Makeup artistry and Experience

When I started BRIDEFace seven years ago, it was just me. I went through about a year or so alone, and after a couple missteps, happily ended up with Mollie as my wingman. Things progressed gradually from there, and now I find myself with a team of ten artists. As i prepare for tonight’s training session with “my girls”, I have a lot of things on my mind.

Most of us have pretty different backgrounds. But one thing we share is we all cut our teeth doing retail cosmetics. Now a lot of people sneer at those ladies behind the counter, and sometimes with good reason. There is pretty rapid turnover, so your Clinique “beauty advisor” could be a talented ten year veteran or she could be an 18 year old on her first day. But many famous makeup artists launched their careers that way; Kevyn Aucoin and Sam Fine both got their start peddling lipsticks.

Having spent about ten years in the trenches, let me say that working on nothing but models all the time is not really the way to become a skilled and resourceful artist. Here’s a little “resume” of what I encountered, didn’t run from, and eventually mastered, in my years at Saks:
-worked with an African American client with severe vitiligo ( spots on your skin with no pigment) I learned how to completely cover her “spots” as well as teach her how to do it herself
-camouflaged more black eyes and bruises than I can count (plastic surgery and “clumsiness”)
-addressed issues with extreme roseacea (ruddiness)
-took clients with serious acne and made them feel good again by painstakingly stippling every spot
-corrected permanent makeup gone bad (ever seen bright red brows and eyeliner?)
-helped women going through chemo with creating eyebrows and compensating for lack or lashes, and with the changes in their skin
-Met Badgley & Mischka and keyed their fashion show, as well as shows for Escada and St John
-worked with people from age 13 to 93
-had a client with a severe phobia of anyone touching her anywhere near her nose
-helped a boy with Trichotillomania (a disorder that involves pulling out hair; in his case, eyebrows) to look good for his senior pictures
-learned to cover tattoos
-worked with a wide range of ethnicities and skintones
-dealt with allergies, skin sensitivity and irritations
-learned all about contouring and highlighting from a drag queen co-worker
-went to Chicago and met my favorite makeup artist , Laura Mercier…and worked with her again in NYC five more times, as well as her doing a PA here in Cincy (translated as, my life for ten weeks beforehand were consumed by hiring/training 20 artists, building 20 kits, and booking about a zillion appointments)
-Mercier flew in an NYC brow guru (seriously, you gotta book six months in advance and she’s like $85 for a tweeze) and I became completely obsessed with eyebrows
-became super speedy at doing a face. You have to work quickly when a woman pops in on her lunch break.

So you can see that working retail is really what you make of it. I ran towards the tricky clients instead of avoiding them, and used them as my guinea pigs.

And that is only my retail background. Beyond that, I obtained an aesthetics license and took classes in airbrush, bridal, and runway in NYC. I worked for a modeling agency and did hair, makeup, and styling for models’ portfolios. I did commercials, print work, video work, and TV news.

My point is, experience does matter. You want your makeup artist to be able to think quick on her feet and be able to handle anything. You want her to be fast so you don’t run behind. You want her to be creative and instinctively know what shades and techniques work for different skin tones and bone structures. You want her to be confident and therefore put you at ease. You want her to be an expert on a wide range of products. You want her to be able to deal with any age and any ethnicity.
And you mainly just want her to have done a whole lot of faces.

That’s why i am so super picky about what artists i hire. Everything I mentioned above matters, and so does bedside manner. We are often playing the part of psychologist and mind reader as well. Having a soothing presence and a sense of humor is essential.

After all, this is no rehearsal; it’s someone’s wedding day, and she doesn’t get a do- over. I consider bridal makeup to be the most important makeup I do.

February 19, 2012

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