I met Zara during my first year of living in Los Angeles, and it’s been such a privilege to see her career boom! Not only is she a fabulous human being, one whom I’m lucky enough to call a friend, she’s also an incredibly talented makeup artist. I wanted to chat with Zara about her transition from makeup assistant to fully fledged pro, and find out the exact steps she took to get there.
How did you start getting into assisting when you first started working?
When I first started out as a Makeup Artist in 2013, I kind of fell into the assistant role. I started working at a major TV company and was originally hired as ‘Assistant Makeup Artist’ before eventually working my way up. I was really fortunate to have worked there because it threw me into the deep end of basically being a full time assistant to a whole team of Makeup Artists. I had to clean brushes, make sure everyones stations were always organized, think ahead to what any of the artists may have needed an extra hand with etc. After that journey ended, I started setting my goals on moving to LA, and that meant getting my foot in the industry all over again. I started reaching out to everyone I admired over social media and got myself some really cool assisting gigs.
Do you think assisting is a crucial part of growing as a makeup artist?
I definitely feel that assisting is super important. As artists we never stop learning no matter how far into your career you are so when you’re starting out, assisting is the best way to learn from other working Makeup Artists with years of experience. I was never a committed assistant to anyone like a lot of people are, however I think everyone has their own journey and I have definitely learnt so many valuable tricks and tips from being on set with other experienced makeup artists. Even at this stage in my career I’m still so open to assisting makeup artists who I look up to and admire, I’ll never turn down the chance to pick up something new.
How do you start transitioning from Assistant Makeup Artist to Makeup Artist?
I think the transition happens really gradually and its not a solid cut off. Like I said previously, I’m still so open to assisting, and I definitely still do, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have built relationships with my own clients and brands that keep me busy with my own work as well. I would say the aim is to always be working on your own projects, always be reaching out to photographers, stylists, models you want to collaborate with and create art together – ALL of my jobs have stemmed from having worked or collaborated with a specific person I’ve met along the way who brings me on as part of the team. The more you’re collaborating and making yourself known, the more opportunity you’re opening up for yourself.
What challenges did you face when you started doing more of your own work?
When you start working on your own jobs, you quickly come across hurdles like having to negotiate your own rates, dealing with overdue invoices (when you don’t agent to be the bad guy), or signing endless amounts of forms like W4’s. I’ve become a bit of a pro at negotiating, maybe its because I just LOVE money? But it definitely has come with trial and error. Before you’re confident enough in yourself there is A LOT of trial and error – but with each error comes a lesson, so eventually everything starts to make sense. There’s also such a big community of supportive makeup artists out there, like ones you may have assisted in the past who can advise you. Honestly this course is amazing and it explains so many things that would have been so helpful to me when making that transition.
What’s the most important lesson assisting taught you?
Assisting definitely taught me SO much about what kind of artist I want to be, and what the appropriate ways to act on set are. The more you assist the bigger the jobs you end up working on and it really prepares you to not be intimidated when you’re thrown into being the key artist on big jobs yourself! The more you assist the less surprises there are!
What advice would you give artists starting out in building their kits?
My biggest advice for this would be to work in retail. I worked at a luxury makeup and skin care store in London called Space NK for 3 years at the start of my career and not only did it teach me everything I know now about working on different face shapes, eye-shapes, skin-types, skin-tones etc, it also allowed me to build my first solid kit as a freelance makeup artist. Working in store comes with so many perks like hefty discounts and freebies which is a great way to start building a good kit. If retail really is not for you then theres some epic makeup brands that are incredibly affordable to start out with. Another perk of assisting big makeup artists who get sent a lot of product they don’t use is that often they will gift it to you which could help you end up building a higher end makeup kit – so many perks!
How has social media impacted your growth as an artist?
Social media has been an absolute blessing for me and my career. Although I don’t necessarily have a large online presence, the majority of my jobs come through social media. I’m constantly being tagged by photographers/brands I’ve worked with or being messaged about something someone may have seen on another page – its just the perfect tool to display your portfolio for everyone to see.
What’s the best advice you have been given with regards to creating your own business for yourself?
There’s a few key things I’ve learnt in the past couple of years since really taking the leap into focusing on myself as an artist:
Really think about how your instagram looks to someone stumbling across your page!! Many clients use instagram as the main tool to choose which makeup artist they are going to hire for the job – they may have 4 different makeup artists they’re choosing between and ultimately it could all come down to – does your instagram look great? Are you showing too much of your personal life and not enough of your work? Does it stand out? – I have been told a couple of times in the past that I’ve booked a job because of the way my instagram is curated. Clients will not go searching for the content, they want to see it as soon as they click on your page.
Always have a good attitude – Nobody is going to hire the diva on set again! In this day and age a lot of people forget that we’re hired to be behind the scenes and that means being respectful and doing your job without being remembered for the wrong reasons.
Don’t sell yourself short – don’t be afraid to set the precedent early on for how much you’re worth. Know your worth and go forward with the confidence that you’re worth every penny you negotiate for yourself – fake it till ya make it babyyyy!