I first met Erica Carr in a closet, of all places.We were both working at the Make Up For Ever booth during The Makeup Show in New York City last Spring.
Sometimes, being composed and quiet is what makes you stand out the most. A closet has a great way of amplifying who we really are. Erica was a model of efficiency, hard work, and composure the entire time. She was also extremely pleasant and down to earth, no matter how stressful things became. Unlike some of the other volunteers, she understood this was a team effort and acted in a way that was supportive of everyone.
Many of us exchanged contact information or business cards after the weekend. One day I realized Erica had "liked" my makeup page on Facebook, and I friend requested her. That's when I realized she's a business owner, running a hair and makeup salon, Erica Carr Makeup and Hair Studio, in the San Francisco area. She is currently booked out until 2013 with work. Her success doing weddings in Hawaii is so big, she's now working on opening a second studio on location.
I was initially surprised that she owned her own business, because I'd pegged her for many years younger than she is. When I thought back to the makeup event, it really didn't surprise me: Someone who works that efficiently and that hard applies the same ethic to her life.
"I'm very organized; I have more binders than you can imagine," she said with a laugh.
Like many who've made it in a creative field, Erica's story is unconventional and a little convoluted, but it maintains a few common themes: She's followed her instincts throughout her life, when things seemed good and bad, and it's opened new opportunities for her. She creates her own opportunities by always thinking in new ways, acting upon ideas, and being persistent. To this day, she is always open to learning more about her craft, flying herself out to take hair and makeup courses, taking any opportunity to be around creative people and learning from them. As much as her portfolio and status has grown in her 20-plus years in the business, she still doesn't hesitate to roll up her sleeves and do the grunt work.
"I've had people who want to work for me, then are put out when I ask them to wash brushes," Erica said. She is happy to help out others, but is frustrated when their interest lies more in bypassing the dues-paying portion of their careers.
Erica has paid her dues and then some. She's built a professional relationship and friendship with high-fashion makeup artist, James Vincent, who offered her a chance to work at New York Fashion Week, an opportunity she jumped at even though it scared her. Mainly, James just believes in her - enough so that when he couldn't cover a makeup job for a music video, he sent Erica in to replace him. Being in situations that scare her and pushing through has been the critical point of growth for her professionally.
Besides doing bridal and fashion work, Erica also runs classes out of her studio and does online tutorials for Beauty Bridge. For more information about her and to see her work, please visit www.ericacarr.com.
A few additional tips in her own words:
Fake it 'til you make it: "When I was doing Fashion Week, I was frightened. I was sure I was going to fail. I was working around big-name makeup artists who were represented by agencies. (I got through) by focusing on what I know and asking questions when I didn't know something."
Reach out to people; the worst that can happen is they say no. “A lot of hairdressers are big talkers and not so much sharers of my information. Hairdressers can be drama. Makeup artists are more nurturing because they get so excited about their art. If someone’s like, 'How did you do that?' they’re happy to talk about it. I've also met makeup artists and admired their work only to be turned away and be ignored."
Don't take things personally and focus on what a situation teaches you: “You always have to stay very positive and find what motivates you. Stick to being positive when it comes to any situation. If it’s a bridezilla you're dealing with, don’t take it personally. Take classes from quality people. Never think you know it all. People told me that I was a horrible artist when I was in eighth grade. I was pulled into the principal’s office and told I shouldn’t pursue art. No matter what people say, ignore and move forward."
Stay close to what you love, no matter how risky it feels: "Always surround yourself with people in the field you want to work in. I walked away from benefits and guarantees (that come with a day job): I knew if I had to go back, I had the skills to go back. Always trust your gut. It will never lie.”