Professional make-up artist, Los Angeles, CA | www.makeupxkae.com
Makeup wasn’t the first thing that I wanted to get into. Art has always been something that has called to me, but it wasn’t something that I thought was realistic for a career. Especially with my family, everyone is an overachiever; they’re getting degrees and doing all this stuff so I felt like I had to go that route to please them or to keep up with what my brothers and sisters were doing. I would do my makeup all the time but I didn’t think that was something you could make a career out of. I would watch YouTube tutorials while I was in college studying psychology, I’d take a break and go out to the store and get all the products and then come back and finish my studies. I really fell in love with the art of transforming myself, so much so that I was like, “I’m going to see how I can make a career out of this.” There’s something called The Makeup Show which is like this big convention or trade show for professional artists and there’s classes, there’s events, there’s everything going on. I went to The Makeup Show and it was my first time going to anything like this, and seeing so many people that had the same mind frame and the same kind of goals, and being in that environment and seeing all the makeup, it was really inspiring. I saw booths with different makeup schools at The Makeup Show so I got online when I went back home and I started googling makeup schools. I found a couple, and I found a couple here in L.A. I came here, toured the school, fell in love, and I was like, I’m going there. Literally, for like a year I was like, “I’m going to this place, I’m going to this place,” I was saying affirmations, writing things out every day, envisioning what it would be like for me to be in L.A. and go to this school and do this career. And then finally I moved here. Just packed my car from Louisiana, drove across, went to school. It’s called Elegance International. It was really good for helping me be more confident in myself as an artist. I didn’t know how wide the industry is, so school kind of opened me up to that. After that, I’ve just been working and going ever since.
While I was in school, you go through two months of each aspect of the business. You go through two months of beauty makeup, two months of editorial, two months of theater, two months of HD television, two months of special effects, two months of creating and making your own prosthetics. It was a really extensive program. That’s the one thing that I learned – going through class and being better at beauty makeup and editorial makeup than I originally thought I was. I do more of that now than the special effects, which is crazy because I came here for special effects.
With editorial, you have a lot of freedom to be creative and to come up with different techniques. If I’m doing glowy skin on five models, I’m like, “How can I do her glowy skin different from this one, or what products can I use for that one to get the same look, or maybe I want to do her texture different from this one.” So that keeps me captivated.
In the HD class, they taught us a lot about which products to use. Because with HDTV, the cameras capture so much more than what the normal eye captures. They taught us a lot about different brands that are tailored to HD television, and a lot about application – things you can kind of do to cheat the cameras or certain color spectrums that they’re using.
If we wanted to make scars, you could use foam latex to make it, so we’d be cooking up our own foam latex and putting it in the oven and letting it come up. To even get to the foam latex process, you have to sculpt out using clay. They taught us literally how to make all of our own prosthetics. That way you don’t have to go and buy them, you can make them yourself. I still buy them though. If I need them, I will buy them. They have a couple different beauty stores here, like pro stores: Nigel Beauty Emporium, Naimie’s, Frends. Each of these stores, they have a whole special effects department. Literally anything that you want – I kid you not – is there. Throw up, dirt, tears, sweat, everything is there. Tears! Because people can’t always cry on the spot. You can totally create your own – you could use a little glycerin, maybe like one part glycerin, two parts water, mix it, just dab it there. You could use eye drops and put them there right at the corner. They have a menthol blower, it’s really minty so you just blow through a little tube and it makes the eye start watering.
I’ve been a professional artist for maybe a year now, so I’m still very new. If I promote my work on Instagram, people will hit me up through there and say, “I have a project, would you like to work?” A lot of times it’s through word of mouth, so through people that I’ve worked with before, they’ll refer me to new jobs and I love that. I also find the more I shoot – testing, is what we call it – the more tests that I do, the more work that I get off of that because I’m shooting the type of work that I want to get. I learn a lot from other artists, so I find artists that I really admire and I love their work and I ask them, “Can I work with you, can I assist for you?” Sometimes they take me on… sometimes you hear back and sometimes you don’t. The ones that I’ve heard back from, I’ve gained really good relationships with and I’ve been able to connect on personal levels with them and I’ve learned so much from them that literally, that has taught me more than school ever taught me. I learned a lot from school, but there’s nothing like hands-on experience and learning from artists that are constantly working.
When people sit down in your chair, any interaction you have with people, you’re taking on that energy. When people sit down in my chair, I’m kind of able to see their insecurities or maybe where they are secure. I’m able to see how their day is going just from their facial expressions or whatever conversation that they’re engaging in with me. When you’re a makeup artist or in a creative field – hair stylist – a lot of times you’re playing a counselor role. People really trust you in that way; it’s a space where you have to treat it very sacred. If you just see people walking around, you never know what people are going through or what their insecurities are but the moment they sit in your chair and you have skin-to-skin contact with them and you’re in that space with them, you can see it. And they can see yours as well.
Say you came in and you were getting ready for an event. I would first assess them and talk to them; what do you normally wear? What do you normally feel like? How do you want to feel tonight? Do you like certain types of makeup? What is your skin like? How do you like your eyebrows to look? All the while, I’m looking at their face shape, I’m looking at eye color, thinking, “What can I play up?” And then what are your biggest insecurities, do you feel like there are any? What can I help to make you feel more secure about? That’s like a little counseling session on its own! Because sometimes people will get really emotional when they’re talking about their insecurities. I didn’t understand that as much until I got on the other side of the chair. In makeup school, we would have to work on each other a lot and when you’re on the other side of the chair… like, my skin was always something that I was super insecure about. I always had a lot of texture or dark spots; when I got on the other side of the chair and they’d be this close to my face, I’d be like “Oh, I hope she doesn’t see this!” That’s what helped me to understand what someone else is possibly feeling.
If I do an eye color that doesn’t look that great, I can just wipe the eyes off. But in my head, when I’m doing it, I overanalyze. I’m like, “I don’t want to mess up, I just want to do it and I want it to look good.” I’m learning that I need to give myself permission to play, and permission to just be and if it doesn’t look good or I don’t like it after, I can just take a Q-tip and put a little liquid on it like Bioderma or micellar water and just clean it out. It’s ok. It’s ok for it to be messed up. A lot of times people aren’t really paying attention to what you’re doing to them. Depending on what clientele you’re working on, a lot of times they’re just on their phones, or you’re engaged in conversation. Sometimes on the jobs that you’re doing, whatever the person is asking you to do, they don’t know that you messed up, either. You feel it because you’re critical of yourself and your work. They’re like, “No, it looks good” and I’m like, “Nah, I’m taking it off.”
I really like Danessa Myricks’ brand, she has these Colorfix powders that are basically just all these million different colors of powders that you can use them liquid, you can use them cream, eyeliners… you can use them however you like. I really like Makeup For Ever. That’s a really nice line that’s HDTV-friendly as well. I like Laura Mercier, I like NARS, I like Ben Nye. I like products that are artist-friendly and a lot of times are created by artists because they really know what you need and it’s not so gimmicky because they actually are in the community, so I feel comfortable buying their brands. But CVS has a lot of good things as well! For spending money, for my kit, I spend most of my kit on the skin care. Because if the skin looks, good, the makeup looks good. That’s the number one thing.
One of my favorite, favorite, favorite makeup artists, Pat McGrath… I read an article that said she uses her fingers because the product warms to the skin and it goes on a lot more naturally. And the fingers, you can kind of put them in each nook and cranny that you want to put them in. When I read that, I was like, “I gotta do what Pat’s doing!” and I started using my fingers. So a lot of the time, I use my fingers. I’ll do a whole makeup application with my fingers; maybe I’ll use two brushes or three brushes and that’s mostly for eyes. It depends on how many clients I have or where I am, like if I’m doing a shoot in the desert and it’s kind of dusty, I’m not going to use my hands as much; I would prefer to use my brushes. Or if there’re a lot of touch-ups, I’ll just use my brushes. Or if there’re multiple people, I’ll use my brushes. But if I can get one person in my chair and I have the time, I will use my fingers. I prefer to use my fingers, actually. So use your fingers! They’re your best tools.
Campaigns, sometimes commercials, those things I’m usually brought in to assist on. A lot of times I do editorials, like magazine shoots and things like that. Sometimes music videos, even. I’ve done quite a bit of film. It depends on the film, and I didn’t know this before I came here, but there are short films – they’re like a day, just like a twelve hour day or sometimes they’re two days, it just depends on the film. I think the longest film that I worked on may have been three weeks and the shortest is twelve hours. Some of them are still in the works, still going through editing, so I haven’t seen them yet. Over the summer I did my first feature film; I was the makeup department head for that, so that was really cool. It was a biography, a story about someone’s life. The guy, he was schizophrenic so it was following his mental illness. He was someone who in high school had been very, very good at basketball he was legendary in this town and set up to go pro, and he developed schizophrenia. It follows his life, going through that and how the people around him had to learn to deal with that, like his mother and kids in the neighborhood who had kind of taken a liking to him and he was helping the work on their basketball skills. It was a very, very interesting story and a very touching story, especially because it was a true story. It was something that I felt very attached to because, like I said, I was a psychology major, so those things ring very true to me in my heart. And it was a story following an African American man facing this disease, which, a lot of times in the African American community, there’s a stigma on mental illness. You don’t talk about that, no. “Mental illness? Where?” It’s not something that people are very educated about and it’s not something that’s talked about. It’s also not something where people are supported, to go and get help. Just kind of deal with it or just suffer in silence. Shedding light on that story was something that I felt super good about being a part of.
Five years from now I want to be working on campaigns and commercials for huge brands and I want to be keying runway shows in every part of the world, like Milan and Paris and New York. Also, I’m really passionate about entrepreneurship, so there’re different businesses and things that I want to own and get up and running. I want to get to a point where I can hire people that are looking for gigs, like I am.
I want to have my own skincare line. I’m very passionate about skincare because I’ve suffered my own problem skin for so many years and I’m just getting to a place nowhere I’m loving my skin. But there was a time that I would put makeup on to hide all my insecurities or to hide what I felt like I looked like. I was using it more as a cover-up rather than to enhance me. That and trying multiple different things and not really understanding what worked for my skin – that’s what inspired me to want to have my own skin care line. But now I have a handle on my skin… I feel much more confident in who I am. I want to help other people to be able to realize that as well, versus thinking that they just have to cover it up.
Outside of the makeup career, I’m super passionate about helping people. Right now I do these bags, I get these drawstring bags and we put any products that a person can need inside of them. Sometimes it’s toiletries, right now it’s gloves and scarves and hats and things like that, and we hand them out. My goal at first was take them and hand them out in downtown L.A. because there’s a lot of homelessness there. But I see quite a bit here in this area, so I’m like, “Let’s just pass them out however we’re going about.” I think that when you help other people, it helps raise your vibration. I can feel the difference when I’m helping someone, versus when I’m just doing stuff for myself. I don’t think that that’s the purpose of us being here in this world. I think that we’re supposed to help each other. I think we’re supposed to shift the consciousness in that way. I feel almost obligated to do these things and I feel very good whenever I do these things. I come from a very small town in Louisiana. There’s homeless people there, but I’ve never seen anything like this before. Especially going through downtown, I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life.
I see a lot of male makeup artists and male hair stylists… I don’t necessarily feel like the only woman but a lot of times on set I’m the only black woman there. Sometimes I’ll see like one or two other black people, and I’ve been fortunate to work on sets where it’s been more than that or a lot of other minorities or just very diverse, period. I think it’s a little bit harder for black women and men to get inside of this industry or to get to certain places… racism, discrimination. I think the industry is changing a bit. Like modeling and television and actresses and actors – you’re starting to see more diversity on the screen, or see someone behind the scenes and they look more like you, and I’m happy for that. It gives people more opportunity and it gives people more confidence that they can do something like that as well. But there’s still a very long way to go. I mean, we’re in 2018, about to be 2019, where we have makeup brands that don’t have color shades or makeup for deeper-skinned women. One that I like a lot is Fenty Beauty, they’re very good for that, Makeup For Ever is very good for that, Ben Nye, they have a lot of colors as well. There’s quite a few, but still a lot of them that don’t. And if they do, they go to like my skin tone, and that’s deep? That’s where women got creative, they would literally just grab other products and use some deeper shade of something, any kind of little cream and then mix it with something and just work to get their shade. Women that are very, very fair, they have a lot of struggles finding their color because it isn’t there. It’s a crazy thing. But now… you kind of have to. The time, the climate that we’re in, people will call you out on everything. The hard thing is knowing if the brand really has integrity – any brand, not just makeup – if they really have integrity and this is something that they really care about and they stand for diversity or if they’re trying to slap some stuff on just to sell. But it is getting better and I am happy about that.
To make it in the industry, you have to have perseverance, definitely. Because everything is not going to be perfect when you first start out, it’s just not. A lot of doors are going to get slammed in your face so you have to be prepared for that and you have to be strong enough to still be like, “Eh, all right. I can shake that off and go back and try again,” versus completely being discouraged by it. And being genuine and being nice. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve worked on something and you think that’s the last time you’re going to see someone, and then you work on something else and you see that same person or someone who’s affiliated with them and you’re like, “Oh my god, I’m so glad I was nice to them, because there they are again!” You never know who people know, so in this industry you have to treat people well. To be a makeup artist, you have to want to grow. You can be the best makeup artist out there but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a class still. Or doesn’t mean that there’s not a technical skill that you can still improve on. How are you evolving in your craft? I think that’s really important.