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So you want to be a makeup artist

Thinking about becoming a professional makeup artist? Seems like a pretty glamorous job — working with gorgeous models and celebrities, being part of the exciting behind-the-scenes vibe on TV or runway shows. Here are some insider tips from pro makeup artists on what being in the field is really like.

Makeup artist

We chatted with some of the makeup artists at Page One Management, an agency in Toronto, and discovered there’s way more to the gig than you may realize — things these experts only realized when they launched their careers in the field. A must-read for anyone considering becoming a makeup artist.

Work on some strength training

“I had no idea I would be packing, unpacking and carrying and lifting so much,” says Anna Nenoiu. “The makeup kit can get really heavy, so investing in a really lightweight protective bag with excellent wheels is an absolute necessity.” This bag must be somewhat stylish as well, she adds: “Remember, you are a professional working in an image-based industry and I cannot stress enough how important it is how you present yourself and your kit.”

You’ll be working lots for little pay at the beginning

“Before I got into the business I didn’t know that for the first year, maybe two, you really don’t get paid,” says Simone Otis of Joe Fresh Cosmetics. “At that time you spend all your time doing creatives and editorials, which pay little to nothing, in order to have tears and pictures to get the paying work.” She recommends to always be positive, though, and to put yourself out there — but don’t stalk! “There’s a fine line between stalking someone and staying in a contact’s mind, but if you can do that, a door will eventually open,” says Otis.

Get to know your lighting

“Get to know lighting, because makeup has to correspond. If it’s blasted, you’ve got to use more; if it’s contrasted, it can really look heavy, so ease up on it; and then there’s everything in between,” says Susana Hong. “Over time, you will get to know your own group of photographers and what lighting techniques they prefer; and never be afraid to ask them questions, like I was when I first started out,” she says. Remember that you work as a team, and it’s as a team that you create great work, says Hong.

You don’t need to demonstrate every technique you’ve got up your sleeve all at once

“It’s important for newbies to remember that you don’t have to showcase all of your skills in one image. Your portfolio will do that eventually,” advises Hong. She says you might be all over the place at first, but eventually, you will start to focus in on your own style. “Diversify, but find your own style and stay true to it,” she says.

Invest in great foundations for your kit first and foremost

“Since foundation is, well, the foundation of your makeup kit, treat yourself and your clients to the best you can afford,” suggests Nenoiu. And since buying everything at once can get expensive, she suggests purchasing a couple of the lightest shades of the colour spectrum, a couple of dark shades and one medium with yellow undertones. “This way you’ll be able to custom mix quite a large variety of shades, and you will look like a pro doing it.”

Don’t be afraid to make cold calls

“If you really want to get in the door, call, call, call,” says Hong. “Call the agencies — I didn’t even know there was such a thing when I started,” she says. Hong also suggests looking up makeup artists you admire on the Internet; many will have a website with their contact info and she recommends trying to get in touch with them. “You don’t get anywhere unless you put the effort in,” she says. “Don’t think that it’s all glitz and glamour,” she says, but adds that it’s well worth the effort when the synergy of a team comes together to create and capture an awesome moment in time.

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