With so much competition in the fashion and media worlds, you might think it’s difficult to even start your career as a makeup artist but as these famous makeup artists reveal, there are many ways to get started.
Enroll in A Makeup Course
Probably the simplest and probably fastest way to launch your career as a makeup artist is to enroll in a makeup artist course. It’s how the man known as the “runway makeup guru” Tom Pecheux started out.
• Tom Pecheux
After completing a makeup course in Paris, Tom Pecheux worked as an assistant to world-famous makeup artist Linda Cantello. He’s since worked behind the scenes at every major fashion show including Karl Lagerfeld, Prada and Alberta Ferretti. He’s also worked on Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci and Missoni advertising campaigns.
How Did Other Famous Makeup Artists Start Their Makeup Careers?
While some like Lady Gaga’s makeup artist Tara Savelo enrolled on makeup courses, others like Rae Morris trained first as hairdressers. Others like Charlie Green and Luis Casco started out as assistants to famous makeup artists.
A few, like the woman Vogue magazine has called “the most influential makeup artist in the world” Pat McGrath, watched and volunteered on magazine and video shoots whenever they could.
• Tara Savelo
Tara Savelo, Lady Gaga’s personal makeup artist, studied at Make-Up Designory in New York. She met Gaga while assisting makeup artist, Billy B. on the set of “Bad Romance.”
• Lisa Eldridge
The New Zealand-born makeup artist, who has worked with a veritable who’s who in the celebrity world including Cara Delevigne, Katy Perry, Diane Kruger, Jennifer Lopez, Emma Watson, and Amanda Seyfried, started her makeup career with a theatrical makeup and costume design course in Liverpool, England. She moved to London and got a job on a department store cosmetics counter and then found a makeup course that specialized in photographic makeup.
• Bobbi Brown
Bobbi Brown, who created her own makeup company and has worked with leading fashion designers such as Rachel Roy and Cynthia Rowley, began work as a makeup artist at a small cosmetics store in her hometown before enrolling at Boston’s Emerson College, where she earned a B.F.A in theatrical makeup.
• Gucci Westman
After discovering the joys of makeup while working as an au pair for a beauty editor in Switzerland, Gucci Westman, the woman Vogue magazine dubbed “fashion’s favorite face-maker” and who has worked with Natalie Portman and Drew Barrymore, enrolled on a makeup course in Paris. After finishing her makeup course, she moved to Los Angeles to get practical experience in special effects makeup, as well as conventional makeup.
Hairdressing: Another Route To Becoming A Makeup Artist
Not all famous makeup artists enrolled on makeup artist courses. Some like Rae Morris trained and worked as hairdressers before becoming makeup artists.
• Rae Morris
Australian makeup artist Rae Morris started out as a hairdresser. She then studied with famous makeup artist Richard Sharah before going on to do makeup for the likes of Miranda Kerr, Hugh Jackman, Pink, Kelly Roland, Megan Gale and Jessica Biel.
Work at a Makeup Counter
Another tried-and-trusted way to start your makeup artist career is to get a job at a department store makeup counter. It’s how Sam Fine, another of the world’s most famous makeup artists, launched his career.
• Sam Fine
Sam Fine, who has made up the faces of stars like Halle Berry, Tyra Banks, Iman, Patti Labelle, Naomi Campbell, Queen Latifah, and Vanessa L. Williams, started his career as a makeup artist working behind department store makeup counters in Chicago. He’s since written books and his work has appeared in magazines such as Marie Claire, Essence, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vibe and he was chosen as the first African-American spokesperson for Revlon and Covergirl Cosmetics.
Become a Makeup Artist’s Assistant
Another way to become a makeup artist is to get a job as the assistant to a makeup artist. That’s how Luis Casco and Charlie Green, two of the world’s most famous makeup artists did it. If you’re assisting an artist that has high profile clients, you might even learn how to do makeup for print, fashion, runway, and the red carpet.
• Charlie Green
Charlie Green, who’s painted the faces of countless actresses and models including Angelina Jolie, Betsey Johnson, Penelope Cruz, and Charlize Theron, started her makeup artist career when she was asked by a friend to help on a makeup job for 1980s pop group, Culture Club. She loved the experience so much that she spent her days off from working in a clothing shop volunteering as a makeup artist’s assistant.
• Luis Casco
World-famous makeup artist Luis Casco, who’s worked his magic on celebrities such as Cameron Diaz, Paulina Rubio and Charlize Theron, started his career in Paris as the assistant to famous makeup artists like Stephane Marais.
• Pat McGrath
Dubbed “the most influential makeup artist in the world” by Vogue magazine, Pat McGrath almost gave up on her dream of becoming a makeup artist before getting her big break. She’d done an art foundation course and was considering a fashion degree but decided she wanted to be a makeup artist. A friend, Kim Bowen, was a fashion stylist and invited her along to help out at music magazine and video shoots.
After three years, she was beginning to despair that her makeup artist career would ever take off when she was invited to accompany 1980s band, Soul II Soul on a tour of Japan as the makeup artist for singer Caron Wheeler. That’s when her career really took off.
She has since worked with celebrities such as Oprah, Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, and Naomi Campbell, as well as with fashion designers like Dolce & Gabbana and Prada.
No matter where you live, there is most likely a local theater nearby that is in need of a makeup artist. Build your portfolio and build a reputation around your unique theatrical makeup skills, which help actors look great on the stage and on camera.
Befriend some of the actors and start being their go-to makeup artist for their TV and film roles for years to come.
How to Start Your Makeup Artist Career Today
The most important step is to just get started in the industry by learning as much as you can while practicing as much as possible. Putting yourself out there and being proactive is the only way to build up your portfolio, continue to get practice, and network.