An Interview with Celebrity Makeup Artist, Nathan Johnson
Nathan is an NYC-based celebrity makeup artist who has worked on more than 300 famous faces ranging from Lea Michele and Alicia Keys to Jessica Alba and Paula Abdul. He’s the lead instructor for many of QC Makeup Academy’s courses and workshops, and his tutoring has made a difference in the careers of many up-and-coming makeup artists through QC.
QC student Whitney Ellis sat down with Nathan to discuss his best-kept secrets to success, his makeup journey, and his career aspirations!
Bringing your entire makeup kit to a shoot
If you’re doing an editorial shoot, you never know what they’ll throw at you! Changes are made on the fly, so you don’t want to be caught unprepared and empty-handed. On the other hand, if you have regular clients who you know well, you can bring in a condensed kit. Nathan has a roster of regular celebrities he works with often, so he brings in all the products he knows they like, and that look good on them, in addition to a handful of extra things to spice things up!
The key to success
To excel in the field and get ahead of your competition, the best thing you can do is refine your skill set. Nathan can’t stress enough how important it is to put in the work and practice whenever you can!
Nathan’s personal struggle with self-esteem and bullying has helped him get to where he is now. He used makeup to take back the power from his bullies and become the man he is today. When he finally saw how makeup could make someone’s day a little bit better, he realized how it could could make every person’s day a little brighter no matter their background.
Climbing the ladder to the top
The first thing you have to do is identify what your career goals are so you can figure out what the first step is. Nathan knew he wanted to work with celebrities and knew that in order to do makeup for the A-list, his makeup skills had to be of the highest caliber! So he practiced every single day. He did research on specific makeup artists who he admired (he calls this identifying a pace setter), compared their portfolio with his own work and tried to duplicate them to really see where his skills were at. There is always going to be someone out there who does makeup better than you. The key is to embrace your competitors with a positive attitude in order to improve yourself!
Feeling as though you’ve “made it”
A thriving career is one in which you’re taking every opportunity you can to improve yourself. As such, Nathan never really feels like he’s finally made it. The only time when he feels like he has made it is when he converses with someone who asks him about the details of his career.
Then, when he reviews his personal portfolio of clients it’s abundantly clear that he has found a lot of success, but only retrospectively. As you grow and develop as a makeup artist, you’ll find that your goals will change. For Nathan, he once sought a place in every high-profile shoot he could find, but now he’s much happier doing the occasional show and spending the rest of his time educating up-and-coming makeup artists!
How he became a QC Makeup Academy instructor
QC Makeup Academy kept popping up in Nathan’s feeds due to his interest in makeup, and this is how he ended up stumbling upon it. After hearing the overwhelmingly positive responses from QC graduates about the courses, he looked into the program and was impressed by what he saw. He reached out to QC about potentially collaborating and received a response only a few hours after that. Soon after, he invited QC staff to New York Fashion Week to see his work, and the rest was history!
Nathan’s tutoring style
Nathan believes in the value of tough love. He believes in pointing out every little mistake, especially after the first unit, in order to help students grow and train themselves to recognize their errors. Students often don’t recognize their bad habits or little things that can be improved because they are the ones doing the makeup! But once someone else points them out, they’ll start to pick up on their mistakes every time. Knowing where the problem areas are is the first step to improvement!