Anything you love can become a career, you just have to have the motivation to do it.
Ledora D Carasca
Creative Director at Lebec Makeup Atelier; professional freelance makeup artist
I am 22 years old and I’m a professional make-up artist. I’ve been doing make-up for six years now, so I started when I was in high school. I finished training with my mom at this academy, Lebec Makeup Atelier, which is a training facility for makeup artistry and we teach students and clients how to do makeup professionally. I think a lot of times what happens is people go to school for things and they get so textbook oriented that they forget what real life becomes. We focus on the everyday person; no matter how old you are, what color you are, what your skin tone is, we’re always prepared to work on you. We bring in everyday people and ask them to be face models for the students so they get a chance to see what really happens.
When I was in high school, I trained at this facility with my mom; she was the educator-instructor. I actually set up my own appointment and interview because she didn’t believe I wanted to do it. I’m trying to tell her, “Hey, by the way, you have a 4:00 tomorrow.” I was 16 years old so I really thought I was slick. I was like, I’m going to book this 4:00 appointment and she’s going to see it on the calendar, and she’s going to be like, “Ok.” No. She proceeded to be like, “I never heard the phone ring. Did they talk to you? What’s their name? What’s…” Ugh! Mom, it’s me, I want to do it. When I told her I really want to do this, she questioned, not so much whether I wanted to do it, but whether I felt like I had to. Her biggest thing was, “Whatever you want to do in life is up to you. I’m never going to force you.” She really wanted to make sure it was something I wanted to do.
So I sat down and talked to my mom during that interview. We’re in a live-work space so I walked out of the house and came back in through the studio and sat down and talked to her. By the time I graduated high school I did enroll in the training academy here; my mom accepted me. I trained with two women who were twice my age. And they loved me, they were so happy to have me I there because I treated it like I real thing. I think I never let them realize that I was any different from them. I never got special treatment, I never was late coming into class like, “Oh, all I have to do is roll out of bed and brush my teeth.” No, I got ready, made sure I was in here, set my station, and treated it like a job.
I was in high school, and they really were pushing college. I’d have these problems with my counselors because I’d be like, “I want to do makeup. I want to maybe be in the arts.” And it was always “Ok, we’ll see how you feel when you get to high school.” Knowing who my parents were – especially my mom. Because my mom and dad were very involved with me growing up. When I hit 16 it really was a push of, “In two years you’ll be graduating, what are you going to do? Because makeup is a hobby, not a career.” I never took much offense to it because I always had straight As. So I understood, you have those accolades, just go to college! Get a business degree, do whatever! But I’m like, “Yeah… no. Not really something that I’m interested in.”
I graduated high school and I have two certifications from here: a regular basic certification and a master’s certification. And then I went to cosmetology school. I liked cosmetology school, but honestly, it wasn’t for me. I finished… I still have to go get my license. But I don’t like hair. I probably would have been better taking an aesthetician’s course but I decided to go the full route because my mom did that. I started thinking about going union, for television and film. Because if I got my cosmetology license and I still have my makeup artistry background, I could do film stuff. During this time, I ended up doing a film, it was a small indie film called Silent and Forgotten, it was done by Moonshadow Entertainment. I like being more behind the scenes, I like photography, I like editorial. I had been doing makeup for about four years and then I realized this is where I really want to focus it. I thought about going to EI (School of Professional Makeup) to really advance my skills, and then when I started looking into other schools, I realized I kind of did the same thing already. I already knew what they were going to go for, looking at their course syllabus.
I actually created the course syllabus with my mom for the new program that we have. In 2019, I started sitting down with her, like, “Ok, let’s start going over this course syllabus; you’ve been doing this by yourself since 2004. I am now 20, 21 years old and I really want to step in and help.” I helped re-do the full course syllabus and when I started looking into other schools for myself, I started realizing, “I kind of did this already! Maybe I just need to focus on my own skill set.” And that’s what I’ve done for the last two years; I’ve really tried to go freelance and work outside of the studio. Do the small indie film like I did, work with clients and stuff.
I was the lead makeup artist for the anime show last year for the anime convention they had at the Ontario convention center, I got with the woman who ran it, there was someone else before who recommended me, and she was like, “Ok, can you do like 100 models and do all their makeup for the different designers? There’s 8 different designers and they’re all going to have a different makeup style.” And I remember asking artists of ours, that really were my mom’s students because these women were in their 30s or 40s and I remember asking them, little 22-year-old me, “Will you work under me?” It was nerve-wracking a little bit but I never made it sound like “You’re going to be under me.” I said, “Will you work under my guidance, will you work with me on this job? I know it’s a lot and if you’re not willing to do it, I understand completely and I respect it but I really hope that if you did it, you’re going to know that it’s me and everything is going to have to go through me first. I’m the one that’s getting all the information, I’m the contact.” If you went out to a regular job, a 9 to 5, and you had a supervisor that was younger than you, you have a little bit of disconnect. Because you don’t want someone who’s like, “We’re gonna do this and I don’t care how you’ve been doing it for the last few years, we’re gonna change everything!” Who is this little brat? I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes, I’m asking you to help me out here but please don’t walk over me. But there’s a little bit of fear at first.
Because we’re only by acceptance we don’t take the vast majority of people. We interview you, we talk about everything, we really want to know your dream. What do you want to do when you get this piece of paper? Because that’s really what it is. That’s something that no one tells you. College is great but if you don’t retain when you knew from there, you only have a piece of paper to prove that you put the hours in and you did it. For us, it was like, “Ok, you got the paper… now what?”
We always start with theory. You go through four solid days of theory here. So before you even pick up a brush or know how to touch someone’s face or set up a station, you go through theory. We talk about face shapes, we talk about skin tones and undertones, we talk about skin, we talk about the history of makeup, we talk a lot about products and product knowledge. Brushes, thing like that, we talk about all the tools of the trade that you’ll need to know. You may only have access to dollar store makeup when you first start. Here’s the difference between good dollar store makeup and bad dollar store makeup. I can go into ingredients, and read you the bible of ingredients, but I can tell you the things to look for: if it has essential oils, you don’t want to put that on your client, they can break out. Or if you’re going to get brushes, maybe not get the bristle brush that looks like it’s a little thinner because it might be harsher. Get the one that’s a little fluffier and we can work with how to fix it. If you’re going to look at the makeup, look for tones. There could be a really pink foundation or there could be a really blue foundation, and why it would be such a big deal to put them on someone who has an undertone that’s closer to the blue, maybe that would work a little better for them.
We focus on learning all of that so by the time you look at a person’s face, you can look critically. Like, she has larger features in certain areas and smaller features in others but I learned from my color wheel that white will always bring things out and darker will push it back. So let’s say she does have a bigger nose and that’s her insecurity. I’m Romanian, so I do have a larger nose and I’ve learned to work with it: that’s where my contour needs to focus on. But I won’t put contour around my eye area. I won’t do dark shades around my eyes because maybe I have smaller eyes. That’s the important thing to learn. If I can name the bones of the face and I know where they are, whether you’re 400 pounds or 98 pounds, I know where your jawline is and cheekbones are, if I can determine the space of your forehead, how big your eyes are… that’s all I really need to know. I’m always going to know what to do.
I always try and start with the basics and then they get into colors and then they get into facial tones. I think the number one question is “How do you do bridal makeup?” “How do you do prom makeup?” It depends on the person. Someone could come in and want a no-makeup look and someone could come in wanting to look like a goddess. One girl might really like red glittered eyeshadow, and her sister might hate any eyeshadow ever. She might want a look that your grandma might like, and that’s her comfort level. You can’t always take that staple palette – everybody likes something different. So I think the most important thing is when they come fresh off the street and they’re like, “I don’t know about anything, I don’t even wear makeup myself,” I’m always trying to tell them about the history of makeup and the history of someone. One thing they’ll do is they’ll be standing in front of their model who’s sitting in the chair and I ask them to tell me about their face: do they have large eyes or small eyes, a big nose or a little nose, how are their lips – are they uneven or are they even? And what color do you see? Everybody’s style of makeup is going to be different but I think the important thing is to know how to work with someone.
I can teach you the basics but the real thing that’s going to help you out is experience. The real thing that’s going to help you is not looking at someone, thinking, “They’re number 5.0 in the True Match formula.” Let’s say you forget everything, or you’re on a flight and your makeup kit gets lost or you drive out there and your makeup is in disastrous form because of the heat of the car or whatever happens – if you have three colors that work, you need to be able to work with them. That’s why templates sometimes don’t work. I can’t tell you the perfect colors to use because what if you don’t have them? Maybe you had to go to a Ben Nye location, all his locations have very stage-heavy makeup and what that means is they mostly have the number scales. Maybe you’re an F10 in Mac but you got to a place that has a completely different number system and you can’t tell their A, B, C (or cool, warm, neutral). I just want my students to know that no matter what lemons are thrown at them, they can make the best lemonade possible.
My student Summer, she did eyeliner for the first time the other day. I was able to go in there and show her that you don’t have to take the whole thing off. Really focus on it and look at it and I promise you you’re going to see exactly where it is. And I think it was something as simple as one eyeliner was straight and one was a little droopy. She was getting a little frustrated – as you would; I remember what it was like to start – and I told her, “Step back,” because when you don’t is when you realize that you’re getting lost. Those are the things that I love as a teacher. I showed her there was a tiny little black line that if you got rid of it, both eyeliners would be straight. And she stepped back and was like, “Wow. That would have saved me so much time.” Because she was taking it on and off, on and off. Step back with me, let me show you what I see through my eyes, and realize this wasn’t as bad as you thought it was.
Right now with COVID, it’s really hard. I got a little unmotivated, things were getting tough for me personally because I was like “Where’s my career going to be?” The whole point of wearing masks… who’s going to want to get their makeup done? But then when things started to lift up and get back to normal – life goes on! People still want to go on date nights, even if it is just their eyes. They still want to feel special. And you’ll never be able to replace someone’s natural talent. It’s like hairdressing or someone who does nails. Sure, you can do your own hair at home, that’s why they have box dye. That’s why certain things exist like box dye – consumer-friendly items. There’s always going to be a consumer-friendly item no matter what industry you’re in. It works, but is it the same? You’re always going to have consumerism, but you’re always going to want the professional.
I think my number one thing why I went to cosmetology school was I never wanted anyone to tell me “You only have this skill set because your mom helped you.” For me, if I went somewhere completely different, where no one knows me, and I get recognized there as having even some potential, then I know it’s really me. It was for myself too, but for those who doubted me… and as soon as I graduated, they asked me to come back with my mom for career days. So the career that they told me was a hobby, was something valid enough for them to actually have me on a leader board of “here are some things you could pick for your career day topics” and one of them would be fashion industry, and that would be me. And I was only a couple months out of school, because I graduated in May and they have career days in October. I’ve been doing career days ever since I graduated high school, so four years now. I really love it. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I’m 22, so when I see kids who are 16, 17, 18… I’m not that far removed from them.
I still go back and forth about going into the union industry for makeup. And the only reason I go back and forth is because there are so many regulations. I’ve done indie film and I’ve done television. I used to do a talk show where I did the host and his staff, it’s called Voice of the Inland Empire. I did the movie Silent and Forgotten – those were all very small indie productions. I think that’s where I go back and forth because I know if I went union, that would be a lot. That would be full-time, 12-hour shifts you’re on set, you’re not able to go out – that takes up your day. Maybe I could do that and then go back to teaching. Because I love both, I love being influential. The one goal I have is to be someone that people can look up to and be influential. One day I do want to win an Emmy or win something where I can get on television and be like, “This is real. This is recognition! And it’s real – for anyone who’s looking at it and was told it’s a hobby.” My goal in life is to be part of a movement. And I want to be part of a movement of influence.
You don’t have to go anywhere to become somebody. The thought that you have to make it to L.A. or Hollywood, or you have to make it to Manhattan or anywhere else that’s a big city that’s recognizable… I think that’s finally started to die down, which makes me happy. I think you can be someone anywhere you go. If you’re in Idaho and you want to be a makeup artist, be the best damn makeup artist that there is in Idaho. There aren't designated places where dreams happen. Yeah, you can go to L.A. and go to one of the schools out there like MUD or Cinema Makeup School or EI. But if that’s not what you want then there are different places. There’s us, or the other ones that are competitors who come and go, when we’ve stayed. We happen to be fortunate enough to keep our head above water. We’re by ourselves – we’re not backed up by a large makeup brand, we’re not backed up by celebrity makeup endorsements. We have real makeup artists who go out and they travel across the country, they go to L.A., the go to cosmetology school sometimes afterwards, they start a business.
I want someone to hear this interview and realize that I’m not that different from them. If you have the passion and the drive, you can conquer anything you want in life. Whether it’s makeup, whether it’s something someone says is a hobby. Anything you love can become a career, you just have to have the love and the motivation to do it.