What makes a successful ‘MUA’ (it’s not what you think)

After being a freelance Make-up Artist for almost 23 years and running a Make-up Artist training school for 16 years, these are the things I have come to learn about success in what we do.

Firstly, we all have ambition.  A need to become successful in what we do and a desire to be recognised and accepted by fellow professionals and those who we work with.  I feel this is a fundamental part of being human, as natural and ingrained in us as our need to develop connections with other humans and simply strive to survive in our world.

Whilst I watch many new students come and go at the school, I have recently been pondering what makes some people more successful in their chosen career than others.  Each student that enters the school all share the same gambit, or emotions of ambition, desire, focus, need, want, hope, fear, apprehension and expectation.

So what separates those who do and those who don’t?

I’ve dug really deep over this and examined my own story and those of fellow colleagues who have all worked long and hard in industry and continue to do so.  What I have come to understand is that we all share a common collective. This is what we share: Attitude, belief and expectation.  Sounds simple……it’s not!

What I have found, is that we all share a very unique perception and frame of mind. This view point is multi-faceted, and quite different than what you would expect a successful person to possess. Let me explain the different attributes of myself and my colleagues a little further.

Firstly, we all share a deep, borderline obsessive passion for all things.  Whether it is a brush, a product, photograph, TV programme, film, opera, play, a passing stranger’s hairstyle, an outfit or costume, a guitar, microphone, bright or dim light, a colour, season, shop, face, magazine, sofa, coffee table, lamp, shoe, hair brush, a beach, the sunshine, a rainbow, deckchair, a dog, cat, dolphin, a daffodil, cake, chocolate and well let’s face it, basically anything and everything our little eyes can take in.

Vision and perception are simply different for us. We see the world in super bright colours and devour what is before us with the appetite of a starving puppy. We have wonderment and deep interest for all things, good, bad, or ugly.

There is no specification or requirement for what, who or where piques our interest, it can be as random as a blade of grass or a pistachio nut!

In essence, we have a never ending hunger, awe and boundless curiosity of anything we can lay our eyes on.  The whole world is one gigantic never ending work of art which we observe, question and evaluate every second of every waking hour! We are “visionographers” of the ordinary.

Secondly, we are all scared.  We all feel fear on a daily basis; it keeps us alert and alive. We fear rejection of those around us, judgement, criticism and failure.

What makes “us” different is that we have accepted our fears, we embrace what we are scared to face, and hold the hand of those scary thoughts.  We have accepted fear as a life partner, a constant companion in our everyday lives.  We still feel the fear, but we have chosen and learnt to live in balance with it.  It drives us forward, and beckons us to keep trying and most importantly keeps us humble!  None of us are born talented or exceptional at what we do, we become that way through making mistake after mistake, and failing time and time again.  Once again, the difference here is “we” simply get back up and keep going.  We don’t let fear hold us back, dictate our choices or take over! We control our fear, not the other way around!

Thirdly, we expect nothing.  Expectation is a HUGE part of modern day life. I often hear people, myself included, say things like, “I want”, “I’d like”, “I love”, which is all well and good, but desire and expectation are two very different things. What we desire we shouldn’t expect. What we think we want, and what we get are confusingly inconsequential!  Confused?  You needn’t be. It’s very simple; just stop wanting, start being grateful and have faith in your own journey. The destination is irrelevant; the journey should be the focus. The investment of yourself should be in the small, benign boring details.

Sometimes, while I’m chatting with potential students, I ask them what they’d like to do or where they see themselves.  Many people answer with “I’d like to work in fashion, magazines, catwalk. To travel, work on music videos or TV and film”.   It often baffles me when I hear these responses as to how on earth do you know you want these things, when you’ve not yet experienced them!  Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with having goals and dreams, but here lies a problem; so many people expect these things, they make a gigantic leap forward and skip the years of networking, work experience, several soul killing support jobs, trying, failing, rejection, trying, failing, rejected over and over and over. They focus on the dream!

“We” focus on the journey.  The little jobs and experiences, no matter how small as though they are the dream!  The charity fashion show, the day’s work experience opportunity, the wedding, the next door neighbour’s prom, the test shoot, the meeting up with a Make-up artist or photographer as though these are our dreams, our goals, our destination! We are delighted, overjoyed, excited, grateful and humbled to be given these gems! We don’t want more. We don’t feel ready or good enough. We are happy to be in the now and fully accept that these little opportunities are the beginning of an incredible journey! We don’t want the status, the notoriety or fame! We want the quiet gentle humble route that we put our faith and belief into whole heartedly, with every fibre of our being that will lead us to who knows where.  No competition, no hardship, no disappointment, no delusions. We expect nothing!

Fourthly, we are humble. This is mostly part of my last point, but has a little extra.  As I just mentioned, “we” expect nothing, but something else is going on here too! The opportunities that we get, no matter how small, we are humble and grateful for.  We never feel good enough, better than another, professional or expert. We’re still learning, still developing and growing. We will never stop! We don’t have 100% confidence in our abilities. We still make mistakes and accept that there are things we cannot do as well as someone else!  We don’t want or need praise or glory to validate ourselves, and we wholeheartedly feel and accept that we will never be as good as some of the incredibly talented artists out there!  And that’s OK! In fact, it’s more than OK! We don’t want to be the best above all others, we just want to be the best version of ourselves! We are humble!

Fifthly, we are consistent and committed! There is simply no “what if”? We just keep going through every disappointment.  There really isn’t much to say on this attribute other than “we” all have it!  It is a truth, a fact, non-negotiable part of our very being! We don’t give up! EVER!

Finally, “we”, give, EVERYTHING!!!!

Now……this is a biggie! When we are working, “we” without question, hesitation or thought for quite frankly anything, give of ourselves wholeheartedly, utterly, unconditionally, unequivocally, fully and completely!  I see this from myself and those around me daily.  This is probably the hardest attribute of them all to explain.

When you’re on a job, whether it be a shoot, a wedding or live performance, when someone says “we need to do this”, you just purely react and do whatever it takes to do it – fast and immediately!  I, and many others have bruised, cut, burnt, tripped or fallen doing what needs to be done in that moment, and every single other person in your team, on that job will do exactly the same thing again and again and again! We will give you everything!

So, when people think they want to be a “successful MUA”, my response is this: Go for it, follow your dreams, but for the right reasons and with the right attitude.  Anything is possible!

It is not possible or meaningful to compare the achievements of someone, as a measure or their success.  If we each give everything from the heart with passion, fear, humbleness, commitment and consistency, we are ALL successful!