A Celebrity Makeup Artist Answers His 15 Most-Asked Questions

Ask Me Anything with Nathan Johnson

QC Makeup Academy’s executive instructor and celebrity makeup artist, Nathan Johnson, sat down to answer 15 questions about starting a career in makeup. Watch his webinar or read the answers below!

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How can I get started in the makeup industry while I’m completing my makeup certification?

While you’re receiving your makeup training, you can start putting your knowledge to the test. If you want to become a bridal makeup artist, start networking with brides. It’s never too early to start professional networking. You could also start your own beauty blog, work at a makeup counter, co-chair events with hairdressers, etc.

Nathan also mentions many other out-of-the-box places where you can create your own professional opportunities.

  • Contact your local secondary school and see if you can teach an extracurricular workshop on self-esteem and makeup artistry.
  • Contact your local theater. Most plays require their actors to look like themselves when playing their roles. You can practice your techniques while learning about the logistics of makeup and live entertainment. Factors such as theater lights and audience-distance change how makeup will appear on your models. Use this opportunity to adjust your techniques to suit any professional production.
  • Contact a local retirement home to do makeup for the residents. Sell the benefit of why this could be a great experience for the residents. Those who love beauty will have someone sit down with them and talk about beauty and help them feel beautiful at any age.
  • Reach out to hospitals that may have budgets to have professional makeup artists teach makeup.
  • Reach out to local colleges about doing makeup for their productions.

I have a specialization in wedding and bridal makeup artistry. Will I be prepared to enter other industries?

If you want to have specialized skills in other makeup industries, you’ll need to enroll in additional makeup training courses. However, having a background in bridal makeup gives you invaluable practice with working on clients. You’ll master how to be precise in your makeup application.

Under the scrutiny of the wedding photographer, your bridal client will be photographed more times at her wedding than any other time in her life. Experience with intense working conditions is invaluable when working in any other industry.

How do I enter the makeup industry after I graduate from my makeup artistry certification course?

The answer isn’t clear-cut. Everyone will break into the industry in their own unique way. Having professional makeup training is important—you need to have a good education to succeed in the industry. But it goes beyond education. What you do with your qualifications is what will lead you to a successful career in makeup artistry. You need both knowledge and practice to succeed in the makeup business.

  • Practice your makeup techniques every day. Makeup artistry is about choosing and applying makeup techniques that enhance your client’s features. This knowledge comes down to practice. Don’t just apply makeup on yourself. Practice on other people, and do it often! Study how the same technique can produce subtly different results on various features and learn from them.
  • Follow professional makeup artists who are actually working in the makeup industry. Use their work for inspiration, but make sure you aren’t just copying their work. Practice until your skills are on par with theirs while honing your own unique artistry.
  • Know your focus. What makeup career path do you want to take? Choose one or two areas that interest you, and become an expert in those areas. Don’t try to enter too many different industries at once—you’ll stretch your resources and time too thinly. Once you’ve achieved success in one area, you can move laterally to different industries. Nathan, for example, started his career in film and television makeup. He then transitioned easily to editorial and catalog work once people saw what he could do. When they saw his skill and versatility, it became easier for him to work in the industries he really wanted.
  • Network in your area of focus. Form relationships with professionals who will have contact with your ideal client. You can extend your network and expand your portfolio by participating in styled shoots. Work with real models, photographers, and hair stylists. Don’t try to take on multiple roles unless you’re trained to do so! The differences between an amateur production versus a professional production will be noticeable in your final photos!
  • Develop a cohesive brand on your media feed. Clients will book you through your professional portfolio and website; however, they will stalk you on your social media feed to get a true sense of who you are. Your feed should represent who you are as a person and a makeup artist, and show where you plan on taking your makeup career.

In QC Makeup Academy’s Master Makeup Artistry Course, will I learn how to color match makeup to a person’s undertone?

In the Master Makeup Artistry course, you’ll learn all about skin’s undertones—warm, cool, and neutral. You’ll discover that every color has a warm, cool, and neutral variation.

  • For example, blue is traditionally considered to be a cool color. But on the blue spectrum, you’ll see a warm end and a cool end, with the middle being neutral. Once you really understand color theory, you’ll know how to choose the right color tones to suit your model.
  • If your client has cool undertones, you’ll be able to decide whether want the colors to appear natural or to pop against their skin. Choose cool-toned colors if you want their look to appear more natural, and warm-tones for a bold look. How you mix these colors will determine the final effect of the look.
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If I’m starting my makeup career later in life, how can I compete with younger makeup artists who may have an advantage?

Create a competitive advantage for yourself. If you’re amazing at your fundamental artistic skill, you won’t have any problems finding makeup jobs.

Age won’t hold you back if you have the skill, talent, and ambition. And if you get the right makeup training and practice as much as you can, your makeup clients won’t know that you haven’t been working in the makeup industry for long. There’s nothing to be afraid of!

How do you network to get into the TV and film side of the industry?

In the beginning, you won’t be able to work on union films. You need to accrue a certain number of days at work to qualify. So, it’s important to meet the requirement on the number of days by keeping your payment charts and call sheets, even if you’re working an unpaid gig. These makeup jobs matter so long as you obtain a call sheet!

Take your time to reach out to a large number of people. Out of a million professionals you’ll reach out to, one may say yes. It comes down to your personal effort in creating opportunities for someone to say yes to you.

How can I boost my confidence as a makeup artist and get out of my comfort zone?

Take advanced makeup classes and practice on other people as often as possible. Some beginner makeup artists are afraid to do makeup applications on other people. While it can be daunting to work on new, unfamiliar features, there’s one thing you can always rely on, your technique. No matter how nervous you are, if you’re well trained, you can always fall back on your technique.

Take a deep breath, and start with your learned techniques. As you focus in on your client, analyzing and applying makeup to their features, you’ll find the nerves will go away.

What is the best lighting setup for makeup artists?

Natural lighting is always the best option for taking photos. Make sure the face is well-lit in the light. The only time when natural light isn’t the primary lighting setup is when you’re doing indoor film, television, video, and studio shoots. In these settings, you should leave it up to the professionals directing the shoots.

Don’t use ring lights as these lights blow out your makeup and cause it to look smoother and better than it actually is. Nathan believes using a ring light to augment photos is a deceptive practice. Your clients might feel deceived if your actual work differs from your photos.

How do I deal with rude or dissatisfied clients as a makeup artist?

Do what you can to make sure your makeup clients are satisfied. But it’s expected that you will encounter rude clients throughout your career as a makeup artist. Make sure you don’t lose your temper or be rude back. Be professional and be the best version of yourself!

What drugstore products can professional makeup artists use?

Professional makeup artists can definitely use drugstore makeup for their makeup jobs. L’Oréal lip liners and the Neutrogena eye makeup remover are among Nathan’s top drugstore product choices! Many drugstore gel liners and lipsticks are highly pigmented and suitable for your professional makeup kit.

As a QC Makeup Academy student, you’ll have access to major discounts with your favorite brands to stock your kit!

Makeup Discounts

How to Become a Celebrity Makeup Artist

Nathan’s favorite part about being a celebrity makeup artist is being able to set his own schedule. He has the luxury of choosing the clients he wants to work with. In his job, he meets plenty of awesome, fun, and interesting people. This isn’t limited to just the celebrities—their handlers and crews are often made up of some truly unique people with interesting stories of their own. Above all, he loves being considered an expert in the industry he works in.

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Do you need different makeup training to become a celebrity makeup artist?

No, you don’t need different makeup training. You need to master your makeup skills first. If you take the Master Makeup Artistry Course, the Pro Makeup Workshop, and then the Global Beauty Course, you’ll have all the education you need to be a great makeup artist.

Master your professional makeup techniques. Recognize any bad personal habits and don’t fall back on them. Nathan defines personal habits as the makeup techniques you love doing on yourself. Don’t use these techniques blindly on your clients just because you love them on yourself—it may not work for them. You have to analyze your client’s face to determine what techniques to use.

How much does a celebrity makeup artist make?

You can make a lot of money as a celebrity makeup artist. Your makeup salary would depend on how often you work and how much you charge. After gaining experience, you can start getting high-paying work. For example, you can work on advertising campaigns that will pay you $15,000 for two days of work. Some makeup artists in the celebrity wedding makeup industry can make $100,000 – $200,000 a year.

After Nathan worked on Project Runway, his rate skyrocketed. Consider increasing your makeup service fees to reflect how in-demand you are. As you mature as a makeup artist, you’ll be able to choose your clients. For example, Nathan has changed his main career focus from working primarily with paying clients to makeup education. While he is still considered a celebrity makeup artist, his focus has changed and his makeup salary has changed accordingly.

How Nathan Johnson Launched His Successful Career As a Makeup Artist

Nathan also answered questions regarding his own professional makeup career.

How did Nathan Johnson land his first makeup job, and how did it impact his life?

Nathan started out by reading local newspapers and trade papers to find local productions that suited his skills and focus. He sought small-scale productions so that he would have a greater chance of being hired as the production’s makeup artist.

After he landed his first job, it led to many other opportunities where he practiced and strengthened his makeup portfolio. Eventually, it connected him to his first celebrity client, Ice T. He applied makeup for an entire film just so he could spend one day with Ice T. Ice T liked him so much that he introduced him to his wife, Coco. From there, she introduced him to many other celebrities, and the rest was history!

Nathan advises you to lay out a plan of action. Take on all the opportunities that fall into your lap, and don’t be afraid to take risks. You never know which opportunities could lead to your big break if you want to become a celebrity makeup artist.

What makeup job changed Nathan Johnson’s whole career path to become who he is today?

When he got the opportunity to do makeup on Project Runway, it changed everything for him. Once he landed the job, he immediately gained expert status. He was suddenly being called and quoted by magazines, he was asked to do global training for companies, and he was immediately made a global artist for a major international brand.

He credits his success to his knowledge, practice, time, and effort he has dedicated to his career. Taking opportunities left and right, and not being afraid to take on “un-glamorous” opportunities to start.

How does Nathan Johnson feel about Instagram models and influencers with no professional makeup training creating beauty channels and calling themselves makeup artists?

Nathan isn’t bothered by influencers, but he’s sad when eager rookie makeup artists who want to “make it” in the professional industry start following these influencers. It can put aspiring artists behind in their actual growth as makeup artists. It also impedes people from following through on their real career goals.

Because many influencers are untrained, they may spread misinformation about makeup techniques and professional trends. Influencers often don’t know real techniques and just copy looks, which is a disservice for their fans who follow them for makeup career advice.

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