What It Means To Be A Great Makeup Assistant

One of my best assistants ever, Donna Marie!

From time to time I get asked by makeup artists starting out for advice and if there are opportunities to assist. It’s flattering considering the fact I’m not a world-renowned artist. But I take my job seriously and think I’m pretty exceptional at my craft. 😉

I love to help new artists despite the competitive nature of this business. I was there once and everyone needs a little boost. I’m very grateful to the many mentors who let me assist them, give me advice, and help me grow as an artist. Because of this, I feel it’s important to pay it forward. Sure, I’ve had a few relationships go sour but such is life! You live, learn and move on.

When I have new makeup artists assist me, I’m pretty easy-going because I know how intimidating it can be sometimes. I like to encourage and be positive, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not keeping note of things that are big no-no’s. If you’re a makeup artist starting out you will more than likely not key the big jobs right away and will have to pay your dues and assist. If you aren’t sure of how you should be on set, there is such a thing as set etiquette. Read on and hopefully this will help you go far in the biz!

  1. Do your research. This pertains to many things like making sure you know how to get to the location. Double check all the information that was given to you and if you’re not sure ask. It’s also a good idea to do a little research on the person you are assisting. It shows you are genuinely interested in learning from them. And if you’ve never assisted and don’t know what to expect, a little Google never hurt! New artists are incredibly lucky to have so many resources now that are easily accessible to them. There’s no excuse not to be prepared.
  2. Don’t be late. Sure, there are some things that are out of our control like an accident but you should always leave yourself buffer time for such occasions or if you get lost. If you’re late and it’s our first time meeting, that is Strike 1 for me. First impressions are everything. If it is a paid shoot, time is money!
  3. You are there to assist, not promote yourself. This is the golden rule in this industry. You just don’t do it. EVER. This is just common sense. Giving out your business cards and talking about your experience is a such a faux pas. This is Strike 2 and 3 for me. You are there to assist and to learn from the Key, not try to help yourself get ahead. There is a time and place for everything. This is considered unprofessional not only to the Key, but to the clients, photographer, hair stylist, wardrobe stylist you name it. It creates a domino effect because that Key is more than likely not going to refer you ever to other clients or makeup artists looking for an assistant. This industry may be huge, but it’s small at the same time. Everyone knows everyone. No one likes a “client poacher” – thanks for the term Andrea Claire!
  4. Take every job seriously. Whether it’s a beauty creative or a paid shoot, you should be at the top of your game. As much as makeup artistry is about your skills it is also about your professionalism and how well you get along with other people. When I have assistants assist me on a non-paying gig, it’s usually a test for me. If an assistant is willing to work hard even though they are not getting paid, it shows me they are serious about learning and wanting a career as a makeup artist. If you can’t bring your best game to a non-paid gig, there’s no way you’ll get asked to do a paying one.
  5. Stick to your role. You are an assistant to the Key and are not on set to tell the photographer or anyone else how to do their job. Shoots are a collaborative effort, but it’s between the key people who are involved. Offering ideas or showing us what you did on a previous shoot is distracting and unprofessional.
  6. Be humble. Sometimes you just need to eat a little (or a lot in some cases) of humble pie. I know we all like to think in the beginning that we are the shiz. Admittedly, I was like that too then I got some humble pies thrown at me by my mentors. Don’t pretend to know everything because there is always room to grow no matter how long you’ve been in the business. I love watching other artists and learning new techniques. Practicing on your friends and family is a good start, but if you don’t have set experience then you don’t have real experience. Bragging about your work when you don’t have much to show for doesn’t increase your chances of getting booked again. And don’t over-embellish your work experience. Like I said in point #3 – everyone knows everyone. Eventually it will come back to bite you in the end.

I’m not writing these tips to bash new artists, but to hopefully help them get far in this industry. For more awesome tips from some of the most highly-sought after artists in the industry check out one of my mentor’s, Andrea Claire’s, post about assistants here! For an equally amazing and helpful post for assistants, check out Deshawn!


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