Veronica Sinclair: Professional Makeup Artist

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This week we spoke to makeup maven Veronica Sinclair. Hailing from Malibu, she’s a self-made woman. Making a career for yourself in a competitive world without the structures afforded by a company is no easy task, but Veronica has certainly succeeded. Her drive has lead her to a busy life as a makeup artist, so read on to learn how she found her first clients, how she maintains them, and how she’s learned to stand up for herself along the way!

Let’s jump right in! What’s your official job title?
My official job title is professional makeup artist.

How did you become a full-time makeup artist? Can you tell me the story of your career?
Yes, definitely. I’ve had a love for makeup from a very, very young age. My mom modeled for over thirty years--a fashion model who worked in Milan and New York--so she was really good at putting on her own makeup. So, at first I was fascinated by makeup watching my mom. And then when I was in elementary school, probably third grade, she found a job working for a cosmetics company, a brand [one] at the time, called LORAC Cosmetics. It was started by another professional makeup artist named Carol Shaw, and [my mother] was one of the first employees with the company when it was small and just starting to grow. So, what that meant for me is that I had pretty much unlimited access to makeup, whenever I wanted. So I started experimenting with makeup for hours and trying out different styles on my sisters, my friends, and I was known as “the makeup girl in Malibu,” where I grew up.

I was a teenager by that point, so there were dances, and prom, and then people’s mom’s started asking for me for charity events, this or that. So, I was already kind of working. My dad was a production designer for commercials, in the entertainment industry, and when I was about fifteen he got me a couple of assistant jobs on commercials and he fixed me up with this one makeup artist, her name is Gina Brooke, and she was kind of a mentor to me. I would assist her on jobs, and, you know, if she had to go off and do a celebrity, I would fill in for her. So she was definitely a mentor for me. She was a huge influence. Then, while I was working for her, she became Madonna’s makeup artist, so she hooked me up with some of her clients that she had. And I also, around that same time, got kicked out of high school, so it was actually a really great blessing because it meant that I could take up makeup full-time when I was sixteen.

So, I was already working in LA. And then when I was seventeen, I went to London for four months and worked over there—I have family over there—and then when I came back to LA, I was eighteen years old, and started working full time. I started marketing myself, sending emails all the time, reaching out to people. I was just telling everyone that I knew that I was a makeup [artist]. And, I got some clients from there. I wasn’t booked all the time, but it started growing and now, sixteen years later, I’m very busy, I have a large clientele that continues to grow and, yeah, that’s kind of how I got to where I am today.

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That’s amazing! Can you talk about what training you had?
Start by practicing on yourself and other people, and just putting in the hours doing makeup. Getting those 10,000 hours that it takes to master something. Also, when I was sixteen years old I freelanced for LORAC Cosmetics. My mom got me a job and I would go around and do people’s makeup. I think that was a really great training ground because I was doing makeup—every type of makeup, from young person to old person--very quickly, and you have to make them look good, and they have to really like it. It was real people, it wasn’t model and actors. Because not only do you have to learn about different skin types and different styles of makeup, a huge part of being a makeup artist is being a people person, making the clients happy, making people feel good. And at the same time, it’s about maintaining your artistic integrity. I think, if you’re able to get into a situation like that for a brand, or work at a store, or a counter, and you have to do a high volume of people that all look really different and you have to make them happy, that definitively helped train me. Because makeup is so specific, people like different things.

Can you about what the different options are when you’re a makeup artist in terms of employment?
There’s definitely a lot of different ways you can be a makeup artist--especially today--from being a makeup blogger and doing to stuff online, to working on a set. For me, the type of makeup that I like to do, which is print, photoshoots, working with actresses for press and events, the reason this appeals to me [is that], you can still maintain a life. I work almost every day, but not all day everyday. I don’t start at six in the morning. Working on a show or a feature, it’s definitely a very fun and positive experience if you’re with a fun crew, but the hours are extremely demanding, and I thought the pay-off wasn’t worth the hours.

What I like about this is that it can be a little more glamorous, I’m not sitting around all the time. I’m seeing new things all the time, I like being in new places every day, and I like the flexibility and being able to take a new client. I feel like there’s also more growing potential with what I do. If you’re doing a show, there’s the plus side of stability, that you’re going to be making x amount a week for this many months. But for me—I’m not always booked out, there’s no guarantee like the show--but one day might be $500 dollars, the next might be $1500. So there’s potential to earn more and work less hours. What appeals to people working in a show or being in the union are, of course, the benefits, the retirement, and the healthcare. There’s really amazing healthcare if you’re in a makeup union.

And now there’s this little world of being on Instagram and YouTube, which has blown up massively. I dip my foot into that world [...] but I don’t want to be on-the-phone or on-the-computer type of artist. I like maintaining freedom, flexibility, and earning potential in this line of makeup.

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You’ve spoken about your clientele, and I was wondering, how do you create customer loyalty?
You know, I think a big part of that, besides being a good makeup artist, is personality. It can be tough. To get a celebrity that’s loyal to you, that requests you—it’s basically every makeup artist’s dream but [celebrities] are off on set working with new makeup artists all the time. So you’re not necessarily getting requested. They’re always getting their makeup done by other people. But I think it’s if you, number one, make them feel great of course. But when you really click with them and make them feel that you are going to take care of them—especially when working with an actress who’s doing press or something, they really, really trust you. They know you know their face, that you’re going to be there, you’re going to be watching, if something is off, you’re going to step in. I think when you show the person “Hey, I’m willing to do what it takes to make sure you look great,” it makes them feel very taken care of, it creates loyalty because they know, “Ok, I’m going to look great, I don’t have to worry, Veronica’s got it.” And when you get along [it creates loyalty]: you have a laugh together when you’re in there. But also being discreet, not talking [badly] about other people in front of them because it’s a bad look. So that personal connection is what is going to make them book you again.

Was there ever a moment where you felt things weren’t moving forward? What did you do to combat that feeling?
Yes! In my twenties, I’d been a makeup artists for maybe eight years or so, and I didn’t have very much money in the bank, I’d only have like $500 dollars in my bank account, and I felt like I’d been at that same place for a long time. This was a personal thing, but I think it goes for a lot of different people: I was still in a bad relationship. For pretty much my whole life I’d [had] a boyfriend, there was always a guy there to weigh me down, someone else who wasn’t very encouraging. So, when I left that relationship and started living by myself and took out the people that hindered me— those guys would always say, “You know, I don’t think you should be a makeup artist, you’re probably not going to earn that much money. You should be a waitress, instead.” When I got away from the people that weren’t encouraging me—I don’t know if it was just a coincidence or if cutting out those negative influences made me believe in myself more—but that’s when my career really started to take off. Maybe it’s because I had 100% of my focus on me and my career rather than trying to please somebody else and worrying about the thought that I was going to be successful or trying to prove it.

That’s interesting!
Do you want something more practical than that?

If you have it sure, but this is totally fine, too!
You know, when I think about it, just focus, 100%. Around people that encouraged me and didn’t put me down, I felt that I could be myself.

 Makeup for Carla Hall

Makeup for Carla Hall

Would you say that being a makeup artist is a job that allows for creativity or do you find that it’s mostly following directives and pre-set looks?
It’s both. I think there’s definitely a ton of creativity ‘cause I put my style on every face I do, even if I’m taking direction from the person, it’s always part of the process. They tell me what they want and I put it on their face. [But] I would say, actually, you have to have a balance. I’m really nice, I ask “What do you want? What do you think looks nice? I want you to feel happy and to feel great about the makeup,” and clients like that. If you’re confident in your skills and think “I know I can make you look good and it’s going to be great” but also being “Well, what do you like?” In the end, especially when the person’s paying you, if they don’t love it, it doesn’t matter if you love it. It matters that the person who’s paying for it loves it. Whether that’s the producer, the personal individual, whatever. So, yeah being confident in your skills and listening.

What’s something people don’t think about when they think of a career in makeup?
Managing the business, financial, and accounting side, I’d say, has been a challenge for me just because sometimes I’ll just say “Ugh, I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this paperwork!” But you have to be very organized in your financials and all your invoices because if you don’t have someone else taking care of that for you, companies—the bigger the company, the longer they take to pay—can take 6-9 months to pay you sometimes. Not always, but it happens. I didn’t think about that at the time, but invoicing, the financial, the taxes—I’m pretty much a one-woman show. I do everything: I do accounting, taxes, creative, I manage myself, I respond to all the emails. So that’s deeply important because ultimately [I’m] running a business.

How did you learn to be the right amount of pushy to make sure you’re getting paid?
To be honest, I’ve learned that you have to be very pushy to get paid. Sometimes you just get the check and it’s not a problem, but a lot of times, it’s not on purpose, but sometimes when you’re an individual, you just get lost in their giant accounting department. I’ve found that when I tried to be really gentle, “Hi, just reminding you, you still owe me $600,” they’d say “Ok, checking on it” and then not hear back for another two months. And when I’d send an extremely firm email, that’s when I felt they’d say “Oh, we’re so sorry, we’ll get to it today, we’re so sorry!” I stopped being nice about stuff cause ultimately those aren’t the people that are hiring me, and they don’t care about me. So, when I say “I need to be paid today!” that’s when I get results. Be firm when it comes to collecting your paper, 100%.

 Makeup for L'Oreal Paris

Makeup for L'Oreal Paris

And that hasn’t in any way hurt your working relationship with these companies right?
I mean, you don’t want to be over the line. I realized I was being so nice every time, but then I’d say, “This is ridiculous, I need to be paid today.” And I still work for those companies. I used to be more afraid to speak up, [...] I don’t treat people disrespectfully that deserve respect—you know what I mean? But I kind of got over being nice when people are disrespecting me because I realized it doesn’t get me anywhere. If someone disrespects me on set now, I’ve spoken up about it. There maybe have been a couple of times where maybe a client hasn’t called me back, but I’m happy I spoke up. You don’t want to do it all the times, you don’t want to be difficult, but I’m pro-speaking up if you’re being disrespected, call them out. So I say go for it, be appropriate, don’t be crazy, but don’t be afraid to be very firm and demand what you deserve.

What’s your least and most favorite part of your job?
My least favorite part of my job is cleaning my brushes and carrying my heavy cases upstairs. And my most favorite part of my job is making people feel pretty. And hanging out with girls and talking while I’m doing makeup. Cause that’s what I’d do anyway, and I’m like, “Wait, we’re getting paid for this right now?”

 Makeup for Tony Hall

Makeup for Tony Hall

What attracts you to makeup?
You know, I love beauty. I’ve always been drawn to that, for whatever reason. I love adornment. I don’t wear makeup everyday, but I love the tradition through all of time of adorning our faces and bejeweling ourselves with different colors. Guys can wear makeup too, but I think it’s something that women have kind of always been drawn to. And this is something that’s always been innate to me--I love beauty and adorning myself with beautiful colors and textures. It’s a primal thing, almost. And I’ve been able to make a career out of it, so it’s worked out!

Okay, but what do you do? Please write your answer as if you're explaining to your ten-year-old self.

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Thank you so much Veronica! But this uber-resourceful woman is not done sharing her tips and suggestions on how to create opportunities for yourself, so make sure to check back in next Monday! (Photos provided by Veronica Sinclair)