So you want to be a makeup artist? This is not your typical how to, or question and answer session. This isn’t your bubbly you tube video on how I got started and how amazing my life has been ever since. I said I wanted to always keep my blog positive but I want to make sure I keep it real. I didn’t want this to be your typical beauty product review blog, there are a billion out there… Trust me I read them all… lol But I wanted you to know what it’s really like… the day in the life of a freelance makeup artist. The behind the scenes things that you don’t see…
This business definitely isn’t for the faint at heart. You spend a lot of time defending yourself, your business, and your worth. When I started in makeup there weren’t that many of us. I left my government job and took a full time job with MAC. Back then it actually meant something to work there. You actually had to be an artist with a skill-set… these days, not so much. Lol Anyway, working there was like playing at a playground everyday. Everything you needed to be the best artist you could be is at your fingertips. I would go to work and do makeovers and every thing that Sam Fine told me to do in my Fine Beauty book I did. Everything I watched on my Danessa Myricks videos the highlighting and the contouring I practiced. When I did something I understood why I did it, I didn’t do it just because that’s what every one else was doing. I got on the Internet although there was no YouTube, I read, and I researched. I grabbed a color wheel from Michaels and understood the ins and outs of color theory, and texture. I picked up Sophisticates Black Hair and mimicked what I saw. I tore pages from Vouge, and Allure and trained my eye to break down a makeup look and understand the story behind it and what the team of artists were trying to convey. I studied time period makeup and beauty icons Audrey Hepburn, Iman, Marilynn Monroe, Twiggy… Mod, Vintage, Pin-up, and old Hollywood Glamour. I learned to step back and look at my work because it looks totally different than standing up close during the process. I put my work in front of a camera and under lights. My first photo shoot was shot on FILM… that’s how long it’s been. (Hey Mike) Lol. I went back to my high school and did 25 girls BY MYSELF for their fashion show for $300 just because I was hungry to get the practice I needed. I did all of these things before I would even call myself a professional. First things first, take the time to really learn about the industry, about the business. It baffles me to ask someone do they know who Pat McGrath is and for them to say no. But you call yourself a makeup artist a professional one at that? Girl, She is the reason your eyeliner is winged, why the finish of your foundation is demi-matte, and your lips are stained with that deep berry color. These are the trends because she said so!
I eventually left the MAC counter after I got a taste of the freelance world. I had a goal get in, get what you need, and get out. It wasn’t that easy though. No matter how good someone told me my work was, and how many praises I received. Its scary… you question yourself, “Do I have what it takes to make it?” Living in Washington D.C. this isn’t a fashion or celebrity market. We are pretty much limited to brides, business women, and government officials and there is nothing wrong with that. You can definitely make a living you just have to be a bit more creative. It has never been my dream to be a celebrity makeup artist. Most people see the perks and they get excited. But what they fail to realize is you are just a mere servant. Now don’t get me wrong these day rates definitely serve but sometimes most forget we are not the celebrity. The only thing we have in common with celebrities is just like they are hot one minute and not the next, the same rule applies to makeup artists. Large YouTube followings and Instagram likes might get you the job but a quality skill-set, a sound business mind, and professionalism is how you keep it. Many lose sight. It’s never been my goal to be a celebrity makeup artist, my only goal is to do what I love, while making money doing it, and living comfortably.
Doing all of those things will get you the jobs you want, the perks. It will get you flown in to Vegas for the Mayweather fight for free without paying a dime out of pocket. It will get you to the Washington Wizards play off games, and to fancy islands for destination weddings. Working hard and diligently and running a business will get you on the set of Fox 5 with Tamar Braxton, Vince, and the cast of the Real Talk show. You might see all of these things on social media, the post of my Michele watch here and there, a pair of Gucci shoes or a Wang bag. Unbeknownst to you I didn’t just do a wedding and buy what I wanted. I saved and planned for a year for those things and felt good when I was finally able to purchase that watch or a bag and still have my bills paid and money in my account. You didn’t see the times I didn’t buy any clothes or shoes or go anywhere but to gigs and straight home because I was saving money just to make sure when business got slow I was ok. You weren’t losing sleep countless nights while I was up seeing what other artist where doing. Figuring out the jobs that I wanted and how to get them. Coming up with creative ways to stay relevant in a small market where you have other makeup artists who are usually a friend of yours but your competing for the same jobs. All the while deciphering through the shade fest and cattiness because you’re doing well. Negotiating with brides trying to get them to understand this isn’t Canal Street and your not selling knock off bags but a luxury service, quality makeup. Trying to explain to her that your prices are your prices but by all means if your sisters friend Kiki from down the street is only charging you $50 for your wedding day makeup, PLEASE, choose her! But just remember you get what you pay for. You don’t see the phone calls and emails the back and forth with production companies trying to figure out why it has been 2 months and they still haven’t paid you. That time I rode to New York to do a job for a low budget media group about a few years back that still hasn’t paid me (there are crooks in this business.) Meanwhile it’s January business is slow and your car note and car insurance is due. All the while your grinding everyday to make business happen but you have a friend or whoever in your ear asking you why don’t you get areal job and just do makeup on the side? Irritated, you continue to debate and fight for your day rate while chasing down the photographer who never emailed you the photos from the TFP shoot that you spent 8 hours doing for free to get photos for your book. You get up go to a retail job to supplement your income, work for 7 hours cold calling people to get them to presell, get off go to the airport, fly to Atlanta, land at midnight. You get up at 5am do makeup for your client catch the 12pm flight back to D.C., land, drive to the Verizon center to get the Wizards Dancers ready for their game. Get home, its 11pm wash brushes, answer emails, try to remember if I ate or not, and they still want me to post an eyebrow tutorial on YouTube and plan to teach a makeup class. INSERT EXHALE HERE!
It’s not all photo shoots and glitter. It’s a lot of work, a lot of ups and downs. Lessons learned, knowing better the next time. If after all of that you still want to do makeup, you my friend are nuts, but it’s a feeling I completely understand. Every time a bride looks in the mirror after she steps into her wedding dress, face beat to the high heavens and falls in love with herself, it’s all worth it.
Recently, watching the reaction of one of those kids whose nose I powdered who saw themselves on Nickelodeon during a PSA. Moments like those are priceless. Going to all the Wizards games and watching them make it to the play off or walking past John Wall in the hall way trying to be cool, when really you just wanna be like let’s take a selfie…. Lol Everything falling into to place, making your own schedule, steady income and people paying you your day rate on time without a fuss… I have to admit it’s pretty damn awesome. To see it all come together, to fight your way through all of that and STILL, I have the courage and energy to aspire be greater.