#BizTalk – When You Do Not Get Paid

makeup to go blog when you do not get paid

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…

makeup to go blog when you go not get paid

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.

makeup to go blog when you do not get paid

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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#BizTalk – How Not To Promote

makeup to go blog how not to promote paul c brunson quote

found this on Instagram a few weeks back. Thanks to Paul C. Brunson for such an on time quote!

How Not To Promote

This post is inspired by a very earnest but very poor promotional email I recently received.

In the email, this young artist whom I do not know at all, started off by proclaiming how amazing the recipient of the email (me) is, how fortunate we all are to work in this industry (true) and grow together (not true, see below), and please share their information with friends and family.

*record screech*

Whoa whoa whoa.

This would be a bad email even if I knew this person at all for reasons I’ll go into in a minute, but I. Do. Not. Know. This. Person. At all. Hence I do not know anything about them personally or professionally. Nothing. Adding to the bizarro world nature of the email is it is written as if we do know each other. The language is very familiar in tone, the way it would be as if we were having an in-person conversation. The photograph – while very cute – is a personal candid, completely unrelated to makeup and there is no photo of their work in the email… It’s just *weird*. If this email was sent this to me, I’m willing to assume it was sent to a number of strangers. If this artist is fortunate, most will just politely ignore it. Others, however, may respond and I would have to guess that few would respond favorably.

As with most of my BizTalk columns, what I am about to write is born from experience of having made mistakes myself. Do not let your promotional efforts leave people shaking their heads thinking they’ve entered Bizarro World. Here’s some tips to get your message across more effectively.

1) Be friendly but STAY PROFESSIONAL

Back in the day, I got dinged once for being a bit too casual in my language when I emailed a photographer with whom I was interested in working. It’s true you do not want to be too stiff – this is the creative industries, not Investment Banking – but it is still a business and you still want to present yourself as a professional. Also, while including a photo of yourself can be a good way to make e-communication a bit more personal, you want to include an image of your work. One would think this wouldn’t need to be said but I will go ahead and say it; If you’re asking folks to hire you as a makeup artist, you should show folks Your Work as a makeup artist.

2) Know Who You Are Speaking To

This email could have been acceptable if I really did know this young artist and we were peers. I definitely would not send this to anyone in a position to hire me, nor is it an email I would sent to anyone who is my Senior. This artist made it sound like we are equals, striving to be makeup artists together. I really hate that. Anyone can see my work and see that I’m an established artist. Please approach me in that way. Looking at this artists website, I would not refer them to a job the likes of which I do, nor would I at all consider them to be my peer. I would consider an artist at that level as an assistant. A bit of research reveals that this artist just graduated from a makeup school within the last year. I mean, I have past students who have been out and working for longer than that. I have been a working as a freelance media makeup artist (no bridal, no counter, no “safety job”) for well over a decade.

Listen, I am NEVER going to address Pat McGrath as if we are “sisters in the struggle” together. I am always going to respect her accomplishments and position in her career and address her as the Senior artist that she is. Pat McGrath would not consider me to be her peer, nor should she.

I am not Pat McGrath, but I’m not a beginner so do not talk to me like one. Come again, boo. Come again…

3) You Need Multiple Marketing Campaigns

Again, if this artist were sending this email to their friends and family – people this artist actually knows – it could be fine. We all communicate differently to the different people and relationships we have in our lives. How I address my existing clients is totally different from my approach to cold calls. How I approach say an ad agency is different from how I approach a photographer, and so on. “One size fits all” promoting in my experience does not work. If you send a blanket promotion out to everyone, at best you risk sending something that’s too generic and hence not engaging and easily ignored. At worst you risk going into Bizzaro World.

4) Seriously, Learn How To Network

This email was going into “whatever”-ville UNTIL the part about looking at their website and referring this artist to people I know. That is a ridiculous request on multiple levels;

First of all, since I do not know this artist at all, why would I recommend them? On the real, I may as well just tell friends, family, or whomever to do a Google search. I have no way of knowing if this artist is any good, if they are professional, if they’re clean, if they’re nice. I know nothing. And sending a bad referral is just as damaging to one’s reputation as doing a bad job. I am not taking the chance of referring a wack artist, ever.

Secondly, asking for referrals is NOT networking. As stated in the image I used at the top of this article, that’s going for the ask WAY too soon. As has been said a thousand times: this is a relationship industry. You have to build relationships and build trust and then – and only then – will people start to refer you.

Lastly, most artists hate doing self promotion. I barely want to do my own promotions, why would I – or anyone else who is not an agent – want to do someone else’s promotion for them? LOL! I’ll pass, thanks…

5) My Friends and Family Already Know A Pretty Good Makeup Artist 😉

Translation: You should probably market yourself to people who are not makeup artists themselves (unless you’re approaching artists because you want to assist).

Chin Up. We All Make Mistakes…

Since I do not know this young artist I do not know how they found me and I don’t know if they will see this post. If they do, I hope they take this in the spirit in which its intended which is to educate (hence I’m not posting any specifics or identifying info). This is not a “shaming” post. We’ve all made mistakes, myself included. That said, sometimes a little constructive criticism is in order. Early early on I was trying to meet photographers and I had a (terrible) little promo with a (terrible) photo. Before mailing it out en mass I sent it to a couple of people whose opinion I respect and they did me the favor of telling me DO NOT SEND THAT TO ANYONE. My feelings were probably hurt at the time, but following their advice probably saved me both heartache and money (this was before email, when you had to print promo cards and send them out via post. AKA, the stone-age). It took me a minute to find my voice and approach in my marketing and I’m still not fantastic at it because it is just not my personality. However by continuing to evolve my promotions and taking advice where given, my campaigns are much better and more effective than they used to be. And who knows, maybe this e-promo worked for this artist? I doubt it, but I have no way of knowing for sure. One way or another they made a grip of mistakes that are best not repeated in the future. Hopefully this artist’s next promo will fab and it will put them in position to achieve favorable results.

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#BizTalk – Sick and the Freelance Makeup Artist

makeup to go blog sick and the freelance makeup artist

…first time for everything.
Admitted into the hospital for surgery 4/24/15

Sick and the freelance makeup artist

If you are a regular visitor of the Makeup to Go Blog or particularly if you follow me on Instagram and or Twitter, you know that I have been down temporarily and in fact was hospitalized due to a knee surgery. This is a first for me in my career. For me prior to this when I’ve talked about being sick, I was talking about I have a cold or maybe even a real bad flu and getting knocked out for a week at a time. Being sick at all as a freelancer is terrible because you’re just watching work and money walk out the door, and G-d forbid it should be a new client who’s never contacted you before! LawedT! But the reality is that even though people treat us like we are not, freelancers are human too and so therefore at some point in our lives we will get sick, possibly seriously so. Now that I’m on the other side of surgery and back on the mend, I’ve thought about what it takes to make it through episodes like this as a Freelancer. Here are my thoughts…

makeup to go blog sick and the freelance makeup artist

Here’s the thing:

– I was for real sick. I had no idea how sick I really was. This was no simple strained ligament situation. In addition to the time spent in the hospital, I had a 6-week at home course of treatment I had to complete during which I was not medically allowed to work.

– I could not have worked if I wanted to. Once I was discharged from the hospital and sent home I could not get out of bed for more than a few minutes at a time. The only way I could amble around was with a walker. I needed help getting into bed, getting food, taking my medicine, pretty much everything (except going to the restroom, thank G-d).

– I was discharged from the hospital on 4/28. It wasn’t until mid-June that I was beginning to walk with a cane. About a week later I could walk up and down limited stairs again. A week after that I could drive my stick shift car again.

– The illness aspect is completely gone and has been for a while Thank Heavens. I’m in physical therapy now and I am doing well, but still nowhere near where I was before I got sick in terms of walking, endurance and mobility.

So if surgery was at the end of April, and I couldn’t walk or drive really until the end of June, that sounds like that was over 8 weeks, doesn’t it? Why yes. Yes it was. And my work still isn’t done yet. I am still – as of 7/16/15 when I’m putting the final touches on this article so it can go up live tomorrow – walking on a cane and having weekly physical therapy. And I’m BEYOND GRATEFUL that my health is where it is now.

So what do you do when you get a complete smackdown that is out of your control?

Be it health, family, or what-have-you? Now that I am out of the weeds and looking back on my experience (instead of still being in the thick of things as I was when I first started this post), here are my real thoughts on surviving a major ordeal. And I’d love to hear from other people who have gone through this in the Comments. 🙂

Needless to say, the more planning you can do before you GET sick, the better off you will be. New & “teenage” artists tend not plan for any type of contingency and just do not give themselves enough of a margin of error. (By “teenage artist” I mean length of time in the makeup profession, not the artists actual age. See this article for an explanation). Anything can potentially happen at any time. You need to have savings. This is why you cannot work for $50 a face, this is why you cannot work for “exposure”, etc. etc. Obviously different people have different financial situations but even if you are in a two income situation, losing one of those incomes can really hurt. And then of course if you are the sole breadwinner responsible for your financial well being, losing income can really really hurt. In either case you do not want to leave life to chance. In my case not only did I lose income during this period, but I had additional medical expenses (mostly hella co-pay fees) in addition to my regular living expenses. Not fun.

In addition to a financial contingency plan, you need to have a contingency plan for your clients.

African-American Anthropologist and novelist Zora Neale Hurston once famously wrote “…all my skin folk ain’t my kinfolk.”, meaning just because someone looks like you it does not mean they are down for you. You cannot trust all makeup artists, not matter how nice they may seem online. People calling themselves makeup artists undercut, steal clients, and engage in all manner of unprofessional behavior all the time. Unfortunately for me, I had to refer several jobs to other artists as I clearly could not work myself. Fortunately, I have cultivated a solid makeup family where I do not have to worry about my generosity making me a patsy. Also, I do not want to refer a wack artist – skills wise or professionalism wise – to my clients. That makes ME look bad. It is nice to know that I can refer jobs without all level of mayhem breaking out. No matter what type of job you are talking about, it is vitally important to the reputation of your business to *never* leave a client hanging. If you were to get sick at a time when you have a 15 person bridal party booked, deposit already paid, etc., would you have a backup plan in place in order to serve your client? No? Time to get on that.

Most freelancers I know in the photographic/production industries have some of the WORST habits when it comes to self-care. Not just makeup artists, most everyone on that set. From skipping meals and late night eating (and drinking and all whatever else), to working nonstop without rest, etc. We are rewarded for our “grind”, but the only people we’re hurting is ourselves. I know of much worse health crises that have hit artists younger than myself (cancer, strokes, you name it). I am not the first Blog to bring up this very real problem within our Industry. What happened to me was acute, and a bit of a fluke. I was healthy and pain-free before this episode occurred, and I am once again healthy and largely pain-free after receiving excellent medical care.  But a lot of freelancers are wearing themselves down with harsh work-related lifestyle choices that will catch up one day. Get in a habit of self-care now.  OH and for heavens sake GET MEDICAL INSURANCE.   I’d surely be permanently disabled or DEAD (literally) if I didn’t have it.

So that’s the pre-planning. Once you are already sick…

You’ll heal up faster. As I said, when I first went down I had all these illusions of doing this that and the third. Once I realized this was all based on fantasy, I stopped trying to push through the illness and let it just run its course. My reality was – and to an extent still is – my energy level was diminished, I needed a LOT more rest, I could not physically do what I used to do and my thoughts were scrambled (thankfully, that last issue is no longer the case). There was absolutely no way I could do the things I was doing before my illness, no matter how badly I may have wanted to. This is extremely difficult for a freelancer because it is nearly impossible to disengage from your business without worrying about what is going to happen to your business. And that’s real, I had to turn down a lot of work over the weeks I was down. But it’s not like I could do anything about it, and worrying adds stress which delays healing.

Speaking of stress, nothing is more stressful than worrying about money which is why my #1 suggestion is to plan in advance. However, that doesn’t always happen and with things being as expensive as they are…

Quite frankly, even if you did have a contingency it just might not be enough to cover your need. In such cases, you might look into Crowdsourcing. For medical emergencies the crowd source of choice seems to be gofundme.com. If you search “medical crowdsourcing” you will see a few other options that are specific to medical donations. I do recommend finding something that’s specific because generic Crowdsourcing options like Kickstarter and Indiegogo and the like fund their own operations by taking part of the donations in a campaign. Whereas most of the medical crowdsourcing systems do not take their fees from the recipient of the campaign. Also Kickstarter if you don’t hit a specific target you don’t get **anything** whereas with gofundme you can specify a goal amount but the recipient will still receive whatever funds are raised. The variable for success or failure with this method is – of course – your crowd. If you have a crowd of good folks who have money and not just well wishes and intentions then it can be effective. Also if you can branch out to a larger net of people then it can be even more effective. Otherwise if your crowd is just ten broke friends who don’t know anyone else, that won’t get it done LOL

I did not know this existed until one of my doctors brought it up while I was still in the hospital. If you go on permanent disability, you cannot work again or you lose your disability benefits. Temporary benefits are just that: Temporary. Temporary Disability is designed to assist in short-term times of need. In addition to money, you may be able to get some of the other needed services such as temporary disabled parking permits, etc. NOW – I didn’t end up utilizing this. I am not sure what happened to my application, actually, but if you’ve ever been on Unemployment – particularly in California where I am – you know that they can have issues with Freelance workers. However if your state has a Temporary Disability program, it is worth looking into. Goodness knows I wish I had that temporary disabled parking placard!

Stay as active as you can on social media. To be clear, I’m not talking about playing Candy Crush and talking about nothing in makeup groups (OK I do still play Candy Crush). I am talking about taking advantage of a productive activity that you can do even when you are still bed-bound. If you follow me on Instagram (@tdrussellmua), you may have noticed that I posted #ThrowbackThursday and #FlashbackFriday images with a hashtag counting down how soon it would be until I returned (#BackInFourWeeks, #BackInTwoWeeks, etc.). I kept my Facebook page going and relevant, in the Facebook makeup groups I belong to I offered useful advice which often allowed me to unobtrusively mention my blog, on Twitter I tweeted other people’s content along with my own personal updates, etc. The types of jobs I do are not the kinds of jobs that hire artists directly off of a given social media platform (sometimes, but not often) but my social media strategy worked in the sense of keeping my name and work in circulation until I was ready to make my actual comeback.

At about the 6-week mark, when I was starting to feel better and some of my mobility was returning, I started to conceptualize my return to working and doing the things necessary to make that happen. I knew I needed to;
– collect any outstanding images I had
– update the designs/layouts on both my Blog and my Portfolio website
– do an email promo to existing clients
– do a promo blast to new clients
– start writing new blog content

and so on. Again, if you are ready, you do not have to get ready. Therefore I didn’t want to wait until I was physically ready to be working again to do all the prep work. I did not want to wait until the day before I planned to relaunch the Blog to start writing content. I did all that prep work in advance so that I could get work rolling back in once I was physically capable. Probably the most important item on that list was contacting my EXISTING clients. As I have said before, people who already know and like you are more likely to give you a call than a new client that needs time to cultivate. They are also more likely to make some concessions for you. On my first shoot back I needed to sit frequently. Whereas a new client who has not worked with me before might have been turned off by that request, this long time existing client knows me and my work and that I do very much pay attention on set. They kept a chair on set for me and it was all good.

To say it has been a wild few months doesn’t even really say it

…but I am officially back at work now. I can get all schmaltzy and philosophical here and maybe I will in a future post because this experience has definitely changed me as a person, which will of course ultimately affect me as an artist in ways that are likely yet to be seen. But this is #BizTalk so, for now, I’ll keep it strictly biz. How am I now? I’m great! I’m a bit slower work-wise than I probably would be had I not had to take time off, but because of Proper Prior Planning I am not in a desperate situation at all. I got to take all of the time off that I needed, and ease my way back into working at a pace that’s been comfortable for me. I have great upcoming personal projects and jobs and I cannot wait to share the fabulosity as it happens. The worst is now truly behind me, and I can resume planning and working towards my future. And I could not be more grateful for that.

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#BizTalk – Nykhor Paul and the Beauty Biz

makeup to go blog nykhor paul instagram

Screencap from the Instagram of model Nykhor Paul

If you read beauty/fashion articles and blogs, by now you’ve no doubt read about model Nykhor Paul putting the entire fashion/beauty industry on blast on Instagram. If you haven’t, you can check it here (be forewarned- she pulls no punches in expressing her feelings).

Basically she is upset that as a professional model working at the highest levels, she is not being accommodated in the same way her fairer complexioned peers are with regards to her makeup.

I am not quite as ebony as Nykhor – who is that gorgeous Sudanese true blue black – but as African-American skintones go I am on the deeper end of the scale. Therefore my initial, visceral reaction to her post was a fist pump in the air, Black Power fist Afro-pick in hair, HELLZ YEAH! But as I thought about her post, I realized this issue does not all lie at the feet of makeup artists.


One sure fire thing that never fails to wrankle my feathers is going into an online makeup group and seeing someone ask “How do I do makeup on dark skin?” Or “Where do I find makeup for dark skin?”. Really? In America in 2015? Let’s just say an artist lives in an area where there really is not a lot of diversity and so they’ve never worked on African American skin. I thought you said you were a professional artist? Use your Color Theory skills and get to work. I fail to have sympathy for anyone who uses this tired, lame excuse of an excuse. And as for “Where do I find makeup for dark skin?”


There are brands that make and have always made colors for deeper complexions (MUFE, NARS, etc) and the pro/theatrical brands (Graftobian, Ben Nye, William Tuttle, etc.) have always had deep colors. Heck, Bobbi Brown started her brand in part because when she did Naomi Campbell for the first time for the cover of Vogue magazine, she accidentally made Naomi gray because she did not have the right color selection. And Lupita Nyong’o is the current spokesmodel for Lancôme. Therefore, it’s not true to say that these colors simply do not exist, and it is silly for people to try to use the excuse that they do not know where to find them. Hello? Bobbi Brown and Lancôme. Not too hard to find.

All this said, however, by-and-large the mass-market cosmetic brands of the world have been shockingly slow about adding full color range.


Yes BUT here comes the rub: Ms. Paul was referring to her experiences backstage at various Fashion Week shows. Well, Fashion Week shows are overwhelmingly sponsored backstage by various cosmetics companies. When a show is sponsored, the artists are expected to use ONLY that cosmetics brand. Thus, if a Show is sponsored by a brand that does not have a full color range, because many brands still do not make a full color range, and yet the artists are expected to use only that line…

Many artists likely use this as their reasoning as to why they do not have certain colors, and that’s probably what Ms. Paul was referring to; the artist should at least try. I know a number of diligent artists who try to work around this problem by bringing in other product and taping over the name, but some sponsors do not really like that either. Sometimes an artist has to literally sneak product out of their bag right quick and then quickly put it back. Whose fault is that? Why aren’t these cosmetics companies making a full color range in 2015? And if Fashion Week is a trade show – which it is – why are they having shows sponsored by consumer lines that do not provide the artists with adequate product to complete the job?


Something about this definitely speaks to an attitude regarding Beauty and what is beautiful. Models of color – and not just Black models – are still too often left out of the party, even when there is a definite “ethnic” theme to the Show. And when models of color are cast, there are often only one or two in a Show. There seems to still be a novelty element to casting models of color. Throughout the industry as a whole, there still seems to be a lingering afterthought attitude. White models are still “the norm”, and models of color are still an afterthought. If we don’t have colors for some of the models, eh, we’ll work something out…

Contrast this to a video I saw a number of years back about a Kenyan news reporter who moved to and was working in China. The story was not about her makeup but they happened to video her while she was getting her makeup done. I remember noticing and remarking to myself that the Chinese makeup artist had absolutely zero problem whatsoever doing her makeup. He had the product and the skill to service his client and he did his job, end of story. I think it’s safe to say that we have more Black people here in America than they do over in China. But yet…


Concerned parties – artists, models, and consumers – need to be more vocal with the cosmetics brands about adding these colors. Corporate sponsors in fashion is not going anywhere, so the sponsoring brands just need to stop playing and carry a full and diverse array of colors. As a pro artist I would NEVER put a cosmetics brand on negative public blast because we are partners with cosmetics lines and we need to maintain positive relationships. However some gentle nudging never hurt anyone ;). As I mentioned in my last post, I recently told one of my fave lines that they needed to keep their foundations for people of color and I was informed that those colors are in fact returning. This likely means that they got a lot of feedback regarding the popularity of those colors. Cosmetics companies do listen, particularly in the form of positive reinforcement such as “Hey I really love your brand, I’d love it if you added XYZ”. Trust me: the Lancôme of the Lupita Nyong’o era is not at all the same Lancôme of my youth. Cosmetics companies can and will change, its just a matter of getting them to hurry up.

And to you lazy artists out there who are still employing various excuses of why you cannot do, or do not have appropriate makeup for, clients of color, please do us all a favor and either step ya game up or step out the game.

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#BizTalk – Taking Your Makeup Kit From Student to Pro

makeup to go blog Los Angeles makeup San Francisco makeup Tania d Russell taking your makeup kit from student to pro

I was asked to make a post specifically about taking your kit from student to Pro, and I wanted to be sure to do so before this weekend’s The Makeup Show trade show. This one goes out to all of my Emerging Artists who are finishing up makeup school and about to head out into the Real Makeup World. If you’re just starting out DIY-style and didn’t go to a makeup school, hopefully this helps you as well. 🙂

makeup to go blog taking your makeup kit from student to pro

…but one of the many variations of my working makeup kit…

Ahh product. Product is great. Don’t you love it? I sure do. And lucky us, as makeup artists we legitimately need product to do our work. HOWEVER product is but ONE piece of the financial puzzle of growing a makeup business. Obviously, buying new makeup is the fun piece of the puzzle, right? But buying makeup because you actually have JOBS is even more fun. And getting jobs means doing what it takes to get booked as a freelancer. Thus, when transitioning from a student to a Pro, you have to resist the temptation to just wildly buy AllOfTheThings and develop a plan of investing in and building your kit.

[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]A lot of would-be artists never make it because they tether themselves financially and cannot afford to invest in their makeup business[/pullquote]

Let me say that again for the folks in the back: If you do not allocate the money necessary to grow your business, you will soon be out of business.

What are these business expenses of which I speak?

– Promotions (business cards, promo cards, your website, a digital or print portfolio, etc.)
– Continued Education
– Trade Shows
– Testing and/or low budget projects (if a job isn’t making you money, it’s costing you money, period.)
– Job opportunities (??? Yep. As a freelancer many jobs require money spent up front (travel, accommodations, special items like Wigs, etc.) and then you’ll be paid back when the client pays your invoice.)
– Transportation to and from tests and jobs including parking, tolls, train fees (BART goes up seemingly every time in working in the SF Bay Area).
– Business and personal insurance
– Liscensing and/or professional fees where applicable
– Taxes (as a freelancer you pay business tax and eventually you’ll be kissing those refunds goodbye)

If I took the time to think I could probably come up with 5 more things to add to this list. Also, be mentally prepared for the fact that – at least for those of us who work in media makeup – you will likely NOT be paid right away. Sometimes you can negotiate for that, but more often than not you will invoice a client and the industry standard is that they have 30 days to pay you. Some international jobs take 60-90 days. And real talk: 30 days often means 40-45 days. Therefore maintaining your cashflow so you can keep going is one of the most important aspects of becoming and staying a freelance artist.

How would I suggest proceeding thoughtfully and wisely with taking your makeup kit from Student to Pro? Here we go…

1) First Things First
Without any doubt, when you are first coming out of school the two main things you need to invest in are your foundation/skin products and your tools. The inter-webs are constantly inundating you, as a young artist, with the latest greatest thing that is supposed to take you from rank amateur to superstar makeup artist in five seconds. But do you really need a new gadget to help you clean your brushes when you haven’t invested in good brushes yet? Do you really need a new doodad to give you a “flawless foundation finish” when you don’t have a full selection of foundations yet? If you get called to a job and you find you do not have the proper color foundation for your client you’re going to wish you had bought foundation instead of some silly thing to clean your brushes. And PLEASE do NOT forget skincare!!!!! Your preparation prior to applying makeup can be more important than the makeup application itself. This is a time where cheap-o drugstore brands will largely NOT get it done (although there are a few exceptions). Quality skincare will absolutely, positively elevate your makeup applications.

2 ) Think Like A Pro
If you’re saying you’re a pro makeup artist then it is time to start thinking like one. The latest greatest products do not necessarily work for us. Mass-market/drugstore brands do not necessarily work for us. Does the caliber of product I am using correlate with the work that I am doing? (i.e. – if I’m doing a $150 headshot job, is now the time to pull out my $80 Tom Ford foundation?) When I open my kit am I making a good presentation/first impression to my client? These are all things that must be considered when building a kit. I am NOT a fan of an artist running out and buying all the most expensive product in an attempt to impress a client. Even if you can afford it, a lot of that stuff does not even work in a pro kit. That said, you absolutely cannot open your kit and have a bunch of cheap brands (BH Cosmetics, Coastal Scents, etc.) and mass-market/drugstore stuff with a couple of popular items stuck in there and call that a working kit. Your kit should be a balance of professional product and high quality brand-name product that you know will perform when you go to use it. Oh and forego the temptation to buy these super-premium makeup brushes that are all the rage as well. Some of them are amazing, some of them are all hype, none of them will turn you into Troy Suratt overnight. Artistry is in your hands and your skill-set which is developed with time, not product.

3 ) Not Everyone Is Your Color
Even if you get a good brand-name product, it does not mean it will work on everyone. Below is a picture of my hand. On top is a “black” eyeshadow color from a popular consumer brand, middle the Black eyeshadow color from the LORAC Pro 1 eyeshadow palette, and the bottom is the BLACK eyeshadow color from the Viseart #1 neutral palette. See the difference? When you are purchasing for your kit, remember that people of color not only need a different color range, but we also need a lot more pigmentation. I’ll tell you right now those cheap-o 1-zillion color eyeshadow palettes do not even register on my skin. It will look like you did not even put anything on me. It is vital to bear this in mind when you are selecting your color cosmetics.

makeup to go blog taking your makeup kit from student to pro

black-ish, blacker, blackest… not all color cosmetics are created equal

4 ) Get Organized
The way I see a lot of students carry their products is – and I mean this in the most loving way possible – laughable. You will never be able to work with these setups. The most common mistake I see is people trying to carry EVERYTHING with them all the time because they’re “afraid” of not having something. A ) That’s highly inefficient and will make you work more slowly. B ) It’s unrealistic almost anywhere other than LA where we drive everywhere. In NYC and SF – for example – you will likely be on public transportation to the job and then you may have to carry that kit up multiple flights of stairs. How’s that train case looking now? C ) That’s a good way to have your entire inventory of product damaged, lost or stolen. D ) If you are working on a private client in their home or hotel room, they are not checking for you dragging some big a** setup into their space. Ain’t nobody got time for all that!

On the flip-side, those little boxes that open up with the drawers are really only good for smaller jobs/private clients where you can take a more edited kit. Otherwise you’re trying to cram too many things in too small of a space and it gets messy and cluttered, which slows you down and also does not make a good first impression. And your product can become easily damaged that way.

I have posted articles on my kit setup before (click to read), and I am about to do a new updated post because things have changed again. But if you do some research online it is easy to find information on how working artists organize their kits and even though every single artist on the planet has their own method, you will see certain commonalities repeated and you can start to emulate those practices.

5 ) Think Long-Term and Cross Platform
I think the reason a lot of artists become fixated on the latest greatest new palette or whatever is because they are trapped in their current circumstance, and not thinking about further down the line. Let’s say you are currently primarily doing Bridal. On a Bride you may very well use a lot of the popular consumer products, because there is a lot of psychology involved with doing “real people” clients and part of that is making them comfortable with product with which they are familiar. What many consumers think of as “high end” and “professional”, however, most artists would not. If you only build a kit with bridal/consumer clients in mind, what happens when you go to move beyond Bridal? If you have ambitions to move into media makeup, for example, you need to build a kit with that in mind, starting now. First of all, quite frankly, your bridal will come out better. If you think of Bridal as a photographic event – because once you do the bride’s makeup she will be photographed all day and night – you and your bride will be much happier with the final makeup outcome. Secondly, there is no more sign of being an amateur than having to do the mad dash shopping trip before a job. That’s just lack of preparedness. Buy products that can work in multiple venues. I already showed the difference – for example – between the Viseart and LORAC Pro palettes, and the run-of-the-mill consumer brand palette. If you select professional foundation/skin products and then stick to color products that can work in multiple mediums, you have just saved yourself a lot of time and money AND you’ll be ready to work when the opportunity presents itself.

6 ) What Else Are You Doing?
Thus far we have talked about the Beauty makeup kit. This blog is run by a beauty makeup artist and hence, most of my discussion is from that point of view. Also on the practical level, it is where a lot of artists start since a lot of artists nowadays start out with bridal or working for a cosmetics line, etc. However, for most of us the Beauty Kit will not be the only game in town. For example, a goodly percentage of my jobs – over half, I would say – also necessitate that I do hair. This means I had to invest in and now have to maintain a hair kit. Hair product is expensive. Tools are expensive. One of my best clients also required that I carry extensions. Extensions are expensive. Therefore, you will need to plan for that as well. I also do a lot of men’s grooming so I had to invest in a good clipper/trimmer, a nose/ear hair trimmmer (which thankfully I rarely ever have to use, but I do have it), and with the whole “Lumbersexual” trend, beard grooming/styling product, etc.

And we have not even touched upon maintaining an FX kit, which you will obviously need to do if you plan to work in FX. I do NOT work in FX at all, HOWEVER I’ve worked on projects where I had to bald cap or do some facial hair work. Or create a bruise or bloodshot eyes. So while I do not often carry it with me, even I have to own some theatrical/character makeup (I refuse to keep any blood of any kind whatsoever. Refuse!!! LOL)

7 ) How Do You Get There?
If this post seems like more questions than answers, my apologies but it kind of is. I am throwing out guidelines for you to think about as you grow your kit and your business. Here at Makeup to Go, I focus a lot on thinking, which is exactly what a lot of these trend brands and trend items do not want you to do. They want you to blindly purchase whatever it is they are selling so they can keep making money. I want you to not be a sheep and to build a successful makeup business. if you want a particular popular item because you have thought about it and decided that it is going to add value to your kit/business, go for it. The name of the game, however, is making informed choices based on your priorities of what you are trying to do and where you are trying to go. If it is not adding anything to the party, skip it. Once you have what you feel is a fully materialized kit where you can walk out the door to any job feeling prepared, then you can start adding in doodads, trinkets, and the latest palette du jour if you so choose. 🙂

8 ) Give Me Some Specific Recommendations, Dammit!
As you know, I talk a lot about products I am actually using here on the blog, so that is a good place to start. I am reticent to “prescribe” specific products because the journey of developing a kit is quite personal. What one artists loves another may disdain, hence I am a huge advocate of getting a lot of samples and trying a lot of product before you settle down and start committing.

THAT SAID: If you just want to know what products I use and recommend, there is always my Makeup to Go Preferred Products List. You can buy the List for $10, or you can by a Subscription (updated quarterly or so, and actually a new update is coming soon) for $25/year. The links to purchase are below.

MTG Preferred Products List –

MTG Preferred Products List SUBSCRIPTION –

As you can see, there is a lot to think about, purchase, maintain and upkeep in the professional working kit. Do you really have time for another contour kit? Nah…and not only that, if you have a functional pro kit, you do not need a contour kit at all. You’ll already have about 10000 different products you can contour/highlight with.