She may be the most lasting legacy of Anthony Scaramucci’s 11-day stint in the White House.
Professional stylist Katie Price, who has previously worked as a hair and makeup artist for Russia Today and CNN, is now a full-time White House official with a desk in the press office and the title of “production assistant,” which includes her daily duties getting press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and other White House staffers coiffed and camera-ready.
That position was created for her last fall thanks, in part, to public praise from “The Mooch” for Price’s briefing room stylings, which include loose curls and dark eye shadow on the women and what appear to be heavy layers of pancake makeup heaped on the men.
In his brief moment in the spotlight, the smooth-talking Long Island financier went on CNN last July to give Price's work his seal of approval. “Sarah, if you're watching, I loved the hair and makeup person we had on Friday,” Scaramucci said during an interview two days after taking on the role of communications director. “So I'd like to continue to use the hair and makeup person.”
The White House dropped Scaramucci but kept Price, placing her on the government payroll. Officials declined to reveal her salary, though it will become public next summer as part of an annual release of the salaries of all West Wing staff.
Having a makeup artist on staff 24-7 isn’t unique to President Donald Trump’s White House. But in an administration where the man at the top is obsessed with television and appearances — often gravitating toward people he believes look like they were sent over from “central casting” — the question of who dolls up the staff has become a fascination for regular cable news viewers, glued to the drama being played out daily out by a shiny-haired, lip-glossed cast of characters.
On Friday, Price declined to speak to a reporter who spotted her in the shared cubicle she occupies in the cramped area known internally at the White House as “lower press,” where junior press aides work tucked away behind the briefing room.
But from there, Price is on call for any White House official with a public-facing role, with some notable exceptions: she doesn’t touch the president, the vice president, or other members of the Trump family, even though Ivanka Trump is technically a government staffer who makes television appearances from “Pebble Beach,” a gravel area in front of the White House where TV news cameras are permanently stationed. First Lady Melania Trump also pays out of pocket for her own stylist when she relies on professional help, her spokeswoman said.
Before joining the White House, Price had a bridal business, NOVAbelles, which included a “belle of the ball” package with hair, makeup and eyelash extensions clocking in at $1,100. On the now-defunct site, she listed Meredith Vieira as one of her celebrity clients. Other freelance clients included TV networks like Russia Today, which she listed working for on LinkedIn in February 2017.
“Katie is a great addition to the team,” said Sanders. “It’s a combination of her talent and her support of what we’re doing. You don’t want someone who doesn’t support what we’re doing or want to be here.”
Indeed, Price — who deleted her business website and LinkedIn bio after POLITICO started making inquiries about her background — appears to be enjoying the unique position she has found herself in. On social media, she often posts portraits of herself attending public events in the Rose Garden, often filed under hashtags like #LoveMyJob, #TaxCuts and #Blessed.
Price arrives on the White House campus early every morning to help get Sanders camera-ready, usually working in time carved out after Sanders’ first round of morning meetings.
“She’s definitely made my life easier,” said Sanders, who said she was paying out of pocket for a stylist to come in on a freelance basis until the White House made the decision to place a full-time makeup artist on staff. (Sanders’s predecessor, Sean Spicer, used to apply his own makeup ahead of television appearances.)
The addition of a makeup artist to the government payroll is a change from the Obama administration, which never employed one, according to four former officials — but which also never employed a female press secretary.
When a senior adviser like Valerie Jarrett needed to be done up, they would pay out of pocket, the former officials confirmed. But the set-up with Price, who also answers phones and helps with other duties assigned to press assistants, is similar to the system the George W. Bush administration set up when it came into office.
Lois Cassano, a makeup artist who had previously worked for NBC, ABC and PBS NewsHour, was hired on Day One of the Bush administration in 2001 to apply makeup for the press secretary, the president, the vice president, the First Lady, visiting heads of state, cabinet secretaries, and any senior administration officials appearing on television to represent the administration.
“In addition to those things,” recalled former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, “Lois handled all clearances for the press. She established the computerized system, answered phones, helped with paperwork and was treated like any member of my press staff.”
Cassano worked in the Bush administration for a full eight years, and by the end was considered a core member of the press team.
But former officials recalled a debate around bringing on a taxpayer-funded makeup artist — and justifying it by making sure there were other duties involved in the job outside of applying a powder brush to shiny foreheads.
“I’m a little bit of a purist on personnel,” said Anita McBride, a former chief of staff to First Lady Laura Bush and a former director of White House personnel under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. “In any position on the White House staff, you have to ask if it’s a taxpayer-funded need, if it’s a legitimate function, and look at it through the lens of essential versus non-essential personnel.”
When the Bush White House decided to bring Cassano in-house, McBride recalled, “we tried to figure out if there were other functions in the office that need to be filled, that this person could do — because the day is not filled putting on makeup.”
Cassano also did not travel with the president. Instead, former Bush aides remember press secretary Dana Perino applying powder to the president’s face ahead of television interviews abroad.
Price has yet to accompany the Trump team on any trips, Sanders said.
Before the advent of on-staff White House makeup artists, the Republican National Committee would pay for Nancy Reagan’s hair and makeup routine, McBride said.
There was also no makeup artist on call or payroll for staffers in the Clinton White House, when the 24/7 cable culture was still in its infancy and the daily press briefing was, for the first time, becoming a televised event.
But one former Clinton White House official said she would have been happy for the help. “I wish we could have done the same,” the official said. “If you expect people to be available for on-air interviews, then it’s only reasonable to give them the tools to succeed.”
McBride agreed that in the televised age that politics lives in today, the makeup artist now passes her “essential personnel” litmus test. “This is the modern age we live in,” she said. “When you have staff members starting the morning shows at 7 a.m. on camera, this has evolved to be a relevant function. I don’t envy anyone who has to be on camera there now. It is constant scrutiny.”