In past years, I’ve shared the words of many colleagues on this matter. Today, I’m going to express my own.
Most people would gather that the primary role of a Makeup Artist is to apply makeup on people in a way that is appropriate for that day’s job (be it a wedding, photo shoot, commercial, tv, film, SFX, etc). That makes perfect sense, yeah? Of course.
A good number of those same people may also assume that Makeup Artists need to be prepared for any human person who sits in our chair; Light, medium, dark, red, yellow, green, blue, pink, dry, oily, young, mature, acne, scars, men, women, children, etc. 👧🏻👧🏾👦🏼👦👩🏽👩🏼👨🏼👨🏿👨🏽👵🏼👴
What I’d bet money on is that the majority of people (very much including producers, as I used to be one) who even think about the role of a Makeup Artist at all, wouldn’t necessarily realize what we do outside of what I’ve already listed. We do the makeups, we powders the faces, we puts on the lipsticks, and sometimes we pats down the hairs. 💄👩🏻🎨
Here’s what we actually do.
The following is one real life example, straight out of my work experience.
*Corporate video shoot using staff as talent instead of actors*
“Talent” arrives a bit late because the importance of their timeliness wasn’t properly communicated. They arrive. The Makeup Artist (me) has been there for an hour and a half, set up and ready to beautify in the allotted time frame (which was already 30 minutes too little to begin with). “Talent” takes another 15 minutes to put personal stuff down, grab coffee, eat breakfast, and chat with a colleague. “Talent” is not experienced on camera and is frazzled, stress sweating, has “hair & makeup done” terribly, with glittery lipstick and what looks like NARS Super Orgasm blush on. Hair is frizzy and wind blown. She now has a piece of egg sandwich on her only shirt, juuuuust center stage enough to not be covered by her blazer. Perfect.
I now technically have 15 minutes left to work on her. Production pulls me aside, “we need to get her on camera in 15.” I chuckle, respectfully, but I chuckle. There is no world that exists, no other Rick & Morty dimension or alternate timeline where this will be possible to achieve. I need to remove her entire face of product, including what I now can see is a PLUM GLITTER LIP STAIN, then redo it for video. It’s ok. I tell him what’s going on and he shakes his head in frustration but understands. He walks away to get her and then escorts her into my room.
Once he leaves, she quietly but intensely unloads her fear of being on camera on me. She is so nervous, she’s fidgeting all over. Her hands, eye brows, lips, her legs, feet, everything is fidgeting. I calm her as I’m giving her a relaxing facial massage while removing her makeup and applying fresh aroma therapy inspired, botanical skincare. She starts to breathe easier & more deeply. I ask her about her family, where’s she’s from. We start a very friendly conversation that gets her talking and more comfortable. We talk about her job and then eventually this shoot. I coach her through what she can expect. I’m warmly smiling.
She forgets where she is for a moment while I have her close her eyes & I apply shadow with my softest, fluffiest brush. She is sipping her coffee and then asks if I’m available to come to her house every morning to get her ready. I tell her cheekily, “I’m available,” and we both have a giggle.
I move on to help her hair situation. In my peripheral vision I see my producer buddy lurking in the distance leaning just enough to catch my eye (and not hers) to get an estimate on when I’ll be done. I don’t even have to look at him to be able to give a 10 minute warning via hand signal, out of the line of sight of the “talent.” I fully shut the curtain to my room, finish her hair, but not before I give her a 30 second scalp massage. I look at her through the mirror and ask her how she’s feeling. “Much better, thanks to you. I think I’m ready. I’m glad it’s not live. I know they’ll edit it to make me look ok.” She was a different person.
I poured her a fresh coffee, guided her toward the studio door and locked eyes with the producer. He mouthed “thank you, she looks great.” I grab my set bag and meet them inside, where I proceed to step in as needed to powder, blot, touch up, etc. Every few minutes she’ll look for me through the bright lights and give me a look of “thank you” or “I think I’m doing ok.” She will often gesture for my approval or agreement in her progress. I happily ablige and give her the thumbs up. No one else notices.
The producer and the director are completely unaware of the amount of emotional cheerleading that had gone on during our time together. They also don’t know about the random “triggers” that were somehow discussed and that I’m now on high alert as the “talent’s” unofficial on-set advocate. Another thing to note, in her frazzled morning adventure, she had spilled out some of her purse on the couch in the common area and left it there. Not to worry, I gathered her things and brought them into the studio with me and placed them on the table so she could see.
This was one example. It happens *almost* every time I’m on set in one way or another, whether it’s a bride, actor, model, or otherwise, male/female, doesn’t matter. Many of them get to our chairs late & with a problem that we have to fix before starting our “actual” job. Producers & directors, we are often your first line of defense. 💪🏻 We got you.
Hey MUAs! Do you have a story you’d like to share? Comment below with an example of when our “unspoken & overlooked role” came into play for you.