So you want to be a makeup artist?
A question I get asked all the time is: “How can I become a makeup artist?” My first answer might be: what KIND of makeup artist do you want to be?
Makeup careers come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. There’s a big difference between the aesthetic, techniques and requirements within the following different avenues: glamour makeup for celebrities or brides, fashion, theatre, movie and TV, special effects, brand affiliate and finally (…so to speak) mortuary makeup.
While it’s true that some of these jobs crossover into each other, it is your training and ability, combined with your day-to-day on-the-job experience that will define your style of makeup and determine the field you work in.
I consider myself primarily a fashion makeup artist because that’s my training (models, shows in Paris and New York, high-end fashion magazines). My job is to interpret what’s current in fashion and relay the mood or inspiration of the moment into makeup. It doesn’t have to be pretty, at times, it can be weird and wild looking – but it always has to look cool. Most of the time I do not have to worry about the staying power of the makeup I apply because I can retouch the model between shots or even during the shoot. I can create effects that aren’t meant to be worn in real life or that I know will only be shown as close-ups, because the purpose is to illustrate a point of view.
Celebrities replaced models about ten or twelve years ago, and I followed that trend into what I call glamour makeup. That particular type of work is about turning the beauty spotlight on the celebrity/client – as part of the glam-squad. Along with the hairdresser and the stylist, one has to know how to deal with all sorts of tense, high pressure situations, the PR machine surrounding one’s client, and the fine balance between making the world notice her look while having an invisible hand. Good wedding makeup is related in a way to celebrity makeup – it is a very special day for the bride, and she should look radiant, glamorous and confident.
With a celebrity client I will do some TV, perhaps even a commercial or a video. But that does not make me a movie or TV makeup artist. In my day job I don’t deal with doing makeup that fits to script continuity, or makeup that has to look a particular way because of the demands of the story. A magazine spread is typically a six to eight shot sequence – very different thematically from spending six weeks on the set of a film, following the storyboard. I did originally start in the movie industry, but it wasn’t for me.
It is hard for makeup artists outside of the fashion side of the business to break into the magazine world because it is its own little world centered in the world’s fashion capitals, with it’s own creative demands.
So, when you consider a career in makeup you should explore the particular areas of the profession. Be aware that there are different degrees of training and ability required. You can’t expect a brand representative in a store to have the same amount or kind of instruction and level of knowledge as someone working on a successful TV show like “Madmen”.
Imagine that makeup is comparable to cooks and cooking. You find short-order cooks, caterers, celebrity chefs, pastry chefs, restaurateurs, private chefs… That’s really not far from the differences between the range of makeup careers.
Lastly, as in every creative job, the big difference is talent and commitment. Those who are passionate, work hard and are ambitious sometimes start in one area but their accomplishments eventually lead them to where they belong.