8 Secrets About Working at Fashion Week That Only a Makeup Artist Would Know
As a makeup artist born and raised in New York, the dream of working New York Fashion week was inevitable. The energy, the creative collaborations, the fast-paced backstage environment; it all appeals to me (still!). Bucket-list dream checked off, and countless seasons of working NYFW shows later, I've realized how important the experiences have been in shaping my career, work ethic, and overall understanding of the industry I work in. And after all, it's live — so anything can happen. Of course it all seems effortless from the outside (that's the point!), but here's a backstage glance of what it's actually like to work New York Fashion Week as makeup artist.
Learn the Look . . . Quick
While it appears that makeup artists have a lifetime of prep time before their assigned models hit the runway, in reality, they learn the makeup look right before the show. We usually have about 10 minutes to complete it on each model. Each designer will have a "key" or lead artist design the makeup look initially, then they will demonstrate it that day to the extended makeup artist team. It's our job to replicate it on the rest of the models.
Team Work Makes the Dream Work
It takes a village to pull together a successful NYFW show, especially with the given time constraints. It is imperative to be flexible with your space backstage because before you know it, there can multiple people working on your model at the same time — hair, nails, stylist — all while you’re on makeup. Not to mention, the photographers and journalists that will be snapping shots around you. I personally just get into the zone and just keep a focus on what I’m doing.
Less on Skin Is More
I’ve never worked with a designer or creative team during fashion week who didn’t specifically say they wanted clean, natural skin. There’s a real focus on keeping skin natural and glowing, rather than cakey or too covered. Complexion preparation has had more of a focus on skin care rather than foundation, because it’s important to see the models' skin through the makeup.
Multiuse of the Same Beauty Product Is Key
You’d think only your grandma wore lipstick on her cheeks back in the day, but let me tell you: fashion shows feature tons of beauty looks where the key artist has decided to use lipsticks on cheeks and even eyes. There’s definitely an artistic component to it, but it’s also a smart timeframe move as well. Besides, who doesn’t love a convenient three-in-one product?
Hold the Drama or Bye, Felicia
New York Fashion Week shows attract media, industry tastemakers, celebrities, etc, and oftentimes they do stop by backstage. You never know who is filming, conducting interviews, or making an appearance. There are countless incidents where team members will not get rehired by beauty brands or the designer’s team if they are being unprofessional or if there is drama!
Be Ready For Last-Minute Changes
Anyone who’s familiar with working backstage knows that at any moment, anything can change. I was keying a show a few seasons ago where the designer decided moments before the show that most of the models were going to wear sunglasses and that the lip should now be the focus. We went from bold eyes and nude lips, to neutral eyes and bold lips in just minutes!
Staying Respectful to Beauty Brand Sponsors
Beauty brands spend a lot of money sponsoring fashion shows. They are usually the machines behind the makeup artists and provide the beauty products that are used during the shows. This isn’t the usual "bring your whole kit and use a bunch of your favorite things" kind of gig. It’s important to remain loyal to the brand sponsor, and stick to the products that have been selected for you. I’ve seen relationships go sour due to makeup artists bringing other products to set. A makeup artist’s station will most likely get photographed by media, and if a beauty brand is sponsoring a show (and cutting the checks), it’s not in anyone’s best interest to bring another brand! (unless directed).
You Never Know Who You’re Working With
When I first started my career, I was less familiar with who was who in the fashion world. When you’re working a major fashion show, there are usually ‘key’ or ‘lead’ artists and creative directors that are contracted to design the looks for the shows – and they all have very successful backgrounds in their fields. After just one of my first fashion week jobs, I found out later on that I was working alongside celebrity stylists who dressed Jessica Alba and Anne Hathaway, and the lead artist was Beyonce’s main makeup squeeze. So, it’s always about putting your best foot forward, because you never know where these relationships will take you.