Interview: Makeup Artist Chris Scott, Owner of Makeup Gourmet
It was my absolute pleasure to interview Chris Scott, who took time out of his super-busy schedule to chat with me for over an hour. Chris is the owner of www.MakeupGourmet.com, and he's absolutely done it all: he's hosted his own television show, started his own makeup line, opened his own studio, written two books (which we'll talk about below)---you name it, he's done it.
This is a pretty long interview, but there is SO much incredible stuff in it---if you're at all interested in a career as a MUA, this is a great place to learn about the life.
There are a few things that stand out to me about the interview:
- I read his newest book, Face with A Heart: Mastering Authentic Beauty Makeup, and it is truly something special. No matter who you are and what level you operate at, it'll make a difference in your skill set and how you approach makeup.
- Chris says "I love" a lot. More than anything, he is truly passionate about what he does, and it's totally motivating. After we talked, I found myself thinking again and again about his "walk towards" philosophy, which he talks about below.
- Like an amazing teacher, Chris is incredibly patient. Even as my Skype bombed out like seven times and I was totally embarrassed, Chris rolled with the punches and kept calling me back so we could finish the interview.
Chris is living proof that makeup artistry can be a fantastically exciting adventure, and he's constantly trying to improve himself---his makeup skills, his business skills, and his and outlook about life and the makeup business.
Q: Chris, thank you for talking with us! Before we get started, let's talk a little bit about your background, and how you got into makeup.
A: Sure! And thanks for having me. I love interviews like this. I actually got my start as a theatre person. I grew up absolutely loving the theatre, and it was the most logical career step, for me to get into theatre professionally. So I ran a theatre company for a little while, and I loved it, but it was very difficult to make a living.
Q: So you were looking for something new when you got into makeup?
A: Yes. It was tough---my passion was theatre! I absolutely loved it. But after running a theatre company for so long, I was kind of burned out. I was looking for something different. I was trying to find a day job---theatre hours can be tough---but I also wanted something flexible. Somewhere around that time, I took a two-day makeup seminar, and I thought, "This is fun!" I had always been comfortable with makeup---I had some experience with stage makeup---but something really clicked, and I thought, "I love this."
Q: So were you able to find work as a makeup artist after that seminar?
A: Not full time work, but yes---I was able to start freelancing in stores. It was a little different then. It was the kind of thing where, "Estee Lauder needs someone for three days, Clinique needs someone for three days," so I would go in and do as much as I could and learn as much as I could and try to meet as many people as I could. I ended up staying with Chanel and after six weeks, someone came to me and said "We'd like you to work for us..."
Q: That must have been nice!
A: It was! Theatre was totally my passion, but here I was doing makeup. I always say that "makeup chose me."
Q: So what happened? Did you get hired, just like that?
A: No. They told me what they were looking for, and I interviewed with them, and I started off slow. These things tend to start off slow, especially with a company that big. And I had a LOT to learn. I'm the kind person who---If I don't know how to do something, I'll figure out how to do it. So I dove in. And I was loving it! The creativity, the people you work with... you learn from EVERY person you meet. And that's important---you never stop learning. You can't. Things change so quickly---you have to stay motivated.
Q: I think a lot of our readers---I think that's their dream, is to go to a two-day seminar, and then end up getting picked up by Chanel.
A: I lucked out. But it didn't happen all at once---I had makeup experience from theatre, then the seminar, then a BUNCH of shorter jobs, then the six-week job, and then I interviewed. And all the while, I was working super, super hard.
Q: What was the best part about working with Chanel?
A: There was a lot, but I got GREAT training. They paid me to get trained! And with really good people, too. That's the best part about working for a company like Chanel. The instruction you receive is incredible, and if you work hard, the work you do is soooo much fun. I was doing fashion shows, backstage, doing photos and demos and all that good stuff.
Q: At some point you left, though, correct?
A: I was doing a lot of traveling, and I said I *have* to stay more local---and they worked with me. They let me do that. I did great work for them and they liked me, so I think I kind of got lucky.
Q: But after that?
A: Yes, after a while, I left. I was selling brushes, doing a lot of freelance jobs. But eventually I was able to open my own studio, and develop my own brand. And teach at a university. And write two books. But I was only able to do all that after a LOT of practice. It's doing thousands and thousands of faces that makes you good. The more pain points people present you with, the more you'll learn. And you absolutely need that to learn.
Q: There's a lot we need to talk about!
A: I've been busy!
Q: You have! Ok. Let's take it one at a time. Where did you teach?
A: I taught a course in beauty makeup at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco I loved it, and I loved the students, but it took too much time away from my business, because students were always asking me after class for more information. So I started giving them notes, and I thought, "I should write a textbook!" So I did. This was about 2001; not the new book I wrote. The older book is just under 100 pages, and it's GREAT because it answers all those questions you have when you're going to the makeup counter. A lot of times, people are overwhelmed, and don't know what they need. The book helps people get prepared---to know what look they want, to know what's best for them, and so on.
Q: So the book came from your experience teaching---I know that you don't teach at the Academy of Art anymore, but you still give lessons, right?
A: Absolutely. I love giving lessons. It's one of the best parts of owning a studio.
Q: What made you believe that you could open your own studio?
A: It's because I made everyone I worked with feel great. That is so, so, so important to the work that you do. Clients always said to me, "I feel so much better when I'm with you!" I try really hard to do that, and I think I'm great at it because I understand the emotional side of makeup, from doing so much theatre. That really helps with beauty makeup. I don't care how it looks, it's how the client *feels* after she looks at herself in mirror.
So, that's mostly what I do now---I teach and sell my makeup. I do weddings, what have you---I'm actually doing a wedding this weekend, for someone I know---but my business plan is having a strong video presence online and then having products that I'm using and that I can sell to clients. I do online consultations, too, as part of my business. It's amazing how much you can communicate online via Skype and that sort of thing, and have that be a part of your business.
Q: So---I want to ask you more about your business in a second---but before we get there I want to talk briefly about weddings. There are a lot of makeup artists who make their living entirely from weddings.
A: Yes. That's not for me. I say, "Good for them," because there's a lot of money in it if you're very good, but I couldn't do it all the time. I don't really push my services at all. Mostly, I enjoy the variety that being a makeup artist provides. Like, tonight I'm doing a video and tomorrow I'm making a trailer for a play that's coming up. It actually has nothing to do with makeup, but it's fun to branch out.
Q: You said before that you sell your own makeup---did you develop your own line?
Q: I have a feeling my readers would absolutely die if they could start their own line. Have did you do it? How did you develop it?
A: It was a really, really, really big project, and to be honest, it would take a very long time to tell you about it all! Long story short, I had become really picky with the makeup that I choose to use, because... I mean, I worked with Chanel! They're so good! So after all these years of knowing what works, and what works well, I knew exactly what my needs were.
Also, when I got my studio in 2008---it was a really difficult business environment. Everybody was losing their jobs, and I thought, "I only want to sell U.S.-made products." I wanted to sell to local people, and I wanted to hire local people. I wanted to make something great.
Q: How did you even get started? I don't know the first thing about starting a makeup line.
A: Yeah, you'd need to be in the industry for a while before you could do it. I looked for manufacturers, to create the product. I found a few manufacturers who already make makeup, and I worked with them. A lot of makeup lines---Estee Lauder and Bobby Brown and some others---they all use the same manufacturers, so if you find a manufacturer who knows what they're doing, that takes a lot of the mystery out of it.
Q: And you sell your makeup in your own studio?
A: Yep! And online. I do a lot of my business online.
Q: How did you come up with the name, The Makeup Gourmet?
A: I've always loved to cook, and on my TV show---
Q: You had a TV show?
A: Yep! I did! It was a regional show---it aired on local stations in Northern California, five minutes, twice an hour---but it was so much fun. You can find old episodes on YouTube. Anyway, on the show, there was a segment where I would "cook a look." I was doing recipes for makeup. The name kind of came from there. I'm actually doing another show, soon, in Toronto.
Q: What's that about?
A: It's still in the stages where we're figuring that out, but I'm super excited about it. I'm good at that kind of thing---I'm very comfortable talking in front of a camera, and from all my days in theatre, I know what makes a good show. I think it's going to be about how makeup is made.
Q: Did you ever do makeup for TV? Not special effects makeup, but beauty makeup for TV and film, that sort of thing. A lot of our readers are really drawn to the entertainment industry.
A: I did, but I didn't like it. On day one, it sounded good, and by day two, I was ready to leave. I could have worked in that area as long as I liked, because I'm very discreet---and around celebrities, you have to be very discreet. You have to be there, and not be there. I've heard things from politicians you wouldn't believe! But that's your job--it's an unspoken sort of thing, that what happens in the makeup room stays in the makeup room.
Q: So you left, just like that?
A: Yeah---it wasn't for me. I don't think it's hurt me much!
Q: Truly! I love how you've really been all over the place. That's one of the most amazing things about a career as a makeup artist, is that it can take you literally everywhere. Was there ever a moment in your career where you felt panic? A lot of our readers are at the beginning of their career journey, and they're nervous about how things will turn out.
A: I don't know about feeling panicky... let me think. I don't think I ever felt any panic, really...I just had faith it would all work out. When I left Chanel, my friends were like "Oooh my God, why would you leave Chanel? You're walking away from such an incredible thing" And I was like, "No, I'm not walking away from an incredible thing, I'm walking towards the next incredible thing." I've always worked really hard, and tried to make things happen.
I think, when it comes down it, you're going to have good days and bad days no matter where you are, so I guess I don't stress about it that much---it's a waste of energy. But, I say that, and it's not like I just did things without thinking about them or without planning for them. When I did choose to go out on my own, after Chanel, I consulted business owners, and asked them about what it takes to own a business, and I got some really good insights, so I was able to make some good choices.
Q: There are a lot of times on the website where we talk about the BUSINESS of makeup, as opposed to the artistry of makeup, because the reality is that it's both. The word "business" kind of scares some people, but it's a fun type of business---it's something you care about a lot and want to talk about all the time. How did... how did you develop your business, after left Chanel?
A: I was very honest with myself about what I wanted. I didn't want a place that opened at 10am and closed at 6pm. I wanted more variety than that. But the most important thing I ever did was---I hired a business coach a few years ago, because I wanted to get better at business. I want to this woman's seminar, and she said, "Make decisions from where you want to be, not from where you are." I absolutely loved that, and I've thought about it ever since. Think about where you are, but then think about where you really want to be. Think about what you'll need to get to where you want to be, and then go get those things.
It can be difficult, honestly. You may "half-way" decisions when you're afraid. You have to be brave and fearless to say, "I want this, I want to do this, and I'm going to do it." I know that can be a little abstract, but always be thinking about where you want to be, and then do the things you need to do to get there.
Q: In other words, if you want to be a sought-after makeup artist, you'll need skills---so practice as much as you humanly can in order to get those skills. You'll also need relationships, so build the professional relationships you'll need in order to get new work and grow---
A: Yes! Yes. Relationships. That's THE MOST IMPORTANT thing. It's always about relationships. Be sincere about it---the moment you want to know somebody because they can help you, you're a user, but if you're sincere, and you keep good connections with people, you'll always do well. You'll be a huge success.
Q: That's EXCELLENT advice. What else you got? What else can you tell our aspiring MUAs?
A: I would say... three things:
1. Know what you want to do. What's the thing you want to do the most? What kind of makeup do you want to do? Know that, because it'll make a difference on where you choose to get your training. You don't have to know the thing that you're going to do for the rest of your life, but you need to have some kind of idea, and then start walking in that direction.
2. Know what you need. What do you not have, that you need? It could be a skill set, connections, whatever---find out what you need to get to where you want. And then move towards where you want to be.
3. Do as much makeup as you possible can. Work on new people. Tear pictures out of magazines where you say, "How on earth did they do that?" and then figure it out. Your skill set will grow exponentially. And, work at a counter, if you can. You'll learn new skills with every single new person you work with. You'll grow really fast, and your confidence will grow.
The important thing is to get paid while you practice, and that's another thing---CHARGE MONEY. This is something a lot of new makeup artists mess up. The minute you charge money, people take you seriously. It doesn't have to be much--$50 or whatever--but if you're not getting paid, they're not thinking you of you as a professional. And how people see you is very, very important. The moment people see you as a a free makeup artist, game over! So charge from Day 1. And if you really aren't good yet, and you know that, then practice more!
Q: Anything else you can share with our readers?
A: Yes! If you want to become a makeup artist, buy my book! I just wrote my second book, and it is AMAZING. I'm not even kidding. If my book were crap, I'd tell you. But it's incredible. It's been at the top of the bestseller list on Amazon, and I promise you, any makeup artist who reads my book will be a better makeup artist. I've had experienced makeup artists---people who have done makeup for years---call and tell me it's helped them tremendously. I am incredibly proud of it.
Q: Done! I'll let all my readers know that they should buy it. I loved it.
A: Excellent. And, after you read it, leave an honest review on Amazon. I want to know what information people are getting from it. I'm working on another book, and I'm always bubbling up with ideas.
Q: Scott, thank you so much for talking with me today---this was so incredible. I truly think it'll help our readers a ton. Thank you!
A: My pleasure! This was a lot of fun. If you ever find yourself in San Francisco, come by the studio!