The rise of social media has changed all our lives. It is a fact of life now as much as death and taxes. Social media has a lot of power, maybe too much power but can we imagine life without it now? I consider myself a pre millennial, someone who does remember a time of dial up, and a time where talking to your mates meant actually hanging out with them in person, or at least ringing them up to chat for my allotted 5 mins on my mum and dads landline.
My only insights into the fashion and beauty industry as a teenager were via the glossy pages of magazines, or the odd documentary on BBC 2 about couture, fashion or the style show, anyone remember that? Yes advertising existed back then, but the emphasis was on print. Can you imagine a world without instagram if its all you’ve ever known? I did experience it but I have to remind myself from time to time just how different things were back then.
I started in the beauty industry over 12 years ago. I moved to London aged 18, and at that time this thing called My Space was just starting to gain traction. I remember being at university and friends in my dorm would play music through it and we’d stare at photos of the London club scene and how people were doing their makeup. My Space was one of the first social platforms where friends and colleagues were sharing their work, interests and using it as a tool to connect with other creatives. We had no idea what was coming, no one could have predicted how much the digital space would change everything, from our careers to our relationships.
Fast forward 12 years and it seems like every month theres a new social platform of some kind, creating a dizzy excitement, panic and uncertainty. People used to decide how successful something was with their wallet, now the power is in a like, a follow, even a click.
So many makeup artists and creatives I truly admire and who inspired me are not people with huge followings on social media, it’s also true there are those who have inspired me who are on social media and very successful because of it, but the pressure now as someone in the beauty industry is to ‘grow your following’ to have any kind of relevance and that makes me increasingly deflated. The irony is here, if you are reading this article, you probably are because you followed a link, or some algorithm or search engine suggested you read this, and I know that anyone reading this is much more likely to be reading because you follow me on one of my social media platforms.
Back in the 80’s there were only a few makeup artists who were actually working, because it was only then really being seen to be an actual job. Many of the now famously know muas and hairstylists etc started doing makeup for fun, they were club kids, or did makeup for jobs that didn’t pay and had to figure this all out without social media. It was truly word of mouth, because before hair and makeup artists existed, models and actresses (with the few exceptions) did it themselves. These artists paved the way for me to see that this could actually be a career, and their work inspired me, their work and their work alone, because I had no idea who they were in their private lives, or what they even looked like.
There is so much talent out there, and thats a wonderful thing. I truly believe there is room for everyone to succeed but it breaks my heart, and dare I say it my soul too, when I have friends in the industry who are beyond talented, hard working people who have to have ’emergency’ meetings with agents about their social media because their following isn’t growing, or they are not posting enough. The pressure to create is no longer solely about creation, its become a necessity in order to put bread on the table, to feed our families, to keep clients wanting to book us.
I receive call sheets sometimes with models names and agency details, and occasionally I notice they will add his or her instagram following!? It’s no coincidence that the bigger jobs, campaigns and brand partnerships now go hand in hand with someone that has millions of followers and I understand it, I get it, more people will see it as a result, and in theory more money is made, at least thats the aim. I chose to embrace social media, and I work very hard to make my channel, blog and any associated social media work for me, to express what I want to say and to share the things I enjoy. But what happens if you don’t have time? If you don’t want to do it? I think the danger now is it feels like an ultimatum nowadays, artists are forced into creating a world where they always look busy, and it really has become about who you know not what you know.
Like I said, I get it, this isn’t me complaining, it’s just a reflection of our times, and pondering what the future holds? I remember the importance of making sure your book (your makeup artist portfolio) back in the day was in pristine condition, and more than 20 images was too much, as the emphasis was on quality not quantity. You used your book to show your skill, what you were capable of and what your makeup style was all about. Forward 12 years and I’ve been to various meetings where clients, agencies and bookers who are genuinely surprised if I bring any kind of portfolio because the chances are they’ve already looked on my Instagram to see my work. That is the difference today. The reality is that Instagram is your portfolio.
I hear the word ‘engagement’ banded around more than ‘Yas Queen’ these days (and I do enjoy saying the latter on a frequent basis). I can’t help but wonder if makeup schools now teach their students about the importance of social media and how much of a role it will undoubtedly play in their careers? I have colleagues that have even chosen to pay someone to do their social media because while they can’t be bothered with it all, they still recognise its significance, especially with regards to the ongoing success of their careers.
Way back when it was about assisting, working your way up, and building a beautiful book that reflected your skills, people took a chance on you because of that book, people believed in talent. I’ve still believe in talent, and while I embrace the digital culture I try my hardest not to let it define my success. The reality is if I post a beautiful piece of work on someone else for an esteemed magazine it doesn’t engage anymore. But if I put a picture of myself wearing makeup it performs so much better, and that still baffles me!
There is a ying and yang for everything, and I completely appreciate what Instagram and youtube have done for talented individuals who never would have had the access to a makeup school, or the opportunity to assist at fashion weeks etc. It’s an incredible tool, but I do think in addition to teaching people new skills and solving problems, the downside is we then think our talent isn’t real unless someone is validating it with likes and follows. I have so much respect for artists on youtube and Instagram who have incredible skill doing there own faces, but I do struggle when someone calls themselves a ‘makeup artist’ yet they only know how to do their own skintone, or the only face they’ve ever painted is their own.
Social Media has made us all experts, dishing out advise on health, beauty, and wellness and it seems to me we only listen to the people with the highest following because they must know what they’re talking about right? The power is in the follow, its in the number of likes. Personally, I strive for a community, not followers, but I do feel the pressure to be seen, and I would hasten to guess a lot of my colleagues also feel the same.
There’s a huge part of me that feels like a hypocrite because I’m not writing this article to inform you that I’m quitting social media, far from it, but it is to make you aware if you’re not already that this beast is alive, and it is impacting us all. I love the beauty community and there is so much talent out there, but lets not forget to shine a light on those who aren’t posting every day and who would prefer not to be in the limelight but still want to inspire us with their beautiful work (that is if we can sift through instagrams’ algorithm without being shown who we ‘should’ be following).
I’m fascinated to see what the next twelve years will bring for the beauty industry especially those who work in it. Like I said, I myself am a part of social media, this very blog relies on people actually reading it from links I create in order for more people to find it. There’s a lot of good social media has bought us, but like everything its a balance and my only fear is if everything becomes about numbers, will talent become secondary? I’d love to know what you think?