Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?
Answering that age-old question these days entails more than looking at one’s reflection in a mirror. In today’s world, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the dexterity of the make-up artist.
The world’s preoccupation with facial beauty has existed for almost as long as time itself. The evolution of face paint can be traced to ancient Egypt in north Africa. Both sexes wore make-up, consisting kohl and henna, ingredients still in use in present-day make-up artistry. Not for attractive and alluring purposes only but also, it was rumoured, for protection against their gods, as a cover from the glare of the sun, healing powers and prevention of eye infections. The Egyptians could be said to have introduced dramatic eye make-up to the world with their thick and dark eye lining patterns.
In Japan, female entertainers emerging in the 18th century were called geishas. They were known for their stunning oshiroi make-up which had poisonous white lead as part of its constituents. China’s plum blossom make-up – based on a folklore about a princess – was the standard around the time the Egyptians were pioneering the spectacular smoky-eyed look. Ancient Greek women covered facial mishaps with poisonous lead and solutions made from beeswax, clay and olive oil. And in Europe, Alexander the Great wore eye make-up to wade off flies and protect the fragile skin around the eyes.
As it was in times past, so it remains until this day; make-up is a colourful extension of humankind’s reality, and it is worn for varied reasons.
With its roots in ancient civilizations, is there any surprise that this billion-dollar industry constantly blossoms to birth huge corporations and single individuals who refer to themselves as make-up artists?
The Making of a Make-up Artist
Does being able to apply eyeliner, blush, foundation and all the other paraphernalia which transforms the human face into unblemished glamour qualify you as a make-up artist?
Well, sort of…in your own right.
However, decorating the human face to transform and beautify it is an art. Some argue make-up artistry is also a science too. Like painters and artists, make-up artists have to contend with lines, and shades and discoloration and blemishes on the canvas which they work on – the face. It is therefore important to understand symmetry, the color wheel as well as how shades can highlight or downplay certain features of the face.
A make-up artist is adept at wielding make-up materials to trace, disguise, or otherwise manipulate a face for beautification purposes, depending on the occasion. Be it heavy make-up for a theatre production, flawless face for a wedding ceremony, toned-down look for funeral rites or a glittery finish for a black-tie event, s/he can determine the appropriate look to create. Achieving the desired results entails the hard skills of this profession. Some include formal training, apprenticeship and practice, practice, practice of the art.
Another side to becoming a make-up artist involves soft skills.
- Are you a well of patience?
- Do you have tact?
- Are your interpersonal and communication skills spot on?
- Do you rate just as high on your critical-thinking skills?
- Can you work well under pressure?
- And with tight time constraints too?
- Do you have the ability to assess a customer’s needs?
- And evaluate customer satisfaction or lack thereof?
- Are you a good listener?
- Do you have excellent judgment and decision-making skills?
If you answered yes to most or all of the questions above, chances are you have found your fit in the make-up artist industry.
Like all ventures, it demands hard work, consistency, focus, relentless marketing and a zeal to succeed among other attributes.
Welcome to this new column on the colourful world of make-up artists and the facial beauty business. Subsequent posts will showcase the ins and outs of this ever-increasing industry, its players, its highs, and everything else in between.