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How to Become a Makeup Artist

Want to Become a Makeup Artist? Here's One Way to Do It

When watching the Emmys and/or Oscars, do you perk right up when hearing the nominees for the best makeup artistry categories? Do you have such a passion for makeup and theatrical stylings that you daydream about what it might be like to be a part of this aspect of the business?

After talking to makeup artist Debbie Zoller about her behind-the-scenes work on Castle, along with her techniques for making the gory details of her job come to life, I wanted to know how she got to where she is today. With an impressive resume including work on Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, The Sweetest Thing, I Heart Huckabees, Mad Men, and Castle, you might be surprised to hear that Zoller dropped out of beauty school and hit a few road bumps along the way before finding her true passion. To find out more of her inspiring story, just keep reading.

On her initial start in the business:
I went to hair school [in New York] for six weeks and I wouldn’t handle it . . . So, I came back out to LA, went to a makeup school at night, and worked at Friends Beauty Supply during the day. And that’s where I got a lot of my training. I was also a counter girl for Lancôme [at Macy's]. I was at the Beverly Center, and I met some people who worked in soap operas over at the CBS Radford Studio, which wasn’t far from the store. They would call me and say, "Could you get all this stuff together?" And finally I said, "Yes, why don’t I just come and drop it off and deliver it to you?" So they let me into CBS Radford . . . I would sit and watch them, because back then, soap opera makeup was completely different than the makeup I was doing behind the counter. I was so fascinated by it. I was like, "I want to do this." They said, "OK, put yourself on the roster, and we’ll get you in here."

On facing a setback:
So, I quit my job. The day I showed up with my little makeup kit and I was all ready to go, was the day that they called a writers' strike. I had no job. I had nothing. That’s when I started working for photographers and test shooting. If life's going to give you a lemon, you have to figure out how to turn it in to something else . . . Here I am 23 years later doing something I love, which I don't think a lot of people can say. I'm really really appreciative of that.

On advice she gives others about entering the business:
I will ever never tell anybody what people told me. They said, "Oh, you'll never make it. Give up." If you have a passion for something you need to pursue it, because that's a calling that's bigger than you is the way I look at it. But, you also have to find what you’re good at and what your skill set is . . .That's why I'm so blessed: I was able to listen to my gut and say to myself, "Just because there was a writers' strike doesn't mean you can’t do makeup somewhere else." If you keep banging your head on a door and it doesn’t open, I think you have to kind of go, "OK, what am I doing? Maybe I should take a step back." But, if you stand in front of a door that you bring to yourself and it opens, you have to walk through. You don’t have a choice.

Image Source: WireImage
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Join The Conversation
MartiniLush MartiniLush 6 years
What an excellent reminder to follow your dreams! :)
shopping42 shopping42 6 years
as they say follow your dream-!!!
Rouge14 Rouge14 6 years
wow, I hope that someday I'll be able to say I'm doing something I love just like she does, I'm not sure what it is just yet (I actually thought about the make-up artist branch for a while) but I'm hopeful I'll find what it is soon.
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 6 years
I imagine that it's much more glamorous than working with poop! (My husband thinks I'm joking but I'm actually dead serious!)
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 6 years
I always joke to my husband that when I finally get sick of engineering, I want to change careers to be an esthetician or makeup artist and make people feel beautiful.
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