Roi Santos and the foundation of a true makeup artist

With FilAm actress Donita Rose, one of Roi’s celebrity clients.

By Maricar CP Hampton

“Beauty is understanding and accepting who you are including all your imperfections.”

With this point of view, Sephora makeup artist Roi Santos, 34,  proceeds to do his magic not so much to make women beautiful but to bring out the beauty within.

“Artist to the stars” is how Roi is known throughout San Mateo, California, where he and his sister Danica were raised by immigrant parents Ramoncito, an airport technician, and Rosanna, a health care worker. His father’s family is from Mandaluyong, and his mother from Pasig.

After college, he worked as a pharmacy technician. While it brought him the pay check it did not bring passion into his life. Doing makeup made him happy.   Soon, women around the city would go to him for their wedding, their Quinceañera, their anniversary, birthdays and other milestones. They wanted to be “glammed up” by Roi Santos.

Ten years of hard work paid off when he landed his first celebrity makeup gig with the help of actress Rufa Mae Quinto whom he met at Sephora. He has since styled showbiz stars such as Donita Rose, Maria Isabel Lopez, and Cherie Gil as well as celebrity wife Jinkee Pacquiao.  He has also done makeup for Bunny Paras, Beth Tamayo, Lj Moreno Alapag, Carla Humphries, beauty queen Rabiya Mateo. Roi met them through fashion photographer Vincent Gotti who did their magazine shoots.

“I met Rufa when he shot her first magazine cover in the U.S.,” he said.  “He has helped me get introduced with all of them.”

With makeup, he can be both creative and fun.

“I feel fortunate that many celebrities have given me a chance to glam them up,” he said when interviewed by The FilAm. “Some have given me advice. They have also shown me makeup tricks and shown me the ropes.  They are patient with me and want to see me succeed.”

He added, “They are not just clients but have gained them as friends.”


What Roi remembers about growing up was being bullied in school for being gay, looking androgynous and wearing clothing that did not define gender. He was always well groomed and took care of his skin unlike some teens for whom acne and pimples are a lifetime struggle.

“I remember going to the department store counters where they sell beauty products and would ask the salesperson a million questions from color correcting to using the right shade of concealer, foundation,” he said. He made sure to educate himself about makeup and caring for the skin.

As a Sephora makeup artist, Roi is able to work on different types of skin and apply his knowledge of how to work around certain imperfections.

“I like the skin to show a little bit of its texture and not to look cakey,” he said. “I strive to enhance what qualities they already have. Every consultation is different, and I try to tailor my skills with every client and make sure their makeup does not look thick and heavy.”

Makeup is a combination of trick and science, and different types of skin require different attention through processes of blending, highlighting, contouring, or spraying, etc. ‘Natural finish’ is always the best look, he said.

“Working at Sephora has helped me be more versatile with my makeup preferences,” he said. “I continue to educate myself. No matter how much experience one has, there is always room to grow.”

Actress LJ Moreno Alapag is another client from the entertainment world.

On another tangent, Roi said he is not against surgery and injections if it will boost the person’s self-esteem and make her feel “happy and satisfied.”

He said, “I myself had Botox and got a rhinoplasty done. I always say whatever floats your boat.”

Roi is looking to launch his own makeup and skincare line, but it is a goal for now.  He is always generous with best practices on how to slow the development of wrinkles and fine lines — eating food rich in antioxidants, getting enough sleep, and staying hydrated.

“Right now, I’m soaking everything in. When I launch my beauty treatments, they will be suitable for all, based on everything I have learned over time. I can make the best recommendations to my clients, get them the products that complement their skin and their budget,” he said.

To aspiring makeup artists, he offers this advice: Never give up on your dreams. Be yourself and learn as much skills as you can and make them your own. 

© The FilAm 2021

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