Q&A with Kate McCarthy: Tips on Becoming a MUA

Hi Kate! What advice or tips do you have for someone thinking about becoming a professional makeup artist?

Kate: For anyone wanting to break into the beauty industry the first thing you need is a thick skin.  Makeup artistry is a growing industry and is extremely competitive. After all, in LA alone there are as many struggling makeup artists as there are struggling actors (that’s A LOT). As far as competition goes… my best advice is that the best way to compete is to NOT compete.  Rely on your talent and work ethic more than your ability to undercut anyone! Trust me, the right people will notice you for the right reasons!  Also, don’t give into timidity. Doubting your skill or confidence will show in your application.

Second, do your research and  apply to makeup application school or take intensive courses. Make sure you look at places that focus on makeup ONLY! You want to find a school that will teach you both technique and how to market yourself in the biz. The best schools are in LA, NY Montreal, and of course Paris! Completing these schools will get you licensed but school is not for everyone.

In my experience, the best way to get started is to just get in there- assists other artists,  watch what they do, and then go home and practice!  At the end of the day, this industry is all about who you know so start networking. Create a community of other artists, wardrobe stylist and hair stylists and develop strong relationships with others in the same field. Another tip is to find local photographers and ask if they are testing, and if so ask if  they need an artist. Now, when you work a test shoot your compensation is TFP (trade for print) so while you won’t make a quick buck you will gain experience. When you are just starting out that is what is most important. Once you have a handful of good images that showcase your work the next step is building a portfolio with both hard and digital copies. This is what you will use to get PAID jobs!

Successful artists are not made overnight. If this is the career you want, you have to stick with it. Don’t quit after the first year because you are still working for free or because it is hard. I have known artists who worked 7-10 years before they really hit big and become a recognizable name in the industry.  I myself worked at odd jobs for five years before I found my niche and started down the path to where I am now.

So my advice is to develop thick skin, stay true to who you are, look into schools, find local artists that needs assistants, and most importantly practice practice practice. Above all else… buy the beauty bible otherwise known as Making Faces by Kevyn Aucoin. This is the book that got me hooked on becoming an artist when I was only 14! Good luck!

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