As one of the best in the business, make-up artist Nico Harry really has seen and done it all! Nico has been a freelance make-up artist for fifteen years, working across all areas of the industry including red carpet, television, film, runway and bridal. Having worked with some big-name brands in make-up, Nico shares her story and reveals what it takes to succeed in the industry..
I was 22 when I decided to become a make-up artist. At the time, I was teaching early childhood, but I loved cosmetics, and I did my own makeup quite well. I decided it was time for a career change and I enrolled in a make-up course to figure out whether it’s something I could pursue as a profession. Doing someone’s make-up is quite an intimate thing – and just because you can do your own doesn’t mean you can do other people’s. It’s important to gain the skills you need through education and training. My tip is to try not to have any hang-ups about touching people’s faces or being close and intimate with people you’re working on. There’s a big trust thing in there.
Initially, I did a makeup course early on in my career. It was theory in the morning and then working on a model in the afternoon. The course was really important for teaching me about the industry and what was involved. I didn’t feel ready to work right away and wanted to learn more, so I went to the US and did a longer full-time course in LA. That was mostly beauty with some theatrical and special effects make-up as well. That was my foundation study; I’ve done shorter courses since then, too.
Figuring out which avenue to take in beauty is exciting. You can explore so many different areas of beauty once you are qualified! You can work on retail counters or for a cosmetics company, which many people do initially because the jobs are there – and it’s great practice! There are also opportunities to work in film or TV, magazines, bridal, fashion and catwalk. If passionate about your job and you spend the time networking to connect with the right people, you never know where your beauty career could take you – you could end up working for a celebrity! Lady Gaga, for example, has a make-up artist who travels with her. Who knows – maybe one day that could be you!
I’ve done a lot of things over the course of my career. I started off doing short films, and working with Napoleon Perdis, I did a lot of runway shows and I absolutely loved it! I also spent some time working on Australia’s Next Top Model – which was so much fun! Following my gig at Australia’s Next Top Model I wanted to have kids, so I switched to freelancing as a bridal make-up artist so that I could continue earning an income while balancing my family life.
The hours suited me, as weddings are mostly on weekends, but it is a learning curve; you’re not just doing make-up for a shoot that lasts an hour. You’re there to make up a bride look flawless for 10 hours or more! It’s a different kind of skill, and that’s what makes the job exciting. For anyone thinking about taking this path, my hot tip for you is to remember that if you sign up with a wedding agency; they take a cut of your earnings. However, the trade-off is that they can find you many jobs! And for anyone doubting the wedding industry, funnily enough, the bridezilla factor is not a worry – I would say 99 percent of the brides I’ve worked with have been fabulous! It’s more often the bridesmaids or mother of the bride who can be a little difficult, but that’s where all your problem-solving, communication and consulting skills come in
Being thick-skinned and not easily offended is key to being a successful make-up artist. Patience and being able to read people is important too, as people change their minds or might not know what they want. Your job is to make someone else feel beautiful, so amazing people skills are crucial. You also need good time management skills, especially for bridal beauty work as everyone has to be ready at a certain time.
Knowing how to market yourself is also important. If you freelance, you need to devote lots of time to admin and social media. A lot of work goes into marketing, networking and promoting yourself – building up a client base takes time.
My advice for getting into the industry would be to do your research. Make sure you understand the industry and the work that’s involved – for a while it can be amazing and glamorous, like any other job it also takes a lot of hard work.
What’s next for me? While freelancing in the bridal industry has been a lot of fun, I’d love to go back into retail and spend time coaching, training managers and cosmetic staff on counters. That, or go into beauty education where I can teach students who are just starting their careers in the industry. I feel that teaching others is what I’m best at and at this point in my career, being able to pass on my knowledge to new make-up artists is something I’d really love to do. The biggest thing to note about working in beauty is the flexibility you have in what you want to pursue. I have so many different paths I can take for my next step, and it’s thanks to a set of skills that can be used across various areas in the industry!
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Stay tuned for the next instalment from more of our top industry professionals, coming soon to the blog.