Saturday, December 20, 2014

Starting My Own Makeup Line: Cielmiera

What's starting your own makeup line like? Scary, expensive, time-consuming, and yes, exciting. I can't clock the moment I started this journey, but it began in my head about five years ago when I began to think about what made me love makeup products and hate them, where I saw holes in the market, what I knew the consumer wanted and wasn't being given.

My first investor was my father: The Bank of Dad. He hates makeup, has zero interest in it, and thinks it's a waste of time. When I approached him for help with start-up funds, I expected I'd have to create Powerpoint slides and flow charts to explain my business idea. He glazed over in seconds, then he offered me the money as a loan. I don't think he believes in what I'm doing, but he believes in me. Once someone else's skin is in the game, you take an endeavor very seriously.

I had one vision to start: a contour and highlighter product that would change the game. This product has gone through multiple revisions as I try to perfect the idea in my head and match it with a tangible product that delivers. When the manufacturer didn't understand the color concept I wanted, I went on the Benjamin Moore website and sent swatches. It took a conference call with six people on the other line for me to clearly outline all the specs. I felt demanding and Napoleonic at times, but I had to be clear and specific if I wanted to get the product I'd envisioned.

I also had to go to attorneys for patent and trademark consultation. My first two names failed the trademark knock-off test. Finally, I settled on Cielmiera, a hybrid word that has meanings I like and that would eventually pass the knock-off search. The patent attorney was excellent, but she was also honest: Makeup products are very difficult to patent unless there's a new ingredient involved in the formulation.

Cielmiera will launch in early 2015. My last correspondence with the manufacturing company was that with Christmas looming, there would be a three-week lag in the next prototype. I was hard on their first version, but I explained to them that the consumer is tough to please and I know what gets scrutinized. All the while, I remembered something: I am the consumer. I know her mind.

Yes, there is the question of whether the product will succeed or fail, but I'm acting on a hunch and an instinct and pushing through fear with the stronger forces of internal knowing. If the product succeeds, I already have designs on how I want to expand and what my brand will focus on.

I know I'm up against a lot: A saturated market, juggernaut brands, etc. All I can remember is this: It isn't about the size of the dog in the fight, but about the size of the fight in the dog.    The site is currently under construction but will go live soon.

With Cielmiera Contour and Highlighter

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Robin Williams: One of the Greats

When I first heard of Robin Williams' suicide, my initial thought was, He was so talented and accomplished. What would he have to be depressed about? That is the complexity and misnomer of depression: That it only afflicts those who have something to be depressed about.

I once asked an actor friend what makes a great actor. She explained that "You don't see the celebrity or the actor; you see a really great character."

Williams had that talent, able to move seamlessly between the comedic genius that got him established and into serious and even dark roles with equal talent and intensity. Some comedic actors struggle with the transition. Williams made it look easy. As famous as he was, as distinctive as he looked, you didn't see Robin Williams when he was acting: You became so pulled into the character he was portraying, he disappeared and a great character took form and walked around inside your mind. I read one fan's description as he was one of the few actors able to take the formless dreamlike state we have and make it exist in waking time.

Even in comedic roles like Mrs. Doubtfire, Williams could cast a pained and troubled gaze, perhaps something that he culled from his own depths. In light of his passing, this saddens me. He was likely a deeply sensitive soul whose success just didn't outpace his struggles.

He was truly one of the greatest acting talents of our time, and he left a tremendous body of work to be remembered by. The world dimmed a little when he took his life, and a palpable loss shook both the professional acting community and the fans he touched. His time wasn't finished on earth, but he will live on.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Am I Daughter Enough?

My sister estranged herself from the entire family two years ago. Long, complicated, tumultuous story, but the fact remains that she and her husband cut off all contact. I truly believe none of us will hear from her again.

They say when a person leaves your life, you slowly learn to live without her. This is both sad and soothing to know. The truth is, I have: She no longer comes up in conversation, and I think of her less with time. Because her name starts with the letter B, I mentally remind myself to not mention the "B word."

If someone asks about my family, I still have to momentarily stop and concoct an easy answer: Yes, I do have one. It's slowly dissipating, but it exists. End of questions?

If someone asks if I have any siblings, my heart sinks a little and my mind scatters: There is the legal answer (yes, I do); there is the technical answer (yes, I do); there is the emotional answer (no, I don't).

The hardest part of her leaving has been trying to be essentially the two children my parents thought they would always have. When holidays come around like taxes, I have to steel myself for the extra effort. Can I be cheerful, loving, gracious and satisfactory enough to keep my parents fulfilled with just me? Will all that smiling and surface conversation mask the elephant in the room?

I constantly ask myself if I am "daughter enough" for them.

My sister and I were opposites and that polarity kept my parents fulfilled in a way that I alone cannot replace. I had to deal with mourning her loss (grieving over a living person is a complex process unlike grieving over a dead one). I know she's out there - breathing, making friends, and building a life - but she is also completely gone.

When my parents redid their Wills recently, they did it in part to cut her out. It was one of the final pieces that made the door to reconciliation close. I was in turn made the exclusive beneficiary. It wasn't a happy moment: With it, came an added responsibility and expectation that I would fulfill their final wishes and be the executor of their estate. I would also stay firmly planted in their life, or there would be another call to a lawyer.

They say being a parent is a great responsibility, but with age, being the child becomes a growing responsibility. They raised you, and they're aging, and now it's time for you to pay them back. Despite a childhood that was a mix of good and terrible times, I always pretend all of my memories are happy ones. When my father leaned in and asked on Father's Day what my happiest memories are, I came up with a really longwinded tale told through rose-colored glasses.

I do this frequently to keep them appeased and to hopefully ease their hurt over losing a child I can't replace. I can't be their two daughters. I can only ask myself if I am enough as the one left behind.

Swat Makeover

Sunday, June 8, 2014

My Horrible Day

So I believe that no matter your age or your experience in another field, when you dip your toe into a new profession, you're back at square one: That means pay your dues, do grunt work, even offer to work for free.

And that's exactly what I did yesterday. I offered to help a relatively well-established wedding makeup artist in Western, MA who had double-booked her day. That meant two weddings back-to-back. And when I say back-to-back, I mean that there was literally no wiggle room between finishing one wedding and going to the next.

I was happy to offer to help her in whatever way I could, even if it meant solely doing the grunt, unglamorous and sweaty work with no pay. When I have a passion, just being in the vicinity of it makes me happy. And if I get more responsibility than I asked for, I feel weightless.

The day started very early, around 6 a.m., since we had to drive to a location more than an hour from her house. Even on little sleep and not an adequate amount of caffeine, I was looking forward to the day. It wasn't long before my mood soured. The artist was stressed due to the overbooking and last-minute add-ons. With a second person on hand, she could've delegated non-makeup tasks to me: Prepping faces with sunscreen, moisturizer or primer. But when I asked, she quickly dismissed it and said, "Just watch my time."

So my job turned into simply monitoring the phone. Ok. Fine. I did the task without saying anything. At one point, she took a bathroom break. I stepped in to wipe any sweat from the bride-to-be's naked face and apply sunscreen and moisturizer.

When the makeup artist began working on the bride, she huffed, "God, so much moisturizer!" and wiped her hands across the bride's face not one, not two, but six times. I got the point: She thought I sucked at applying moisturizer.

Here's the truth, everyone: It takes zero skill to apply moisturizer. I applied less than a dime-size amount to the bride's face and used a makeup brush for hygiene reasons. I thought rubbing my hands all over the bride's face would be bad form, so no, I didn't give a face massage to get the moisturizer "skillfully" absorbed.

I stayed silent as the makeup artist huffed, even though I thought it was bad professional decorum on her part to criticize an assistant's work in front of the client. As brushes dirtied, she'd throw them in my direction and say, "Clean this." Here's another thing: It takes zero effort to say "please" and "thank you," especially to someone who volunteered to help you and is not your employee. It also resonates well with an observant client.

The day went on and got hotter and muggier. My mood dampened with it. By the end of the day, I was texting my boyfriend describing my acidic mood and the most insulting highlights of the day. At one point, as the makeup artist complained that she was so overbooked she should've called in another MUA, I went out on a limb and said, "Well, I do have some skills and can help."

The reaction made the world go into slow-motion. She let out a skeptical hybrid of a huff and a laugh, peppered with, "Then show me your portfolio."

She has seen my work. I sent her several images before the first time I assisted her. Maybe she forgets the images. Maybe she just wasn't impressed. I don't need a full flip-book to do minor prep-work. While I don't have the business she does, I have a background, have studied and taken makeup classes, and have done wedding makeup.

At one point, driving between jobs, I mentioned a blush in a recent MAC collection. Her response was a dismissive, "I only followed those when I was just a hobbyist."

I got it. I was just a hobbyist. Add that dig to an 85 degree New England day, no AC in her car, and a busted window that wouldn't roll down on the passenger side, and biting my tongue was like trying to stop a hiccup. I did, though.

Here's yet another secret, everyone: Makeup artistry is a skill, but it isn't saving the world or finding a cure for cancer. I vowed then and there to remember that. It is an artistic pursuit that is elevating at its best, but it can be learned by many and the techniques aren't that complex. The brides that hire someone often don't want to take the time selecting products or thinking out the process on a day rife with so many logistics. It isn't that they are incapable.

As I watched the makeup artist, I began to mentally play out a paint-by-numbers process: By the end of the day, I could rehash the full process, since it played out the same with each of the 10-plus women she worked on that day. Her work was flattering and most of the women looked happy with the results. But at the end of the day, it was a job and she fulfilled it. No one's life was cured.

I remember some famous makeup artists saying themselves, "It's only makeup" and "It's not rocket science." I love makeup. I probably always will. But I remember what it is and what it isn't. At the end of the day, it should be fun or it's nothing.