Want to become a makeup Artist?

I have been teaching aspiring makeup artists for years. Many of whom have gone on to great and exciting careers, (Hi Cathy Cantada, my former apprentice, of Shu Uemura and Ham Viloria, of MAC) – reaching stars way above the ones I have touched! The great thing is, it’s such a joy to keep in touch with my students and witness them doing so well in the makeup industry. Especially those who remember to keep grounded through it all!

[Here's proof! Browse through my facebook page and you'll see photos of my past students in class, and our interactions as well as their comments in my Testimonial page here].

So you think you have what it takes to be a makeup artist?                    Hmmm..There are obvious candidates who seem to fit the bill right away. Those who love to play around with, and apply makeup on others, and themselves, for example. Those who are inspired by the beauty pages in magazines and in colors they see in their travels, maybe…And perhaps those with some form of art and design background, interest in fashion or the film or arts industry.

Some of the best makeup artists I know, are men. Gay, straight…whatever. They just seem to have a great eye. More objective, maybe? Who can say, for sure! All I know is that this career (or hobby) is for anyone. Not just (girly) girls! (I know tons of talented female makeup artists, too – there, before anyone reacts). The key is, you’ve got to have passion for makeup art. And, as a fellow Toronto Beauty Blogger and “new” but talented makeup artist, Arianne (a.k.a. @TheGlitterGeek on Twitter) put it, you have to be “talented and approachable”.

I’ve also worked with people who were in the PR and marketing department in the Cosmetics industry who later on, became makeup artists and beauty gurus themselves! (Hi Marinella “Bucci” de Leon and Marie Calica – a former beauty editor of Marie Claire, Philippines!)

What does it take to make it (big) in the makeup industry?

I’m not going to lie, sometimes – timing is everything. Being in the right place at the right time, also plays a big role (in one’s career). But if you don’t follow through with hard work and dedication + a willingness to learn (as you grow) + practice to hone your skills as techniques and methods evolve + love to work with people (listen to, talk with, collaborate with, take directions from etc) + self-confidence… Well, then maybe it might be smarter to prepare a “Career Plan B”. (Hint: Follow that equation and you’ll succeed!)

There are just so many ways to learn makeup art these days (magazines, eZines, YouTube, in-store events, makeup schools galore) I can’t help but feel how lucky the latest generation of makeup artists are. When I started, it wasn’t even considered “cool” or “stable” to choose this field! And outside of the training provided by my employer (The Body Shop, Inter’l)…there was little help.

The Highs and Lows (and not just ‘the pay’ here):

On the other hand, competition is high, and out of the flood of new makeup school grads come the group with their new Zuca kits in tow, all calling themselves makeup artists, before paying their dues and carrying the ever-annoying false sense of entitlement on their sleeves. Pro makeup artists try to protect the rights of our craft and promote fair competitive rates among us (half or day rates), while newbies begin by gaining experience and networking, by doing exchange deals and pro bono (unpaid or free) gigs. If you’ve already gained the trust and respect of the clients, they’ll likely keep you, and pay. But many choose the cheaper route, or “giving up and coming artists a go” and getting away with not even paying a cent (a penny, a centavo etc).

Some makeup artists charge per face (considered easier when working with clients, ie, Weddings) but in the professional world, we charge in per day or half day rates. “Kit fees” is a term used to cover supply costs in Film makeup. So I don’t advise makeup artists charge a kit fee for photoshoots. (This is considered rather amateur-ish). Some photoshoots run under a TFP/TFCD (meaning time for print(s) or time for CD of images). We call these shoots “test shoots” or testings. This is when no one receives pay. Everyone works to the benefit of each other. Example: The makeup artist produces looks that the model and photographer can use for their portfolios and in return, the photographer takes both fashion – if applicable, and close up shots for the benefit of both the makeup artist’s, and the model’s book. If I get asked to do test shoots, I always ask for as much detail as possible and say yes, only when I have understood and agree with the work entailed. When I’ve done testings, the photographer always provides some form of meal (usually pizza haha) however, I always like to offer to share the bill. That’s just me, everyone’s different. Sometimes the model does (or models do) too. I think it’s only fair, if it’s for a collaboration that we’ll all be gaining from. Sometimes, (meaning when I know the photographer, and I happen to know they’re loaded, I let them pay with a token “Are you sure?” and little fuss on my end! haha)

It pays to put in the time and hard work to get far in this job. I’ve spent hours on my feet during events and between makeup changes, pounding the pavement- and recently, climbing mini snow mountains carrying my heavy kit just to get from location and back! I even developed mild scoliosis and have contributed to the wealth of my RMT and Chiropractor over the years. Thanks, love you guys! Networking helps, too, even if you’re not a social butterfly. It just takes an open, positive personality and of course, self-confidence. That includes a healthy self-esteem. (A must-have to prepare for working with some high maintenance clients, cut throat agents and drop dead gorgeous models etc). I had confidence in my knowledge and skills that grew steadily as I began my journey in the beauty industry, but my self-esteem in some ways lagged behind. How crazy it was to find myself addressing TV cameras and live audiences to talk about makeup and beauty, without a model and my makeup brushes to hide behind! I wasn’t happy with my weight, my hair was often up in a mess with a scrunchy – yes, that era.. I had to pretend i didn’t feel this way about myself, and talk in front of an audience of beauty editors and writers on a number of occasions in my days, including a fashion show in Virgin Cafe, Makati Philippines. I even pretended to be confident with my peers at work, to keep the spirit and morale up. Sometimes, it helped me bring it on, a notch higher… So, great! But the point is..How much more fun and easier could it have been if I truly, genuinely actually felt fabulous deep inside. Right? Get what I’m saying?

  • If you’re reading this because YOU or someone you know are thinking of being a makeup artist, but you’re not sure if it’s the right path for you yet, let me help. Makeup schools are great, but I was mostly self-taught and trained in my role in retail and brand management. But I attended George Brown School of Makeup and Esthetics, here in Toronto 3 years ago, to gain Canadian certification and loved it. I love to learn as much as I love to teach! So, if you’re interested but don’t want to fork up the hefty tuition fees at the Colleges, why not do what many of my former students did and dip your toes in first.                         
  • Join one of my makeup workshops and see if it really is where you see yourself going! I offer customized private and group makeup classes for beginners to advanced areas in: Makeup Essentials, Tricks’n’ and Trends, Fashion & Editorial, Bridal Makeup and the Art of Airbrush Makeup for beginners and advanced. Classes are taught in a central venue downtown Toronto, or in the comfort of your home.
  • For rates and class contents, please email me at info@makeupbymerry.com or call 416 648 5956.

You can also find more info on this topic on the Makeup and Beauty Message Board page of my eShop, where you can browse through and buy an assortment of makeup must haves, like the sample starter set, for makeup artists on my: Makeup and Beauty Homepage .

Let me know if you have any questions or comments, and let’s chat!

Have a great weekend everyone! xo


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