It began, like so many Hollywood dalliances, under the hot lights of a photo shoot. He opted for the direct approach. "I really like you," he said, looking into her eyes. She, striking a glam pose for a magazine cover, replied, "I like you too." The relationship proceeded at a dizzying pace—within days, another shoot, this time for an album cover, followed by a video and then a whirlwind European jaunt.

They've been together ever since. No, Jennifer Lopez—dating Sean "Puffy" Combs at the time—wasn't two-timing him. This was way more serious. Jenny from the Block, high priestess of the fashion vanguard, had just tapped makeup artist Scott Barnes to do her high-profile face, thus anointing him as Hollywood's new go-to cosmetic guru. "Scott is an incredible artist and a wonderful friend," says Lopez, who's loved him professionally for the past three years. Says Barnes of his hook-up with the diva: "We had a meeting of the minds. It was like the missing pieces of the puzzle all came together."

From the looks of things, they'll continue to. In the past six months Barnes, 35, heir apparent to the late makeup mogul Kevyn Aucoin, who died in '02 at age 40, has worked his signature jet-set look on Kate Hudson, Uma Thurman, Gwen Stefani, Mary J. Blige and Lil' Kim. And, of course, Lopez, who's worn his trademark look—luminous skin, dark eyes and shiny, nude mouth—everywhere from the 2001 Oscars (the famous fox-fur fake eyelashes were Barnes's) to this year's Golden Globes.

Despite the wide variety of clients, Barnes's makeup philosophy is consistent. "I have a signature style," he says, describing his technique—applying powders and foundations with Japanese brushes and a light hand. "Glossy, rich, not too heavy. It's you—only amplified." The best part, say clients, is that Barnes's uptown style comes without attitude. When he's working with Lopez, for instance, "we just chill out, or we'll order Chinese food and laugh and talk," he says. And when he showed up at Goldie Hawn's house to do Kate Hudson's makeup for the '03 Golden Globes, "Goldie said, 'Come on in. Take your shoes off, get whatever you want from the refrigerator,'" says Barnes. "There were 10 people in Goldie's bathroom, dogs running everywhere. It felt like home."

Not so long ago, it wouldn't have. Barnes, the Detroit-born son of a retired autoworker and his manicurist wife, learned his trade after moving to New York City at 19 with $300 in his pocket. Originally an artist and lighting designer, he found his true calling while helping out on fashion shoots. Today, he reports for work with beauty potions mixed in his kitchen Cuisinart ("I bring the whole chemistry set with me") but will upgrade come April 4, when he'll launch his own 18-product makeup line on QVC. Next fall Lopez wannabes will be able to pick up his $42 allover shimmer, Body Bling, as well as the $21 Lip Service Kit (featuring three shades, Provocative, Priceless and Suggestive) at high-end department stores nationwide.

So far, it's all good, says Barnes, who recently plunked down $1.2 million for Megan Mullally's former Hollywood Hills home, which he shares with model Frank Guyton, 27, a white cockatoo named Sam and a white dog, Fab. "My friends think I should get a white cat, too," says Barnes with a smile, "but that's a little too Siegfried and Roy, don't you think?"

By Susan Schindehette. Elizabeth McNeil in New York City

  • Contributors:
  • Elizabeth McNeil.