Jobs: What it takes to be a professional make up artist

Make Up Artist, Kat Steele.

Make Up Artist, Kat Steele. - Credit: Archant

Norwich based make up artist, Kat Steele, explains how she kick-started her career in the beauty industry and landed her dream job.

Make up by Kat Steele. Photo: Kat Steele

Make up by Kat Steele. Photo: Kat Steele - Credit: Archant

Name: Kat Steele

Age: 34

Job title and employer: Self-employed Make Up Artist and Director at Fade, a beauty company targeting the Trans community.

My job in a nutshell: I offer a variety of make up services to the public, including make up for special occasions (proms, black tie events, graduations and weddings) and lessons for people who would like to learn how to apply make up themselves, such as brides who might be getting married abroad and want to learn how to do their own make up for their big day. I have also recently expanded my business to offer IPL hair removal, tattoo removal and skin rejuvenation.

How I got my job: I became interested in make up from a very young age. I used to watch my mum apply hers and save up all my pocket money so I could go to the shops and buy make up. I'd practise looks that I had seen on the cover of Just Seventeen and Look magazine for hours in front of the mirror. I studied art at school and also went onto gain an art A Level whilst still practising on my friends and family whenever I could. Studying make up seemed like the next logical step but when I left college there was no such course available in Norwich. So I worked in various jobs gaining customer service skills and sales techniques. Then, with a bit of luck City College Norwich launched a Make Up Artist Diploma when I was aged about 21, I jumped at the chance to apply and luckily I was accepted. The course was run by celebrity make up artist Louise Young and I never wanted it to end, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and learnt a great deal from her.

The most enjoyable part of what I do is: Meeting different people from all different walks of life and seeing their faces light up when I have done their make up. I also love getting to see brides in their dresses, I always end up shedding a tear which is rather embarrassing!

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You might not know this about my job: When you're working at a wedding or a shoot you have to be prepared to help out wherever you can even, be it with hair, painting nails, helping the bride to get in her dress or fixing tanning disasters! No two jobs are ever the same.

What was your first job? My first job working on a make up counter wasn't until I was in my mid 20s, this was because competition was so fierce and a lot of companies required experience, so I focused on building up my portfolio and honing my skills. After gaining invaluable experience working in Jarrolds beauty hall, I was approached by Trevor O'Keefe, Global Make Up Artist for Laura Mercier, who asked me if I would like to go and work for him on a new counter opening up in Cambridge. So I packed my bags and off I went to Cambridge, and absolutely loved the whole experience, which prepped me to move onto working for bigger brands like MAC Cosmetics.

What's been your best day at work so far: That's a tough one, can I have two? The first would have to be the day I received the call to say I'd landed a job working for MAC Cosmetics in London, and more recently starting up my own business Fade.

What's the most exciting thing about your industry? It's constantly changing and evolving with new products coming out and new fashion trends - some weird and some wonderful.

What's the most challenging part of your job? Working for MAC Cosmetics in London was one of the biggest challenges in my make up career, not only was it a big move away from home, but the customers were very different and could be demanding. However I learnt a lot in a very short space of time and I am forever grateful for the experience and also proud to say I managed to get my dream job at a company I had always wanted to work for.

Where do you find your inspiration? I find my inspiration in everyday life, I love bright colours and have a keen interest in street art, graffiti and anything to do with glitter, there is no such thing as too much sparkle! I also use social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest and draw inspiration from other make up artists, one of my favourites is Alex Box, she's incredible. I also love Pat McGrath and Karla Powell's work too.

What advice would you give to others looking to become a make-up artist? Stay determined and focused on your dream and never give up because you will get there one day. Start off by gaining experience in as many different sales and customer service roles as you possibly can, because it doesn't matter how good a make-up artist you are, to get a job on a counter you need to be able to talk to people and sell the brand's products. Then build up a portfolio and work with as many photographers and models as you can, so you learn what it's like to work on lots of different face shapes/skin types. You'll also need to learn about lighting and angles. But most importantly, be prepared for long hours on your feet, (which will probably give you an achy back), always have some mints handy, and keep a smile on your face!

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