I know, I know, not all people born in August are Leo’s, but doesn’t it kind of feel like it? And that’s the way they would want it. (That’s a joke for the astrology crowd.) I’ve got a lot of Leo’s in my life and we tend to get along well, so I’ve got nothin’ but love for my lions. In tribute to them, I am calling this August recap “The Leo Month Recap.”
In August, Allison Barbera Beauty celebrated 11 years in business. I have a pre-teen! That’s crazy. We had 15 weddings, a bunch of trials and some corporate shoots. All of the brides I personally worked with this month were awesome awesome awesome. Jamie, Caroline, Taylor, Victoria and Kate–you rock! Thank you for being so great to work with.
We also booked a lot of 2020 weddings, which I’m psyched about. Next year is going to be BANANAS busy, y’all. We ready.
I tried the Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder Foundation (which Sam from Pixiwoos raves about), but I got a lighter shade that I needed so I’ve just been using that on the center of my face with my regular MAC Face & Body that matches me on the rest of my face. I need to get the right shade of Light Wonder to use on my whole face so I can really review it. I also tried her Legendary Lashes Volume 2, which I liked a lot.
On the personal front, I had some fun times with friends old and new. I had a party with several friends and relatives to celebrate 11 years in business and we had a blast. I dragged my mom to a bunch of stores to help me find more furniture and decor for my apartment, and we were successful even though she pointed out the SAME EXACT CHAIR I told her I didn’t want, thrice. I took my father to Animal Adventures in Bolton, MA for a private guided tour (his Father’s Day present) and he had the best damn time.
I started physical therapy for this (the doctors think) vestibular disorder I’ve had since last October. It messes with my balance and I’ve tried a lot of things to fix it, but PT is the first thing that seems to be helping. I’m still not totally out of the woods, but I can’t tell you how much of a relief is it have found something that is helping.
August was overall a good month. It maybe didn’t feel as balanced as July, but it didn’t bury me as much as June did. Now we are in September, the second busiest month of the year for AB Beauty. It’s September 5th, and we’ve already done four weddings with two more happening tomorrow and four more on Saturday. That’s 10 in seven days, if you’re counting.
And that means I should probably go to bed. I’ve got two great brides this weekend, and they deserve a well-rested makeup artist.
I did a June recap, so it only seems right to do one for July. Don’t you think?
July is always the slowest weddings month, for reasons I’m still not sure of. (People going on vacation? Too-hot weather, even though August is usually hotter? Couples not wanting to share their anniversary month with America?) June 2019 was the busiest month in the history of AB Beauty, so I was ready for a little break in July. Joke was on me, though! While July had a lot less weddings than June, we booked a ton of weddings for 2019 and 2020, which kept me busy. We also did a lot of trials–I personally did seven times as many as I did in June–and I started training two new makeup artists. We broke our all-time yearly weddings booking record which was set in 2018, which I’m psyched about. We also had a new hair stylist finish training and I’m in talks with two more potential new hair stylists. I worked with some wonderful new clients and left all of my jobs smiling. I ended up being way busier than I thought, but I had a little more of a breather some days.
On the personal side, it was a marvelous month. It started off with a Southern Charm binge watching night with my friend Julie, then a fun Fourth of July day out (notice I didn’t say “night out,” because I’m 37) with my girl, Kristin. My father had a big cookout the first weekend of July, so I got to see a lot of family and some friends there. My college friend, Caroline and my Charleston friend, Arryn, were in town the following week, and I was so happy to spend time with them. I made a new friend with someone who has been in to makeup model for makeup artist training sessions, and we had a fun first-time hangout. I went to see Nick Kroll in Providence with my newlywed friends Greta and Chris, and I always have a blast with them.
At the end of the month, I went up to Montreal for the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival for my second year in a row. I went with my aunt Michelle and her friend/business associate, Christine. They run the Women In Comedy Festival in Boston, and they are awesome. JFL was fantastic. I saw a ton of great comics and went to a bunch of panels about different shows and topics. I saw people give television show pitches to major networks and I went to two live recording comedy podcasts. I went to a “Boast Rattle,” where comics tried to out-compliment each other. I saw some of my favorite comics and added a few more to my list. I’m already excited to go back next year.
I can’t claim that I had a balanced month, because contrary to the length of the previous paragraphs, I worked way more than I played. Except for when I was in Montreal, 12 – 14 hour workdays were the norm. But hey, that’s the life of a business owner in the wedding industry this time of year, you know?
We have more than twice as many weddings booked for August as we did for July. On top of that, August will be busy because September is our second busiest month this year (and could potentially beat out June as our all-time busiest month), and the month before the busiest month is also always crazy. I’ve got a lot of makeup artist trainings on top of that, plus some trials. In August, AB Beauty will celebrate 11 years in business. That’s bananas, right? I can’t believe I have a pre-teen.
And now, work time. I’ll be back with an August recap before you know it.
I was recently hanging out with a college friend, you know, talking for about five hours straight as I do with my friends. She told me how she was out with the regular group she goes out with and a friend who didn’t usually hang out with them joined and couldn’t believe how much they complimented each other. My friend and I were talking about how we both do that a lot (she’s better at it than I am, especially because I sometimes say compliments in my head and forget to say them out loud).
I’ve been thinking about that conversation and how I often do compliment people–friends, grocery store cashiers, doctor’s office receptionists, whoever–on their makeup, hair and nails. If I see a pretty lipstick color, the compliment is out of my mouth before I know it, followed by “I’m a makeup artist,” I guess to justify it (totally unnecessary). When I compliment people I know, it might be a physical compliment like “I love your new haircut” or “That blue shirt looks great on you,” or something about their personality like “You’re always so patient with things. How?” or “You’re a great listener.”
I also compliment pretty much every client who sits in my chair, because I do think everyone has at least one beautiful feature. It can be eye color, eye shape, lashes, skin, lips, bone structure, etc. I think complimenting clients helps put them at ease, but that’s not why I do it. I genuinely mean every compliment I give.
This has all made me think of how much I have appreciated compliments people have given me. Some of those verbal gifts have stuck with me, and those are the ones I want to share now. I appreciated those compliments when they were given, and I appreciate them again whenever I think of them. Because of that, we have ourselves a blog post.
Here we go.
“You’re the only one who knows how to treat the people who work for them.” Someone who works for me said this to me when she was having a tough time at her day job. She had a series of bosses who were mean or didn’t appreciate her, which blows my mind because she is an incredibly hard worker, professional and really a dream employee (or Independent Contractor, in my case). I try my best to make AB Beauty the kind of company hair stylists and makeup artists want to work at, so her compliment meant a lot.
“You look exotic.” A guy I briefly dated in college said this to me when we first met. I don’t know what made him think that–I suspect maybe it was because in comparison to the more preppy styles around me, I looked different–but I took it as a compliment.
“You should do standup!/”Do you do standup?”/”I can’t wait until your Netflix special!” I gave the Maid of Honor speech at my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding in 2017, and it was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. I started writing the ten minute speech (turned into 12 minutes with laughter breaks, so what’s up) a year and a half before the wedding, and decided to memorize it. I know I could make my brother and sister-in-law laugh, and maybe my parents and few friends, but I did not expect the reaction I got during the speech and the dozens of people who came up to me after the speech to tell me how funny it was. Granted, my “audience” was a group of wedding guests who knew the subjects of my speech and didn’t have the comedy expectations you would watching a comic, but I still won’t forget all of the compliments.
“How many men have you killed with those eyes?” This pickup line–my favorite one ever–was given to me (at me?) a few years ago. This gentleman kept telling me my eyes were the most gorgeous eyes he had ever seen, which I attribute to some black waterline eyeliner and the tequila he was drinking. Still though, I chose to take it as a compliment.
“Allie is the busiest person I know, and she still makes the time to visit us.” When it comes to visiting friends, I feel like I should get an F. The nine-ish months a year I live in New England are also the busiest months for my business, and it’s rare that I have more than a couple hours twice a week to hang out. So if a friend lives an hour away and I’ve only got maybe three hours max, with the drive time, it’ tough to pull off. I still try to visit though, and the friend who said this (my friend’s husband, but I am friends with them both) lives a couple hours away. They used to live an hour away so I was able to visit them and their kids a few times a year, which was when he said it. Anyway, I always feel like I don’t visit my people half as much as I would like to because of my career, and I have some major guilt about that, so this compliment made me feel a million times better.
“I need to check your hair.” Said to me by a TSA agent at I forget which airport (either Boston, Charleston or Nashville). I had my hair up in a ponytail with the shorter front layers pinned back then pushed up a little because I HATE flat hair on me. (I’d go full 1960s Priscilla Presley every day if I could.) Apparently my hair looked big enough to be hiding something in it, so the TSA agent had to pat it down. I took that as the ultimate hair compliment.
“You two have the most expressive eyes! You look like anime characters.” This was said to actress Dominique Swain and I by an actor on the set of a Lifetime movie I did the makeup for. I feel like I have very few expressions, so it was a huge compliment to be lumped in with an actress whose expressive eyes are part of what makes her great at her job.
“You are the most organized person I’ve ever met.” A bride said this to me at a trial last week, so this is a fresh one. I don’t know if she’d say the same if she saw my house, but I certainly try my best to be organized when it comes to my business. When a client tells me that and how it makes the bridal beauty process easier for them, it really means a lot.
“You read too fast!” Something my father says every time we watch Jeopardy. I am a fast reader, and although it makes my father mad because I can read and answer a clue before he’s halfway through reading it, I think it’s a good thing. Right?
“Damn, white girl can dance!” Said by a fellow club goer in Ft. Lauderdale, 2006. This was the era of “droppin’ it,” which pre-dated twerking, and as someone who is already close to the floor, droppin’ it was not hard. I’m not a good dancer but apparently this man thought so, and that brings me great joy.
“We’re going to need to use the small blood pressure cuff on you.” Said to me at a recent doctor’s appointment. I feel like my upper arms are bigger than they should be, but my primary care implied otherwise. I’ll take it as a win.
All of these compliments have made me feel good, and I hope I’ve done the same for others with compliments I’ve given. The conversation with my friend–and writing this post–has made me want to consciously give more compliments. Not in a fake way, but when I notice or realize something positive or flattering about someone I should make sure to say it out loud. For me at least, sometimes a compliment can turn a bad day (or bordeline bad day) around. Wouldn’t it be nice to possibly do that for someone else, just with a few simple words? I think so.
I’m experiencing major writer’s block right now. I’m not even sure what the rest of this sentence is going to look like. I usually have several ideas for blog posts, but I’m coming up blank. Maybe it’s because we just finished the busiest month in the history of AB Beauty? 26 weddings, two groups of wedding guests, one hair and makeup for a re-shoot of some 2018 wedding photos and 12 trials, five corporate shoots and four makeup artists training sessions. Hundreds of email, non-stop texts and phone calls on the daily. We are just about to smash our all time record of 108 weddings, and the year is only a little over halfway done.
I cried a few times, felt like collapsing regularly and caught a virus that still hasn’t gone away because I haven’t had much time to rest. But I also worked with a lot of brides who I love, met some cool people who came in to model for makeup artist training sessions, got two new makeup artist trained and two new ones who are starting their training now and booked several 2020 weddings. I got to see my family once, had a few fun friend visits and a classic Newport Summer day with a local friend, and saw Hannah Gadsby perform in Boston (she was AWESOME). So as rough as the June workload was, I’m choosing to look back on it as a good month.
It’s not that I dislike my job. Quite the contrary, actually. This is my dream job! My makeup artist work itself is great. I genuinely like my clients and I have fun talking with them at trials, weddings and shoots. The business side of my job–client communication, scheduling, invoicing, coordinating social media, etc.–is not super hard, it’s just a lot in combination with my makeup artist job, recruiting and training new makeup artists and growing the company. The makeup artist training program is intense, but I do enjoy teaching and getting people ready for a career in makeup artistry. It’s just when it’s all happening at once with no time to breathe that I feel a little buried. And that was June.
July is much quieter with weddings, but busy with trials and trainings. Even so, it feels lighter and I’m able to get a bit more balance. I have a good friend coming to town for Fourth of July (you’re damn right we’re wearing red, white and blue), my father’s big pool party/cookout this weekend, a Charleston friend visit next week, I’m going to see comic Nick Kroll in mid-July, then off to the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal at the end of the month. There will still be long days, but I’ve got great clients and a rockstar team, so it’ll be a good month.
That’s all I got, friends. My brain is stopping me from writing anymore.
We’ve got a few different starts to the summer where I live in Newport, RI. The first one is Memorial Day Weekend, the official start of the summer season in Newport. The second is June 1, which I think most New Englanders consider to be the start of summer, even though most of the month is technically spring. Then we’ve got June 21, the actual first day of summer.
So I think it’s time to do my Summer Favorites blog post, right? Now is as good of a time as any.
Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm. My cousin, Saint Maria, sent me this cleanser and man, do I love it. It’s a cleansing balm, so you use the spatula they provide to scrape some out, then you apply it to dry skin, add water, massage it in, then rinse off. It melts my makeup right off, smells divine, does not leave a sticky film and makes my skin feel so soft after. The scent of cleanser is really important to me. I tried a Drunk Elephant one recently that worked fine but smelled like drywall, and I can’t get past that. Cleanser texture is also very important to me, and the Green Clean texture feels luxurious. The best way I can come up with to describe it is a whipped or light sorbet texture that melts onto your skin. This is a fantastic cleanser that works on all skin types. You can get it at Sephora.
The AB Beauty Team. These rockstars are always my favorites, but it’s time they made an appearance in one of these Favorites posts. I am so grateful to each hair stylist and makeup artist on the team. Not only are they crazy talented, but I truly like each person and enjoy working with them. I’m lucky to have 17-and-counting hair stylists and makeup artists who do work for AB Beauty. Thank you, Alex, Ann, Ana, Candie, Chantal, Denissa, Ellie, Emily, Emma, Jen, Katie, Kaydee, Kerri, Kristin, Liz, Liza and Paige! And looking forward to starting training with Shaina and Hayden later this month. Y’all are the best.
Spicy V8 Bloody Marias. It’s a well known fact that I’m a tequila drinker. One of my go-to drinks is a Bloody Maria (a Bloody Mary with tequila instead of vodka). My mother makes the best Bloody mix, and the second best is the Charleston Mix. That’s my opinion, but it’s also correct. I keep forgetting to order some Charleston Mix and I don’t always have my mom’s mix, so I’ve been using Spicy V8s (a suggestion I got from the mother of an AB Beauty bride–thanks, Ellen!). The V8 consistency is not as thick as the other Bloody mixes I like, but it is far superior to the bullshit watery ones some restaurants and bars serve. If you’re a Bloody drinker or want to be, give it a try!
Decorating My Apartment. I moved into the best apartment I’ve ever lived in in April, and I’ve been on a mission to make it look the way I want it to look since. I’ve historically put my money and effort into my company, and that’s still where those things will go if I have to choose. But right now, I can do both, so my crib is getting some love. So far, I’ve gotten a living room rug, a bookshelf, two vintage chairs, throw pillows, a bed frame, a dresser, a bedroom rug, bedroom curtains and curtain rods and real plants. I’ve had pictures and artwork hung up on my walls, and my bedroom was painted peach (to compliment the white, gold and marble elements I’m incorporating). I LOVE making my already beautiful, spacious and bright apartment look better. Each thing I buy makes me more excited to live in my ocean-views top floor apartment. I’m sure this will go on well past the summer, but I think this will be when I make the biggest dent in my “To Decorate” list.
Secret Outlast Xtend Invisible Solid Deodorant. I know some people skip deodorant, but that’s not my jam. Especially in the summer, you know? I go for runs, I log in several miles a week walking to errands, I’m rushing up and down flights of stairs into my studio and apartment–you know, being active. I’ve tried other deodorants that I felt wore off quickly, made me itchy or had a sickly sweet smell. Secret Outlast Xtend Invisible Solid is the longest-lasting deodorant I’ve tried and it doesn’t make me itchy. I have the Completely Clean scent which isn’t overpowering. I don’t think it’s 100% invisible, but the white color does fade after a bit. I haven’t tried wearing it for 48 hours because, hi, I’m going to shower twice in 48 hours, so I’ll just take their word for that.
Big Berkey Countertop Water Filter System. I find the taste of water to be utterly boring, but I know it’s a necessary evil (and, all jokes aside, something I’m lucky to have access to in comparison with a lot of the world). I’ve been trying to drink more of it, mostly because my body seems to go into instant bloat mode if I have any salt, and I can not stand when my face looks fuller than it already is. Last month, my face looked puffy for days and I had gained weight seemingly overnight. I forced myself to drink a full gallon of water one day, and the next day and I was down two pounds and my face looked normal again. Now I’m sold on the stuff. I go through a few gallons a week, so my brother recommended the Big Berkey. It’s not only better for the environment, and more cost effective in the long run, but the water it purifies is a lot better too. The assembly instructions seemed very complicated, so I convinced my friends Dan and Natasha to put it together for me (thanks, guys!). It’s a big ol’ thing, so you’ll need some good counter space if you get one.
Having Parties. My dope new apartment is the perfect party spot. The layout, the space, the deck, the bay window that overlooks a busy part of town so guests can have fun people watching and yelling out the window–it all works perfectly. I’ve had a couple small parties since I’ve moved in, and I’ve loved it. I don’t cook, but I’m great at buying chips and salsa, cheese and crackers, veggie platters, etc. I have a lot of friends who I would like to see more often, but it’s tough for me to make plans with a bunch of people during wedding season. I can usually only pull off one hangout a week, but when I have a party, I can hang out with several people at once. I’ve always hosted one or two pub crawl type parties each year, but I’m liking these house parties better for now. I love that my friends from different groups meet each other at my parties and become friends. All of my friends are great so hanging out with them all together in one place is the best.
Glossier Mango Balm Dotcom. It’s no secret that I love the Balm Dotcoms. I’ve tried every one except mint, so of course when the new Mango Balm Dotcom came out, I thought, Gotsta have it. It has more of mango candy scent than a real mango, but I’m into it. It is just as hydrating as their original Balm Dotcom, and I love subtle coral tint it gives. I haven’t felt this way about all of the Balm Dotcoms, but I’ll definitely buy this one again.
Dead To Me. If you haven’t watched this Netflix series yet, get to it! Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini are two national treasures, and they are great together. Christina plays Jen, the widow of a man killed in a hit in run, and she is befriended by Linda’s character. There’s some dark humor, lots of twists and a scene in which the actor playing one of Jen’s sons is wearing a Biggie shirt. That did not go unnoticed by me. I usually only like to watch comedies, but I like the two main actresses enough to watch this series, and I’m glad I did. Can’t wait for Season 2.
You know what else I love this summer? SUMMER. In my world, life is better in dresses and sandals. 8:30pm sunsets beat 4:00pm sunsets any day, and you’ll never have to scrape sunshine of your windshield, so how bad can your day be?
Every industry has its pros and cons. Teachers may have summers off, but they also have to put up with some bratty kids and nightmare parents. Real estate agents may have the potential to bring in a lot of money, but they also have to deal with demanding clients and buyers who disappear after showing them eight houses a week for two months. And bartending may seem like a fun, social job, but would you want to cater to drunk people every time you went into work? Let’s not forget that people throwing up on a bar is a thing.
Working as a makeup artist is no different. Sure, we get to make people look pretty (or look the part) and that in turn helps them feel more confident. We are able to flex our creative muscles, which you don’t get to do in a lot of jobs. We get to meet a lot of people and work on cool projects. And some of us get to see our names in movie and television credits, which is a good feeling. But it’s not all glowing skin and long lashes (the makeup equivalent of “puppies and rainbows”). There are some negatives to being a makeup artist, and if you’re considering working in this industry, it might help you to be aware of what you could be up against.
Gossip Girl. When I interview Independent Contractors for AB Beauty, I always make sure to tell them we are not a catty, gossipy company. I say that because unfortunately a lot of salons and makeup and hair trailers on set have that atmosphere. And it’s not just a behind the scenes thing. Have you ever been at a salon, getting your hair done while your hair stylist or one next to you talks crap about a fellow employee or a client? Sure you have. I think we all have. I’m not saying every salon is like that–and I’ve been in plenty that are not–but it’s a reality if you’re working in the industry.
It’s not just salons either. I’ve worked with many awesome hair stylists and makeup artists on different films, commercials and television shows over the years, but I’ve also worked with a few who would talk badly about someone the second they walked out of the room or trailer. That makes me so uncomfortable and is part of the reason I no longer take certain jobs. If you’re thinking about working in the beauty industry, my biggest piece of advice to you is to stay out of the drama. Don’t badmouth coworkers, bosses, clients, other crew members–really anyone. It may feel like it’s making you closer to the person you’re talking with if you gossip with them, but it will come back and bite you, either when what you’re saying gets back to the subject of your tirade, or in the form of other people viewing you as a shit talker.
When I’ve been face to face with a shit talker in the past, I’ve always tried to find a way to change the subject. For example, if Nice Person #1 leaves the room and the S Talker says “Nice Person is so full of herself. And she’s not even good at her job,” I would say “Have you worked with her before?” (a neutral question). If the S Talker said “Yeah,” I would ask what job they were on together. Then I would say something like “Oh, was that the one that went a week over schedule and messed everyone up?” or “Did you have a million overnights on that one?” or something off topic but in a natural way. Or if they hadn’t worked together before, I might say “I haven’t either,” then pull from my memory something that I meant to ask them at some point anyway. Like “Oh, I keep meaning to ask you! Have you tried that new Ben Nye powder? I heard it’s really good and I know you like that line.” You feel me? It’s a way out without joining in the gossip or walking away (which isn’t always possible). In this industry, your professional reputation is part of what gets you hired, so why risk losing opportunities because of badmouthing, which adds no value to anything anyway?
The Professional. The beauty industry has a reputation of being unprofessional. That’s not true of everyone in the industry, and those that I am friends with and associate with are professional. But the truth is, many people in the industry are not. I know this from personal experience and what I’ve seen and been told by other beauty service company owners and makeup artists. Over the course of the almost 11 years AB Beauty has been around, I have received several panicked calls from brides whose makeup artist or hair stylist cancelled weeks or days before their wedding. Can you imagine?!?! (I’m writing this on a Monday and got a panicked call from a bride whose makeup artist cancelled on her for this Friday.)
Professionalism encompasses not just showing up for a job–which you’d think would be a given–but arriving on time, being prepared and having appropriate conversations. It would be a) crazy to go out and get wasted the night before a job and b) tell that to a client, right? I’ve heard of hair stylists and makeup artists who have done just that. I’ve also heard of people who were dressed inappropriately, drank on the job (we get offered mimosas at most weddings!), left without finishing their work, etc. The good news is, if you can act and speak appropriately, show up on time and complete your work, the people who can’t or won’t do those things help you look better.
Even if you are professional, there are people who will assume you’re not, just based on the industry you’re in. It’s a stereotype you have to fight against, but you can prove people wrong. You’ll likely encounter others who decided to play into that stereotype and sometimes that will have an effect on you if you’re working with them, but if you show up on time, are prepared and have appropriate conversations, it will become pretty obvious that you are a true professional.
Noses Up In The Air. For whatever reason, some people look down at makeup artists. Those snobs don’t take our jobs seriously, and for no good reason. I think they think “How hard can it be to put lipstick on someone?” (First of all, no paying client wants just lipstick. And secondly, I’d bet all my money that they couldn’t do a perfect red lip on someone with uneven lips who tries to talk while lipliner is being applied.) People think a makeup artist’s job is just putting on makeup on others–which, by the way, most people couldn’t do without experience–but a) it’s not that easy and b) there’s more to a makeup artist’s job than just applying makeup.
If you’re going to be a makeup artist, you might encounter this even with people in your personal life. The mother of a friend of mine once said “Your parents must so happy that they paid for your college tuition and now you’re a makeup artist.” I thought, First of all, bitch, my parents did not pay for my college tuition, so don’t make assumptions, especially when your eyeliner is as jacked up as it is. But I said nothing, and went on to build a successful company and a lifestyle that she would surely be jealous of if she has to live in New England during the winter, which I believe she does.
My advice to you if you want to be a makeup artist is to grow some thick skin (but keep it moisturized). If someone thinks they’re better than you because of their job, don’t let that affect you. What they think of your profession has zero impact on your success, so let them use their energy judging other people while you work a job you love and potentially make more money than them. (The average full day rate for a commercial makeup artist is anywhere between $500 – $1000, depending on the market you are in. So take that, snobs!) If someone thinks less of you because you’re a makeup artist, take solace in the fact that they are wrong, you are right and your face will always look better than their’s.
D-I-S-R-E-S-P-E-C-T. You’d think when you’re on set at least, other people you were working for or with would understand the importance of your job, right? WRONG. The snobs you find looking in from the outside and judging you without really knowing what you do aren’t as bad as the ones who judge you and treat you disrespectfully, even though they are on a set or at a job with you. I’m talking about directors, producers, photographers, wedding planners and others who rush us makeup artists even when we are on time. Or stand in our way/our light while we are working. Or pull someone we are about to do makeup on for a 15 minute meeting then get mad when we are not done on time, etc. Yet we are expected to have the utmost respect for everyone’s job. Know what would happen if a makeup artist walked in front of the camera mid-shot? All hell would break loose!
There’s also sometimes just a general sense of “we’re better than you” that you can feel at some jobs. What the people who are giving off that vibe don’t realize is that the actor/bride/client/model/politician we are doing makeup on is not going to want to be on camera or in front of a crowd without spending some quality time with a makeup artist first. Trust me, no one wants to be filmed or photographed with dark undereye circles, redness or a shiny T-zone.
I’m lucky enough to work with a great crew, producer and hosts on the TV show I work on, and most of the wedding planners I work with at this point are respectful and protective of my time and set up area the day of. I sometimes get to work with awesome wedding photographers, and I love it when they are there. But I’ve also been on jobs with several photographers and videographers who try to move my makeup while I’m working (not my fault if I bite your hand as an automatic response to that), turn off lights while I’m working because they need different light for their shot of a wedding invitation, hit my shoulder with their camera lens while I am applying lipstick, etc.
I once had a photographer move a couch in front of my set up while I was working, essentially boxing me in, and when I asked them to move it after they were done getting a picture of the bridesmaids’ dresses, they looked at me, said “No,” and walked out of the room. I had to climb over the couch and then lift my heavy kit over it to be able to leave. The photographer had left some camera lenses on the couch and I thought “I could ‘accidentally’ pour my brush cleaner on these lenses and ruin some very expensive equipment,” but I let my Professional side overrule my Sicilian side, and I walked out. (Then I texted my photographer friend, Joe Laurin–who would never treat a makeup artist like that–to vent.)
If you want to be a makeup artist, you’ll work some great jobs with people who respect and understand the importance of your work, just as you (should) respect and understand the importance of their’s. But you’ll also inevitably work with some real jokers who think your job isn’t important and that you’re not smart or professional. These assholes have their minds made up about you before they meet you, so pay them no heed. Just try to not let it ruin your day when you do have to interact with them. It’s your job to do your best work and be professional, no matter what kind of jerks you encounter along the way (barring of course inappropriate or abusive behavior). You can bitch about them to someone in your personal life after you leave the job. I once told my father about an assistant director was who was rude and disrespectful to the female crew members on set, and for some reason described what the guy looked like. My father’s response was “Guys who look and act like that usually get punched.” Now, I don’t know if that’s true, but it made me feel better. So if it makes you feel better to think that a person who is rude is to you on a job is the type to get punched, imagine them getting clocked and see if that helps.
Trade Off. When you start out as a makeup artist, one of the most important things you’ll need to do is start a portfolio. But how do you get pictures of your work when no one is going to hire you because you don’t have a portfolio? The answer is trade work (aka “testing”). Find a photographer, hair stylist and model who are all also starting out and collaborate on a shoot that you can all use the photos from in your portfolios. I recommend doing that as often as possible until you build a portfolio that shows potential clients a good selection of your work. It’s smart to do these type of trade shoots when you’re starting out, as they will set you apart from the “makeup artists” who just have Instagram accounts with non-pro photos of makeup they’ve done on themselves and friends.
Trade work can also be something like doing makeup for the cover of a local magazine who doesn’t pay you but gives you free advertising in their publication, or doing makeup for the owner of a clothing boutique’s branding photos in exchange for a gift certificate to their store. This is part of the bartering world, and as long as you think the exchange is worth it for your time and level of experience, it’s not a bad thing.
But there’s another type of “trade” work that will surely be offered to you, and it’s less “trade” than “volunteer” work, except it’s not true volunteer work that is done for a good cause (like the Look Good, Feel Better program.) What I’m referring to is a job that is offered to you for no pay, but with the promise of “good exposure” (cue eye rolling from any veteran makeup artists reading this). If you are going to be a makeup artist, you’ll likely field several offers from people who want you to do makeup for a shoot, small fashion show, competition, etc. for free, but with the guarantee that you’ll get good exposure from doing the job. I don’t know if it’s common to be asked to work for free outside of the beauty industry, but it is very prevalent in this industry.
I took some of this “good exposure” work when I started, partly because I didn’t know any better and partly because I needed the practice. I don’t think I ever directly got any work from those type of jobs, but I did gain some experience, which has its own value. After a while, I realized I didn’t need those types of jobs. I’ll still very occasionally do a trade shoot if it’s with an AB Beauty hair stylist, a photographer I love and a model whose look I like, but that’s it. For anything other than that, unless you are my mother, my sister in law or select cousins, if my foundation brush touches your face, you’re paying me. This is my livelihood, and my time and my products–along with my 10+ years of experience–are worth more than one million exposure “dollars.”
When you are starting out, it may be worth it to take some exposure jobs to get experience, but I wouldn’t take this type of unpaid work past your first year as a makeup artist. I also wouldn’t do it that often, as your time would be better spent doing trade shoots and taking classes.
This ended up being a lot longer than I intended! Surprise, surprise, I have a lot to say about my career as a makeup artist. For me, the pros heavily outweigh the cons, and even my worst day in this career is better than my best day in my previous careers, as I’m doing something I enjoy, and on my own terms.
If you are starting out as a makeup artist or thinking about becoming one, I think it makes you better prepared if you’re aware of some of the not-so-great things you may encounter. No job is perfect, but if you love what you do, are good at it and are professional, this job can be damn close.
Look at me, getting to Part Two in a timely fashion! Let’s get right to it.
DATING & RELATIONSHIPS
Trust Your Gut. You ever get a pang of “This isn’t good” when you’re involved with someone? I have, too many times to count. And for the longest, I ignored that gut feeling because I liked a guy, or at least liked what I thought he was or could be. Guess what happened every time I ignored my intuition? Up in flames, baby. I was the master ignorer of gut feelings and red flags in my 20s. The red flags were often so obvious that my friends could spot them, sometimes from several states away. But I would make excuses for some dude’s bad behavior, analyzing his life and coming up with a hypothesis on how he got like that (born an asshole, as some people are) and why it was okay (it wasn’t). I sometimes put up with things for a month or two more than I should–which I’m working on cutting down to “not a minute longer than I should”–but I don’t drag things out for several month or longer because my intuition bells ring too loudly if I try. I say intuition because while sometimes the red flags are obvious, other times it’s hard to tell if it’s red flags or just normal human flaws, but my gut always knows which side they fall on. I’m betting your’s does too.
Speak Up. In my 20s, I was afraid to say how I really felt or talk about where things were going with guys I dated. Not only did I not want to put pressure on someone, but I think I wanted to be that chill girl who is cool with whatever and didn’t need to make plans. But that kind of attitude or failure to communicate caused a lot of confusion and sometimes heartbreak. Now when I start to date someone, I’m very up front about my schedule and how I don’t stand for constant bailing and consistently pushing plans back by several hours for no reason. I figure if a guy doesn’t like that, he can go find someone else. I don’t have the kind of traditional timeline that a lot of people have that involves moving in together, getting engaged, getting married and starting a family, but if those things are important to you, I say let ’em know. Maybe not on the first date, but also maybe not before you get too far in. I’m not a relationship expert, but I’ve noticed a big difference in the relationships I’ve been in where I wasn’t shy to say how I feel or what my non-negotiables were as opposed to those where I didn’t say a peep about anything that was important to me. It can be scary to be so open with communication, but I’ve learned that it’s definitely worth it.
Let It Go, Let It Go. To me, the worst part of dating isn’t the near constant disappointment or the analysis/translation of texts that often needs to be done. It’s how much mental time and energy I sometimes expend, particularly when things aren’t going well. I’ve gotten a lot better with this over the years and my tendency to cut things off by the three month mark is helpful, but I could still improve. When I catch myself in the midst of dating overthinking, I try to force myself to snap out of it and let those thoughts go. I’ve learned that overthinking and worrying does nothing to change the past, has no affect on what could happen in the future and makes me feel like shit in the present. So I do my best to pull away from those useless thoughts (which usually also means avoiding going to my friends for input) and focus on more important things like my business, redecorating my apartment and taking Buzzfeed quizzes.
OWNING A BUSINESS
Get Thee A Support Group. Girllllll, running a business is a wild ride. But if you’re a solopreneur, it can be mad lonely. I’ve learned that surrounding myself with other entrepreneurs who I can turn to for support and advice is essential. I’m lucky enough to have found my people through Hatch Tribe. And, well, I’ll just let you read this.
Save Yourself. Unless someone else is funding your business, you need money. And probably more than you think. As a business owner, I wasn’t in the position to put away much in savings for the first five years. But once I could, I did, and now I can’t stop, won’t stop. You never know when a law or tax code is going to change and cost you. Or when something is going to change/break/flood at your office or storefront. I’ve found that having a good cushion of savings helps me weather those unexpected storms without putting me in a bad position or causing anxiety.
Give Me a Break. I’m the first to admit that I’m not great at taking time off. But, I am improving! I’ve learned that giving myself permission to take the afternoon and sometimes evening off (I’m not quite at a full day yet) is not only important but imperative to my personal well-being and my aptitude as a business owner. Batteries need a recharge, you know? Entrepreneur burnout is real and it is rough, but it can be avoided by taking some time off. I’ve found that scheduling in hangouts with friends on my calendar like I schedule in meetings and client appointments makes me take those breaks (which I always love) so I don’t work all day, every day.
You Ain’t Rich. Or I don’t know, maybe you are. If you’ve got a yacht, six houses and a personal assistant for your dog, skip to the next section. But if you sometimes look at something and think “I wish I could afford that,” stay right here. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in life is to live within your means. If I’m being honest, I’ve personally been pretty good at this for my whole life, I think because I’ve always had people around who weren’t, and I saw the struggle they went through. Some of the lessons I’ve learned have come more from watching others than experiencing it myself. I saw people who could barely pay their rent or mortgage spend money on nice cars, trips, clothes, concert tickets, etc. then feel major stress when their bills were due. Even from a young age, I remember thinking Why don’t they just buy the stuff they can afford? I don’t mean this in a judgmental way, and maybe the things people buy that they don’t have the money for bring them so much joy that it’s worth it. As an observer of life and a Psych minor who is fascinated by people’s behavior and choices though, I wonder why some people buy things that they can’t afford but also constantly feel stressed about money.
I’ve had my share of the bank account blues, and I’m no financial wizard, so I’m sure there are things I could be doing better. But I try to be very aware of what my expenses are, what my income is and what that leaves me for spending money. Once my business took off and I made enough to have spending money, I figured out what kind of lifestyle I could afford and went from there. Having little or no money is crazy stressful, so why put yourself in that position? I realize it can’t always be avoided, and I’m not talking about people who are born into poverty or experience unexpected major financial problems. I’m just saying I’ve learned that I had to say no to fun trips, new clothes, dinners out, etc. at certain points in my life because doing those things would put me behind with my bills. The point of this very long section is that if you’re struggling financially, it may be worth it to take a hard look at your lifestyle and see if you can really afford it. If you can’t, you can either minimize your expenses, increase your income, or both, which will in turn likely reduce your stress. And isn’t life better when you have less stress?
Sweat The Small Stuff. I’ve never been shy about saying that my first five years in business were a struggle. I was making just enough to get by, and it was tough. I reduced as many of my expenses as possible, and I also learned to pay attention to the small stuff. Gone were the days of buying coffee, which could easily cost me $500 a year if I did it five days a week. At the time I lived in Struggle City, that $500 a year would pay for two months of rent at my shared office space, and now I look at $500 as two round trip flights to Charleston. Also during those years, I learned to check for coupons and promo codes before I bought/ordered anything. Even if I only saved $25 a month, that was half my electric bill or Internet bill at the time. I set alarms on my phone so I would never go over my parking meter time and get a ticket, I sold clothes I didn’t wear on consignment instead of leaving them to collect dust in my closet, I printed business documents double sided so I didn’t have to buy as much paper, etc. I found that these small savings added up, and I still do all of those things today.
Give It Up. Even in my broke-est (not a word) days, I still knew I had it better than a lot of people. Not just financially, but because of my quality of life. I was safe in my own home, healthy, had food and access to clean water and had shelter. There are a lot of people who don’t have all of those things, and money can help improve their lives. So seven years ago, I decided my New Year’s Resolution would be to make a different charitable donation each month that year. I kept that up after 2012, and now I’m able to give more money and do it more frequently. It’s not a humble brag, but I’m mentioning it because it’s one of the financial lessons I’ve learned. I feel like part of my responsibility as someone who is lucky enough to have a good life and have my basic needs meet is to help out those who are struggling and haven’t been so lucky. I know I talk a lot about saving and buying what you can afford, but I seriously doubt anyone was ever met with financial ruin because they made too many donations.
Move, Get Out The Way. You ever try to get by someone when they have plenty of space and they somehow don’t see you so they don’t budge? Or walk up to a bar with two friends and know that if the oblivious guy sitting there moved down to the empty seat next to him there would be three open seats for you and your friends? Isn’t that maddening? I’m assuming someone taught me this when I was young, but I am always very aware of where I am in relation to other people and if I am taking up more space than I need. I want to be comfortable, but I also want other people to be comfortable (unless they like Tupac better than Biggie). I think part of being a good human is being aware that other people exist, and acknowledging that it’s not just you and the people you are with in when you are out in the world.
Timed Out. I’ve been late a few times in my life (not for clients), and it always makes me feel frazzled. I also find it very rude to the person I am meeting up with/have an appointment with, as I believe it gives one of two messages (often both): “Your time is not as important as mine” and “I’m bad at time management.” I don’t think my time is more important than anyone else’s and I’d like to think I’m good at time management, so those aren’t messages I want to give. Being on time (usually early) has served me well in my professional life, as it’s part of what proves to clients that I am responsible and reliable, and in personal life, I think it’s made me viewed as a reliable friend. Like Ashanti, I’m not always there when you call, but I’m always on time.
Forget The Shoulds. At my age, some people would say I should be married. I should have kids by now. I should own a home, not rent an apartment. But I don’t give a shit about how other people think I should live my life. My life is dope. I’m not a conventional person, and I have no desire to do things that way some others think I should. I didn’t learn this lesson until my mid 20s, but I’m glad I did because it’s a big one. If you know a decision you have to make is smart, won’t hurt others and will make you happy, I say do it to it, even if you face disapproval. I’ve learned to make my decisions that way, and that is part of what’s allowed me create the life I want. I realize some people have very strong-opinioned people in their lives who put pressure on them, and I’m sure that’s tough. No one who I love has tried to blatantly should me into something, so I’m lucky. But I have encountered some people–even some who I care about–who have implied that I’m doing something weird or living life the wrong way, and some who’s disapproval I can sense. And to them, I (silently) say Your opinion about that means nothing to me. Let’s break down your life and see if the shoulds you caved into worked out for you. I’ve learned to live my life the way I want to, and it’s working out great.
I’m now over a week into my late 30s, gaining so much wisdom it hurts (everything hurts after 35) 😉 If even one thing I said helps you or makes you feel better about something, I’ll consider this two part series a success. Thanks for reading!
This week, I officially entered my late 30s. That seems weird. I mean, I’m happy I’m here, but wasn’t I just in college? What’s that now? I graduated 15 years ago? And Method Man is 48 years old? We must be in some kind of time warp.
I feel like I’ve lived several different lifetimes. I went through childhood being shy in school but I always had several good friends and an imagination that was mayyyyybe on the overactive side. Middle school and high school Allison had very low self confidence, a strong love of hip hop and lot of crushes on bad boys. College Allison started out excited but unsure of herself and left with a little confidence, a 3.8 GPA, lots of stories of bad boys disguised as good guys, and a high tolerance for Bacardi Limon. The Florida Allison (who existed for two years post-college) learned how to be completely independent–a far cry from High School Allison who wouldn’t go on errands without a friend in tow and was afraid to drive on the highway–and also how to survive hurricanes, palmetto bugs and working for companies outside of the family business. The Back to Newport/New Business Owner years brought excitement, struggle, a diagnosed gluten allergy and, you guessed it, more bad boys (but shouldn’t they just be called “assholes” after age 25?). The phase I’m in now–Established Business Owner and Working Snowbird–doesn’t always have the fun or excitement of some of the earlier years, but I’m okay with that. I don’t have time for the hangovers anyway.
I have a great life and all of my previous lifetimes brought me to this one, so I wouldn’t change any of my big life choices. I’ve learned a lot–even if it took me several versions of the same lesson to get something through my “thick skull,” as my mother would say. I have no doubt that I’ll look back at my current life when I’m in my late 40s (hopefully my Retired Business Owner and True Snowbird phase) and think Wow, there was so much I didn’t know! and probably a little Why the hell was I doing that? Maybe I’ll write a new blog post then, if blogs still exist and we are not all solely communicating via photos and likes…
Until then, I think this birthday week is a good time to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned since the early 1980s. And because I need to write to sort out my thoughts, here we are. Ready for me to drop some wisdom? You know I love to.
Skincare, Skincare, Skincare. Your skin is your body’s largest organ, so take care of it! I’ve learned that cleansing, moisturizing, exfoliating (if it’s not contraindicated with any prescription products in your arsenal) and using sunscreen makes a big difference. Those are the basics, and I recommend a few other things as well, but I’d be happy if you were just doing those four essentials. If you neglect your skin, it will catch up with you (remember now, I see a lot of faces and hear a lot about skincare routines or lack thereof) and it won’t be something you can solve with a serum or a facial. The biggest lesson I’ve learned with skincare is to start a routine early in life, stay consistent and spread the good word. Need some basic skincare help? Check out my routine.
Do You. As long as humans exist, there will be beauty trends. If a trend interests you, give it a try. But make no mistake–trends are not universally flattering. For example, I learned that the flat ironed-hair trend of the mid-aughts was no good on me. And if I grow out my brows to the currently popular Cara Delevingne level (something most women with Italian blood can do), they will take up way too much of my face. I’m sure you’ve tried beauty trends that did nothing to flatter you, or even just seen one and thought “No way.” So go with what works on you, and do it proudly.
Go Pro. There’s a lot of DYI in the beauty world. You can learn how to do your own everyday makeup, curl your own hair and paint your own nails. Maybe you’d rather not do those things yourself, so I say if it’s within the budget, outsource. But there are some things that you really should see a pro for. Unless you 100% know what you’re doing, any hair removal methods other than shaving and tweezing are better off left to the pros. (And with brow tweezing, I would recommend getting your brows professionally shaped first, then following that shape to upkeep.) I also recommend keeping hair coloring–especially if it involves bleach–the domain of licensed cosmetologists. If you are going to use any skincare devices at home, either really make sure you know what you are doing (read the instructions, check reviews and watch tutorials) or leave that one to your esthetician or dermatologist. I’ve seen paper thin nails, extremely damaged hair, and burns and scars on the face from people who didn’t know what they were doing. I don’t want that to happen to you.
Show ‘Em Love. In my book, family members are there to support each other. To me, that means things like going to graduations and career awards ceremonies, offering rides to the airport, visiting when a baby is born, etc. I know it’s tough and my wedding weekend schedule means I personally miss a lot of stuff, but I go to what I can and try to make up for what I have to skip. If you have a strained relationship with a relative, I understand that this may not be something you’re comfortable with. But with those you are on good terms with, showing up and being there can mean a lot.
Be Grateful. Even if you only have one relative, you still have one more than some people. And family doesn’t have to be people that are related to you. Sometimes blood isn’t thicker than water, and the people you consider to be family may not be in the strictest sense of the word. Whoever your family is, I’ve found that it’s good to take time to really be thankful for them. I think people who have encountered the loss or a near loss of a loved one really understand how lucky we are for each day we have someone in our lives. It’s easy to take it for granted until someone is no longer around, or until they get the kind of news that could mean they might not be for long. Having had some losses and some scary times (my mother had brain cancer and my father had pancreatic cancer), I really do treasure every moment I have with the people I love. When I’m in a bad mood or throwing myself a pity party, I think Snap out of it, Allison. Look how lucky you are to have your family. It usually works, but sometimes I have to really push myself out of the crap mood into gratitude. But once I do, I feel much better. Might be worth giving this tactic a try. You have nothing to lose!
No One Is Perfect. Everyone has their flaws. I’ve seen families split apart over inheritances, differences in child-rearing, even disagreements from 20 years before that no one can even really remember. If someone does something truly wrong or is abusive, that’s one thing. But an offhand comment about someone’s dress color at Christmas in 1992? Seems a little much to sever ties over. The anger, sense of being wronged and grudges that people can hold and build up throughout the years likely does more damage to the hold-er than the hold-ee. I once got upset with one of my cousins for a stupid guy situation in my 20s, and didn’t talk to her for several months. Then I watched a big family drama unfold about something else, and it split part of my family up. I personally thought what they were fighting about and how much energy they put towards it was crazy, and it made me realize that I didn’t want to cut my cousin out of my life. So I called her to talk it out, and we got past it. And I’m so glad I did that, because we have always been close and I would have really been missing out on an important relationship in my life if I stopped talking to her all those years ago.
Stay In Touch. Friendships, like any other relationship, take some effort. I consider myself lucky because I have a lot of great friends, but I do put in the effort to get together if we live in the same part of the country (or meet up with them if they are taking a trip to anywhere near me if not). I try to email/call/text (depending on what they seem to prefer) to wish them a happy birthday, see how their new job is or just say hi. I know we are all busy and it can be tough to find the time, but I’ve found that staying in touch with my friends show them that I care. Having friends makes my life better and more enjoyable, so it’s 1000000% worth the effort.
Put Yourself In Their Shoes. When I’m talking to a friend, I tailor what I say to them in a way that I think will be best received. Some friends like brutal honesty, others need a lot of sugarcoating, and some are in the middle. When I’m having a conversation or texting with one of my homegirls or homeboys, I take into consideration their past and what they may be sensitive to, and then I tread carefully in certain areas. I’ve also learned to identify which friends like advice (more on that next), which ones like to vent, and which ones don’t like to talk about what’s bothering them at all. I also try to think about their lives and what their days tend to be like. For example, between 7:00pm – 8:00pm seems to be bedtime for a lot of my friends’ kids, so I try not to bother my mom friends during that time. Or if I know someone is planning a big event or project for work, or if a certain time of month tends to be crazier for them with their job, I realize I might not hear back from them during that time, or it’s going to be tough for them to get together while that’s going on. I’ve learned that part of being a good friend is being understanding of where someone is coming from and how that might impact your interactions with them.
Lend An Ear. A psychic once told me that I’m a “Wisdom Talker,” which means I give good advice. And I’m not bragging, but several non-psychic people have also told me I give good advice. If that’s true, I think it’s because I try to learn from my experiences and the experiences of everyone I know, and pull from that when someone is in need of guidance. But I try not to force my advice on anyone. Sometimes I can’t help it and it comes out before I’ve had time to tell myself to shut up, but I really try to remember to ask a friend first if they want input. Sometimes people just want to vent, and that’s okay. If a friend doesn’t say some version of “What do you think I should do?” but they seem like they might want my input, I’ll say “Do you want my advice or just want me to listen?” Takes the guessing right out and puts you both on the same conversational page.
Pay Attention. If I notice a change in the way something on my body looks or feels, or a change in how I feel in general, I make a doctor’s appointment. I don’t do that thing where I ignore it and hope it goes away, like I used to do with weird sounds my car was making. Early detection makes a world of a difference with a lot of diseases and disorders, so why wouldn’t I get something checked out? We only get one body, and the owner’s manual (fine, I’ll write it) repeatedly says to be aware of any changes and make sure someone who knows what they are doing does a check up for you. I am super aware of my body and any changes, and if I can’t figure out what is causing them, I go see my doctor. I don’t go for every tiny thing, but if I can’t trace it back (i.e. migraines every day for a week versus headaches at night only after working on my laptop for 14 hours), I make that appointment. I don’t want this to be a lesson I don’t learn until it’s too late.
Be Proactive. If you fuel your body with crap food, it will catch up with you. If you don’t consistently move your body, it will catch up with you. If you worry and stress about friggin’ everything, it will catch up with you. I’ve learned these lessons the hard way, y’all. We only get one body, so I say, treat it right. What you do to your body in your 20s, 30s and 40s will likely affect the person you are in your 50s, 60s and 70s. If you eat lots of sugar, overdo it with the booze, stress yourself out on the daily and exercise only for that one week each year after New Year’s Day, your body will pay for it. And it may pay for it much sooner than you think. We have this awesome opportunity to take care of ourselves and likely prevent some health issues from occurring. I’m not saying never have a doughnut or skip a workout, and I’m certainly not implying that you should not allow yourself to be in a shit mood once in a while. But what you consistently eat now can help cause–or help prevent–future issues. Whether or not you consistently exercise now will make an impact on you. And how much you stress or don’t stress affects things too. Some of what happens to our bodies is out of our control, but a lot of it is in our control. I’ve found that taking responsibility for what I put in my body, how much I move my body and the level of stress I put myself under has made a huge difference in how I look, feel and how I approach life.
Thank Your Lucky Stars. If you’re healthy right now, be grateful! If you’re reading this, you have your eyesight, which some people would kill for. If you can hear car horns beeping/your neighbor’s dog barking/your coworker loudly chewing, you’ve got your hearing, which many people have lost or never had. If you didn’t have to get dialysis this week or go in for another heart procedure, you’re lucky. You feel me? I think that sometimes we (and I’m absolutely including myself in this category) forget how fortunate we are to live a life unencumbered with major health issues. It’s the “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” thing. Having watched people close to me go through various illnesses and disorders has helped me realize how lucky I am to have my health. I think that gratitude, in combination with being aware of changes and taking care of myself gives me at least an A- in the Health category.
Well, this seems long enough for Part 1. I’m not trying to “should” you or give you a list of Do’s and Don’ts because really, who am I to tell you how to live? But I think in my nearly four decades on this planet, I’ve learned some stuff. Maybe it will help you, maybe you can relate, or maybe you think everything I said is wrong, impossible or not your style. And that’s cool, but I would avoid Part 2 if that’s how you feel…
I have a good life and I think learning these lessons along the way is part of what has helped me love my life. I know I have a lot more to learn, and some of the upcoming lessons will be painful, sad or maddening. But as long as I don’t go back to bad boys, I think I’ll be fine.
The beauty industry. You’ve heard of it, right? It’s a $57 billion industry in the US, and $445 billion globally. So, you know, it has some impact. This industry provides products and service providers who can help people look and feel better, but it’s also chock full of deception. I’m here to break through some of that deception and tell you what’s really up.
HAIR (I’ve learned most of this from AB Beauty hair stylists)
Mo’ Hair, Less Problems. Chances are that majority of the models and celebrities in pictures you’ve pinned and liked are wearing hair extensions, and lots of them. But unless you naturally have a ton of hair, it’s impossible for a hair stylist to recreate a hair style from one of those pictures unless you are also wearing extensions. Extensions aren’t just for length–they add fullness to a look. And a lot of the looks you might like–even if they don’t seem to be especially voluminous–require more hair than most people naturally have. This is an important one to keep in mind when showing inspiration pictures of styles or haircuts you like to a hair stylist.
She’s So One Sided. Here’s a little secret: hair done at a styled shoot isn’t always completely done. So if you see a picture of a hair style you love from a photoshoot, it’s possible that just the front was done. Not only might the back of the hair be a mess, but it could be styled in a way that would make the front of the hair look fabulous but unattainable without the back looking horrible. You follow me? It’s hidden hair deception at its finest.
That’s Messed Up. I don’t know who started this trend, but about five years ago, messy/undone looks became all the rage. And I get it. You’re talking to a girl who likes some messy makeup. Hair that is too polished or structured may not be your thing, while messy styles look more effortless and in some people’s eyes, more current. But here’s the thing about messy looks–they get more and more messy as the day goes on. That’s not a problem if you’re on set with a hair stylist who is standing by to do touchups as needed, or you’re on the red carpet and brought your hair stylist as your date for the same reason. But if you get your hair done (or undone) at 1:00pm for a wedding or event and expect it to look the same seven hours later, you’re in for a surprise. Hair moves throughout the day, unless you stand completely still, encounter no wind and don’t let anyone hug you. Basically, mannequins who stay out of the elements and hate affection are the only ones who might be the exception to this rule.
Long Lash-ed. Most pictures that people show me of makeup looks they like show models or celebrities that are wearing false lashes or have lash extensions. And that’s great–I’ve got plenty of false lashes to go around! (Although you’ll need to see a lash tech for extensions.) In some photos, the model or celebrity is wearing two sets of false lashes, which the average “I don’t really wear makeup” person would likely find very heavy. There are some people whose natural lashes look like false lashes, but they are few and far between. So for most of us to get that long, dark and full lash, it requires false lashes or lash extensions.
An Uplifting (Untrue) Message. As we age, our collagen and elastin naturally deplete, which causes skin to sag. Sun exposure can expedite this process, as UVA rays break down collagen. Facial fat loss–either the kind that happens with age or the kind that happens from whole body weight loss at any age–can also cause sagging. Prescription retinoids can help increase the production of collagen, but when it comes to significant skin sagging or jowls, you’re going to have to bring in the big guns (dermatologists and plastic surgeons) to tighten up that area. Here’s what won’t work: a $12 drugstore serum, and or any skincare product that claims it can lift sagging skin, and quickly! There’s also not much makeup can do in this arena. Some contouring can help make the sagging or jowls a little less noticeable, and drawing attention to other parts of the face where sagging is not present is a good diversion tactic, but don’t expect miracles from a makeup artist here.
Where The Hood At? (Props if you got that DMX reference.) Hooded eyes are common, and there are makeup looks you can do that look great on them. But all eye shapes have their limitations in terms of what eye makeup will be most flattering. And winged liner on a hooded eye is tricky. That’s because on a hooded eye, the folds of the skin don’t allow for the placement of a smoothly drawn wing that can be seen when the eyes are open. Some eyes are partially hooded, and some more so, so it’s probably easiest if I just give you some winged liner tutorials so you can identify the eyes that are most like your’s if you have hooded lids. Here’s one for hooded and uneven eyes, one from Pixiwoos’ Sam for a cat eye for hooded lids and one from Wayne Goss about a technique for applying eyeshadow to hooded lids.
Pucker Up. Got thin lips? Welcome to the club! My upper lip is almost non-existent when I smile. While there are things you can do with makeup to make your lips look a little fuller without looking fake, they won’t have a drastic effect. Lip plumpers may claim they can do that, but they can only slightly increase your lip size, and temporarily. Fillers are the only way to really increase the size of your lips, so don’t be fooled by a well written Insta post or magazine review of a plumping product. And while you can edit out/soften the obviousness of a strongly overdrawn lip on social media, you ain’t foolin’ no one in person with that technique.
THE WHOLE SHEBANG
Ready For Your (Re)touch Up? In so many photos we see, the model has been retouched. Sometimes the retouching is stuff we can do with hair, makeup and skincare products, like taming flyaways (hairspray), making the cheeks brighter (more blush) or giving a sheen to the arms and legs (luminizing body lotion or oil). But there is a lot that retouching does that we can’t do with hair or makeup, like erasing pores and texture, smoothing over the area under the eyes so it barely looks recessed and making wrinkles disappear. I think most people look at retouched photos and think that what they’re seeing is all from makeup, so I’m here to tell you it is not. And y’all know about the retouching you can do on Instagram and using retouching apps (Facetune, anyone?), because you’ve probably done it. So I don’t need to get into that.
Filter Through It. Instagram filters can change the way hair and/or makeup looks. Loving that certain hair color on a model? It might not look like that in person, thanks to Valencia, Nashville or Mayfair. Ditto with a bright lipstick. MAC Lady Danger, an warm orange red, can look dark red, bright orange or deep pink if you slap on a filter. If you’re looking at a hair or makeup picture on Instagram, it’s probably be retouched, filtered or both.
Light It Up. Good lighting makes a world of difference. It can make an okay makeup job or hair color look much better than it is. I see this a lot with makeup inspiration photos people show me. If the picture is from a celebrity in a magazine, they had professional lighting (on top of the experienced photographer, makeup artist, hair stylist and photo editor). Beauty gurus caught onto this a while ago and many use ring lights for their photos or makeup tutorials. But if the celebrity, model or guru walked into a room, you might not love their makeup or hair color as much.
The moral of the story is this: makeup artists are not plastic surgeons or dermatologists, and hair stylists can’t make you look like you have twice the amount of hair without extensions. Beauty pros also can’t follow you around with professional lighting all day (although I imagine “light follower” will become a profession in the future). And no human can do all of the things a photo editing program can do. And that’s okay! We’re humans, not robots. Who said we have to look perfect all the time? I mean, other than social media and some womens’ magazines.
If you see a hair or makeup photo you want to show your hair stylist or makeup artist for inspiration, go for it. It helps gives us an idea of what you want. And now you know what can go on before, during and after a photo is taken, and what beauty products or techniques can really do, so you’re the kind of client we love.
This is not a beauty post. I’ll be back to my usual bitching about overly retouched photos and scolding you for not properly cleansing your skin with the next post. Today, I’m going off course.
You know when you’re out on a date and the person you’re with asks “So, what do you like to do for fun?” (“Not this,” I want to say.) I hate that question, but I feel compelled to answer direct questions. It seems like these dudes are looking for me to tell them some kind of hobby, and the closest thing I have to a hobby is comedy. Going to comedy shows, watching stand up specials, listening to podcasts hosted by or with guest comics I love, reading the books they write, following them on Instagram, etc. I’ll always choose a comedy show over going to a bar or going to the movies and definitely over hiking, camping, or any of that nonsense.
I have always loved to laugh (are there people who don’t?). As a child, Comedy Central was my favorite channel. I liked funny movies the best and was an SNL fan, even if I didn’t get half of the references. I would read the George Carlin books my parents had over and over again. I was drawn to people who could make me laugh and would be psyched if I ended up in a class with the funny kid.
All of my family members have a great sense of humor. My mother is a smartass. Her sarcasm–and how she yells “You turkey!” at cars who cut her off–makes me laugh every day. My brother, Mikey B, is a quick witted boy genius with an infectious laugh. He’s so intelligent that I’d be jealous of him if it didn’t work to my advantage (I’d be lost without his sage business advice). My sister-in-law, Katelin, is the ginger version of my mom, but her smartassery has a sweeter undertone, I think because she smiles so much. Not a family dinner goes by without Katelin and my mom giving each other the finger. My Aunt Michelle is one of the creators of the Women in Comedy Festival in Boston and has done stand up herself. She is smart and funny and a super mom to four young children.
And then there’s my father, Big Ray. I’ve always been convinced that he was a court jester in a past life, but recently I decided that he is a cartoon character. The way he looks, the expressions he makes, the ridiculous things he says. I mean, look at that face! (Him opening a Father’s Day gift full of Sasquatch things.) He can’t be a real person.
We are a family who laughs. We laugh during good times, and we laugh during bad times. And we’ve certainly had some bad times.
My father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June of 2015. He went through chemo, radiation, surgery then more chemo and is now cancer-free. That’s something I’m grateful for every day in a way I can’t fully express. But the summer of his diagnosis, especially before the first scan came back and showed that the chemo was working, I was a mess. I had two modes when I wasn’t with my family: working or crying. There was no in between. I would walk around town to do errands as I usually do, crying behind my sunglasses. Whenever someone asked how my father was doing, I struggled to hold back tears.
From the initial “something’s not right” discoveries to the “the cancer is gone” appointment over a year later, I felt like I was holding my breath. I had a lot of crying sessions on the floor of my living room and my beauty studio those first few months. I was stressed–a word I do not use loosely–as I was running my business as well as part of my father’s property management business, which my brother and I had started to take over (Big Ray worked through his first chemo and radiation until surgery, then took four months off to recover and do more chemo). I’m no stranger to 14 hour work days and 7 day work weeks, but that in combination with the constant fear of what could happen made me feel like like I was being crushed.
My game plan became to distract myself as much as possible. I was able to do that when I was with clients, as I get deep in the zone when I’m doing makeup, mega focused on making the client, photographer or director happy. I’ve been a bookworm since I learned how to read, so in summer of 2015, I first tried to distract myself with reading. That didn’t work, because my mind would wander and I’d find myself staring at the same page I started on, sobbing. I felt better when I was with friends and through a couple group emails explained exactly what I was feeling and how I needed to be around people, but a lot of my friends don’t live nearby and a few just couldn’t be bothered. I don’t have a tv (and haven’t since 2003) but I do have a laptop and a solid WiFi connection, so I tried watching stuff online. I had watched YouTube makeup tutorials for years, but in summer of 2015, I started watching comedy clips on YouTube. And that is what helped me in a huge way.
I found that I couldn’t be crying while I was laughing (how weird would that be?). Even though I never cried or showed my sadness in front of my dad, I knew crying was pointless because it wasn’t doing anything to help him and was not a good look (it’s a bitch to apply eyeliner on puffy eyelids). So I tried to replace that with laughing. There were nights when I would stop work at 8:00pm, crawl into bed, and watch comedy specials for three or four hours. I eventually joined the rest of the 21st century and got Netflix where I found more comedy gold. I binge watched entire series that made me laugh–30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt–but mostly, I watched stand up specials. I didn’t want serious. I wanted funny only, and there is so much good stuff out there.
Laughter really does help. I cried less and less as the summer went on. How could I be crying when Chris D’Elia was making me laugh so hard that my downstairs neighbors could hear me? And although my father took his medicine and doctor’s instructions carefully, he was laughing (and making me laugh) every day too. He made up a song called “Chemo Man,” sung to the tune of “Piano Man,” and would call me to leave voicemails with new ridiculous verses. He had named the tumor in his pancreas the “Junior Tumor” because it was so small it barely showed up on scans, and he made up stories told from the “wimpy” tumor’s point of view. His jokes didn’t stop at home. At the hospital, protocol was to ask the patient’s name and date of birth at intake. Raymo never gave his real name. He would respond “Albert Einstein,” “Vito Corleone,” “Donald Trump,” or–and this is the one he was so proud of himself for–“Einstein Albert.” He would call me after an appointment to tell me how he made his oncologist laugh. And this was while he was going through some tough treatments, fighting a disease that killed one of his brothers and his grandfather.
Four years later, with two healthy parents (did I mention my mom had brain cancer when I was in high school?) and enough gratitude to make me borderline annoying, my comedy obsession has grown. I watch or listen to something that makes me laugh every single day, and I go to as many shows as I can. When people ask me for comic suggestions–a conversation I find myself in several times a week–I’m always ready to answer. But I don’t just mention a few names. There are too many great comics out there! I am a list maker, so that’s what they get. And that’s what you’re getting too.
Here it is!
JR De Guzman
The Lucas Brothers
The Sklar Brothers
*Brody sadly passed away in March of 2019, but you can find his specials and clips of him online.
I’m no authority on comedy. I think if a comic makes you laugh, that’s awesome. If you don’t find someone funny, I’ve got some great news for you: You don’t have to watch or follow them. But don’t leave asshole comments on their social media. The people who publicly and repeatedly say a certain comic is not funny are probably the least funny people out there.
I have been writing this post for two years. Comedy is so important to me that I wanted it to be perfect before sharing this. I was originally going to give my take on each of the comics I love, but I think I’m going to split that into different posts, because I’ve got a lot more to say and this is already way too long. In the meantime, I wanted to at least give a list of my favorite comics, since I talk to everyone–friends, clients, Lyft drivers–about comedy and am constantly giving recommendations.
I don’t care about the laugh lines–I’d rather be laughing than not. I bet you didn’t expect that from a makeup artist and esthetician!