So, you want to be a makeup artist
“And if you like cameras flashing every time we go out…” -One Direction “Perfect”
You’re dressed head to toe in your best, your makeup is on point, you’re so ready for step and repeat with your celebrity client. You smile at each other, holding hands while posing to photographer after photographer. Cameras still flashing the security ushers you to the coolest club in the city. You rub elbows with musicians and actors alike. You’ve never seen so many celebrities in one place. It’s as if you can smell the fame. THIS is what you’ve always wanted. THIS is the ultimate dream of being a celebrity makeup artist…
Seriously! Wake up and smell the roses! This ain’t about you and ain’t ain’t no word.
THE last person in the world a celebrity wants to bring to a party, much less step and repeat, is her (or his) makeup artist.
We are the people behind the scenes wearing all black so we blend into the backdrop. We are the people who make sure the celebrities look fabulous before, during and after step and repeat. We are the people who get cursed at by photographers because we were in the way. We are the people who are more often than not called “flavor of the month”.
It’s a tough relationship between a makeup artist and a celebrity. So don’t get too attached to your celebrity friend, because it ain’t about you and next month it ain’t about the next person.
But what if you’re not interested in working with celebrities? What if you simply want to make someone’s day by creating the most beautiful look anyone has ever seen? What if all you want is to make people pretty for their photoshoot? You don’t have to worry about it ain’t being about you, right?
WRONG. You might be the best in the world and that one b*$chy client can bring you down in a snap of her fingers.
You see, it’s easy to think that we know all there is to makeup. It’s easy to say we know what foundation the client should wear, or what color eyeshadow would enhance the color of her eyes. But it ain’t about us! Your client might have her mind set to a turquoise eyeshadow on her old droopy lids because that’s what she’s been wearing for the past 35 years. She’s not going to change her mind because you studied color theory and know better. What she might do though, is tell her friends what a turd you were to try and convince her otherwise… There goes your career down the toilet.
Now that I’ve scared the crap out of you, left you feeling raw and vulnerable, probably ready to run up the hills screaming never to return to a single thought about makeup, it’s time to build you up. Whew, finally, right?
What does it mean to be a makeup artist if not fancy parties and pretty eyeshadows?
After what I just told you, you might be thinking we’re the dirt bags that get thrown around, but that was really me trying to scare you so your mind is clear to receive the right type of message about our profession. Being a makeup artist is not hard if you have an open mind and possess a few basic skills. Besides your fabulous blending skills, that is.
The most important skill you can ever learn is the art of listening. And not to listen only so you can reply, but to listen so you can understand and adapt. I know that sounds like a very basic skill but unfortunately most people only listen to reply. Makeup is a very personal experience and it can make or break your client’s “character” whether it’s for a wedding, movie or photo shoot.
A while back I worked with an Olympic athlete who looked like a deer in headlights when I first met her. She was extremely suspicious of my abilities to do her hair and makeup for the shoot because she had been ignored in the past.
On this shoot she was supposed to portray a strong, but super feminine, world class athlete. Producers wanted flowy hair, smoky eyes and skimpy outfits. I’m sure you know that’s not what our Olymipians look like when they compete.
She was supposed to hop in front of a camera, talk like she’s been hosting a TV show forever, look like a damn supermodel, and the first person to meet her is this makeup artist she’s never met. Of course she was feeling insecure! Wouldn’t you be? Luckily for the both of us, I’ve been in the business long enough to know not to take any of this personally.
I focused on what she was saying, really listening to her concerns, and a) made her feel validated that I have heard her, b) I kept reassuring her throughout the day that although I had not used the products she’s used to using, we can adjust accordingly if anything goes wrong, and c) told her every time I touched her face/ hair why I was doing what I was doing.
Long story short, our national hero warmed up to me after a few hours, and in fact one of the producers called me weeks after the shoot to tell how the athlete still gushes about me and how I made her feel. As the amazing Maya Angelou said:
The second important skill to learn is to be nice. Again, very basic, and I’m sure you heard that from your mother more than once, but you’d be surprised how big headed and “important” people become when they get their first real makeup gig on a photo shoot or movie set.
I’ve been asked many times how to “score” a high profile client. First thing I tell is that there’s no scoring. Erase that word from your vocabulary right now!
So you really want to be a makeup artist? With high profile clients? Since you asked for it, here’s my “easy way out” list on how to do it:
❊ Go to school and NEVER stop learning
❊ Work your behind off as an unpaid intern
❊ Work off whatever is left of your booty as an assistant
❊ Create lasting relationships by always treating EVERYONE like they are royalty. And I mean really going above and beyond for every person you come in contact with on set. This includes every parking attendant, doorman and cleaning lady.
❊ Remember there’s a 90/10 rule in this profession. It’s 90% about your personality and how you treat people, and only 10% about talent. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who has ever worked with high profile clients more than once.
Although your blending skills are extremely important, by now you might have realized that being a people person is much more important in this business. If you can master active listening (read more here) and truly be the person people can count on, you are way ahead of those who only practice the art itself.