Life as a make-up artist

by Jacqui McElroy

5.30am and my alarm goes off. It feels like I've only just shut my eyes... it's still dark outside and I really don't want to get up - it's February and freeeeezing!

Then I remember what I'm doing; I'm shooting a pop promo with Kylie Minogue. Kylie. Minogue. This excitement mixed with the fact that I love my job has me leaping out of bed and into the shower. I'm not sure there are many people that can honestly say, hand on heart, that they love their job. My motto is: 'Do a job you love and you will never work again', and that’s what I’m doing.

Don't get me wrong, there are days when we’re shooting outdoors and I think ‘God, I'm cold and I’m wet and I’m only 7 hours into my 14 hour day…’, but the team I work alongside soon have me forgetting that- and that's the beauty of my job. You rarely work with the same people or at the same location. Every day is so different and that's what I love. After all, variety is the spice of life. 


"Every day is so different and that's what I love. After all, variety is the spice of life. "

It's not all glitz and glamour.

Very rarely do you get a flash makeup room withlight-up mirrors and velvet cushioned chairs. I've had to makeup models on cold staircases using the light from my mobile, and once in the back of a moving cab. You have to learn to adapt and think on your feet in this job. You are the first person that your subject will see. They might be a professional actor/model/singer who are used to being in front of a camera, or they maybe a complete novice and super nervous. 

Whoever it is, it's up to me to make them feel at ease and confident. Sometimes I'm the agony aunt and confidante to whoever is in my chair, so knowing when to lend a sympathetic ear, offer advice and when to keep quiet is key - it's not just about putting makeup on faces. 

If you’re thinking of becoming a makeup artist, here are my top tips. 

Before you invest your cash (or you parent’s cash), ask yourself if you are fully committed to self-promote. The work won't find you, unless you're lucky enough to have strong connections like Rankin, or your Mum or Dad just happens to be a top stylist. You need to know how to self promote and that is tough! But once you have done it a few times it does get easier.

Also, choosing the correct course is key. Make sure you do your research when looking. Don't be fooled by the big schools. Look at schools where the owners themselves teach their students, as they generally take better care as well as giving them more attention. 

Once you are on the road and you have jobs coming in, realise that you are your own boss. You are working for yourself no one else!

Doing something you believe in and something you are good at- something you LOVE- that, my friend, is a fabulous feeling!

Jacqui is a freelance make-up artist and founder of The Makeup School

Careers, CollegeWeb editor