“Make up is a hustle; it’s not an easy career,” cautions Natalie Henry, who had once worked in IT for General Motors before answering her calling as a makeup artist. She feels lucky because her husband is a doctor, which allows her to focus on her career and not worry about having to support herself from her earnings. She says there’s no way she’d be able to live on the money she brings in as a makeup artist, and people need to be aware of that possibility when they are considering this as their career. You have to have other skills, like doing hair, because that’s where the money is. With that being said, Natalie is extremely passionate about her craft. There’s nothing else she’d rather be doing than helping others look beautiful. “I love having all different kinds of faces, shapes, and objectives sitting in my chair and being able to meet, and even exceed, their expectations.”
Trends: Both Friend & Foe
There are so many makeup trends passing through all those social media timelines, but they don’t necessarily look good on everyone. “You have to set realistic expectations for your clients. You don’t look like Kim Kardashian, and no amount of makeup will change that. You look like you; let’s do what works with your face.” Natalie is also a makeup consultant, which she uses in part to help steer her clients from some of the trends they see in magazines and social media. Feathered eyebrows, while they may be impactful in pictures, just don’t hold the same allure in person. As well as the how’s, why’s, and where’s of contouring, the shape of the face, among other factors, all need to be taken into consideration—no matter how popular of an effect it is. “Trends don’t necessarily make people look good. They just make you look in style. But, in style doesn’t always enhance your looks!” As a consultant, she is happy to help her clients modify some of these makeup fashions to fit their faces and/or lifestyles. At the end of the day though, it’s the clients paying the bill. “So, if they don’t like my suggestions, I ask them what it is they want, and I’ll advise them.”
Most of the country is a ‘bridal industry,’ so when it comes to these extreme trends, they aren’t as prevalent in her daily life of working with the brides. She swears she just is not into putting those heavy Instagram looks onto the grandmothers of the bride. “It would be a disaster, all that heavy makeup on Grandma!” In states like Georgia and Louisiana, where the movie industry seems to be focused at the moment, it would behoove makeup artists to focus on what’s en vogue, as well as be able to do the necessary theatrical makeup to have a shot working in the movie industry. “When you do production work, you better be able to do everything, because they aren’t hiring hairdressers—you’re it. You’re hair, makeup, and the whole shebang. In most parts of the country, this won’t be a problem, but if you’re in that industry, be prepared to be the go-to for everything.”
Social Media: You Have To Work It
There’s so much networking involved when it comes to building up your clientele list, and social media has changed the industry. Natalie believes it will continue to do so. “We’re seeing with makeup almost what reality TV is seeing. People coming out of the blue—the Jeffree Stars of the world.” Social media is taking nobodies and making them superstars in the industry. And, it’s all because they can sell makeup through their social channels. These ‘influencers’ get brand support while the majority of makeup artists have to really be enterprising to succeed. Natalie thinks it’s only going to get worse, making it more difficult for the average Joe makeup artist.
Natalie is wise for someone who has only being doing this for seven years; she knows that the Instagram makeup artists are not her competition and isn’t intimidated. While she finds their process interesting and she sees the allure, she also recognizes that she’s not bidding against a 17-year-old Instagrammer for the same projects. “There is an ongoing debate in my makeup community but, you know what? The girls doing the feathered eyebrows, they aren’t really a problem, so that doesn’t bother me.”
“When it comes to the makeup industry, it’s not about being the best makeup artist. It’s about what you can sell. So, if you’re selling a ton of product because of Instagram, brands are going to take notice.” As we all know, social media isn’t going away anytime soon. So, it’s probably going to make your life easier if you keep your platforms active and looking the best they can look—in case you too wind up being Instafamous.
Advice: There Is No Instant Gratification
“I wish I had known how far and wide I was going to have to go for a good makeup education,” says Natalie. She cautions that cosmetology schools really don’t focus all that heavily on makeup artistry; it’s sort of an afterthought in the program. As a cosmetology student, you’ll graduate with enough knowledge to be a little ‘dangerous’ but, truth be told, you’ll learn more through experience or through a specialized school for makeup artistry like Erica Carr, Muse Beauty, Makeup Forever, and MUD Schools. Be sure to learn global skin tones from any of these programs, Natalie recommends. “You need to know how to work on a girl of the darkest dark, to what I like to call ‘my vampire girl’ with the fairest skin.”
To those who are already starting to get their feet wet in the industry, Natalie can’t stress one thing enough: “Know your pricing model, and stick with it. If you are good enough to charge for your service, do not start discounting to get your clients. Because once you start with that discount, you’ll never get to the full price you should be charging.” Word of mouth is a powerful tool but, in this case, it can work against your ultimate goal. If it gets out that you’re charging $40 for a $80 service, suddenly you have all these potential clients thinking you’re a $40 makeup artist. “It’s hard to recover from that. Just have an idea of who you’ll be marketing to, who the audience is that you’ll be targeting, and proceed accordingly.”
More Important Makeup Artist Knowledge
There are so many cosmetology schools out there, and they are all bragging from a similar list. It’s important to do your due diligence when choosing the perfect one for you. Natalie suggests pushing the admissions counselor for as much information as possible prior to signing anything. One main sign of a school’s success rate is where their graduates end up, and if they are making a living doing what they’ve trained to do.
As a makeup artist solely, Natalie wouldn’t be able to support herself. When it comes to actually making a decent living, she says, “If you’re able to truly support yourself, you’re working at a makeup counter. You’re working really long hours throwing a million products onto a person’s face in hopes they buy one or two of them.” When you work at a department store, selling is how you’ll make a living.
You have to understand what it is that called you into makeup artistry and stay focused on that path. Sure, a lot of money can be made working in special effects, but if you originally wanted to be a beauty makeup artist, then all the money in the world isn’t going to make you happy, because you steered away from your destined course. “Anything you want to do, do it. It can be done, but you just have to want it bad enough!”
Final Words On A Makeup Artist Career
“A friend once gave me some very good advice. She said you should always do something that you love so much that you’d do it even if you’d hardly get paid. For me, that was makeup.”
Natalie Henry is a licensed cosmetologist and esthetician. She attended Brighton School of Cosmetology for her esthetics training. She trained with Goldwell Master Colorist and National Artist Necole Capicchioni for her cosmetology apprenticeship. Natalie has been providing onsite makeup services in the Metro-Detroit area for seven years. She has studied with noted makeup artists Roshar, Kevin James Bennett, Eugenia Weston, and Erica Carr. Natalie is a published makeup artist with specialties in bridal and special event makeup.