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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.

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88 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!

  27. Jennifer Parr says:

    I’m very excited about becoming a Master Makeup Artistry thru QC Makeup Academy! I look forward to working with high profile clients! This will be a amazing opportunity and experience!

    1. Jennifer Parr says:

      I love makeup and being a makeup artist is my ultimate dream!

  28. Melissa R. says:

    Because this is my career path. I am truly grateful for this insight and have noted these key points.

    Thank You Nathan!!!

  29. Maya says:

    Great article! Thanks Nathan!

  30. Maya says:

    Thank you!

  31. Kelly Tiong says:

    Thank you QC make up academy! #proudstudent

  32. Alisha Taylor says:

    thank you for this, I can just imagine if I have an opportunity to do a celebrities make up I would fan girl so much, so this is good tips and wise worlds thanks

  33. Kelsey Kendal says:

    Love this!

  34. Hung Pham says:

    Thanks for sharing. I have an experience to work with cliebt in beauty industry, and I somehow understand the importance of how we see and treat client will create different relationship more than between cluebt and the person who gives the service.

  35. Tammy orsini says:

    Very helpful and to the point!:)

  36. Annette silvestre says:

    This is such a great blog post! I never even thought about conflict between the agency & the star, this was the most interesting & valuable point for me in this article. I had this picture painted in my mind that depending on the role that the star is- you would follow the orders of the producer for the specific look. Now it makes sense that you’re sure to work it out with both the star & producer… it would be so frustrating to run into conflict like that in the middle of an application. while on the topic of professionalism… I have a quick question for Nathan. Is MUA an unprofessional abbreviation when in the makeup industry? I see so many people do it- but at the same time it doesn’t sound very professional. (To me anyways) i know that this is off topic, I just wanted some insight on whether or not it’s appropriate in the actual industry.

    1. Katie Deck says:

      Hi Annette,

      Thanks for your comment! To answer your question, the abbreviation “MUA” is not used as a professional designation but you can use it to describe yourself – it’s more of a personal preference. Of course, when applying for makeup artistry jobs we would recommend using the term “Certified Makeup Artist” to show that you are a trained professional!

      Let us know your opinion and good luck in your makeup artistry career!

      The QC Team

  37. Kayla says:

    Thanks for the post! So inspiring

  38. Queenella says:

    I love your work Nathan Johnson. Your work is timeless! So happy to have had you as an instructor.

  39. Danielle Plouffe says:

    Love your work Nathan! So helpful!

  40. Jessica says:

    Great post! Thanks!

  41. Marijane Savage says:

    Amazing and helpful tips! Thanks!

  42. Emma Capper says:

    ❤️❤️❤️❤️ Such an inspiration love his work

  43. Kirstie says:

    Absolutely love your advice Nathan!

  44. Cassie says:

    Thanks for your post! I found it very informative and helpful for all my clients, despite them being a celebrity or not.

  45. Brianna Ballardo says:

    I find this article extremely helpful! Especially at the end where it says to go where the celebrities are! I say this so many times and not many people believe me! I’m glad the proof is in this article and I really want to go to #QCgoestoNYC

  46. Alexandra says:

    Great blog read; thanks Nathan! I guess it is very true to not go over the top and treat them like royalty but still be respectful of their privacy and work- I wonder if you have any tips on how to not be star struck?

  47. Karlir says:

    Love it! Great information and a lot of helpful tips for anyone starting out!

  48. Teri H says:

    I seriously love my courses and experience thus far at QC Academy! All the courses, information and your experiences are all helpful and interesting. I was literally floored when I received my first round of feedback on my assignments! You made me feel special that none of this is a gimmick. All my time and money is not being wasted! What a relief. I’m so happy I enrolled. Thank you.

  49. Mariah Antonelli says:

    Amazing tips! Hopefully one day I will have the opportunity to work with celebrities.

  50. Mary A says:

    Very useful information!

  51. Kayla says:

    Great insights! Thanks for the tips 🙂 I would love to work with celebrities one day!

  52. Yasmin Assis says:

    I am truly anxious and excited to furthermy career to one day eventually be a known artist and have QC and Nathan Johnson as a reference of assistance on the acquiring of my knowledge on the makeup artistry industry. What an inspiration it is for my career being able see how passionate one can be about maleup and the magic it creates!

  53. Tiana Barrett says:

    Awesome read thanks heaps nathan I cant wit to see if you hve any other helpful tips

  54. Verica says:

    lovely <3

  55. Leanna says:

    I dream of being able to work with celebrities one day in the future. I will keep these tips in mind. Thanks Nathan! 🙂

  56. Olesea says:

    I continue to be impressed by the abundance of knowledge you provide for all of us.

    Thank you QC Makeup Academy and special thanks to Nathan!
    Is worth it!

  57. Amy Hope-Naylor says:

    Great article

  58. Lori Bernard says:

    I’m excited to start my career as a professional makeup artist, I’m ready to start making women over there 40’s start feing beautiful about themselves with just a little bit of makeup or even dramatic makeup, because all of us women are unique and beautiful in our own way

  59. Lori Bernard says:

    I’m excited to start my career as a professional makeup artist, I’m ready to start making women over there 40’s start feeling beautiful about themselves with just a little bit of makeup or even dramatic makeup, because all of us women are unique and beautiful in our own way

  60. Betsy Diaz says:

    This has been such an amazing experience. I wish to continue and complete and put everything Nathan has taught me into good use and become successful.

  61. Stephanie says:

    These are points I had never considered. Very important information for any stage of makeup artistry! Thanks, Nathan!

  62. Ruth Sarai Ariza Virgen says:

    I think this is great advice if your goal is to work as a celebrity makeup artist. I think some of this advice can even apply to picky clients.

  63. Samantha Hayes says:

    Awesome read and some really helpful tips!

  64. Lisa says:

    I truly love QC Makeup Academy and love the education I’m getting from Nathan and even the students that have graduated and post things online! I feel when I’m finished with the course I’ll have the education, expertise and confidence to do the job well and start my own business! Thank you QC Makeup Academy!

  65. Jaimee Pukeke says:

    Thanks Nathan =) As always your Article is on point. Very useful advice!

  66. Robyn Arias says:

    I love the advise about googling the client just to get a full idea of what typical looks they like so that you aren’t going in blind. Seems so simple but I bet a lot of people don’t ever think to do it.

  67. Wendy Gold says:

    Love the information given

  68. Nichole Messick says:

    Absolutely wonderful information! I agree working on a celebrity that I’m not already a big fan of would probably be a good start. Otherwise, the anxiety would be real. Respecting their privacy would also be very important to me as well as being their makeup artist. I see so many people these days posting people in snaps without permission and I couldn’t imagine doing that. By doing that they are putting them out there and you never know what the repercussions could be for that celebrity.

  69. Bethany Doble says:

    Such a wealth of information in this article. Well done!

  70. Caroline says:

    Always love Nathan’s advice, very insightful and helpful 🙂

  71. Yesenia Rivera says:

    Nathan’s advice is always very educational and beneficial. I really enjoy reading his beauty blogs!!

  72. Brittney Sladky says:

    Would be hard not to be star struck I think!!!

  73. Heather says:

    Love the article. Love QC Makeup Academy

  74. Stephanie says:

    Very useful information to know and learn from!

  75. Danielle Plouffe says:

    Such great advice! Thank you Nathan!

  76. Turfa Tehmeed says:

    Worth reading it amazing tip and guidance

  77. Erika R says:

    Very useful information thanks QC Academy! Love everything so far!!

  78. Ashley Wilson says:

    Wow! This was great advice! It truly helps to put our job in perspective with how we respect people and are sensitive to their wishes . These tips also equip us to be relatable to the client and well informed as the makeup artist.

  79. Farah khalid farooqui says:

    I hope I get the chance to work with a celebrity someday.Thanks Nathan for wonderful article. Thanyou QC ❤❤❤❤❤

  80. Kaitlyn Beckner says:

    Love QC Academy!

  81. Tori Castro says:

    It would be a dream to work with you someday. You are truly inspiring.

  82. Vanessa Greene says:

    Great tips! Thanks so much for sharing!! 🙂

  83. Natasha Michailiuk says:

    Love this! Want to work with famous fitness models. Great advice.

  84. Danielle Bungay says:

    Perfect advice! Everyone is equal and we are in business to make everyone feel their best and most beautiful. When they sit in your chair they’re your client. No two are the same but they are all sitting there for the one reason.. To help their inner beauty shine through!!

  85. Harleigh Holmes says:

    Love this course! So informative and very student friendly!

  86. Xenia says:

    wow great tips i agree that you shouldn’t treat them as celebrities but in a more friendly manner cause that makes your work easier for you, when you are more comfortable with your client!

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