#TuesdaysWith Larry: Do You Really Want To Be A Makeup Artist?

Otherwise known as life lessons from the makeup industry


Do you really want to be a makeup artist? Are you sure?


I love it when people say that their passion is makeup and that they’ve always wanted to be a makeup artist. It means there is new blood coming up, and new ways of approaching makeup will emerge.

Then again, I also feel a sense of despair, because passion can only bring you that much further and longevity is dependent on many, many other things. You can’t just go to a makeup school then call yourself a professional. That’s like saying you studied psychology at university and immediately became a psychologist when you graduated without clocking any field time.  

The importance of an education

I’m not talking about school necessarily. For starters, you need to understand the history of makeup, along with how and why it developed. How different circumstances helped to create the different styles, and subsequently how the variable looks evolved from the main style.

Only when you know the history can you empower your knowledge of makeup and its play, as well as know how to avoid faux pas.

Too many have given themselves credit by, for example, taking makeup styles developed by drag queens long ago and reselling it as “new”. Eyeliner hacks that use tape as marking points to create more aerodynamic “cuts” to makeup? Please - that’s been done by stage performers for years.

Reality and image

As NYC makeup artist Nick Barose said in an interview with TheCut.com, “Instagram is a controlled situation, a little square you can manipulate”. 

Just because you can do up a 2D image on Instagram doesn’t prove that you’re an actual makeup artist. Using excessive concealer to flatten out the under-eye bags only works because you have that ring light in front of you. Step into daylight and people will think you’re trying to build another Great Wall of China - from your face to the moon.

 Stop “baking your face” – it’s not a real makeup skill!

Instagram-style makeup doesn’t translate to real life because lighting is different in real life. Put on too much and it appears harsher in fluorescent light; daylight betrays bad blending skills and excess foundation application. #IGMUnotRealLifeMakeup

It’s about understanding how much to use for which situation and how it will appear on the face you work with. The person’s proportions, the skin texture, the skin hue, its undertone, the eye shape, the face structure and the hairstyle - all have to be considered when applying makeup.

Practice makes improvement

How many hours do you practise to hone your craft? How many hours are you willing to put in to understand it?

By the time I was in my fifth year of retail makeup sales, I had clocked over 10,000 hours of makeup working on different skin textures and different facial features for shoots/shows/clients - and I still felt that I needed to learn more.

I remember I had classmates in makeup school who said they took the course because they wanted to do bridal makeup on the weekends as a part-time job for more money. How many lasted? Out of 17 of us, only two are still doing makeup (no news about the rest).  

So what I suggest is, spend at least a year on the retail floor for a makeup brand to gain experience. That will give you better training; access to beauty products that you can play and experiment with; and humility, because you’ll experience different behaviours from people first-hand. All these will allow you to understand if you truly have the “passion” or if you just thought doing makeup would offer you a glamorous lifestyle. 


It’s also important to work out where you want to be in the next five years and plan how to get there. It may be fairly short-term, but at least you will have marking points in life that you can look forward to achieving. The key thing to keep in mind is: What do you really want to achieve in this industry?

Reverse-engineer your career by analysing what skills you need to learn and how you choose to learn them

Going to makeup school is only the first step in the plan. Then go out and assist someone to learn more. Save enough to go to another makeup school overseas. Work with different people to express your creativity. 

Reverse-engineer your career by analysing what skills you need to learn and how you choose to learn them - don’t just lie in bed and imagine how you think things will turn out. 

Inspiration and motivation

We cannot stay stagnant and must always open our eyes to colours and what inspires us. Find what motivates you and what triggers creativity in you.

I find going on overseas trips calms me down, while absorbing the sights/sounds of different places awakens my consciousness. Taking part in international fashion weeks also helps me hone my skills constantly. 


Go for painting classes at NAFA or Lasalle and understand textures/colours. Visit the museum, go to exhibitions and understand the way art is created to motivate your skills. Take part in makeup competitions (currently there is Shu Uemura’s The Beauty Art Make-Up Competition, which closes 18 July 2016) and continually put yourself to the test. 

Product sponsorships 

You want to be sponsored and plied with makeup products?

You better work hard. Everyone has a KPI (you, any media and the brands) and unless you are constantly hitting this Key Performance Index, you be paying for your own makeup kit. 

No, just because you shot for a few magazines and did makeup on some “celebrities” does not give you any basis to ask brands for sponsorship.  

The dark side

Everyone wants to see the glamour, but be reminded that the reality behind it will hit you like a truck.

Let us be realistic. Like every job in the world, there are perks and there is also the dark side. Everyone wants to see the glamour, but be reminded that the reality behind it will hit you like a truck.

Here’s a heads-up on some of the curveballs you may not see coming:

The random call times, the long hours, the irregular work days. Not being paid for jobs because the company who hired you has shut down or just refuses to cough up (as a freelancer, what can you do?). Being severely underpaid for jobs. Last-minute changes to projects. The transitory movement of friends and “friends”. Being caught between different cliques. Being shut out of different cliques. There will always be a hierarchy and this hierarchy forms a web that fans out.

Ultimately the one thing you can be sure about is this: Skim off what you want from the industry, and know that every step you take is always a lesson you can learn from.

Hopefully this gives you a general idea of what the industry is like and a glimpse of the reality before you embark on this exciting journey in makeup. Or you might bail barely a year in. We can only be our sole motivator in whatever field we choose to go to in life. 

For more #TuesdaysWith Larry, check out The Truth About Cushion Compacts and Let’s Talk About The Contouring Craze. For more on beauty, head here.

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