Sound like your dream job? Well, it’s not all jet setting to exotic locales and rubbing elbows with Oscar winners, but being a professional makeup artist certainly does have it’s fair share of perks. That’s why we talked with Taylor Chang-Babaian, celebrity makeup artist, author of the book "Style Eyes," and creator of kre-at beauty. She gave us the scoop on what it really takes (hint: lots of hard work and passion). If you’re thinking about a career as a makeup artist — or are just curious about what they actually do all day — read on.
Beauty Riot: So how exactly did you get started in the industry?
Taylor Chang-Babaian: I did research and sought out for it. Emailing back in the day was [practically] non-existent so when I emailed editors of magazines for advice I think they were happy to get email and emailed me back!
BR: Did you have any previous experience or education?
TCB: Some college. I also managed and worked in a busy salon for roughly 7 years from the age of 18.
BR: What’s a typical day like for you?
TCB: Unfortunately — or fortunately — every day is different. It was hard at the beginning. I was used to a 9-9 job. [Laughs] I was never 9-5. Now my call times (times I have to be on location) can be at anytime and anywhere. I’ve had 1:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. call times. My schedule revolves around clients’ schedules and where I need to be is where they need me to be. That can be an island in Hawaii or at a studio in Los Angeles.
On the days that I’m not shooting I go into my office and photo studio (although most makeup artists don’t have offices outside of their homes) to work on paperwork or my line.
Some things are constant though. From the moment I open my eyes I reach for my phone to check emails. I have my tea right away (can’t really function without it) and I eat with the family. I think it’s really important and I must say, my kids are very cool. They make me laugh HARD and keep me grounded. Which is very important for this industry. The ups and downs are huge and without a true support system you can get really caught up in Hollywood and that’s often times people’s downfall.
BR: What’s your favorite part about being a makeup artist?
TCB: There’s a lot. In terms of the art of it, I love creating a beautiful image. My favorites are the beauty stories (tight shots of the face) for print. [I love] to really see the detail in the makeup.
As an educator, I love teaching real women how to achieve the look they’re going for. All the hairs on my arms stand up when a woman looks at herself after I’ve done her makeup and she is happy with herself. You can see her sense of self change. It’s incredible.
BR: And, since we know no job is perfect, what are some of the challenges?
TCB: Sleep deprivation. There are days where I sleep an hour or two and have to be in another city clear across the country and work really hard the following day. It’s physically exhausting. I can handle it mentally, but if I’m not careful I can get sick which just makes my job that much harder.
BR: Aside from the lack of sleep, are there any other surprises aspiring makeup artists should know about?
TCB: It’s not always glamorous and we are not all FABULOUS! Sometimes photo shoots will take place in dirty allies with no food or water. Especially at the beginning of your career. The catered photo shoots don’t happen ’till later.
BR: What could someone just starting out as a makeup artist expect to make salary-wise?
TCB: Most people won’t like this answer. I worked for free a lot my first year or two to gain experience. (Which is why it’s important to love what you do.) Was it worth it? Absolutely.
BR: OK, enough with the downsides, what are some of the coolest things about being a makeup artist?
TCB: I get to do amazing things that most people don’t have access to. I’ve been to several awards shows (working of course) including the Golden Globes, MTV Movie Awards, and the Grammys. I worked on American Idol so I got to see the kids perform. I’ve stayed in palatial suites in hotels. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful places in the world and was paid to be there.
But my favorite by far is car service. I don’t like long limos (I find them obnoxious), but to have someone drive me to work and not have to look for parking or get directions [is great]. [The fact that] I can get work done while someone else is driving is priceless. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does I’m thrilled.
BR: What do you think it takes to make it in this industry?
TCB: With any field, you have to love what you do. To do it well and be at the top of your industry in any job requires a lot of hard work and dedication. That amount of true hard work is not worth it if you don’t love what you do.
BR: Any advice for the wannabe makeup artists out there?
TCB: Always be on time! Like to the minute, this is a big one. Work hard, be humble, stay quiet and observant, be aware of your environment. Every moment is a learning experience, even the painful ones. Be ethical and build relationships. The entertainment world is small and no one likes a diva. Never get comfortable in your career. Always remember, "There are a million girls who would kill for your job."
BR: Any words of encouragement for the aspiring makeup artists out there?
TCB: I got discouraged a lot by my family. But the negativity only fueled me to do better. That’s not the case for some people. However it would’ve been nice to hear "Yes. You can!" [Sometimes you just have to say it yourself.]