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The National/International Makeup Artist, Does anyone still care about them?

In todays “What I Think Wednesday“, I want to delve into an idea that has puzzled me for quite some time.  I have had the opportunity to work for several major department store brands, and have observed “national/international” artists that work for those brands and wondered whether those roles are still relevant in this day and age.  Let me explain a little more.

In 2006, I joined MAC cosmetics as a full time artist.  I was excited mainly because I was leaving a retail job where I had a management position, way too much responsibility, and and a tiny salary!  I applied to MAC because the people always looked like they were having fun, and they got to apply and sell makeup, and that was it!  Now of course when I started, I learned that there was a lot more to it than just “having fun, and selling makeup”.  I also learned that just like any other company there was a hierarchy, and that I was at the bottom.

About six months in, I learned about the “pro artist” position which sounded like it could be up my alley and secretly aspired to have that position.  I happened to work with one of the most talented teams I think the company has ever seen, one went to school to learn special effects makeup and has done Project Runway and several covers for major magazines including Vogue, Marie Claire, and Bazaar, one was responsible for providing makeup and male grooming services for Puff Daddy and the family’s Bad Boy Reunion tour which just ended, another has done makeup for some feature films and several reality stars from Love and Hip Hop New York, another has done several reality stars from Love and Hip Hop Atlanta and designed a clothing collection featured on a recent televised BET fashion show curated by the super famous and talented stylist to the stars, June Ambrose. My makeup partner in crime just did half the cast of Beyonce’s Lemonade video for the VMA’s, and makeup for tons of other super talented CEO’s and celebrities for the Soul Train Music Awards, Black Girls Rock, BET Hip Hop Awards, and this years Democratic National Convention or the DNC as most folks refer to it.(i worked it too!)  So needless to say, I learned from some of the best damn people in the industry, but none of them were”national artists” by MAC’s standards, and neither was I.

 

So about eight months after working for MAC, a friend of mine who also happened to leave the company and do amazing things in make up, asked me to look at the roster of national artists and tell her what I noticed.  As soon as I researched what she had asked, I noticed that there were only about two to three black national artists.  I also learned that the company used agency artists to do many of their major campaigns.  From those two pieces of information and my observations that sales reigned supreme and that artistry came second, I felt 100% discouraged from trying to really go after becoming a pro artist for MAC cosmetics.  After about a year of working for the company, gaining about 20 pounds, drinking like a fish to keep the stress of making sales goals at bay, and having nightmares about what would happen to me if I did not make my goals, I quit!

After that, I went on to freelance for several other companies observing that most of the “national/international/pro artists” seemed to have their positions for decades.  Many of them were/are men, and they seemed to keep these positions with their respective companies until they decided to retire.  I also learned that outside of very specific events in certain locations where companies provided their bio’s to help garner clients to make appointments to have these premier artists do these women’s makeup, they were invisible!  Most of them are middle aged men, which means they did not come up in the age where social media is a necessity.  They have little to no social media following, and literally travel from state to state making appearances at events to enhance some customers makeup.(because of the number of attendees, it is impossible for them to do full faces on every woman that sits in a chair)

Now I have worked some of these events and watched the “national artists” do the exact same look on every woman they touch no matter what age or race the women were!  I also have had several women tell me that they would prefer me to complete their look from start to finish because they didn’t know or trust the guest artist for that day!  Besides those issues, there is still one glaring concern.  With hundreds of thousands of sales people aspiring to be artists with these brands, if the majority of the “national/international/pro artists” are middle aged men who take up these coveted positions and never seem to leave to go on to do other things in their careers, how can these hundreds and sometimes thousands of aspiring artists have a chance at these positions?

With each of these companies there are tons of regular sales and management positions, and few positions open for pro or national artists.  On the flip side, with the right videos on youtube, enough subscribers, and Instagram followers, many people, and especially women have broken through the glass ceiling that traditional cosmetic companies have created with the “pro artist” positions and have become popular, sought after, and paid!  Makeup Shayla, Am Reezy, and Mac Daddy, are all former artists from MAC cosmetics who have risen to the top! According to thefashionspot.com, they each make at least,get ready for this, $14,000 a month!!(why did i bother going to grad school?)  Tons of brands have sought after them to use and feature their products on their social media platforms(which they get paid for, but I ain’t mad), have taken them on expensive trips to exotic places, etc… I have only named three, but there are hundreds if not thousands of these “make up marketers” that companies have made the focus of their attention!  Now lets revisit the traditional “national/international/pro artist”.

With social media “make up marketers” killing the game and taking home hundreds of thousands and some times millions of dollars, traveling the world on cosmetic brands dime, getting more free makeup than they could ever use on themselves, their clients, or give away, and tons of other perks, why on earth would any one aspire to be a “national/international/pro” artist for a cosmetic company with a salary that caps off at about six figures if you are lucky?  The answer is pretty simple, while the famous Youtube “makeup marketer”role seems like an easier route, it isn’t.  The amount of work that goes into shooting video’s, editing video’s, having the right equipment, products, back drop, outfits, etc… is hard as f##k.  Not only that, being consistent with posting to various social media platforms is also extremely difficult, especially when you factor in your life! ( I have a hard time posting once a week!) Learning the best times to post, types of posts, number of posts, and hashtags can also be overwhelming. The bottom line is that  when you decide to become a youtube personality, you decide to be a filmmaker/entrepreneur, and everybody is not cut out to for work for themselves. That sobering revelation brings all sorts of relevancy to the more structured “national/international/pro artist” position with a cosmetic company.  In order for these positions to stay relevant with their audiences i.e customers, companies have got to restructure these positions.

The first thing that companies should do is make these positions a certain amount of years with six being the cap, two to learn the job, two to execute the job, and two to transition out of the role.  If companies do this, it would allow more artists to compete for these coveted positions.  That competition would mean better artistry and better sales from more employees equaling more revenue in general.

The second thing that companies need to do is make the the people who have these positions more visible via social media.  I think it is downright embarrassing that I have more followers than some of my trainers!  These are people that are supposed to be respected and admired, but if they have little to no presence via social media, their credibility goes down the drain.(this ain’t right, but it is the truth in this age where social media reigns supreme!)  Companies should offer training sessions for their national, international, pro artists, and trainers to equip them on how to create larger social media presences for themselves so that their knowledge is respected just as much as a mega Youtubers like MakeupShayla or Am Reezy.

The last thing that major cosmetic companies should do is create new positions for their special artists when they complete their term of being a “national, international, or pro artist”.  Their expertise could be used for product development, packaging, customer service, artist development, training, and tons of other things.

My fear is that these positions which were once worshipped and coveted will become ignored and forgotten.  Before any of that happens, I would love to see companies acknowledge the times and make these positions relevant again!

 

 

What I Think Wednesday: Trish McEvoy and her Credit Card Palettes

I have spent a ton of time talking to my peers in the makeup world about cosmetic companies and what I think they can do better in terms of training, product development, hiring, social media, etc… Finally I realized that talking to my peers is pointless.  I also realize that talking to company executives can also be pointless especially if you meet them in a store or counter setting.

I have observed that most executives dismiss ideas that company members who work behind counters have which is a huge mistake!  Social media has much more weight, so I will be speaking directly to companies every Wednesday in the hopes that at some point my voice is heard! Now on to Trish!!

At this point, we all know that palettes reign supreme.  Eyeshadow palettes, blush palettes, lip palettes, foundation palettes, etc… Consumers would rather spend money on palettes because they give you variety and provide you with more “bang” for your buck.  Trish McEvoy, known for her planners sometimes will put these little credit card eyeshadow palettes in her limited edition planners, and I have started to collect them, because they are tiny ( I love tiny things), super pigmented, have an array of eyeshadows and powder eyeliners, and blend like a dream!

The problem is that these credit cards only come out every once in a while in a limited planner making it impossible to purchase them individually at the consumers convenience.  As a makeup artist I really feel like I need every credit card that Trish has ever created, and no that I will be impossible for me to obtain them all.  I have a few suggestions.

  • Relaunch the credit cards in their own special planner as a limited edition sort of thing to see how well consumers respond to the idea of being able to have all of the credit card palettes.
  • Offer the credit card palettes online to give consumers an opportunity to purchase them individually
  • Market the “credit card planner” using some cool wording maybe drawing associations from the Urban Decay “naked palette” the slogan “Plan to be Naked” would be risky but could work.
  • Market to a wider demographic including but not limited to millenials making a point to appeal to beauty bloggers, and youtube and instagram makeup artists!IMG_2662

These things are definitely kit worthy, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if Trish were to make these credit card eyeshadow palettes a focus, they would sell!

Daaaamn Pat! Back at it again with Kim K!

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A friend told me a couple weeks ago that he read a statistic that fifteen hundred new makeup artists enter the beauty market a month in the U.S, and I believe that statistic 100%!  Social media makes all art forms these days seem easy and fun to start and participate in, and it also makes them seem easy to make money from.  I have already written blogs about this and because this is not going to be another one of the same blog, I will stop here.  This blog is really about me trying to figure out the balance of integrity vs. popularity and fame one should have when trying to promote their artistry and perhaps products.

At the end of last week, the God Mother of Makeup Artistry, Pat McGrath, promoted a “new” highlighting product that she will be selling with using an image of her highlighting none other than the famous for being famous, famous for having a sex tape leaked by her mother, famous for being Kanye West’s wife, famous for having a huge obviously fake derrière, famous for having a show, famous for having the face that most makeup artists on Instagram that have had major success either look like naturally or sculpt their faces to emulate, etc… Kim Kardashian as promo.

As a tenured makeup artist that is making my way in the social media world because I know the power of marketing that using those platforms creates, I am really struggling here.  Generally, I am not narcissistic, I do not fill my Instagram, twitter, or Facebook accounts with tons of selfies, my outfits of the day, my new hair, my new shoes, etc… I don’t because I value my own individuality and privacy and enjoy having my life experiences be just that, my life experiences.  I realize that the world that makes up social media loves people who are narcissistic,  post pictures of themselves everyday, their outfits of the day, new designer purses, etc… and you know what?(in my Tamar Braxton voice) I think that is perfectly fine!! What I don’t like is that I notice that the people who become the most famous from these types of posts all look the same.  They have the same skin tone, bone structure, eye shapes, hair, body types, and style.  The people who “slip through the cracks” don’t have those things naturally but use makeup, plastic surgery, waist shapers, hair extensions, colored contacts, and clothing to make themselves look like the prototype.  What does all of this have to do with Pat McGrath and Kim K? Everything!

Kim K is the prototype!  If I scroll through 30 images on Instagram, 10 images are of makeup looks, outfits, or women who look like they have been inspired by Mrs. West!  The irony is that Pat McGrath, her image, her body of work, etc are the complete and total opposite!  Ms. McGrath is a full figured British women of African or Caribbean descent(i.e. African) with a deeper skin tone that seems like she has never worn makeup in her entire life!  From a marketing stand point, I totally understand why Pat (one of the best mua’s the world has ever seen in my humble opinion) and Kim (a women whose mother successfully pimped out the whole entire family for crazy sums of money that continues to grow exponentially) would get together, but what does that say for lil old me?  Does it say, “hey girl, I know your family taught you that hard work gets you where you want to go, but perhaps you should start doing it by any means necessary“?  If that is the case, my strategy would totally change!

  • That strategy would mean that I stay on social media for at least eight hours a day.(a typical shift at any job)
  • It would mean that I take selfies at least 20 times a day and post at least 3-5 of them a day.(this may include on boarding a side kick to take these photo’s which is what I have seen a few people do)
  • It means that while I wear black at least 5-7 days a week, I post my outfits of the day.
  • It means that when I am in the car with friends I turn on music and record myself mouthing the words with fish lips to post.
  • It means that I step my waist training and flat tummy tea drinking game up because those things all seem like successful keys to marketing yourself on social media.
  • It means that I do tons of makeup swatches on new makeup and skin care products like liquid lipsticks and highlighters.(where will I get the money to keep up?)
  • It means I must start buying body con dresses in bulk to wear as part of my outfits of the day to post. (Instagram boutiques here I come!)
  • It means that I must associate myself with celebrities, athletes, and people who have a large social media following to get more followers for myself
  • It means that I may have to buy followers because the more followers you have the better your chances of being able to attract cosmetic companies to pay you to advertise their stuff or become brand ambassadors or become chosen to provide input on new products
  • Adopt a genre of makeup often seen on instagram to do on myself that includes, a strong sculpted brow, glitter eye shadow, at least one pair of lashes, major highlighting and contouring, and a matte lip to post.(most other genre’s of makeup do not get as much play)

The list is not terrible, but not quite me.  It is also not really feasible for several other amazing, tenured, talented makeup artists I know.  Some of the artists I know love to spend time with their children and husband when they are not working, some love to travel, go to the beach, and play with their pets. Some love to sleep, work out, spend time with friends, and travel.  Do these “normal” activities make them any less worthy of having success in a field they have already given a decade or more to? Does the list above represent one of the only ways to have success as a makeup artist/make up marketer?(it seems impossible to just be an mua with out being a make up marketer) Do you have to look like, dress like, or associate yourself with Kim Kardashian in some way shape or form to have a certain level of success?

Last question, What do tenured makeup artists do in a world where tenure, talent, and experience do not matter?   I would love advice and it looks like Pat could use some too.

 

 

 

 

Lips that broke the internet: MAC’s Instagram page and the image that revealed everything

Lips

When I first interviewed for MAC cosmetics, I did tons of research on the company so that I would be prepared for my interview ( which turned into like five!).  Anyway, while researching the company I learned that the slogan was “Makeup for All.  All ages, all races, all sexes.” That slogan meant a lot to me mainly because I had never really seen women of color working for make up brands like MAC, Chanel, Bobbi Brown, Lancome, etc…until I moved to Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C in 2005 was still chocolate city, and because of the high population of people of color, I saw more diversity within the world  of retail in D.C, Maryland, and Virginia than I had in my whole life!  D.C also had a high population of gay, lesbian, and transgender folks who also came from various ethnic/racial backgrounds, and I saw all of the above working behind the counter at MAC cosmetics making their slogan legitimate.

Fast forward to February 18, 2016, MAC cosmetics posts a photo of a black woman with a deeper skin tone and full lips on their instagram page, and all hell breaks loose!  Folks obviously not knowing the slogan for the company commented writing awful things like “fish lips“, “Jay Z lips“, and “N!gger lips“, just to name a few.

I couldn’t help but thinking about Kylie Jenner and the uproar that she caused when she started getting collagen injected in her lips so they could look similar to the model MAC posted on their instagram page a few days ago, and how subsequently she has been able to capitalize on her surgically enhanced lips and create a liquid lipstick line that sells out in seconds whenever they hit the internet.  Not only that, after she revealed her “new” lips, young women everywhere started putting their lips in plastic bottles and other contraptions to interrupt circulation creating a temporary swelling effect that made their lips look larger.  If we go back five to eight years, Angelina Jolie was celebrated the same way because of her naturally full lips.  There are countless other examples of women of European descent being celebrated for having full lips, large butts, tan skin, etc… but comments still pop up like “N!gger lips” when women of African descent are put on platforms to celebrate their features.

What I would love to see happen are “lean in” conversations amongst people from all different racial backgrounds regarding this reoccurring phenomenon.   There is an obvious double standard as it relates to celebrating African features on people of African descent vs. people of European descent, and the glaring question is WHY?? (nobody seems to have the answers Sway!)

Why do we think full lips on Kylie Jenner are beautiful but not on a women who is obviously of African descent?  Why are Kim Kardashian‘s “box braids” considered trendy and fashion forward when women of color are often considered “ghetto” for wearing the same cornrows?  Why did every man on the planet go crazy when J’Lo came on the scene with her large butt? If we truly sit down and attempt to come up with honest answers to these questions, we will inevitably face an ugly truth about the world that we live in.  Admitting the problem/s is the first step right?

 

Slaying your dues

 

 

Today after a long day of work, I came home, lit some candles, and checked out what was happening on Instagram.  While scrolling down my timeline I could not help but wonder where all of the wonderful and fabulous “mua’s” came from.  I remember working for MAC cosmetics in 2006, and being able to tell other “mua’s” simply by the way they looked!  We were few and far in between, and we always were decked out in all black with cool hair styles, cuts, colors, tattoos, etc… The slogan if you worked for MAC was “once a MAC girl, always a MAC girl.” The significance of being a “MAC girl”in the nineties and early two thousands was that if you worked for that brand, it was assumed that you were a pretty good artist.

Before 2010 most cosmetic brands hired people to sell first, and apply makeup second.  In fact, just last Thursday I had a conversation with a few artists from a well known cosmetic brand where they all agreed that they were sales people first, and artists second. I am well aware that cosmetic companies cannot thrive on artistry alone, which is why social media is so important, but I cannot help but ask one question.  What makes a person an experienced, knowledgeable, talented make up artist?

Now companies like MAC cosmetics hire people from Craigslist, Toys R Us, Starbucks, and Chipotle with no previous make up artistry experience.  Social media platforms like youtube and instagram make women who do only their make up and post their looks daily millionaires. Cosmetic companies send hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of products to self proclaimed “beauty bloggers“, “beauty guru‘s”, “celebrity mua’s“, etc…  Everyday I look at my phone or turn on my computer another person has decided whether they have just finished eighth grade or had a traditional 9-5 for ten years that they too want to be a make up artist.

Unlike doctors who go to school for 20 years before they can really practice medicine or engineers who attend college for four and often times five years before they can call themselves engineers, mua’s can wake up one day and call themselves an mua.

Should there be standards set for people to meet before they call themselves professional mua’s?

How many years should a person have to practice before they are allowed to charge for make up application services?

Should an aspiring make up artist have to work for one or more cosmetics brands before calling themselves an artist?

Should your popularity on social media be allowed to validate you as an mua? Beauty blogger? Beauty guru? Brand ambassador?

Should you have to take certification classes on different genre’s of make up before you are allowed to apply make up on people professionally?