We all wish we could look like those Instagram girls, the ones labelled as Instagram makeup artists, but in reality it’s much harder than it looks.
With ease, these girls flaunt their fabulous eyeliner, gorgeous glittery eyelids and blending super powers, but how do you go from your average girl to one of social media’s most glamorous and sought out makeup artists in Glasgow?
Runner up of the Confetti Wedding Award’s Makeup Artist of the year, Lesley Neil, told us how she went from cabin crew, to a fully-fledged makeup artist, and team leader at Glasgow’s 2014 Commonwealth Games.
How did you find out you wanted to pursue a career in make-up artistry?
“I was cabin crew for years and as a favour someone asked me to do their wedding makeup. I was good at makeup and I liked doing it so I did their makeup as a favour, and literally within about two minutes of being with them on their wedding morning I was obsessed with weddings.
“So I went and studied makeup artistry alongside working part time, I was dead lucky I got a job in MAC while I was in first year in college, and that was it.
“I worked at MAC for a long time. As a makeup artist, I personally think there’s no better experience. You’re thrown into a busy counter and having to use all these products.
“One myth that people think is that when you work for MAC you get trained to be a make-up artist when generally what you find is most girls will already be makeup artists and then they work for MAC. You learn loads on the job but you’re not necessarily trained by MAC. Everything I know, I learned from other artists.
“The thing is, people come to the counter and they automatically find the girls intimidating because all this makeup on glamorous; we’ve got cool outfits on, massive heels on, they do find you intimidating so they come in and they’ve got a total guard up so maybe they might be a bit standoff-ish with you first, so you need to be really good with customers.”
You mainly do a lot of bridal make-up, is that your speciality?
“I don’t actually know how that happened because everybody knows me as a bridal makeup artist now but that was never my intention. Although I do love bridal, I kind of fell into that probably but yeah I would say 99% of what I do now is bridal.”
Isn’t doing bridal make-up a lot of pressure?
“If you had asked me that four years ago I would have said yeah. But now I don’t find it scary because it’s my job. Sometimes the trial can be a wee bit touch and go, but no, normally on their wedding day it’s usually chilled. But you need to be like that as a wedding makeup artist, you need to be calm and collected and they need to totally trust you.”
You picked up second place at the Confetti Bridal Awards for make-up artist of the year last year. What was that like?
“Last year, I got tagged on Facebook by Confetti to say that people had started to vote for me at a wedding show and, at this moment I had no clue what the Confetti Awards were because I had only been working for myself as a freelance artist for about a year. Next thing I know more people started voting for me, so I looked it up online and I found out it was this prestigious award for bridal makeup.
“And I was in the final 10, so you get into the final 10 through votes and then when you get in that it goes to judging and the votes stop. So I had to do makeup in front of the judges which was the most nerve wracking thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. Then the judges look at your work and you also have to hand in a personal statement and then some photos of your work. The girl that won, Leigh Blaney,she had been in the industry 10 years more than me so just coming runner up to her, I was so chuffed. It’s amazing.”
Lesley with her runner up award for Makeup Artist of the Year at the Confetti Bridal Awards
What’s the best part of your job?
“Probably the feeling of when someone who maybe doesn’t think they’re going to like makeup on, or someone who thinks they’re not going to like the outcome, and when they look in the mirror and they are totally blown away, they’ve totally changed their feelings towards makeup and what they thought they could look like. Or a bride who doesn’t usually wear a lot of makeup, and then you put makeup on her, it doesn’t need to be a lot, and it just makes them look even more amazing. I just love it. You’re quite satisfied because you’re like “I told you so!” It’s really nice.”
Is there a bad part to being your own boss?
“For me, probably just keeping up with the volume of messages, because I’ve got my business Facebook page and then I’ve got Instagram I have my car sign written. I get emails, and I get text messages, and I get phone calls, so it’s probably all together there’s five or six ways to mail me and trying to keep up with every single one, it’s so hard.”
What would you say is the best way to get started as a makeup artist?
“I worked hours upon hours for free.
“When they give you work experience I volunteered for everything, literally what you’d think were the worst jobs, I volunteered for them. I was like “I’ll do it I’ll do it!” And it’s funny because even now to this day, I’ve still got contacts from that. I did one once, and it was for some advert for British gas, but now the company will use me for some stuff.
“Sky TV, I did all their ads. So I always say to people don’t always think ‘I’m going to start charging £35 for a face of makeup’ as soon as you leave college. You have to properly graft for it, do every single piece of work experience, and try to experience everything.”
How does it compare from practising on yourself to working on clients?
“I would say that fundamentally you have to be good at it on yourself, because that’s what starts feeding your interest. If you can do makeup on yourself, that’s one thing, but doing makeup on other people is a whole other ball game. Literally every person you meet will have a different skin tone, texture, face shape, and you have to adapt, and that’s what makes an amazing makeup artist. You can do makeup on anyone.
“MAC have got a motto ‘all races all ages all sexes’ so that’s totally drummed into you.”
What was it like to be a head makeup artist team leader at Glasgow’s Commonwealth games?
“That was another thing I got through work experience, the college that I studied makeup artistry at they won the contract to do the hair and makeup at the commonwealth games.
“My old lecturer phoned me and asked me to be one of the team leaders at that. It was the most intense 3 weeks of my life it’s like long days, every single day, day in day out.
“Sometimes you were in the athletes village I was actually a team leader for the medal bearers so see people that hand out the medals it was an amazing experience like one of the biggest things that has ever happened to Glasgow so that was amazing to be part of that. I was really lucky.”