Life as a Make-up Artist


I started out when I was in my late teens on the make up counter for Estée Lauder. Gradually that built up to Yves Saint Laurent, and then to 'YSL Beaute' (which basically means make up artist) over 7 years I gradually learnt techniques, tricks and most importantly, about beauty, face shapes, colours, tones and.. How to talk to people, to put them at ease. To try and see genuine concern rather than commission! I've been known to send people to boots to get an eyeliner before instead of selling them my own. Needless to say I didn't earn a lot of commission. But he passion was there.. Still is. And so I decided to take myself off and jump the scary ship that is freelance! 

I took what I had learned over the years... Luckily, back then, then YSL beauty team had excellent training, going to London for the weekend to meet up with Parisian MUA and therefore trained to a very high level.. Probably the equivalent of a great make up school or better. As we had 'real people' as guinea pigs back at work. Budgets eventually faded that out towards the end. 

Going freelance..It took a long time to build up... 2 years or more... Of very low paid or free jobs. To get my name out there, to mix with photographers, models, testing testing testing. Anything to build up my portfolio. And doing any wedding I could to fund it. It's a long hard slog the first few years of self employment. I'm sure that's the same with most self employed unless you're really lucky! you have to have the determination to fight through it, as it's a tough ride and many fall at the first few hurdles/let downs/non payers/bad feedback/grumpy models/unprofessional photographers. 

Eventually though, I had a great job. And then another. And through these I met other professionals... And, thanks to some lovely feedback and word of mouth, my name got passed on to more. It was around this time that I started to get asked for hair as well as styling/dressing the models ... I've had to learn very quickly about incorporating these into my services. (I'm currently doing another 'quick' hair course to keep me in the loop) and so now I get asked for just styling... Where they give me complete reign over the clothes. Let's face it... Who wouldn't love to get paid to shop!! (It's not so much fun taking them back) 

So now I'm more or less full time... I do mainly commercial and fast fashion... Which I adore. 

Typical example of a commercial job I did for Special K : 

2/3 days before the shoot I got a 'brief' from the photography studio in Leeds that had been sent from the client. This included the model, the clothes and the general feel of the advertisement. The make up and hair brief was 'natural but polished. Dewy skin. Defined eyes. Hair to be loose but silky, soft curls.' I generally get about an hour to do this. You have to learn how to work fast. 

I always try to arrive early to set up my kit so that we can get straight to work. (I ALWAYS sort my kit the night before... Cleaning, taking out what I don't need and swapping colours over) 

I always Start with a quick cleanse/prep the skin and then I start with eyes. Always. I always have! They generally seem to take the longest in most cases.. And this way you don't ruin any lovely foundation etc from loose eyeshadow particles. And then the rest of the face. All the while .. I'm chatting to the model. Getting to know him or her, what jobs theyve done that week, who we know mutually, asking them if they can take their socks off so there's no marks, earrings out, and just generally chatting about the day that's planned. You'd be surprised at how many models turn up and don't know what anything is about or what it's for. So it's nice to put them at ease if possible. 

In between this, I gage an idea of what lighting the guys are using (one thing I've learned being freelance. Lighting. VERY IMPORTANT !!!!) so I can adjust my make up as necessary. If the model has real long hair, or there is a specific/intricate hair do, I do that first. So I can suss out how much time I have at the make up... As I'm faster at that. 

I usually leave lips until after the model is dressed... To save anything transferring onto the fabric.. And then it's a check to see if the clothes fit ok. Pinning is mainly always used somewhere so I always carry them. Just in case. After the model is placed we do a few 'tests' to look at lighting. I always ask for a close up of my make up... So I can see that it's as good as possible. It's surprising how different it can look on screen sometimes (there's that lighting thing I was talking about) I usually have to add a little blush or powder... And smooth out any flyaway hairs. And then were good to go!! Off we shoot!! Everyone is happy! Clients are smiling... It's all good. Ahhhh... Can go and sit down a sec and finish that cold cup of tea. Right? WRONG!!


If you're a professional make up artist you should never leave that screen. Ever. You're next to the client.... Looking for anything and everything. A bit of shine, a touch of lipstick on the teeth, a loose bit of hair... That top had a crease in it. And make sure you're quick about it... It's good that you're saving on retouch time (and, you know, doing your job) but you also don't want to hold the shoot up or ruin the models 'stance' when they're just getting into it. And take your shoes off! Or in my case... Take Clean slippers. As most of the time you really don't want to be leaving footprints on the photographers nice clean white floor. 

Lunchtime is usually a quick bite but it has to be quick. As the model needs to be ready before anyone else is. In the Special K job I only had one hair and make up change so it wasn't too bad.... Just a retouch of lips and away we went again. And then a change in the afternoon. 

This shoot was a huge success... The client was thrilled and the shots looked great. I packed my kit.. Gave my hugs... The clients promised they'd send me a copy... (We all know you wont??) and I drive the 2 hours home. As soon as I'm home I'm emailing, catching up on last weeks job or preparing for tomorrow's. My brushes go in the 'bath' and then back to the internet...  literally non stop! 

My regular job is for Freemans.. Yes it's still going! I love this particular job as over the last 3/4 years, they have become my friends. And the studio we shoot in are like my family!! I love all of them. But that job IS literally non stop. We normally have about 4 changes to do.. Hair and make up wise. And I mean... Changes. Curly hair to straight (and vise versa) vintage up do to polished sleek barrel curls, fish tails, red lips... No... Pale lips. That's gonna look better with Replay. Let's straighten the hair... Actually. Can I add pink lips and a eyeliner flick?? And now..because we all know each other so well.. Our morning brief is just a guide! As we change it to suit the outfits. Sometimes I just do it myself as I figure that they have enough to think about. And if I feel confident it will work then I just change it. The model has to look perfect... From front to back. As we do back shots too for the web ... Yep. All that pinning has to go to the front! And...No loose bits of hair on my watch please! 

This is just a typical example but of course, job to job it changes a lot. You have to have an adapting personality.. And be able to talk. Communicate. At the end of the day, that client wants the best shots they can possibly get and Your job is to help that become possible. No matter what their vision is. 

And you know what?? Even after all this hard work... I've never worked a day that whole time. Because I love it so much.