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Nathan’s Guide to Working as a Celebrity Makeup Artist

Working with celebrities is considered by some to be the pinnacle of a career in makeup. It is a very exciting job, to say the least, but it also comes with many potential pitfalls. This article will cover the ins and outs of working with a celebrity, but of course you need to land the celebrity client first.

Alright, you have booked your first celebrity—now what?

Don’t treat them like celebrities

The fastest way to form a strong bond with your celebrity client is by treating them like you would treat anyone else. I know, the idea of treating a megastar the way you would your pal seems impossible, but you’ve got to do it. When you are simply your kind, funny and sweet self, it will immediately put your celebrity client at ease, and they will naturally like you. If instead you are tip-toeing and cowering in silence, overcome by the weight of their star power, you’ll likely make them very uncomfortable.

Celebrity makeup artist tip #1: Don't treat your clients like celebrities!

I am not suggesting you be overly buddy-buddy, I simply recommend that you treat them with the same kindnesses and professionalism that you would any other client. Now, this can be particularly difficult if the star you are hired for is one of your personal icons, so let’s hope you earn your celebrity stripes with someone who don’t make your pulse race first!

Respect their privacy

While we are on the subject of being friendly, let’s make sure you remember to be professional friendly. I cannot stress this next section enough. Do not ask to take selfies with your client and do not take any images inside the workspace without their permission. Now, very often if they have a nice time with you, they will volunteer to take a shot with you. If that is the case, go for it! But the first thing that separates an amateur from a professional is the request for a selfie. Are you there to do your job or are you a crazy stalking fan?

Celebrity makeup artist tip #2: Respect their privacy.

Additionally, taking pictures in the workspace can be an invasion of your client’s privacy. Let me explain. If you take a picture of your makeup setup on the desk of your client’s hotel room and you post it on Instagram, ten minutes later 1000 paparazzi and fans could be outside the hotel with some even banging on the door. There are too many clues in a hotel room that can immediately tell press where a star is (letterhead, menus, the phone, the view out the window, etc.), and you do not want to be the person who caused that leak. Keep your phone in your pocket unless your client suggests you take it out.

Do your research

If you are hired to work on a celebrity, spend some time on Google. Visit as many image sites as possible and really get a feel for the looks they like. Also get a feel for which looks worked on them in the past and which didn’t. The more you know before you go in, the more likely it is that you will be able to meet their needs on the first try.

Celebrity makeup artist tip #3: Do your research.

On the job

Every star is unique, and some are just downright special when it comes to their makeup. You will meet some celebrities who just give you a carte blanche. They may show you the gown they are wearing and talk about their look and then leave you to do the rest. This can be good or bad. If you have researched them, it will likely be good because you have a baseline for how they like to look. If you went in blind, there is a 50/50 chance it will be a success.

For example, natural does not mean the same thing to everyone. I had a big star client tell me she wanted her makeup natural. Now, I had seen a tremendous number of images of her on Getty and Wire and her makeup was always heavy, but with neutral colors. Armed with this information, I was able to give her a full coverage look with neutral shades and meet her desire for natural makeup. Had I gone in blind, I would have failed.

Sometimes stars will bring their own products. I have had women come in with their own foundation, blushes, mascaras and lipsticks. It all depends. I also have clients who come with their base on and want me to work from there. I have had others come in with almost everything on and they just want me to take their look to the next level. Again, it all depends.

Celebrity makeup artist tip #4: Be flexible.

The key here is to respect their wishes and say yes to anything they request. With stars, you do not have the same creative freedom you would with most of your other jobs. They have a look they love and one they are known for, so usually they want some version of that. It is your job to use your unique touch to bring that existing image to life.

Conflict between the bill payer and the star

Sometimes you will be hired by a record label, a production house, or a producer, instead of the celebrity. In these cases, those person or company who hired you usually tells you how to do the star’s makeup and it is sometimes exactly the opposite of what the star actually wants. Of course, this is a very difficult position to be in. If you don’t please the money men, you don’t get hired again. And if you don’t please the star, you have not done your job—not to mention the fact that you’ll never be recommended to her peers.

The secret here is to handle this before the job even begins. If you receive a warning from the producer that the star’s makeup is to be done a particular way, regardless of what the celebrity says, you need to say, “I am happy to do what both you and the client desire, but I will need you to talk this over with her so we are all on the same page. Once the look has been agreed upon, I will be very happy to apply just that.” If you do not handle this before the job, you’ll be stuck in a place where you will likely be forced to find a middle ground makeup and it probably won’t please either of them. Additionally, playing the referee between opinions is not part of your job!

I have worked with celebrities for nearly 20 years and it has been mostly a joy! I have heard stories of success and failure that have warmed your heart. I’ve heard about their embarrassing moments and together we’ve laughed. I have been blessed to see a side of these people that few others are ever able to. Under the celebrity title, there is a person and it is a blessing to be able to get to know them while working on their face.

The first step to a career as a celebrity makeup artist? Go where the celebrities are! Check out Nathan’s post on starting a makeup career in New York.

26 responses to “Nathan’s Guide to Working as a Celebrity Makeup Artist”

  1. Yessica says:

    Very helpful information, that I can use for the future if I ever work with a celebrity

  2. Samantha Roberts says:

    It must be such an incredible opportunity to work with high profile clients, incredible, but a little stressful I imagine

  3. brittney marshall says:

    its a very interesting blog I love it

  4. Lisa-marie says:

    So excited for this opportunity to become a make up artist through qc academy

  5. harley says:

    some good points to remember when feeling a little star struck. thanks Nathan!!

  6. Rose Watemburg says:

    What an amazing opportunity to win a trip to NYC to have a lesson with Nathan Johnson, just to meet him and get tips on my own make up journey would be fabulous

  7. Elizabeth Toscano says:

    I love QC Academy!

  8. Alexandra B. says:

    Great tips! Very useful if I ever work with a celebrity who I’ve fangirled over.

  9. Aretha B says:

    I enjoyed reading this article. I will be rereading again because it offers a lot of good tips.

  10. Celeste Kirkland says:

    I hope I get the chance to work with a celebrity someday. That’s always been my dream. This article was very helpful.

  11. Sarah says:

    This is great advice thanks Nathan.. my goals are to work with celebrities on TV , film and theatre it’s my dream

  12. Zahra Aleid says:

    Thanks Nathan for this article I enjoy reading it .. Good tips and information for every MUA !

  13. Sophia Koetke says:

    Good to know!!- great tips!

  14. Yasemin says:

    Awesome tips! Thanks so much, Nathan 🙂

  15. Alice M says:

    Such a helpful blog entry – This would incredibly helpful for any makeup artist! So many tips and tricks that I know I’ll be using just on every day clients. Hopefully I will refer back to them one day when I’m working with a celebrity!

  16. Tenesha Zinne says:

    Thank you Nathan for taking the time to write this out for us! I was a little confused about this topic and now — thanks to your post — my confusion has been cleared up! I so appreciate you going out of your way to teach us everything we need to know from the mua basics to working with celebrities. You’re great!

  17. Maria Laura Daza says:

    Worth it to know. Thanks!

  18. Vanessa Figliomeni says:

    I continue to be amazed by the abundance of knoweledge you provide, Nathan! It has always been a goal of mine to become a celebrity artist so this has been incredibly informative !

  19. Courtney Hannah says:

    Sweet article!

  20. Jacqueline Racovalis says:

    Loved reading this article!
    Thankyou 🙂

  21. TeLisa McKinney says:

    Thank you for the valuable information. It is this type of information that helps lead the makeup artist into professional working relationships. We must pay attention to detail and be proactive in what the client and agency is looking for. I hope I get the chance to work as celebrity makeup artist throughout my career.

  22. Paris Collins says:

    I definitely found this helpful and would love to have a one on one session to go more in depth.

  23. Karim Isa says:

    This is extremely helpful <3 Thanks a lot for the valuable tips and information.

  24. BIANCA LARA says:

    Great Tips! My goal is to work with Celebrities and this article really put things in perspective. Thank you Nathan for the guidance and tips! QC Academy & The Master Makeup Course is amazing and so are you!

  25. Rhiannon Lopez says:

    So helpful, can’t wait for this to hopefully be my career one day!!

  26. Kaity Spencer says:

    I love that all this knowledge is so accessible! This blog spot has become my weekly bible. Thanks QC Makeup Academy for all the great tips & hints!

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