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The Aspiring Makeup Artist: 7 Important Tips

After I graduated from college, I never in a million years thought I would have ended up working as a professional makeup artist.  Yet, here I am, over 8 years in the game, and finally understanding things more than ever.  It’s been quite the journey, and nothing happened over night.  I’ve been blessed to have a career that I enjoy.  A career that grants me both artistic freedom & flexibility in my lifestyle, all while challenging me to deliver my very best every day.  I often consider complaining about minor things associated with my work, but just these things alone enter my mind, and I’m humbled. I’m very grateful to God for my gifts and His directions on how to use them.

I’ve done work for celebs, huge designers, TV/film work, top New York fashion week shows, and covers of top tier magazines.  Many of these things came in seasons, none of it all at once, and I’m thankful for that–because I probably couldn’t have handled it, lol.

I’m often DM’d or emailed about how to get started in the industry or just general tips for making it work as a makeup artist.  I came up with 7 tips .   Hope it helps:-)

on set behind the scenes with daniela lopez

on set behind the scenes
with Samira Wiley from Orange is the New Black
flaunt magazine behind the scenes
Shooting a cool story for FLAUNT!

on set behind the scenes

1. Don’t do it for the money.

Because the “money” likely won’t come for a long time.  If you opt to become a freelance makeup artist–meaning not someone who works at a cosmetic counter, but someone who actually books their own jobs—you most likely won’t hit the scene commanding large rates.  Not because your skill set is bad, but simply because you just got here! lol

Unless you’ve been lucky enough to land a high profile celebrity client immediately, you’ll need to build up a strong portfolio & great recommendations from your peers.  This takes time, effort, and just staying consistent day after day, month after month, year after year.

The makeup artists that you see traveling the world, living what appears to be a perfect life, know that they spent YEARS in the shadows, HUSTLING, and just showing up.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it!

on set behind the scenes


on set behind the scenes
2. Don’t try to do it “just like so and so”.

Being an artist of any form, authenticity and originality will ALWAYS be the factors that determine your longevity in the game.

Understand the difference between being “inspired” by someone else’s work, and doing exactly what someone else did, lol.

Albeit a commonality among every artist at some point in their career (either knowingly or unknowingly), the originator of these creative efforts will always be 2/3/4 steps ahead of you. Thus, you’ll never really catch up.  With that being said, create your own work.  It’s also cool to be inspired by mediums totally unrelated to your field of art.  So maybe take up another artistic hobby–like sketching or painting– and let that spark your imagination.

When I stopped looking at other artists work, and fashion magazines altogether, my ideas seem to be ever flowing.  And they’re organic, and true to my imagination, because I’m not looking anywhere.  The only time I seek to be inspired is when I go gallery hopping, because

a) I’m an art nerd in general


b) it’s a totally different art medium.  

I look to get color pattern ideas from say, oil paintings or sculptures in these galleries.

Besides, every artist “touches the brush” differently

Meaning, you can never do it exactly like so & so, even if you had the complete product list and exact brushes, lol.

So do it like YOU, and kill it every time!

on set behind the scenes

3. Be prepared for delayed “glamour”, lol.

As I pointed out in #1, the glamour is there, I can’t lie….but you likely won’t see it for some years down the line.  Being a makeup artist, fashion stylist, photographer, etc., are all careers where the age old saying of “paying your dues”, is most applicable.  Paying your dues can mean a number of things:

  • working a part time job to help with funds until you can do makeup full time
  • working at a cosmetic counter to help build up your kit
  • doing weddings and small test shoots until your portfolio is better.

None of this is glamorous, yet all of this is relevant.  And guess what? I’ve done all of it.  Yes, I’ve spent about 7/8 years paying dues, lol.

Don’t demand the perks so quickly, they last much longer & you appreciate them far more, when you’ve sacrificed for them, trust me on this. Working in the fashion/entertainment industry is a journey, not a race, so enjoy each phase of it– God’s timing is perfect:-)

on set behind the scenes
Shooting a campaign in the beautiful Hamptons!

4. Find someone to assist.


Assisting the legend that is Kabuki changed my life.  He taught me how to think like an artist period, not a makeup artist.  He taught me how to behave on set, how to get REbooked, how to stay humble, and how to always give every job your best–even when you’re frustrated & over it, lol (it happens!).

I always suggest assisting as the best option to really learn what goes on in this business to aspiring makeup artists.  No makeup school can prepare you for that.  True on set experience is priceless!

How do you assist?

Well, start by looking up the contact info for the artists that you admire.  Email them or their agent, and request to assist them on jobs or during some of their shows. Then, you wait.  Yes, that’s it, lol.  While you “wait”, send a monthly email to check in, and show your serious interest.  Sooner or later, your name will become a familiar one in their office, and your opportunity will come.  Make it count!


when you finally do get your shot at assisting your favorite mua, always work extremely hard, never complain, and do more than what is asked of you.  Whenever I hire an assistant, I always secretly compare their efforts to mine, lol.  Not gonna lie, I was a bomb assistant (just saying)! I don’t do this to be mean, but because I remember my hunger, and if you’re assisting me, I need to see that same hunger in you, that’s what will get you rehired.

5. Be a sponge for every job on every set.

When I was an assistant I made it my duty to learn from everyone.  Like everyone.  I asked a lot of questions and really wanted to know how things worked.  Confession: I still do this, lol.

I learn things that may seem frivolous and unnecessary–seeing as I do strictly makeup.  However, I’d like to argue that  you’d be surprised how much knowing small details will help you do your job.

Learning lighting from the photographers helped me properly adjust highlights & contours; learning things from the hair stylists helped me understand how to apply the makeup, seeing the face as a WHOLE; and picking up things from the prop stylists have helped me with color theory and complimentary tones.  Everything works together!

Be a sponge on set, always lend a helping hand to the other artists, and be grateful to be in an environment you enjoy for a living!


on set behind the scenes
On set for Seventeen Magazine!
on set behind the scenes
On set for Interview Mag:-)

6. Learn important terms in business, not just art.

Learning how to cut a crease, beat a face, and highlight to the GAWDS, is cool and stuff–but do you know how to structure & send an invoice?  A deal memo?  What about how to set up an online portfolio?  These things are seriously just as important as knowing the latest makeup trends.  I had to learn many years ago, that I don’t just “do makeup”, I run a small business.  So I had to start treating it as such!

Google is your best friend here, lol. There’s several resources on all the terms I listed above, and for setting up your online portfolio, I used 4ORMAT for years, and loved their templates and customer service. Check them out HERE.

7. Practice on REAL people, your face is irrelevant now.

on set behind the scenes

Okay, this may ruffle a feather or 2–but you know I don’t care right, lol? 😘  Doing makeup on yourself & doing makeup on someone else, are two TOTALLY different things.  Save yourself the frustration and find some very bored & loyal friends, that will let you play on their faces until you get your skills nice.

And be serious when you’re practicing!  Yes, it’s fun, but this will ultimately be your livelihood, so really give each session your best effort.  Besides, who knows when someone else will be free for you to practice on anyway?! lol I was really blessed to have naturally just “got it” in terms of makeup.  I have no idea how–I’m completely self taught, lol.  I’ll just say God wanted me to be a makeup artist, because I surely didn’t, I have a whole degree in Chemistry & Biological Sciences to prove it, smh.

But, I was blessed with several sorority sisters, and friends, who let me “practice” on them for years, and that was my foundation on learning skin types/textures/techniques.  It’s truly invaluable experience for your skill set!

on set behind the scenes hamptons
On the beach, shooting with the Donna Karan crew:-)

In closing, the best advice I can give to aspiring makeup artists is to truly think about if you love doing makeup–the art, and not just the projected lifestyle.  Because if you don’t truly love it, you’re not going to stick with it.  Working in this industry is hard work, and I’m never really “off”.  If I’m not on set, I’m prepping to be on set, running the blog, promoting on social media, or working on other things for my future businesses.

Being a “boss” is glamorized in our society, but understand, there will come a time to actually DO boss stuff–and that’s work.

Love it Or Leave It

If you don’t love it, then just do makeup for fun: perhaps weddings on the weekends or just for friends & family.  But if working as a makeup artist in fashion & entertainment is what you truly desire, then I say go for it!

Research the techniques, the business aspects, the period makeups, and all the greats who did before you.  Then prepare to hit the ground running.  All my best to you on your journey:-)

PS. leave me a comment below if you have any specific questions or comments! I’m always happy to help:-)

how to become a makeup artist

Until next time, bye lovaas💋


Hi, I'm Alexis 💁🏾, I've been rich since 86, when I was fearfully and wonderfully made. A free spirited fitness geek, and a professional makeup artist. I'm a born and raised southern girl, living in the big apple and traveling the world. An old soul, with a lotta love to give. Here, is where I express it💜 Follow along for my adventures in the worlds of beauty, fitness, and living a Christ centered life.

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