#BizTalk – Late Pass – IMATS LA 2017

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line around the building for opening day of IMATS LA 2017…


I’m late…

This was originally going to be a #MakeupMonday – Makeup Short Notes post, but as I was writing it became clear that my notes were no longer short. So IMATS LA 2017 will be its own post, and we’ll hit the Makeup Short Notes on Monday.

IMATS LA 2017 took place this past January, and while it was not as amazing for me as last year was, it was a highly enjoyable, well produced show. The caliber of the vendors was overall very good, and the caliber of the education was excellent. Even in the “Influencers” hall – which I found quite spookadelic last year – there was education that was accessible to the consumer audience, but still relevant to the pros.

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Sir John Keynote and demo

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Sir John’s second model


Sir John – of Beyonce’s Makeup Artist fame – was more awesome than I even hoped he would be. I’ve been a fan of his makeup for a while as his aesthetic is similar to mine – he even said a lot of things I’ve heard myself say in my classes – and I was pleased to see that he has a wonderful personality to match. No matter how simple the question, Sir John was energetic, engaging, encouraging and NEVER condescending. He truly wanted to teach and share information. All while doing not one, but TWO great makeup demos. Impressive! (follow him on Instagram @sirjohnofficial)

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Senior MAC artist Fatima Thomas “Contemporary Beauty for Women of Color”


On the flipside, I was completely UNfamiliar with MAC Senior Artist Fatima Thomas before her demo, and I walked away a fan. In addition to being an excellent artist and doing a beautiful demo, she gave a lot of technical knowledge in her talk. She is an EXCELLENT teacher. Lighting, temperature, hues, tone, color theory all played heavily in her demo. Those who kept their ears open walked away from the demo enlightened.

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Ashley Rudder of MAC Cosmetics “Eras Reinterpreted” demo

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finishing touches on Eras Reinterpreted demo


MAC Senior Artist Ashley Rudder’s demo met at the cross section of art and fashion as she worked through a highly modernized Elizabethan makeup design. I’d forgotten that MAC has some interesting, non-traditional products available in the MAC PRO line. I walked away with some new thoughts on product usage.

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Jordan Liberty “Beauty of Restraint” demo

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Artist Jordan Liberty is known for his modern “Glam” style and in his demo he walked through achieving a Glam look without going overboard. The end result was definitely still Glam complete with his signature glossy eyelids, but still fresh and pretty.

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Sam Fine Keynote and demo

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I’ve seen Sam Fine in demo about 12-trillion times and this last time it really dawned on me how unique and “his own” his style is. Everything from the way he uses product to the tools he uses (including an all-important Tupperwareβ„’ lid) is just nothing like what I’ve ever seen any other artist do. Maybe that’s why I keep sitting in on his demos whenever I have the opportunity. In an industry where folks are described as one of a kind pretty regularly, Sam Fine is truly One Of A Kind. And his work and career speak for themselves.

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a whole lotta film makeup fire power on one stage – Lost Boys 30 year reunion


On a very different note from what I’m usually into and what I usually discuss here on el blog, IMATS celebrated the 30-year reunion of the film “The Lost Boys” by having a Keynote panel featuring some of the actors from the film and the makeup artists who created the looks for the film. For those of us “of a certain age” The Lost Boys was That Movie; everyone saw it, everyone talked about it… even scare-dee-cat me who NEVER watches any kind of even slightly scary movie went and saw it in the theatre (eyes covered a lot of the time but still, I was there!). What I didn’t think about until this panel was how that movie completely changed the aesthetic of the Vampire genre, period. With one movie it went from the old Nosferatu “I vant to drink your blood”, Transylvania scary guy Vampire, to the young, sexy Vampire aesthetic we have now (if you’re wondering, yes, Lost Boys pre-dates the film adaptation of Interview with a Vampire by 11 years). So if you’re a fan of True Bood, Twilight, etc. you owe a lot of that to Lost Boys. Thank you to make-up artists Ve Neill, Greg Cannom (who was my Spirit Brother on the panel), and Steve LaPorte for sharing stories and insights.

Other Sights and Sounds

Aside from the education, the other (probably main for most folks) draw at IMATS is of course the shopping. I didn’t do too much damage this year, but for me as a Pro it is important for me to visit my vendors and peers, and as a FAN of makeup I always like to see what fun stuff is being created. Also, hanging out with my makeup homies is always the best part of any trade show. Shout Out to Eizabeth Fox (Instagram @lizzyfoxmakeup) for hanging with me. It was fab! πŸ˜€

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The actor underneath this makeup is in his mid-30s

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someone forgot to put their face on before the show!

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my former student Priscilla (@prisgutierrez) now works with the Eve Pearl line…

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my former student Mindy werkin’ it out for Frends Beauty

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the pro-sumer brands were doing swift business…

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new Senna Cosmetics brow powder pencils. Senna’s Taupe and Blonde pencils are some of the most truthiest #Truth products in all of makeup


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Cozzette powder palettes


My “Haul”

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Thank you to Make Up For Ever, Lemonhead LA, Embryolisse, Royal Langenickel and Poise Professional for your generosity! Be sure to follow these brands on social media, and buy and #supportthebrandsthatsupportproartists

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Mehron Mixing Medium, Parian Spirit brush cleaner, and a few brushes from Crown Brush


The 2nd to last photo are items I was gifted, the last photo is of the items I purchased. As always, I don’t do “first impression” reviews so keep your eyes out on full product reviews as I’ve had the chance to actually use things (except for Parian Spirit which we all already know I consider to be #TheTruth).

Thanks much to Michael Key and the IMATS staff for always listing to the community and putting on a high quality event! πŸ˜€
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#BizTalk – Quick Visit Makeup Show San Francisco Pop Up

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The Makeup Show SF took place August 13th and 14th…

…and I happened to be in town to stop by for a visit. I teach periodically right across the street at the Blush School of Makeup, and both years so far, the SF Pop Up has taken place during my classes. The first SF Pop Up show – which took place last year – I think I was in the middle of one of my teaching stints. This year, the show took place the Saturday before I was to make my drive back down to LA. Therefore I wasn’t really able to spend as much time as the show as I might have under normal circumstances. But, I did go, I did shop, I saw some of my students and fellow teachers and it was a GORGEOUS day that day in San Francisco. A perfect last day before hitting the road…

Right off the bat a big difference for me was I did not attend any of the education. I actually went to the show with specific shopping in mind so since time was a factor I just focused on that. But the usual Makeup Show suspects were there to share their knowledge. I saw Orlando Santiago as he was arriving but I didn’t try to say Hi (you know how when you first arrive somewhere and haven’t had time to settle yet and folks jump in your face immediately? Yeah…I didn’t want to do a bro like that…). The fab Eugenia Weston gave one of her brow lessons (if you do not have her Brow Book, I suggest you rectify that). I saw Sian Richards at her London Brush Company booth but I’m not sure if she taught this year. Her demo was one of my favorites from last year. And James Vincent led a panel on diversity in the industry. Actually speaking of James Vincent, do you know what he said to me when we spoke briefly?

James Vincent told me I am one of his favorite makeup educators.

Awesome, right? He actually came to the school last year during my class and gave a demo and introduced the students to the Pop Up, etc. I wish he could have done so again this year HOWEVER several of my students were able to see him in demo at NARS Filmore (my fave NARS boutique) at a pre-show event. But I digress…

For the most part I wanted to shop. I wanted product from NARS, the Esum Kit Bag from MUSE Beauty Pro, and I wanted empty pallettes from Make Up For Ever. Welp, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. Trying to navigate the show was a bit of a challenge because the space is small and the crowd was large. So me trying to see booths was a whole lotta this…


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and this..

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and this…

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and this…

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So somewhere in all of that was Make Up For Ever but I wasn’t trying to deal with it so I had to move on without them. I actually might have left without finding NARS (they were in stealth mode and didn’t even have signage up), but I ran into these two fabulous people.


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Fabulous former students/emerging artists Hilary @loftartistry and Miss Ian
I’m not even good with my camera yet but the difference between it and my iPhone is striking. Wow. (This is clearly shot on iPhone)


and they directed me where to go. Sadly the crazy floor situation also meant that I didn’t get to explore newer brands as much as I would have liked although I did run into two that really caught my eye.


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HAN Skincare Cosmetics seems to be taking their cue from 100% Pure Apothecary in being not only naturally derived, but using vegetable pigments as the primary colorant in their cosmetics. The brand had a pretty decent color range and the textures were very nice. And as you can see, the cheek stain on my hand had some level of pigmentation to it. My interest is adequately piqued that I’ll probably get some to try out…


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me hand-modeling HAN Skincare Cosmetics Cheek Stains


The other brand I found intriguing was Pure Airbrush whose airbrush foundation – if not a natural/naturally derived formulation – has no Parabens (!), no silicone, no fragrance and no oil in a water-based formulation. Most airbrush formulations are a straight-up chemical stew, so I would be interested to try this and see how it performs. The “system” looks to be one of those “Luminesse”-type personal use airbrush set-ups so I would skip that but I will likely order a bottle of the foundation to play with it.


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NOW – all this said about the space situation, it was greatly improved from last year with a much better layout and a much better flow. There’s just so much that can be done since it is a popular event taking place in a basement level. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have to move it if it continues to grow in popularity (again – PLEASE make sure any new location is train friendly, thanks!). I think these smaller Pop-Up shows are great for the smaller markets that probably do not have a large enough creative community to support a full sized show, but whose creative community deserve support and access and education. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday.

(If you missed my “haul” post from yesterday, you can read it here.)

Did you make it to the show? I wanna hear from ya! Share your experience in the Comments…

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#BizTalk – Come on Baby Finish What You Started

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One of the main challenges, shall we say, in my life…

has been my tendency to start things – projects, tasks, you name it – with vigor and energy only to see my enthusiasm peter out in a matter of months (days, minutes…). I’m better at it now than I used to be, but for 2016 in particular, one of my rules has been to FINISH WHAT I START.

Case in point, I happen to be on set right now as this is posting, however I’ve been tied to a desk every night for the past 2 weeks on this blog. Why? Because an opportunity for the blog recently presented itself but in order to take advantage I had to go back and clean up older blog content. Long, boring, and tedious are just a few of the words I could use to describe the task, HENCE I’ve been putting off doing it (it has to do with going from the old timey theme I used early in the blog’s life, to the modern-day theme I currently use and a whole bunch of other tech-blog stuff I’ll go into some other time). With real opportunity staring me in the face, however, I could play it off no longer. For an entrepreneur of any kind, the ability to push through and complete tasks enable us to complete GOALS that propel us in our careers. Here’s my thoughts and tips to finish what you started.*

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Makeup to Go Headquarters


That Whole Planning Thing

Spontaneity and the ability to improvise are important traits – I believe – for a creative professional and I think they’re some of my best qualities. That said, I have had a lifelong tendency to jump first and think later. This has landed me in many a pickle wherein I then felt overwhelmed, and next thing you know I’ve quit on a task and/or project.

This blog is a perfect example. If I’d taken a minute to learn about some of the inner workings before just launching, I very likely would not have had to do the work I’ve had to do over the last 2 weeks. If I’d thought more about my focus and my intended audience, I likely would not have had to stop and start quite so much. Now I’m more clear on all that and things are flowing much more smoothly. And it only took 7 years! LOL! πŸ˜€

Planning helps you work smarter instead of harder which is important because…

Enthusiasm is Not Enough

At least not for me. I’ve started out enthusiastic about every single project I’ve ever started in my life, doesn’t mean I’ve always finished it. The projects and goals that have gone the distance were the ones where I felt compelled in some way. Either by a consequence of NOT finishing it – like losing this opportunity if I didn’t clean my blog up – or by a deep drive to see it through. When I think of a deep drive, I think of my makeup career itself. While that drive has definitely ebbed and flowed, becoming a professional in the industry and then staying here has been adequately compelling for me to weather those storms and keep on trucking. Simply “liking makeup” would not have been enough to keep me going through everything I’ve gone through in this profession.

Speaking of drive…

Do The Hard Stuff First

This is a habit I got into via my baking. Periodically I do pop-up sales and farmers markets and I’ll have bar cookies, pies, maybe cupcakes, etc. Making apple pie is great, peeling and coring apples is not. But ya can’t have yummy apple pie without apples so ya gotta do it! HOWEVER if I do all the brownies and blondies and easy stuff first and then say “ok time to bake my pies”, guess what isn’t getting baked.

Way back in the day I used to only focus on the fun parts of being a makeup artist – buying product, doing creative photo shoots, etc. – and never attacked the less fun parts of filing, invoicing, marketing, etc. Eventually the less fun parts snowballed to the point where I needed prayer to get through everything. Nowadays, I just get that part over with. It’s still wack, but at least it’s a manageable part of the overall puzzle, and I do not feel like Rover* is coming to attack and overtake me.

Once the hard stuff is under control…

Do A Little Bit Everyday

Using the blog, again, as an example, I’ve had long stretches where I gave the blog no energy whatsoever so of course it didn’t grow. Contrast that to the way I’ve approached my makeup career – particularly when I was first on the come up – and the difference in result is clear. If you want something, you need to work on it EVERYday. If you want to shoot more editorial, you need to be reaching out to photographers who shoot editorial EVERYday. If you want more advertising clients, or get on the sets of films or TV, or whatever the case may be, you need to be working on some aspect of making that happen EVERYday. It doesn’t have to be a big thing everyday, but it needs to be something that will propel you forward towards your goal. By applying this principle to the blog and my goals for the blog, I’ve gotten more done in the last 6 months than I have in the last 6 years.

Speaking of getting more done…

Use Progress to Propel

Anyone who has ever had to lose weight knows the feeling; it’s hard to stay motivated with a goal if you aren’t seeing any results. Blind faith can get you started but it might not be enough to help you cross the finish line. For me its important to assess where I am with a goal. It helps me to see what’s going right, what’s going wrong, if I should keep going or if I should drop it. And when I am seeing progress it’s beneficial to me to acknowledge it because success is motivating straight up. I think I still have a copy of the first check I ever received as a professional makeup artist. That was a proud moment for me and it made me want more hence it made me want to keep doing the work necessary to get more.

If it feels like you’re toiling and toiling without seeing any progress on a particular project or goal…

Are You Sure Its Something WORTH Finishing

How do you know if something is a compelling project/goal worth seeing to completion or if it’s merely an infatuation? Aye, there’s the rub! When I was researching project completion at the beginning of this year I came across this article by Scott H. Young that I really like. I like the idea of finishing project as a habit to be cultivated, first of all, but secondly I like the idea of thinking of some things as experiments and some things as commitments. Again, using the blog as an example, that’s basically what shifted. Initially Makeup to Go Blog was just a sideline/experimental/loosey-goosey/let’s see what happens thing adjunct to my makeup career. But over the years I became committed to it as a part of my makeup career that I want to further cultivate, hence I’m doing the work necessary to get it there.

Everyone doesn’t need to blog. No one needs to do – or can do* – every single social media outlet (*unless you have help). Maybe every makeup artist on the planet loves one particular method of kit storage and you hate it. Maybe you just work better with a slightly cluttered work area and constantly worrying about organizing it isn’t worth the time. Tasks and projects and goals and wanting to be better is great, but people are individuals and we don’t all operate the same way. I think it’s important to discern what is a goal that will add genuine value to your life and what is an aspiration that might be a needless waste of time. I went through a phase of trying to have an extremely minimal, all completely bare surfaces, spartan work area and it was a joke. Just thinking about trying to keep my space that way added more stress to my life, not less. #NOPE!


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adventuretime.wikia.com


15+ years later, I’m still hustling in this thing called being a pro makeup artist. 7 years later something is keeping my butt in this chair working on this blog. Both goals are still compelling to me, therefore I’m gonna keep pushing through all the tasks and projects I need to do in order to reach my goals.

What are you going to put your mind to doing and finishing?

RESOURCES:

Leo Bautista – Zen Habits
Zen Habits is a mindfulness blog (mindfulness being a principal of Buddhism, but it’s not a blog about Buddhism, I actually don’t know if he practices Buddhism or not). If you need pretty graphics and whimsy, etc. this is not the blog for you. But if you are looking for helpful nuggets on living simply and efficiently this is a great blog.

30 Days at 100 Percent (Affiliate Link)

Crystal A. Wright – mentor, career coach and former Makeup/Hair/Wardrobe agent penned this 2nd book as a life-improvement tool to help you eliminate bad habits that hold you back and cultivate the positive habits necessary to focus on and achieve personal goals. (her first was the Hair, Makeup, Wardrobe Career Guide that I’ve mentioned before several times πŸ˜‰ )

*Rover was a mysterious prison enforcer you did NOT want to encounter from the 60’s TV show “The Prisoner”

This blog post title is of course taken from the Van Halen (Van Hagar) song of the same name…
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A Tale of Two Trade Shows 2016 edition

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I love the makeup tradeshows…

I try to hit as many as I can, and I’ve done so for quite some time now. In fact my original “A Tale of Two Trade Shows” posted back in 2009(!!!). For A Tale of Two Trade Shows 2016 Edition, it’s been fun to reflect on what has keeps me coming back for more. Ultimately, I love the community building, I love seeing my artist friends whom I normally do not get to see, nowadays I love seeing my students as this is a whole new and exciting world for them (like it was for me back in 1812 at the very first IMATS), and I LOVE LOVE LOVE all of the education that is available. The shopping is cool, too, but more on that in a minute. With IMATS being more Film/TV/FX oriented and The Makeup Show being more Beauty Biz oriented, I have liked IMATS and loved The Makeup Show.

Not this year.

Make no mistake: I enjoyed both shows for sure. And definitely both shows are well organized and thoughtfully produced. I just felt that IMATS made some changes that took the show up to an Eleven this year. Here’s what was working, and what might need to be worked on, IMO for each show…

IMATS LA

20 years in, IMATS has had its share of ups and downs. Through it all the organizers have always listened to the artists community that attends the shows, and been willing to try to change to meet the needs of said community.

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industry expert panel with Melissa Street, Eve Pearl and DeShawn Hatcher (not in view is Michael Key)


Pros

– PRO CARDS: First and foremost I must thank the organizers of IMATS for the Pro Cards. The Pro Cards offer student and professional artists various benefits including discounted entry into IMATS and discounts on subscriptions to Makeup Artist Magazine, etc. I am a Gold card member, and I have to say; it’s a little thing but it’s a big thing. It’s a little thing in that it is no problem to pay for the Show, I have before and I would do so again. BUT it’s a big thing to be appreciated for my career. No, I’m not a “star” artist like those who do the Keynotes, but I am a established, working artist and have been for a while and it is nice for the many of us who fall into that category to be recognized as such. Thank you!

– PRO NIGHT: I couldn’t make Pro Night IMATS 2015 and trying to get anything during the show once it was open to the public was a nightmare. This year I took FULL advantage of having time and space to talk to vendors and shop. Yay Pro Night!

– INFLUENCERS HALL: This was the best change of the show, full stop. For folks who are into the social media influencers, artists, and brands they had their own hall with their own stage. This meant that the education out on the main exhibit hall stage (and breakout rooms) stayed more on-topic for pro/aspiring pro makeup artists, AND the main exhibit floor never became over-the-top crowded unlike past years (although the line for Kat Von D. Cosmetics – which was in the Main exhibit hall – was no joke all weekend).

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Brian Champagne and some of the leading ladies of the social media beauty expert sphere…


– ONSITE BOOKSTORE: The makeup shopping was fine and pretty much consisted of the usual suspects. This was fine with me as I had specific stuff I needed and I did some shopping damage. However the Bookstore did me in. Did. Me. In. If you’re a fan of makeup books – as I am – it was nearly impossible to get away.

Cons

– NOT MANY: I wish it was a Peet’s Coffee instead of a Starbucks inside the Pasadena Convention Center. As far as show improvements; some vendors offered pro pricing with the proper credentials throughout the weekend, but most did not once the doors were open to the public. I’d like to see that change because it’s not always possible for working pros to attend Pro Night. Other than that, I went to the show for a little bit all three days, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of it.

The Makeup Show

This was the Makeup Show’s eighth year in Los Angeles. When IMATS was around 10 years old, I remember feeling like it might be time for some changes, and this is how I felt at The Makeup Show this year. The Makeup Show 2015 was stellar, but this year I felt like The Makeup Show could use some freshening.

Pros

– KEYNOTE SPEAKERS: The Makeup Show never fails to get incredible leaders from the beauty world to come speak and demo at the shows, and I always walk away educated and inspired. This year I saw Charlie Green whom a lot of younger makeup artists may not know but who was hugely influential in, say, the early 2000s. Hearing the “come up” stories of top artists is always inspiring to me. I also saw Scott Barnes, whom I’ve seen many times before, but I still managed to learn some new techniques to try. I love it when that happens.

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Keynote Speaker Charlie Green

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Charlie Green in demo


– PRO ONLY: Not sure about other cites, but in Los Angeles, The Makeup Show is a trade show open only to people involved with the profession of makeup. While the requirements are not necessarily stringent, it makes enough of a difference in both the numbers and the energy of attendees that the vibe is much more chill. Also vendors honor Pro Discount rates all weekend so there’s no mad dash to buy everything during one night for the Pros.

Neutral

– VERY SHOPPING CENTRIC: Obviously IMATS features a full-on shopping experience as well. That’s why a lot of people attend, in fact I’d say it’s why most people attend. What was interesting, and why I bring this up as a “Neutral” is that I attended two different Lectures the topics of which did not suggest that product was going to be a center of discussion, but then product did end up being a main talking point. Hmmmm…

Cons

– ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR PROS: I have to be honest that my disappointment with the show started before the show. I had been on hold for a job out of town over the dates of the show. Once I knew for sure that wasn’t happening, I bought my ticket and made a professional inquiry by email regarding the show. My email was not answered. Contrast that to my feeling fully acknowledged by IMATS – including I had to make a lame, totally my fault, last minute rush request and they both answered my email and fulfilled the request – and… yeah. Not good. I almost didn’t go to The Makeup Show because of it. I understand folks are busy and a “no” is fine, but not responding at all – which as of me proofreading this post at 11:115pm, 3/31/16 I STILL have not received a response – is just plain rude. And unprofessional.

– ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR PROS pt DEUX: Obviously a show like this is going to primarily skew towards newer artists. I think if The Makeup Show wants to keep more established artists engaged it may be time to change up the content a bit. The Keynotes, as stated before, were fantastic. In my opinion, however, a lot of the Breakout sessions were pretty much like previous year’s breakouts. There’s only so many times one can really talk about brows, or contouring or the like. Myself and most of my peers either already have an agent or we’ve had one before, or we’re in the Union, etc. I think it might be time to change things up a bit with fresh content in the breakout sessions that would appeal to artists of all levels.

Again, The Makeup Show is a well curated, well executed event that people work very hard to produce. Do I think it could use some changing up? Yep. Will I attend again in the future? Yep (unless I’m booked).

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Diversity Panel Discussion featuring Lori Taylor-Davis, Melanie Mills, Nick Lujan, and Ruby Polanco moderated by James Vincent


What’d Ya Get?!?

I did buy some things, particularly at IMATS. I swore I wasn’t going to get anything at The Makeup Show but I still ended up buying a lil sumthin’ sumthin’ πŸ˜‰ Details to come in the form of product reviews in upcoming posts…

Next up; PHAME Expo in June. Unless I’m booked πŸ˜‰

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$6.75 almond latte. But it was delish…


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#BizTalk – When You Do Not Get Paid

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Quote from Tupac Shakur, edited because this is a “Rated G” site
Image shot on location by Tania D. Russell


When you do not get paid

I am now about to say something that I’ve not said publicly ever before…I was never paid for the last courses I taught for the MKC Beauty Academy.

There, I said it. People associated with me at that time kind of knew, and of course I told my family and close friends, but I’ve never explicitly stated it publicly. I worked for MKC Beauty Academy as an Instructor from January 2010 – December 2012 when the physical location of the school abruptly closed. At that time I was owed about $2000, which I have still yet to receive.

Imagine my surprise, then, to recently discover that they are once again hiring for Instructors. Hmmmm…

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I have been ruminating over whether or not to post about this incident for quite some time. Seeing the Help Wanted ad for new teachers finally put me over the edge because quite frankly that left me feeling some kind of way. However, if you’re thinking that now is the time that I launch into how horrible MKC was, how horrible the owners were, and what a terrible experience I had, you would be wrong. I loved teaching at MKC. Loved it. I loved my students, I loved the administrative staff, I loved my fellow instructors, I loved the curriculum (MKC was focused on beauty/fashion makeup for photography as opposed to most L.A. schools that focus heavily on FX), and I loved working with the owners. I loved everything about it for most of my tenure working there. And then everything changed…

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’m still here to tell the tale and the tale made me a better artist and a better professional.

Understand, I’ve been not paid before. In fact, in fairness to MKC, they weren’t the only non-payers that year. 2012 was a banner year for me with the non-paying clients, as I had three! One entity had to be sued by the entire crew and that eventually settled, one entity finally paid me in full after months (and MONTHS!) of emails and phone calls, and then there is MKC who – to this day – is the only client who has not settled their debt to me in any way. The vast majority of my jobs, obviously, pay me. It’s fairly common for a client to pay on an invoice a little late, but not getting paid outright is – thankfully – a rare occurrence.

Being not paid is obviously problematic for a professional artist as this is my livelihood, not a hobby. Having over $8,000 just vanish was not great to say the least. But in the case of MKC the non-payment was also quite hurtful. It’s one thing to lose money, but it is quite another to feel that a relationship was betrayed, and that’s how I felt about MKC. There were a number of professional and personal repercussions for me stemming from that incident, and it took me a minute to recover from the whole experience. Here’s what that time taught me…

Clients Are Not Friends
I’m not saying do not be friendly and appreciative, people hire folks they like being around. I am saying that your clients are not your homies, and as a professional it is important to recognize this boundary. Good or bad, this experience definitely taught me to develop a callus on my emotions with regards to my professional relationships. Even when you’ve worked with someone for a long period of time, they are still your client, they are not your home-skillet. (Please Note: that’s callus – as in the callus that develops on the heels of your feet, not callous as in having an insensitive disregard for something.)

Pay Attention to Red Flags
The Buddhist in me knows that a goodly part of the blame for this whole episode lies firmly at my own feet. When I say everything changed, I do not mean it happened on any one day or even in my final week of working with them. That’s just when things came to a head. The change evolved over the course of my final year working with them. Signs that things were amiss were clearly there and I ignored them. I did not want to believe it was possible that they would do me wrong, and as such I stayed at the party too long. And it cost me, literally. As Radiohead said;



…and that’s why it really hurts.

Don’t Get Too Comfortable
As a freelancer, you just never know when a rug is going to be pulled out from under you. I lived through that in full in 2008/2009 when the economy crashed and I lost every. single. client. I had. Either they went out of business or they closed up shop on the West Coast or all the staff that used to hire me was let go, etc. Teaching became that safety net when other things didn’t work out. Job cancelled? Oh well, I’ll be teaching another course soon. But then what do you do when the safety net gives way? Not only did I lose the money they owed me, but it was obvious I lost a client that used to hire me on the regular. THANK HEAVENS I never stop hustling. It wasn’t easy, but I had to hustle some new situations STAT. For a minute there it was ooogly, but ultimately things have worked out for the better.

Do Not Be Ashamed
For whatever reason, I felt a lot of shame about the incident and for a bit it undermined my professional confidence. I really had nothing to feel ashamed of, but I did take the situation as a personal failure. While it’s true that I ignored some signs, it is also true that I am entitled to the money that I have worked for. Artists – women in particular – are often made to feel like being paid for our work is the “cherry on top”. No. With all of my clients, contracts are signed, rates are agreed to, and I work for and earn my money fair and square. Further, I am not only a professional artist, but I am a professional artist of demonstrated skill and experience and my knowledge and expertise have value. No one is doing me a favor by paying me.

To Sue or Not To Sue
Of the instructors who were left unpaid for their work, I believe I was the only one to actually sue MKC. Understand that this was not a decision I took lightly, but in the end I decided to go ahead with a suit. My reasoning was that if they were really having this level of financial difficulty it would not be long before they would have to file Bankruptcy and/or dissolve altogether, and I wanted to be sure I’d be counted amongst the creditors that would have to be satisfied. A similar scenario actually happened to me in 2011 with a client I worked for in 2010, only in that case their lawyers contacted me to settle my outstanding invoice. By contrast by the time I decided it was time to go ahead and sue MKC, any communication on when I could expect to receive my payment(s) had basically stopped.

There is a lot of controversy within our industry as to whether or not you should ever sue a client. A lot of people feel that you never should sue a client, reason being that you will damage a relationship, damage your chances of future work with said client, and potentially damage your reputation. I think these decisions have to be made on a case by case basis. That said, in all likelihood the relationship is already irreparably damaged when a client opts not to pay an invoice for work performed. Likewise, I cannot think of losing a non-paying client as a real loss. The potential to damage your reputation, however, is real and I think how you choose to handle the situation if you do decide to sue makes a large difference. As I mentioned above, not only did I not “go off”, this is the first time I am even talking about this publicly at all. For me the emotional component has (mostly) passed and this is merely a matter of business: I performed this work and I would like to have been paid for it. In a music video it may be exciting, but in real life it is probably best not to go Rihanna when a client owes you money.


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I’m sure you’ve seen variations of this quote floating around social media. While it is easy to become cynical, I have found the above quote to be untrue. Since moving on from MKC I’ve gotten great new clients and I’ve also landed in a very positive teaching situation. I got to that place where I could “leave the pieces on the floor and move the ____ on”, and it’s a very freeing place to be.

Your best clients will pay the best rates, pay on time if not early, and in general demonstrate their appreciation for you in every element of their treatment of you.

If you that see a client who once treated you like Royalty is now starting to treat you like the Court Jester, it is probably time to walk away while you can still do so amicably.

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