Makeup Artist Talks Heroin Crisis With Her Famous Political Clients

By Keri Blakinger 02/09/16

Kriss Blevens uses her makeup chair to spread the word about the heroin crisis to major politicians in a position to effect change.

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Makeup Artist Talks Heroin Crisis With Her Famous Political Clients
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For more than 20 years, Kriss Blevens has done makeup for politicians. She’s worked on both Clintons, three Bushes, Obama, Romney, and more. 

Lately, though, she’s been using her position to talk about something near and dear to her—the heroin epidemic. 

Blevens got into political makeup in the early '90s, at the height of the drug war. According to NPR, her now ex-husband struck up a conversation in the bathroom with Pat Buchanan, who was then running for office. One thing led to another, and the next day Blevens was doing Buchanan’s makeup – for a photo shoot for the cover of Newsweek

She continued working for Buchanan throughout that campaign and developed other relationships along the way. By the time it ended, she was well-networked with CNN and NBC, so she was able to continue getting work as a political makeup artist for every election cycle since then.

She’s had the ear of the stars for quite a few years now, but this election she’s set on talking to them about heroin. In spring 2014, Blevens’ stepdaughter Amber was found in a New Hampshire alley, dead of a heroin overdose at 22. 

“I'm in grief, so of course, I'm doing makeup, and they're asking me how I'm doing,” she said. “And I'm falling apart while doing makeup, crying and telling them about this. And I started talking about it.”

Now that it’s presidential election season, being in New Hampshire puts Blevens in a privileged position. Because of its early primaries, New Hampshire is an important state in the early months of campaigning. 

In August, Blevens got the chance to chat up a few of the Republican contenders before a forum in the Granite State, according to CNN.

"How many people in my situation have the opportunity to be behind closed doors for 10, 15, 20 minutes one-on-one, touching the candidates that need to talk about this issue? It doesn't get any more intimate, it doesn't get any more captive than that," she said. "As we're talking, how can I not tell them about Amber? Whether I want to be or not, I am a spokesperson."

She’s spoken with a lot of the candidates about it at this point, and plans to continue doing so over the coming month.

"My purpose as I begin to get more into the campaign trail is to hold the candidates accountable, talking about the problem and the solution," she said. "Amber's story touches on everything, from economics, to prison systems, to lack of treatment, to the health care issues. Her story touches on everything that needs to be talked about."

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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