You do You.
I moved from Sydney to New York earlier this year to deliberately become a very small fish in a huge, creative pond. All there is to do when you are a tiny fish in a large body of water, is to grow. To grow not only for survival… but to grow into your own vision of your artistry as you are left with no choice but to. NYC forces authenticity. Here you have the space to fully pursue your artistic visions without anyone under the spell of a vanilla climate telling you it can’t be done. No matter who you want to be in NYC, you will find like minded humans here with the “you do you” phrase being one of my favourite American sayings. Combine that with a total absence of the tall poppy syndrome we unknowingly maintain culturally in Australia… it’s a whole new and delicious world. I don’t want to dis my creative family in Oz… but we all know what I am talking about here. For survival in the Australian pond… you need to play a certain type of game to pay rent. And in Australia it took a lot of time and effort for people to realise I was playing two games… the Australian industry game and then my own creative game that had fewer players. After all the effort and heartache it took to get here to NYC… I finally feel a sense of freedom swimming around in the greatest city in the world. However, I wasn’t ACTUALLY anticipating the severity in a new sense of life I get from being here; being surrounded by some of the best creatives in the world with everything at my fingertips. I have fallen in love with craziness and scale of the creative world here. I’m already getting to do work I could only dream of creating back home as there seems to be a creative synergy here with the industry trying less to fit into a certain box… and more willing to take risks and explore concepts further. Maybe this is because there is just so much more work happening on a whole so if you fuck something up conceptually or collaboratively… the risk is lower as there’s another shoot tomorrow. Creatives are eager and motivated to collaborate and explore here on a level that was rare to find in Sydney. I defiantly found it in Sydney of course! However, not as readily as I’m finding here. Connections are made faster, networks are magically forming at a pace I’ve never experienced, and the fulfilment and thrill is real. I can’t get enough of this space!
I’m getting such a strong sense of who I am and what my art is about here even more so than before. Maybe I’ve shocked my creative brain on every level to help it along on it’s journey faster or maybe because I’ve removed all that is familiar. Self-realisations are happening on a daily basis. I just finished my interview for Laud Magazine with Body Artist, Craig Tracy, and he speaks a lot about being a pioneer in the body art world having it become an acceptable form of art in the art worlds eyes. I resonated with this so much as I feel part of the drive for me to move to NYC was to give myself the space to explore the beauty ideas I have and have them shot by photographers who are on the same page as me. OF COURSE I had amazing photographers to work with in Australia… no doubt! However, here, I suppose I can say there are more artistic points of view purely based on the fact there are more creatives in one city. I feel already spoilt for choice and can’t wait to share what we’ve been creating.
One of the things that has been on my mind as I’m sure has also been on the minds of most makeup artists in the world at some point or another, is the evolution of our craft with the rise and rise of the Instagram artist and the ‘influencer’. I don’t think it would be on our minds as much if it was just a trend… but this new branch of artistry has affected the way we all do our business and for a while now - How we market ourselves, and certainly how we interact with clients and communicate our craft to the world. The everyday woman who employs a professional makeup artist will inevitably have a conversation involving a social media trend… a product… or an influencers technique. I don’t know ANY professional makeup artist who hasn’t been affected by this new branch of artist. I don’t know ANY professional makeup artist who hasn’t booked a job they might normally book had it not been for an ‘influencer’ or an artist with more followers. So yes… it can feel personal. And in the situation in my career where I am now starting fresh in a new city… it’s certainly been on my mind. When a new wave of artistry and influence affects the back pocket… of course we are going to analyse the pants off it.
I’ve found myself scrolling on social media when this topic comes up and have never found the urge to contribute to the conversation. Part of me holds back because I am still processing my own opinion about it… and the other part of me holds back because I feel there’s nothing I would be able to say in the sea of pessimism and negativity that would make a difference to turn it around. How could I? I’m still working it all out for myself and how I fit in the creative world whilst embracing all the new rules for the game. Besides… Some of these conversation threads only seem to attack the new branch with hate with a sprinkle of reasonable, big picture thinking. For now, I have observed these online conversations purely as the industry trying to navigate the rapid changes that are happening… and some artists are finding a comfort when involved in a group mentality that allows their fearful thinking to be somewhat normalised and validated. And that’s all it is… a fear of the changes when we had all just got our heads around how to navigate this crazy industry for ourselves. Combine that with a horror of the thought we might be forced to change what it means to be a makeup artist to survive in the industry. Which isn’t true of course… but to some newer artists, that’s a legitimate fear. They got in this industry because of their pure love of making someone feel beautiful AND NOW THEY HAVE TO MAKE YOUTUBE TUTORIAL VIDEOS OR CREATE CREATIVE MACRO DRIPPY LIP MACRO SQUARE IMAGES TO BE ABLE TO CONTINUE ON WITH THEIR CAREER???? WHAAAAATTTT??
No, you don’t.
Your career is yours to do with what you wish. What’s important is you have an understanding of ALL the possibilities of this amazing industry and follow what your heart wants to follow using whatever tools and resources along the way. We now just have waaaayyyyyy more ingredients for this dish we call a makeup career. If you want to be a YouTuber… go be the best version you can be. If you want to be insta-famous and create cut crease creative eye looks… go be the best version you can be. No one cares. I mean that in a loving way. No one actually cares what you do and don’t want to do with your career. IT'S YOUR CAREER TO CARVE OUT. It’s up to you to find your own true north and find a way to balance out earning a liveable income and feel creatively fulfilled. All pathways are valid pathways. It’s all about the viewpoint you choose to embrace. You’re not any less of a brilliant makeup artist if you want to concentrate your life doing film and tv… or real weddings with boho women and no contouring. What kind of experiences do you want to fill your career with? Ask yourself that and then get cracking.
There’s a conversation amongst New Yorkers that I know will resonate with everyone back home… and that’s the divisiveness of the gentrification of areas in NYC, especially in Brooklyn and Jersey. Even just the other day I was shocked to see a Starbucks in Williamsburg where a dinky little retail store used to be. My friend assured me it was the outrage of residents for a long time. May I add… Australians definitely contribute to the gentrification of Brooklyn and surrounding areas with their ‘Australian coffee houses’ taking over NYC like nothing else. (Side note – can you believe a Flat White coffee is a new thing here in NYC? Long blacks exist as Americanos and there’s no chocolate powder on a cappuccino.) The gentrification conversation feels A LOT like the conversation about insta/youtube/influencers in the makeup industry… except for one thing. We aren’t losing any of our craft. Techniques aren’t being lost… Nothing is being wiped out. It’s just a bunch of almost drag techniques for the everyday woman getting the online world’s attention and it’s dividing the industry! As a whole… you can’t tell me that every single woman in the world wants to look like a Kardashian or every creative director would prefer followers over talent in their MUA. It’s not that simple.
If you want to be kind of artist that embraces that style of makeup… DO IT! You will find your clients.
If you want to do the same eye makeup on nearly every face… DO IT! You will find your clients.
If you feel fulfilled doing makeup for family portraits and model tests… DO IT! You will find your clients.
If you want to be a versatile artist catering for editorial or the real woman on their wedding day… DO IT! We will find our clients.
To some of us… the wave of ‘colourful cut crease eyes with a double lash, feature erasing foundation, a bert & ernie brow with over drawn lips and drag worthy contouring’ is... well… boring and bloody mind-numbingly predictable. I appreciated it the first 50 times I saw it but now I’m intensely bored. My eyes glaze over when I see one pass by on my Insta feed. It’s the same thing over and over and over again… just a different bish in a different weave. Why do you think I created the ‘Feed your Scroll’ feature in Laud Magazine… there ARE creative and imaginative Instagram makeup artists out there who inspire us. Not every Insta artist was born equal. Besides, I have the unfollow option and no one will think less of me for exercising my right to curate my feed the way that inspires me. We don’t have to join in and we also shouldn’t put all insta-artists in one basket. I’ve been blown away by so much talent that can be classed as ‘Insta makeup’. One example being @mimles
Some of my closer makeup friends will already know my current theory on all of this… aside from what I have already explored here in this post. One night (there was a glass or two of wine involved of course) I had an epiphany and messaged everyone:
“WHAT IF in the creation of online interaction that, as humans, we have never experienced before, has actually duplicated the worlds reality on a new platform… and now that trends are being born exclusively to the online worlds we are actually ONLY really experiencing a resurgence and reinvention of the 80s makeup trend? But only online.”
What if all of this is just a reboot of creative 80s makeup 20teens style? I find comfort in thinking like that. I think a lot of makeup artist's stress comes from thinking this is how it’s all going to stay and it’s a terrifying thought for us artists who prefer a different aesthetic. What if these macro eye and lip shots are the modern 80s glam punk makeup movement? What if the YouTuber is just a modern and very public version of the 80s diary and just lacks the gold lock with tiny key we all lost and fragranced paper? What if the insta-story is the modern version of the teenager on the phone (with the long curly cord) after school talking about every detail of their life to their friends for hours. What if the YouTube makeup tutorial is the modern version of a Saturday at your best friend’s house trying on her mums new lipstick and getting our hair tangled in hot rollers? If I think like this… as a child from the 80s, I can appreciate the new era in the makeup industry maybe even with a warm heart of appreciation. I remember the joy from those days… and now, the world has so many new toys to play and a whole new level of reality over us but it’s just the same old thing from the 80s all over again in the modern context. And yet some of us are still stuck relating to this new era as a threat to our makeup artist wellbeing. Are some of us as bad as the farmers who denied the microwave? Are some of us as bad as the judgmental church going grandma that tsk-tsked the mini skirt?
Maybe it can only affect your wellbeing if you allow it. Maybe it’s time to see it for what it possibly is… the 80s culture reimagined in a modern space… and time to get on with focussing on what we really want to be creating for our careers and spend less time thinking that we have to embrace this pop culture even if we don’t want to. There’s something to love and appreciate about the influencer and Insta Makeup Artist. I am very certain it’s not an easy task to be this and these kids are working their balls off to create their content. Maybe it’s time to start appreciating that and letting go of the fear for our own careers. I’m sure that frustration is only producing more to be frustrated about… law of attraction and all.
No one is forcing you to do that iridescent blue, cut crease eye or glossy, drippy lip, Janet.