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.