The relationship between a celebrity and their makeup artist is one that can last a lifetime. Once the trust and shared vision is established, the preferred behind-the-scenes team of artists tends to accompany a celebrity on every shoot, film and project, setting the mood and making everyone on the job feel comfortable.
Here are Vogue’s top tips on how to become a celebrity makeup artist.
1. Enroll on a makeup course
Don’t just have your eye on courses in New York, Paris or London, find somewhere you can establish the right repertoire of skills and learn the tools of the trade. Broadening your skillset in this way can lead to lots of opportunities. Monika Blunder, celebrity makeup artist to Gemma Chan, Amanda Seyfried and Jennifer Garner, says: “I attended makeup school in Munich, Germany. There I began working in the theatre to gain experience. While I was in Munich I met a well-known makeup artist named Norbert Cheminel. At the time he was a huge deal and worked mostly in fashion—which was new to me.”
2. Look to retail jobs to learn about makeup
Look to retail and in-store makeup counters to get some hands-on experience. Vincent Oquendo, who works with celebrities including Karlie Kloss, Lily Collins and Ella Balinska, says: “I started out in a freelance position at the Stila makeup counter at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York. I bounced between several counters including Dior, Stila, and Yves Saint Laurent, before landing a resident makeup artist position at Bobbi Brown cosmetics, where I stayed for several years.”
Patrick Ta—global colour artist for Shiseido, and go-to makeup artist for celebrities including Shay Mitchell, Gigi Hadid and Kim Kardashian—started as a freelance makeup artist for MAC in his hometown of Arizona, which led to further experience too. “I also did a lot of bridal and event makeup on the side, in my free time,” says Ta.
3. Assist as much as possible
The best way to learn is to assist an established makeup artist. You’ll be able to observe their skills, learn the expert techniques and get a sense of the professional environment of a makeup artist. Blunder says her career trajectory progressed this way: “I was introduced to the makeup artist Paul Starr and I just asked if I could assist. After, I was signed to my first agency as a young makeup artist who could assist. Then I assisted Kevyn Aucoin.”
For Oquendo, it was persistence that led to the opportunity of a lifetime, assisting the queen of makeup herself, Pat McGrath. “I got the opportunity to assist Pat McGrath for the first Fashion’s Night Out [which took place in New York from 2009 to 2012] runway show in NYC. I had been stalking her agents at Streeters for around two to three years prior with no response. Eventually, I managed to become friends with a few senior members of Pat’s team, one of which was Renee Garnes and she recommended me. I don’t remember much about that day but what I do recall is that I worked very hard. I left my ego at the door.”
4. Stock up with your favorite high-street brands:
Mixing high-end and high-street brands helps to build up your kit bag. Blunder advises: “Starting your kit can be really expensive. I think it is important to have a range of foundations in many different colours. I always splurge on great foundations and skin products, that is really important to me. You can mix it up with drugstore products too—buy lipsticks, eyeliners and mascaras from there. Also, makeup brands do affordable eyeshadow palettes that have so many different colours.”
5. Stay professional
Ta says his golden rule when working with celebrities is: “Be a good listener, pay attention and be open to any and all looks but know when to add in your professional opinion.” Blunder adds: “My first rule is to never become best friends with your clients. I see being a makeup artist as a serious job, I never want to bring my personal issues into work! Now, I see younger makeup artists trying to become BFFs with their celebrity clients. When I enter a job, I come to do my best work, that’s my bottom line.”
6. Do your research
Before starting any job, you should do your due diligence. For makeup artists, this means looking up recent images of the celebrity they’re working with, prepping mood boards and colour charts. Visual references are always a good idea. “I always do my research on their latest looks, what they have done recently and I am prepared to know which colours look best on them,” says Blunder.
7. Always ask permission and respect privacy
Privacy is one of the most important things for a celebrity, so much so that closed sets on a photoshoot are not uncommon. And with the rise of social media—which is often used as a promotional tool by makeup artists—there’s a careful balance to be struck. “One of the most important things is respecting my client’s privacy,” says Oquendo. “I think in an age of social media it is easy to take privacy for granted, so before I take any behind the scenes photographs and/or videos I ask permission and show them the final photo/video for approval before I post. This is something that took me some time to understand because as social media is ever growing and evolving. But it is crucial that your client knows you respect their privacy and that always comes first.”