Z•Palette’s Zena Shteysel on the Art of Organizing Makeup


Z•Palette founder Zena Shteysel has always been an organized person. After she began working as a professional makeup artist in the film and T.V. industries, she quickly realized that her kit was expanding to unmanageable proportions. Trying to anticipate every concealer shade or shadow she’d need for a day’s work was difficult enough, made more so by an ever-growing kit filled with pots, palettes, and compacts in different shapes and sizes. “Some people are married to packaging,” Zena says of beauty products. “I’m not. I just want to be super organized.” To lighten her load, she started eliminating excess packaging wherever possible by a process known as depotting, which involves removing everything from shadows to concealers, from their off-the-shelf vessels.

After depotting, she’d move the individual shades, each still contained in a small metal pan, into empty magnetic palettes that were easy to store and tote. “I’d spend hours organizing and transferring products from original packaging into smaller containers and palettes,” she says. All of this streamlining helped condense her kit, and it also allowed her to work faster. Because it was easy to organize products into palettes by type (concealers, blushes, shadows) or by color family, Zena got both faster and better at her job. She continued to put together her own custom palettes until 2009, when she had a lightbulb moment. She realized that if she found products left in the original containers hard to use and carry—for jobs, travel, or day-to-day use—others would probably share that sentiment.

And so Z•Palette was born. Zena rolled up her sleeves and launched a line of flexible, customizable palettes. The collection has been condensing product stashes and streamlining beauty routines for about four years now, and we’re excited to welcome Z•Palette to Beautylish Boutiques! We recently sat down with Zena to chat about makeup, life, working in the T.V. industry, and the future of Z•Palette. Read on for the Q &A. 

Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m the department head of makeup on Dancing With The Stars, which runs twice a year. During awards season, I helped out for the Oscars, Grammys, and American Music Awards. And my client Laila Ali has kept me busy, too—I do her makeup for TV appearances, photo shoots, and events. Between all of that and Z•Palette, I'm pretty booked up! 

Q: Can you tell us how Z•Palette comes in handy for you professionally and personally?
A: Professionally and personally, the main thing about Z•Palette is that it helps me save time. Because my Z•Palettes are so well-organized, I can do makeup—on myself or clients—a lot faster. When I’m working, I have most of my makeup organized into palettes by color, so I know exactly where to go to find the right shade as soon as I have an idea for a look. After I’ve established a look, I can just pop the colors I used from my eye shadow palette, lipstick palette, blush palette and concealer palette into an empty Z•Palette, and then bring that along with me to set. That way, I don’t have to lug my whole kit, and I have everything I need ready to go for touch-ups. During commercial breaks we don’t have a lot of time—Z•Palette really helps with that.

Personally, I use the line every day. I keep all the colors I love at the moment ready in a go-to palette. Everything I need is right there, so I get my makeup done more quickly. If I’m traveling, I can just take that palette and maybe a few brushes in my suitcase, and I’m good to go. 

Q: Can you tell us a little about your approach to makeup artistry and beauty, and from where you draw inspiration?
A: I really try to work with the features of my clients, and my goal is to make people look good and feel good. That’s all I want to do. I learn a lot from my fellow colleagues day-to-day—everyone at Dancing With the Stars really inspires me. I also try to keep constantly educating myself on new techniques and ideas. YouTube tutorials are a great resource for learning and staying up to date. All of that helps me get better as a makeup artist.

Billy B’s tutorials are go-tos—the videos he’s done with drag queens are really amazing. I’ve learned a lot from watching his tutorials. Mario Dedivanovic, who is Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist, also has some online workshops that are really great. And when I’m in inspiration and research mode, I also check out PixiWoo’s amazing transformation videos.

Q: Did you ever envision being an entrepreneur?
A: No! I never had any idea I would create my own line or head up my own business. Z•Palette came out of a professional need that I had—I kept thinking, why doesn’t this already exist? Why aren’t there customizable palettes out on the market? And then I thought, well, I want to do it! I want to make this happen. It was never something I envisioned. My parents are entrepreneurs so that may have given me the spirit to go for it. I started asking around, and researching companies that sell makeup accessories. I had to figure out how you even begin manufacturing a product, and it was a process. There’s a big learning curve and a lot of trial and error.

But I never had any idea I’d have this company, or even become a professional makeup artist. I didn’t feel creative. I always liked makeup, but wasn’t sure I could make a career out of it. Of course, I never thought I’d have an Emmy—but now our team has won two for Dancing with the Stars. After I went to school and got into the union, everything started to fall into place. Somewhere along the way, I knew I was on the right path.

Q: What’s up next for you and Z•Palette?
A: I want to continue working on Dancing With The Stars as long as the show runs. The show is like my baby, and the people I work with are like my family. As for Z•Palette, I want to continue to innovate. Extensions of Z•Palette and other accessories will be coming soon—I have plans to expand. I’m constantly getting customer feedback and I take that into consideration for new products. My goal is to create the tools and accessories my customers want and need!

Shop Z•Palette, now available in Beautylish Boutiques!