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Mariah Leonard on Finding Her Confidence Through ‘Being in the Moment’

Photographer and beauty expert Mariah Leonard’s work is equal parts dreamy and striking. The Florida-raised, Los Angeles-based creative, who has shot for brands such as Chanel Beauty, Valentino Beauty, Costa Brazil, Poosh, Nars, Fenty and Margiela, didn’t always aspire to become a photographer. “Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to become a writer at a magazine in New York,” she explains. But after giving birth to her firstborn in college (which Leonard describes as “the best surprise ever”), she realized she might have to pivot. “Back then, most internships were unpaid, so it was impossible for me [to survive],” she says. But with encouragement from her mother, Leonard was able to create her own path within the beauty industry.. “I began creating op ed-style makeup content on YouTube, and began flying to New York any chance I got in order to network,” she explains. “I was there all the time for any event I could afford to go to.”

In 2017, she moved to Los Angeles and began focusing more on creative direction and photography. “I currently photograph anything beauty-related for my own social media, as well as for several brand clients who commission my work,” she says. Most recently, she started a weekly Substack newsletter called on rotation, where she talks all things lifestyle and beauty, from what she’s wearing and books she’s reading, to conversations on beauty culture and body image. Leonard credits her determined mentality and work ethic to her mother. “She’s always pushed me to believe that no dream is too big or unrealistic,” Leonard says. “Without her, I don’t think I would have had the self-confidence to move out to Los Angeles, or put myself out there in the ways that I have.”

These days, when she’s not shooting for beauty’s biggest brands, she finds time for self-care via equestrian training with her horse, Rook, facial sculpting with the NuFace device and hiking. Below, Leonard shares more about her beauty routines, her career journey and her biggest beauty inspirations.  

By Mariah Leonard

“Feeling beautiful depends on your mindset.”

By Mariah Leonard

“Looking back, I’ve really never worn makeup for anyone but myself.”

By Mariah Leonard

“I’m unlearning applying those pressures to myself, and conforming less to that type of warped beauty-culture narrative in my own work.”

By Mariah Leonard

“When I’m able to get out of my head and be in the moment, I feel confident and doubt myself so much less.”

By Mariah Leonard

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