Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine myself becoming a successful makeup artist. Growing up I always imagined myself having a "cool job", I just didn't know what that looked like as a teenager. Never was I interested in having a corporate office job, a 9-5. In high school we were taught that to be successful you had to become a lawyer, doctor, or work in business. Alternative careers were never mentioned. Personality tests were given and according to this test, I was told that I would make a great speech therapist. My parents were so pleased, speech therapist make good money and have 401ks!
When I graduated from high school I was a lost puppy. I had no interest in going to college. I began working in a chain restaurant and went to a community college. I thought I wanted to be an interior designer but when I got into the program I HATED it and flunked out.
While I was in community college I got a job working fragrances at the cosmetic department in Macy's in Athens, Georgia and I loved it! I loved getting to work with people and helping them find their personal scent or a scent for a significant other. I loved being in sales and the competition it created, but most of all I loved working around products. At night Macy's would schedule a scanty crew to cover the entire cosmetic department, those were my favorite nights to work because it would create an opportunity for me to work at Estee Lauder & Lancome and I would get to work with and sell makeup.
After six very successful months of selling fragrances my counter mate became jealous of my success and began making my life a living hell so I moved on. Which was down the hall to the Belk fragrance department. But after a year of selling fragrances I was ready to work with makeup. I knew I wanted to work for an artistry brand and Belk had two brands that fell into that category, Bobbi Brown and MAC. One day a position opened up at the Bobbi Brown counter and I jumped on the opportunity. I spoke with counter manager and my cosmetic manager and they encouraged me to apply so I did and BAM! Just like that at 19 I became a makeup artist.
Bobbi Brown was a great brand to start at because it is very regimented and focused on natural beauty. Aesthetically it was a good fit for me because it was the kind of makeup that I enjoyed doing. Makeup artistry felt like coloring to me but I made money at it. I loved getting to work with people and loved making them feel beautiful. I loved working with so many colors and seeing how they could transform someone's face. It was a slow counter so we cleaned a lot, meaning we would wipe down the lipsticks and dust off the eyeshadows and units. This was dreadfully boring work but it was great because it helped me develop an eye for undertones in colors and soon I was able to name every lipstick, blush, and eyeshadow color by simply looking at swatches on my arm. After working on this counter for two years and a messy break up I decided to leave and move to Atlanta, Georgia.
I transferred to a Bobbi Brown counter at a Nordstrom in Atlanta and it was wild! The pace at this counter was like nothing I had ever seen. We were busy all the time and it was great! We had no time to clean and no space to work in but it forced me to become a faster makeup artist and how to work under pressure.
The clientele and the people I worked with at Nordstrom were very different from my Athens counter. I had every nationality, every age group, and every skin tone sit down in my chair. I loved the diversity that this department store opened me up to. At the time I didn't realize how much this counter's impact would have in developing my skills as an artist but I am so grateful for my time that was spent at Nordstrom. From the friends I made and the conversations we had gave me some of the best times of my life.
After a year of working at Nordstrom I was frustrated in working in retail and was ready to go back to school. I took a summer off from working in cosmetics and started waiting tables again. That did not go well, I'm a terrible server, and I hated the work. With the summer coming to an end and I never sent in my applications for school I was at a road block. Luckily for me my counter manager (and best friend) in Athens, GA gave me an excellent referral to a woman looking to hire a makeup artist part-time for a new store that was opening in Atlanta called, Woo.
My work at Woo was a breath of fresh air. I started two months before the store opened and it was exciting getting new in merchandise, setting up the store, and going to all the brand trainings. I worked directly under the owners of the store and my opinions were highly valued. We would go out to lunch every day and sometimes we would even have wine. It was fabulous! I thought I had made it to the top!
When we opened in October of 2008 (the same week the economy crashed) the wine lunches stopped abruptly and so did my hours. Once we opened, the store owner cut back my hours significantly, and I had to go back to waiting tables part-time. The store was slow at first and weren't making our numbers. It was a highly stressful time for all of us.
The clientele at Woo was completely different from anything I had ever worked with. The women who shopped in our store were the créme de la créme of Atlanta's society. I had never seen people spend so much money but yet, also make as many crazy demands and get their way. It blew me away some of the requests we would get, "Can I borrow this eyeshadow for tonight and then bring it back tomorrow?" "You keep your samples in this drawer, right? Is it ok if I just help myself?" "Will sell my daughters jewelry line in your store? She's 11 and makes jewelry in her spare time. Part of her proceeds go to Save a Golden Doodle" Uh yeah, I guess? It was nuts. It gave me a whole new meaning to word patience. Patience is a virtue and skill that is good to have and I am so grateful to the demanding women who helped me build it. It also taught me to swallow my pride and become a yes person. You can't have an ego when you are working with rich ass bitches.
Woo soon got a reputation for the place to go and have your makeup done for events. The store eventually began grow and get busy and I became booked doing makeup applications on Saturday afternoons. These were my favorites because we could use/do whatever we wanted and I didn't have to worry about selling products. It helped me to become an even faster makeup artist and develop my own artistry skills. No longer was I boxed in by Bobbi Brown's method or her products. I learned what techniques best suited my needs and those of my clients. To me, creatively, it was heaven.
Once Woo began growing we started taking on more artists to work in our store. One artist that started working with us part-time had just moved back from New York and she worked in print advertising. We hit off instantly, she and I were into vintage clothes and had the same music taste. One day this artist asked me to be her an assistant on a shoot for Suntrust Bank. I was ecstatic and so nervous, but it turned out all good. Looking back on that shoot now, it felt like the entire Atlanta photo community worked on that shoot. Apparently I must have made a good first impression because I've been working with many of the same people ever since. One of the biggest life lessons I've ever had came from meeting this artist who later became my mentor, was be nice to everyone you meet because you never know who might change your life.
I worked under that artist for many years. We made a great team and worked on all kinds major campaigns. We even had jobs that took us to Mexico, City and the British Virgin Islands! After working under her for years, it was time for me to do my own thing and I began seeking my own clients.
I did end up going back to school and graduating with a degree in communications. While I was in school I hustled on the side working at Woo and on photo shoots part-time. By the time I graduated I knew that I wanted to work as a freelance makeup artist full-time. It was a slow and scary start. I didn't have that many clients of my own and took on all kinds of jobs just to get my foot in the door and build up my portfolio. Luckily I had a sweet husband who was super supportive and patient with my slow start.
Now, I've been working for three years full-time as a freelance makeup artist and I've been doing makeup for a total of 13 years. I am so grateful for the work that I get to do. Never does my work ever get old, never does doing someone's makeup feel like work, if I could get by I would work for free. Someone once asked me what hobbies do I have and my answer was makeup. Work is my hobby and my passion. I love getting to hangout with the creative people I work with. I have found my calling and I'm living it almost everyday. My parents wanted me to get a real job with benefits and a 401k but never did that interest me. But now I have turned my "cool job" into a real job with benefits and a 401k. There have been times in my life that I worked two-three jobs sometimes all in one day. I've even had a 36 hour work day! It took me ten years to get to the job that I've always dreamed about, it doesn't happen over night. One thing to remember though, Always. Be. Hustling.