Today’s Cool Jobster arrives via my Twitter feed (you do have a Twitter feed, don’t you?) When someone new starts following me on Twitter, I always take the time to check out the follower’s home page and see what he or she is all about, and in the case of Makeup Artist Todra Payne I’m glad I did and I’m happy she agreed to be interviewed for My Cool Job today!
I must say right up front that I’m not a “can’t leave the house without my face on” makeup wearer these days, although I suspect I did severely impact the world’s supply of black eyeliner back in my teens and early twenties (see photos of Joan Jett circa 1985 and you’ll get the idea). I’ve never had much of a knack for applying makeup to my face, but I have been lucky enough to have been “done” by a professional makeup artist a time or two and I’ve always been blown away by what a huge change in my look and my attitude a small amount of mysterious “goo” makes when applied by someone with experience, artistry, and a passion for helping people to feel good about themselves.
Todra Payne is certainly one of those people with a passion for what they do, whether she is conducting a teaching seminar for company employees on how to look their best, working one on one with a spaz like me that can’t figure out the difference between a bronzer and a brow pencil, or glamming up celebrities and models for a magazine photo shoot.
So is being a Makeup Artist as glamorous and exciting as they make it look on the reality show “Blush” (and am I the only one that wants to drown contestant Maxi in a vat of foundation)? Let’s find out from today’s Cool Jobster, Todra Payne…
When people ask you “what do you do?” how do you describe your job?
I usually say, “I’m a displaced celebrity makeup artist.” When I lived in NYC, I worked with celebrities, top models, and skinny, rich women who were always “on the scene” – the ones who don’t actually do anything, but are always photographed by the media for being fabulous. Now I work a lot with “regular” women (and men) – people like myself – who want to learn how to bring out their best look, but don’t have $1,000 to pay for a makeup session (this part is a slight drawback). These days I feel more like an educator than a makeup artist because I conduct a lot of teaching seminars – from bridal parties to employee image consulting. I also do makeup for corporate videos, television commercials for big box stores and the occasional makeup and wardrobe styling for product catalogs.
What are the things about your job that you love?
When I was working in NYC, my job took me to places like Iceland for shoots with Elle Magazine. I received free designer clothes, makeup, etc. And my name was always in the magazines. That was a blast. Today, I live in a small city and don’t travel as much, and no one’s beating down my door to give me free clothes and makeup (darn!). But my job makes me really happy, even without the “perks”. I enjoy the raw elements of my job – making people look and feel better about their personal and professional image. I love how my job allows me to be creative and free-spirited with my talents and my time. I thank God every day that I don’t have to show up in an office.
What are the things about your job that you hate?
Without the contacts and cache of a New York City agent working on my behalf, I have to drum up my own business. For years I’d flutter around the city, shopping and “doing lunch” with friends while someone else made marketing calls, sent out my portfolio to clients and made sure my airline tickets were for the correct locations. From where I stood, work just magically appeared. Trust me, when you work for yourself, nothing magically appears. I put in sweat equity to let people know what I do and how it will benefit them. I don’t like balancing the artist side with the business side so much, but it’s a necessity.
What education, training, vocation or just plain luck would someone have to have in order to get a job like yours?
Well, getting an esthetician’s license helps in order to get your foot in most doors. But the creative part really doesn’t come from a cosmetology school (trust me on this on). An aspiring makeup artist needs to be around an established, working makeup artist to pick up techniques AND people skills fast. Of course, it depends a lot on what type of jobs the new artist is hoping to get. Salon work is a pretty easy, well-mapped out road. Not too hard to get one of those jobs if you have the schooling. But to move to the big time – Los Angeles or New York – to work in fashion or entertainment takes a lot of skill, networking and great personal style! Seriously. Everyone looks at what you’re wearing when you are working with the biggies.
And getting a great agent is golden. Nothing pushes you into the big leagues faster. Call agents and ask to assist their established artists. Do it for free if you can afford to for a little while. It’ll pay off in the end. Warning: Here comes a shameful self-endorsement! Another way to get insider information is to buy the book I co-authored, Fabjob Guide to Become a Makeup Artist. It covers everything from putting together your first portfolio to getting into the unions.
What is the funniest story you can think of that involves your professional training or your job?
When I was newbie assisting legendary makeup artist, Brigitte Reiss-Andersen, I was always a little nervous. She taught me a lot, but she was a very no-nonsense sort of person, kept me on my toes. And she spoke French. I’ve always been intimidated by chic, French-speaking women. Brigitte and I were on a shoot with German GQ. The model, the crew, heck, the photographer were incredibly beautiful. They all knew each other and chatted effortlessly in several languages. I was so out of my league, but I told myself I could just blend into the walls because it was Brigitte’s job. I was just there to clean brushes and make store runs.
Well, mid-shoot, Brigitte had to dash off to another client. She turned to me and said, “I’m leaving you to take it from here. Make sure the model doesn’t get shiny.” Before I could fully panic, Brigitte had thrown her kisses and was out the door. I broke into a cold sweat. I’d watched her call out, “Going in!” and the entire studio came to a halt while Brigitte walked on set to powder the model. I didn’t have that sort of nerve. But then I didn’t want the magazine to hit the stands with a shiny-nosed model, either. There would be hell to pay. I weakly stood on the sidelines willing the model’s nose not to shine. And then I got my chance. The photographer had to take a bathroom break. When he sat down his camera, the rest of the crew scattered as well. I grabbed my powder brush and lunged on set for the model’s nose. In my excitement, I lost my balance. The model, a very sweet girl who weighed all of 90 pounds, reached out to grab me. We both went tumbling into the backdrop, which was a very heavy black curtain hung from the ceiling and stuck to a wall. With the swoop of the fabric neither of us could get out of the curtain. We just sort of rolled around each other, arms and legs flailing.
When the photographer returned, he simply stared at me for a moment. I wanted to cry I was so scared. He burst into laughter before coming over and helping us. At the time I was sure I’d die from the experience. Now, I laugh at how serious I thought it all was.