Ever wonder what it would be like working as a makeup artist? Wonder no more. We spoke to Anna Nenoiu, a veteran makeup artist who has worked with Elle and Fashion magazine (and even celebrities like Lady Gaga) to get the inside scoop.

Here’s what it’s like to be a makeup artist.


Workopolis: What’s an average day like for a makeup artist?

Nenoiu: My days are full of creative collaboration and intense teamwork. I am blessed to work with the best hairstylists, editors, publications, models, and designers. Some days I work with celebrities (Lady Gaga, The Pussycat Dolls, Fallout Boy, Kacey Musgraves, Fefe Dobson, Lauren Holly, All American Rejects, Sara Gadon). And other days I am shooting editorial content for various magazines (like Fashion, In Style, Bazaar, Best Health, Elle) but most of my work is in fashion advertising for a wide range of clients.

How stressful is it?

Having a great attitude and a pleasant outgoing personality are just a few of the essentials in my business. Professionalism and tact are unparalleled when you are working with celebrity clients. No one wants to work with a “Debbie Downer”. The work we do is tough and can be stressful. Mentally you have to be a spontaneous, inventive, creative person who is ok and willing to cope with an ever changing, last minute schedule which might require long hours and early call times (4:00 a.m. if you want to be ready for sunrise) and often overtime without prior notice.

No job can be taken for granted or is guaranteed to happen. Things get rebooked or cancelled last minute due to weather change or flight cancellations, or the clothes not being available, etc. As I like to say: Nothing is for sure until I am actually there, doing the job.

Are the hours long?

Physically, being a makeup artist requires you to be on your feet all day, hunched over in uncomfortable body positions, (high chairs and perfect lighting are mostly available only on photo shoots held in professional photo studios). We are always running around set or on location caring our “kit” (think giant heavy bags containing anything and everything under the sun so that we are prepared in any situation: tons of fake eyelashes, over 25 shades of foundations, powders, more then 100 lipstick shades, lip gloss in every colour of the rainbow, sparkle, sequins, body makeup, glitter, latex and eyebrows bleach just to name a few “must haves” of a makeup artist). I’ve been in situations where we hiked and walked for hours to dreamy locations in Bali, shot in uncomfortable heat and humidity in rain forests, and been on rocky cliffs above the ocean in Newfoundland or on the edge of an active volcano in Nicaragua. All these extreme situations required careful planning and execution not to mention intense maintenance of the makeup, which has to look as “fresh” at sunrise as in the heat of the day, regardless of weather it’s the first shot or the last one of the day.

What is the pay like?

Financially, being a freelance artists has its advantages and disadvantages. This is a business, and I am just like any other small business owner. There is no limit on how successful I can be, and it is not uncommon for a senior artist to achieve a six figure income. However, at entry level, there is a lot of volunteering and assisting.

Is it good for intro- or extroverts?

The work is thrilling, exhilarating, creative and never the same twice (no two faces are alike and even the same face is different every time).

What education do you need?

I have been trained in Fine Arts: painting and sculpture since early age in Europe and then studied it at York University in Toronto. Later I took special effect makeup courses and I am constantly attending workshops held by artists that I look up to like Val Garland, for example. I am also still attending a variety of painting classes such as Classical Portraiture, abstract painting and nude painting. Colour mixing and understanding the anatomy is a highly valuable skill of a makeup artist. However, a lot of the knowledge comes with experience, practice, taking chances and being exposed to and open to different environments and situations. I love learning and in this business I am fortunate to be surrounded by brilliantly creative and talented individuals. I am constantly inspired by my pears, many mentors and especially the faces I’m able to transform with the skill of makeup artistry.

Beauty is in everyone. Sometimes it only takes a bit of paint and a few brush strokes to emphasize what is already there or what’s been forgotten. My most rewarding work to date has been with the Look Good Feel Better campaign where I had the immense pleasure and opportunity to teach cancer patients a few tricks of the trade to help them cope with their struggles during their brave battle for life. As a makeup artist, nothing has been more humbling or fulfilling.


See also:

What’s it like being a real estate agent?
A day in the life of a professional caddie
What’s it like being a flight attendant?


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