asked me how I got started in my profession…I tried to write a response in the comment area, but it started getting long and I guess I just thought that I would just put it in a post to just document it, and perhaps in a year or so it might be fun to look back and see how I narrated my journey so far! Everybody’s story is slightly different (with regards to how they became a makeup artist) and the path you can take to get going is very diverse. You can start off working at a counter/company, and then move towards something else, or be involved in a related industry and just transition, or do youtube! However, I hope to distinguish “beauty guru” with “makeup artistry” because what you do most of your time in your profession is fairly different. Except for the ‘beauty guru’ category, when I hear stories about how makeup artists began (the TRUE/BEHIND the scenes version, not the TV version!), I can immediately empathize with them in their process. Not that everybody needs to ‘suffer,’ but paying your dues is a large part of the artistic world for most people, and not just makeup artist. Makeup Artist
– I underlined Artist because perceptions of makeup artists somehow change because our medium is makeup! What I mean specifically is – insert all the stereotypes relating to the “starving artist” and “the struggling artist” and chances to succeed or so slim that the process is grueling (oh..it is still grueling for me! Believe me). But this is how I began…..! Click to read the long/text-heavy/personal blog….
I started playing with makeup when I was 10..so 14 yrs ago! I did it on myself, on my friends, in theater, in school fashion shows, for fun. But most importantly, I started art officially at age 5 when I entered a silly drawing contest and won my first set of water color paints…then in elementary school, I had a particular interest in drawing detailed eyes and faces (Oh of one person in particular, Namie Amuro!). It was my 5th grade art teacher who noticed it during homework assignments and said: “You know, the face is a canvass, and makeup is a medium.” I actually wanted to become a visual artist/fine artist, but of course my parents would not let me – as I got straight As and always the model student..they think someone as academically talented and gifted should surely become a college professor or a lawyer or something (that’s how my resume looked like right after college graduation – my husband was trying to help me edit my resume for my current profession, and all he said was: “Wow you are going to be a college professor!”) My parents want me to do something with more job security, which I understand. My mom still tries to tell me that I need to find a job and it’s pretty hurtful. My mother-in-law wanted to make sure I didn’t want to go to law school. That was the first thing I crossed off on my list! I did want to go, but after taking my sociology classes (I am a sociology major with emphasis in psychology and education) I decided that the law seems to create more conflict than it solves (it’s not always true, but it’s true very often..). The bottom line for my career goal is simple: “I want to help people” – I tried the teaching path, but discovered I do not like being in a large group and preferred one-on-one interaction- which leaves me with counseling, which I became interested. No matter how my career goals changed, it came back to this counseling – but hey! Makeup and skincare is also one-on-one! ;)
There were a couple of turning points in my life.
1. In 2004, My parents’ psychic family friend told my mom that I am naturally talented at things relating to aesthetics/beauty and that I am good at writing (essays..I think..I am good at writing essays lol). She said I should go that direction.
2. My first year in college 2005, my friend Phoebe commented that when I do makeup on her, how incredibly therapeutic it felt when she looked in the mirror after her make over – and that perhaps I can use it to heal people. (That’s the plan!)
3. My sister asked me to do her makeup for her wedding day in 2006, when I was a sophomore in college. Naturally, I said yes! (she is my big sister and my only sister! ^o^) and then we went to Bloomingdales and picked up some of the things I thought we needed for her look. My sister was impressed that I knew what kind of questions to ask the sales associates, even though they were not products I was familiar with because it’s not for my skin type or my own personal makeup look. But I just some how naturally knew what products I needed to complement what my sister had in her makeup bag, and what was in mine – I barely believed it myself, I think, when I told the sales associate that I needed a bronzer for my sister, and I never used it before, just thought about it hypothetically!! I was fully invested in my studies, and I did not read any fashion magazines, or paid attention to trends of fashion/makeup, and of course, no money to buy extra makeup – which was why it surprised both of us how I knew what she needed! I was paid for this gig in makeup products! Of particular importance, an angled contour/blush brush made of goat hair. (Now in my kit!) My aunt said to me: “Wow your big sister must have a lot of faith in you to give you such an important task!” And then I felt a little bit of pressure…but fortunately I turned the energy around and thought that my sister must trust in my ability. The big day happened, and my sister loved her look and was so happy to receive so many compliments about it from her friends, and my brother-in-law told me that this is the best my sister looked with makeup on, and my Aunt Jen excitedly told me and my mom that I could make a living doing this and that would be nice – as she was saying this my mom was already shooting down that idea! The thoughts in my parents head must have been: “Why did I pay 4 years of college education if she is going to end up being a makeup artist” I have my sister, brother-in-law and aunt to thank for discovering my talents/interests or rather pointing it out to me and encouraging me to invest in those talents/interests.
4. I got engaged and married in 2008 (a very short engagement indeed!), and my wedding happened 2 weeks after my graduation in May of 2009. During this process, I was forced to start looking into makeup artists who would do my own makeup and paying attention to products, and improving my skin for my big day. It was my first time knowing about the beauty blogging world, and product reviews. How convenient~~! :) Someone already tried it for me before I bought it! Hurray!! And then came meeting the makeup artists themselves for my trial run, which started making me envious of their profession. In the end, my mother-in-law insisted that I would try out Ra Beauty Core in Koreatown/Los Angeles, since they are the most reputable salon in Seoul, Korea, and at first I did not want to spend more money on a makeup/hair trial, but I want to accept my mother-in-law’s love and thoughts for me, and that’s how I met Kelly Yeom, my teacher. I got to know her, and on our Paebek ceremony (my husband is Korean, I am Taiwanese/Chinese. Just FYI!) my foundation oxidized and turned me a shade of orange. That was upsetting, since it didn’t happen on my trial. Bobbi Brown, I will remember this. j/k j/k. So the next day, I brought in a few products for my wedding day in my little baggie. And it was while we were waiting for someone to open the salon door for us, that Kelly and I reeaaally started to talk about makeup and makeup artistry. She detected how I had a passion for makeup and that I wanted to learn from her…and mentioned that perhaps she is looking for an assistant. I am thankful that my mother-in-law stopped by to see Kelly after our wedding, and asked her very nicely to take good care of me. And so started my internship/assistant to Kelly for 1 month. I watched her, followed her around. Honestly it was an awkward time because everyone else were actual employees, and they spoke Korean when I did not. An event happened where I was assisting Kelly on a Saturday morning with two bridal parties, and one of the mother-in-law started mouthing off about me in Korean because I did not speak Korean. I was embarrassed when the hairdresser found me in the corner crying about it…I felt really abused by that mean old lady! The other bridesmaids however were very encouraging and believed that I can start freelancing. And throughout all of this, I adopted my kitten, named Skyla. Thus, end of June 2009, I started my own business named after my cat. :) Where did I get the money to buy my equipment and kit? Wedding Gift money of course! In Taiwanese culture, we give money instead of gifts (In Japanese too, I believe!) That’s where all of the money comes from. This meant that we have little money for furniture or pots and pans and fancy kitchenware (what people usually get as wedding gifts), we slept on the floor for 1 over year without a mattress, and then finally when moving to bay area, we bought a mattress (but no bed!). But as my new hairdresser, Jun, told me that when I invest in my profession: “You will have a bed soon!” :)
Everything else that happened after that, is my own…I don’t have fabulous connections, I don’t have a lot of money. I definitely cannot make youtube videos! (A whole ‘nother story for another day…) I have to keep perfecting my techniques, and keep working on things in order to move forward. I have to ask a lot of people for help; more experienced makeup artist for their advice and opportunities to assist them for free because that’s the only way to learn anything new, and of course ask them to critique my portfolio. As you can tell, there is a lot of asking involved, and I’m thankful that I am able to stay humble and ask them for help, and forever grateful for all the people that helped me in the past and reached out their hand to pull me up just a little step closer to my goal. It’s really about hard work, humility, dedication, professionalism, networking, and respecting others. Oh, that and sacrifice and courage. It took a lot of courage to exit my comfort zone in many many things..like going out there meeting people. I am extraverted but only with people I know – I am also SHY and nervous for the most part! Or being at the top of the pack in the undergraduate academic world, from being at the bottom-most insignificant person subject to abuse. I’m not gonna go into details right now because it’s hard to think of those things and it’s not healthy to dwell on them. Abuse is not uncommon in the ‘creative’ professions but it’s wrong. I mention them because it’s not always glamorous and fabulous like what it appears. It’s hard hard work. Just because I don’t get paid for the hard work I do, does not mean I did not put in 70 hour work weeks, and I work really hard all the time! Sitting around waiting for something to happen to you just doesn’t cut it for this industry, or any industry! And that’s my belief.