What It’s Like to do Makeup on Live TV: Part 1 - QC Makeup Academy

Kayla Wilson is a San Diego-based QC student enrolled in our Master Makeup Artistry program. In this guest post, Kayla talks about she landed a coveted gig airbrushing La Catrina makeup live on CBS!

My makeup background used to be just that: it has always been an element of creativity that I’ve kept in the background of my life, never something I expected to develop professionally and be known for through word-of-mouth.

I have always loved makeup. Every year starting around the age of eight, I received a makeup kit during the holidays (this is still true twenty years later!). At 15, I was doing makeup for high school theater. In my early twenties, I worked at the Clinique counter in a department store, but spent all of my money on M.A.C Cosmetics because the formulations for Clinique never catered to the high-definition/fantasy/glamour looks that I was so fond of creating. While I looked fantastic in that white lab coat, department store retail environments are not for me—I sold high-pigmentation lines more often than my own counter territory, and there is very little artistry involved with counter work! In my mid-twenties, I secured my first real “office job,” and makeup artistry became strictly a fun hobby.

Becoming a full-fledged freelancer

Kayla Wilson Makeup on Live TV

Fast forward to last year, when I stumbled across QC Makeup Academy’s course and realized it was the perfect fit. I work and attend college full-time, so this was my chance to enroll in the program for my Master Makeup Artistry certification, and hone something that I really enjoy doing, while being able to continue my traditional collegiate studies as well.

I created a group of my closer inner-circle peeps on social media for modeling volunteers to practice technique on for my assignments, and word-of-mouth picked up very quickly! This past summer, I was juggling weddings, events, photoshoots, and live professional theater…the momentum was unbelievable!

(Quick tip: I insured myself as a student, because I was doing more makeup gigs on strangers in professional environments than I could have ever imagined. Once that proof of insurance came in, I felt so much better.)

With learning advanced techniques, experimentation ultimately results in error: allergic reactions are a very real circumstance to deal with! Just last week, I was doing airbrush makeup on an individual who had negative feedback from the alcohol content in the makeup. It was nothing that quickly and carefully removing the product with all natural jojoba oil and PCA’s CliniCalm (hydrocortisone) didn’t fix, but I can’t stress enough in this business the need to protect yourself if you’re doing artistry work that is beyond the average OTC store product.

Once summer was over and fall semester at college began, I planned to take it easy on the real-world makeup application experience, and just focus on my studies, but makeup never settled down!

How I got the live-TV gig:

Kayla Wilson Makeup Live TV Pillows

At a meeting in the office mid-September, we were strategizing on how to make our Halloween weekend concerts fun (I’m employed with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra as their Social Media Manager), and a coworker who is a fan of my work recommended painting faces! There was a lot of laughter, my boss thought it was an excellent idea, and I readily arranged and began to create mockup of La Catrinas for Dia de los Muertos.

The first week of October, the PR firm MeadsDurket suggested a live television segment to promote the weekend for the Orchestra, and there was a recommendation to have activities happening during the filming, one of which was me performing live makeup art in the background during the segment. They loved the idea; apparently I was as white as a ghost at the suggestion from shock, but agreed to do it, privately thinking the segment itself would never happen.

Well, MeadsDurket did secure the live segment, and before sunrise, I will be airbrushing on television. I was incredibly nervous about being in front of the camera until a few days ago, then something clicked that I’ll be just fine—all I need to do is take my time, have fun, and create. I know what I’m doing, and I’m great at my art.

A day in the life of a makeup artist

Kayla Wilson Makeup Live TV Skull Tshirt

Being a makeup artist is a behind-the-scenes and camera position. Social media perpetuates the idea that the makeup professional life is glamorous and accessible through YouTube videos and Insta-fame, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In the real world, I spend hours before and after gigs practicing/cleaning/prepping/stocking, and engagements themselves are demanding.

They require focus, concentration, extreme flexibility; comfortable shoes and clothes. Opportunities to shamelessly self-promote just don’t present themselves, let alone time for the perfect pouted selfie. While my personal social media as a MUA is rather quiet in comparison to others, professionalism and actively working on other faces besides my own is the reason why this amazing opportunity has presented itself.

How I’m preparing

I prepared for this event in terms of the Catrina work no differently than any other gig: bought a haul of high-quality product and recruited for models. In this case, I researched La Catrina history, traditional work, and also had to problem solve being the single face painter at the DDLM festival, narrowing down my mockup looks to basically the ultra-traditional black and white face. I incorporated the airbrush to speed up the process with stencil work to ensure that each individual receives a beautiful piece of art in good time, and will customize with color accents.

I always meticulously pack and lay out every single item the night before an event: doubles of all equipment (airbrush pods/hoses/adapters), all of the product (I use TEMPTU Dura and S/B), and layout my look down to the watch and eyeglasses choice for the day, and plan meals in advance.
In this particular case? The 2:45am wakeup-call to pull myself together requires this type of organization to be on time, and not stressed out.

I’ll be writing again once post-event to talk about the live experience…for now, it’s time to rest!

Always create beautifully,


(Pictures: makeup table strewn with TEMPTU being prepared for organizational packing, laying out my casual and comfortable clothes, kit fully packed by my shoes ready to run.)

Here’s a sneak peak of the live segment. Make sure you tune into Part 2 of this guest post, when Kayla lets us in on a behind-the-scenes of how it went!

Author Alison Kasko

More posts by Alison Kasko

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