There is a lovely young lady employed at a grocery store whose artful ability to apply makeup gives her the appearance of a fashion model. One day I complimented her on her beauty and skill at ‘painting her face.’ I asked if she was able to makeup others? She seemed to appreciate the praise but noted that her sister was a true make-up artist. She expressed her love of glamour, the application of make-up and trends but didn’t believe she was as skillful as her sister. Why would a woman stand poised behind a grocery counter rather than do something she loved and something for which she had ability? Finally why would she discount her abilities by praising her sister as the gifted makeup artist?
Nykhor Paul, a 25 year-old, South Sudanese model and Jourdan Dunn a British model complain about the lack of diversity in fashion and that runway makeup-artists lack motivation to beautify the faces of darker skinned models.
In 2014, Dunn pointed out that makeup artists “…just don’t understand, often they’ll offer darker shades but they don’t understand the different tones in dark skin—they will be too ashy, or too orange. Backstage at the shows I often just have to slap on whatever they’ve got, but it isn’t quite right” (Vogue UK).
On the television program “Project Runway,” before a model walks the runway each is taken to a make-up artist by the designer who describes the ‘look’ s/he wants to achieve. Generally designer and makeup person collaborate and arrive at an agreement. Nykhor Paul, who’s walked in shows for Calvin Klein, Diane von Furstenberg, reveals a discriminatory side in her Instagram post, Monday, July 6, 2015. She must provide her own beauty products—while lighter-skinned models “don’t have to do anything but show up.”
Her professional frustration indicates the widespread indignities she suffered:
“…there’s so much options out there for dark skin tones today. A good makeup artist would come prepared and do their research before coming to work because often time you know what to expect especially at a show! …Make an effort at least! That goes for NYC, London, Milan, Paris and Cape Town plus everywhere else that have issues with black skin tones. Just because you only book a few of us doesn’t mean you have the right to make us look ratchet.”
Paul’s anger also signals an international opportunity for those who love makeup and its possibilities for enhancing or changing one’s appearance. Paul exposes a professional need for a makeup artist who can specialize in the facial artistry of darker complexioned models. Although she directed her comments to those in the fashion world, makeup artists are needed in many areas: entertainment—music, movies, television and theater—weddings, political events, public event, funeral homes and most commonly with cosmetic companies. The beauty of a dream is that it is limitless—one can travel where one imagines.
Expectations, Advice & Benefits
For those interested in becoming a professional makeup artist each state’s requirements differ. Experience and a quality portfolio of one’s work are essential for an artist. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012, salaries for makeup artists ranged between $22,850 to $117,720. Generally, a makeup artist is salaried if s/he is a full-time employee of a makeup brand. One could move from makeup counter to company executive. A freelancer could book jobs through agencies and their fees would vary.
Noted celebrity makeup artist, Merrell Hollis who’s worked with Naomi Campbell, Mary J. Blige, Vivica J. Fox, Usher, Alek Wek, Monica, and Wendy Williams—on her talk show, offers advice for those eager to work with celebrities and this is useful for dealing with all clients:
“A celeb is a client, they are not your friend. Don’t drink, smoke, or get loose with your client. They lose respect for you. Lastly, speak when spoken to. Don’t add all your input. Stay out of their personal business. Just do lashes and lipstick, don’t get involved. Be extremely discreet. They hired you to be the makeup artist, not their sister, confidant, or friend” (fashionbombdaily.com).
I reassure the talented grocery store lady that she is a sculptor of living beauty. She has a daughter to support and is comfortable working at the grocery store, for now. Whatever heights her talented sister has reached, there is always room for another. In her family, it appears, beauty can be a profitable business. The freelance work and related advice she provides to her friends could be used to begin to build her clientele. Each conversation, seemingly, shows her more confident in her ability and recognition of her talent.
Acknowledge your skill, ability or artistry—the one that others always offer observations and compliments. Improve skill, ability or artistry through education—read, study and if possible take courses—keep up with the trends. Make a dream reality—pursue passion and acknowledge self-value.
R.V. Jones ©
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages—Makeup Artists Theatrical and Performance, May 2012
Crotty, Nora. “Model Accuses Runway Makeup Artists of Racism,” Yahoo.com. 7 July 2015
“How to Break Into Fashion: Celebrity Make-up Artist Merrell Hollis,” fashionbombdaily.com. 8 November 2011
Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women. New York: Anchor Books, 1992.