hurt.)
"Even though we were all born different and come from different cultures, it doesn't really make us different."
Dedivanovic tells me this collection with Sephora represents a new opportunity to make himself proud and has helped him start a fresh chapter in his 20th year as a makeup artist. It has also given Dedivanovic the confidence to pursue his ultimate dream: "Makeup By Mario with no X," he says, implying that his next project won't be a collaboration. "I've been working on the next step set to release late next year," he says. "It will be a culmination of my 20 years of work as an artist and it's very exciting."
Ultimately, Dedivanovic wants to make an impact that reverberates beyond makeup and beauty. "I understand the platform that I was blessed with, and, because of this, I intend to use it for the rest of my life to do beautiful things," he says. "I want to help children and adults realize that even though we were all born different and come from different cultures, it doesn't really make us different. That's my true purpose."
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