Interview: Amelia of Amelia C & Co Hair and Makeup Artistry
Today's interview is with Amelia, owner of Amelia C & Co Hair and Makeup Artistry in Las Vegas, Nevada. I love this interview, because it's the interview I've been waiting to have.
And why is that? Because it's full of tough love.
Amelia knows the game, she knows the players, and she has risen to the top by her own hard work. She operates in one of the toughest markets in the United States (NYC, LA, and Miami being the others) and she knows the tenacity you need to make a career out of makeup. Her answers are hard-won and totally honest, so when she says, "Always remember that you are replaceable," you need to take it to heart. It's a tough industry, and you need to be on your game, at all times.
But even though Amelia talks about a lot of harsh realities, there's a lot encouragement in her message. She's taught many others how to make it in the business, and her advice is simple: your success is up to you, so take responsibility for it.
There's one other thing I love about this interview. When I talk to makeup artists, a lot of them have worked with celebrities. And some of them have worked with some REAL celebrities. But here's the interesting thing---the people who work with the big-time celebrities simply don't talk about it.
And why is that? Because celebrities value their privacy almost everything else. They are constantly surrounded by people who would sell them out to TMZ, Defamer, and all the rest of those sites. So celebrities hire people they can trust. That's why Amelia's answer below, when I asked about what celebrities she's worked with, is one of my favorite answers.
Thank you, Amelia, for speaking with me! Hopefully we can speak again sometime.
Q: What kind of makeup do you do, mostly? Bridal / fashion / special effects / etc.
A: I do bridal makeup and corporate. Specifically, conventions.
Q: When did you know you want to become a makeup artist?
A: Right about the time I realized it was the first time I was good at anything. It was my first big WIN in life.
Q: How did you develop your skills? Did you go to school, get lessons, maybe work as an assistant?
A: I went to school, but it didn't teach me how to do makeup, it taught me how to pass a state board exam and not give the entire city lice or pink eye (all of which are useful skill sets!) I learned how to do makeup by actually doing it. Probably about the five- or six-year mark is when I stopped sucking at it.
Q: Many of our visitors ask about makeup artist schools; would you recommend them?
A: I would only recommend the major ones associated with cosmetic brands that can then go on to plug you into a system, such as MUD. Or, alternatively, specialized schools for SFX that are well-recognized in the industry.
Q: How did you get your professional start?
A: By starting. Just start. And pay attention to the discipline of the craft---anyone can run around slapping cheap cream on faces, and that's a start, but a finite one unless the discipline follows suit. And YouTube doesn't qualify.
Q: What is your favorite thing about the profession? What's the most difficult thing about the profession?
A: I adore the freedom that comes with being a makeup artist, but that freedom is two-faced; you may have the freedom to go to Cabo during spring break, but you also have the freedom to lose a few thousand dollars by not making yourself available that week when lots of women are spending their week off getting wifed up.
Q: What is one of your proudest moments as a makeup artist? What were the circumstances---who were you working with, what did you do, and how did it turn out?
A: My proudest moments actually came from watching one of my protege's knock it out of the park, and knowing that I taught them a skill set that they can take with them the rest of their life. No matter where they are or what is happening in their world, they will be able to earn income and do an excellent job of it with a very specific skill set that I've trained them in. That's what does it for me these days.
Q: Is there a makeup artist whose work you love?
A: Jasmine Ringo. That lady floats between monsters and beauty as though they occupy the same space. Maybe they do.
Q: Many of our readers loooove makeup and would love to turn it into a career, but they have no idea how to get started. What is, in your opinion, the first thing they can do to get their careers started?
A: Enroll in beauty school. Even though it won't do diddly squat for their makeup careers, the reality is that it takes a LONG time to foster the skill set to be a professional makeup artist. The rule is 10,000 hours... it takes 10,000 hours to master anything. So, while you're working for free on TFP gigs, and finding small opportunities here and there, and taking shifts at MAC, you need to be earning and learning. Both of those things can be achieved by having a license---you'll learn proper safety and sanitation, and you'll also be able to walk into numerous businesses (such as European Wax Center or Massage Envy) using your esti knowledge while at the same time working your side hustle of being a makeup artist into a full-time career. Learn and earn, that's how it goes.
Q: Have you worked with any celebrities? Do you have any fun stories you could share?
A: Can't share.
Q: Many makeup artists who are just starting out don't quite realize that as a makeup artist, you're a business person, running a business. What business advice can you give career starters in terms of the business aspect of makeup?
A: You either hire staff or you hire a boss. ALL creative fields have three phases: Novice, Practitioner, Master (this is copyrighted to me, btw.) A novice is terrified of their own career and is just excited when someone actually books them. A Practitioner knows what they are doing, but thinks they know it ALL. These are the jerks, and everyone goes through this phase, as humble as they think they are at the time. The Master is the one who either gets a staff or gets a boss. They have zero interest in managing books or handling contracts; they just want to paint faces. Or, they love the entrepreneurial aspect of their trade, and they use their skill set to foster and pass along the craft.
Q: When doing these interviews, one of the most common complaints we get from established makeup artists is that new makeup artists don't know how to handle themselves on the job. Is there any on-the-job etiquette that most new makeup artists get wrong?
A: Yes. Keep your armpits, cleavage, drinking habits, romantic life, and political opinions to yourself. Be polite, concise, prepared, on time, and aware. Most of all, remember *you are replaceable.* Don't get comfortable. And finally, when in doubt, overdress in all black. There's far too many sloppy makeup artists running around these days, then sitting around bitching that someone else took their client. Well, that someone else didn't show up in jean shorts 10 minutes late and hung over.
Q: Makeup artists need a fantastic website in order to show off their work and attract new clients. What can you tell us about having your own site? Any tips or tricks you've learned, that makeup artists need to know?
A: Get a WordPress Website and find a VERY minimalist theme you can customize. Keep it minimal because there's less you can screw up and let's face it, you're trying to be a makeup artist, not a graphic artist. Once you have the cashflow, invest in a professionally-designed WordPress website. This way, it's still customized to your particular brand, but with the ability for you to change the photos, copy, and blog to keep current with your skills and book.
Q: Do you personally have any favorite makeup products that you're working with?
A: I live and die by Aquaphor. Seriously. Chapped lips? Aquaphor. Burned yourself on the curling iron? Aquaphor. Husband acting up? Aquaphor.
Q: The last question (and my favorite): What's made you successful?
A: The moment I realized that I could not count on anyone to determine my success. It was as dramatic as one of those Lifetime movies. Tear-streaked face, bawling on the kitchen floor, four-week old pedicure digging into the tile grout and I'm pretty sure John Mayer was the soundtrack. Or maybe it was Enya. Either way, it was that moment when I realized that as long as I relied on others to refer me work, I'd forever be at the mercy of their own tenacity, circumstances, or priorities.
I'd like to suggest a poem: Invictus. Print it out and tape it to the mirror and recite it every day. I've gone so far as to have the last two lines tattooed on my left arm, close to my heart, so I'll never, ever forget it---"I am the Master of my Fate, I am the Captain of my Soul."