Exploits in Beauty


As I vacillate between a long career in hair styling to a shorter but very exciting foray into make up.  I often accept offers to work on projects for free because I’m bored and obviously, have no life.   But seriously,  the reasons for donating salon services in this way are pretty legit;  ‘on set’ experience, professional credentials via pictures, tear sheets or film reel,  but most importantly, it allows you to set the stage for future jobs with the contracting artist.  Professional services volunteerism, we’ll call it, CAN be a great conduit into the commercial arena of production hair and make up;  a vehicle to illustrate your particular skill set or demonstrate your professionalism………or is it?

In the past, I’ve  taken on these gigs as a hairstylist because I was pretty established in my field and had a good clientele.  My goal back then was specific, growth!  To stay relevant in this crazy, sexy, cool beauty industry….. my motto was and continues to be,  ‘Always be Learning.’  The ability to Network, learn new techniques, tricks, and processes, is why I completed a Master Make Up artistry course at Gwynnis Mosby’s Make Up Academy in Atlanta.  Hey, Miss Gwynnis…she’s amazing by-the-way,  and I highly recommend her academy.  @gmmakeupacademy

Make up is breaking through all kinds of trend lines right now, capitalizing on viral guru’s from Film, Television, YouTube and Instagram alike.  So clearly, NOT being functionally literate in make up could be considered a liability in the beauty industry.  Ironically,  my career induction into the world of cosmetics began in San Diego, California while I was working for Johnson Publishings’ Fashion Fair brand. But it was the late eighties and my social calendar was lit….did I mention that I worked the make up counter at the 32nd St. Naval Exchange Base, nothing but sailors …..(I digress) The point being that I wasn’t new to make up it just wasn’t the behemoth it is now with no discernible barriers to entry.

Many of the most successful artist in the industry are self-taught yet exceedingly talented.  My goal in enrolling in a certification program, which incidentally isn’t a requirement of the state board of cosmetology,  unless you’re wanting to be an esthetician or massage therapist,  was to re-engage from a professional perspective.  But as with any skill, the more you practice the better you eventually become.  Thus….volunteer opportunities as referred to in this rant, CAN be extremely advantageous to your career or they can be a cautionary tale.


Volunteering your skill set could be a one-sided agreement with no guarantees of any benefit if you’re not a savvy networker or slick.  Hear me out,  as the ‘volunteer role’ is proposed,  your solicited for a ‘great opportunity’ to work ‘with’ or ‘on’ a glamorous production or with a(an) fabulous artist(s).  At the end of your session,  you will have potentially learned new skills,  gained favor with the production team, created great work that you will receive a professional credential from. i.e. pictures, tear sheet or a reel; and possibly future employment.

The caveat, none of this is true, well, not entirely true!

For starters, unless the photographer IS the contracting agency, than forget about the pictures.  The Primary or the person that hires the photographer along with the photographer, until he or she is paid; own’s the photos.  Secondly,  you are only assisting on the shoot or on set;   the work,  in whatever form will be credited to the contracted ‘Artist’…not you!  Next, you will be so busy working as a peon no one will talk to you because no one cares.  Networking is a savvy affair when your only there to assist.

The first time I went out for one of these gigs, it was for an ‘Emmy Award-Winning’ Make Up Artist whom I will not name,  but my job was to provide hair styling services.  Now to her credit,  she fully disclosed her future plans to one day open an agency for beauty professionals, but in the interim,  jobs would be unpaid.  After a few jobs under my belt and a seminal investment of time, a high-quality kit, day care expenses, and gas;  I ended that relationship when it was revealed that she was being paid for the jobs just not paying me.

Once I spent an entire day assisting celebrity stylist Harvey ‘Star’ Washington who was in town for a curvy girl fashion show.  When I say I did it all that day,  running the streets in his limo as he did press and prepared for the show.  The promise was of course, professional pictures of the finished product soon after the show,  well,  needless to say ….still waiting!  I did hear from him a couple of years later but it had nothing to do with those pictures…nice guy though.

Working with local Atlanta photographer Brian l. Christian (@bchristianphotography) was the ONE instance where   a days work actually produced a tangible outcome.  Not only did I receive a plethora of professional pictures,  his client was so impressed with us,  us being my son and I …my teenage assistant for the day….  and our professionalism and work ethic,  he was offered a job as an intern at her design studio….  it happens,  its rare, but it happens.

Just recently I had a wonderful experience working with an artist who reached out to GMMA graduates for assistance with make up for a luxury bridal show @elitepourlavie;  Avant-garde make up to accompany the most decadent gowns. The artist @thesebastianeffect was a dream to work with and I learned a lot just by watching him work AND his patient encouragement.

Lessons learned from each of my ‘services volunteerism’ gigs have been many.  For starters, always be professional and keep a positive attitude;  introduce yourself to everyone, tell them what you do and why you are there….. always acknowledge and defer to the primary person you are there to support;  keep a stack of professional business cards visible (so they don’t have to ask).

Now for the slick part….,

Document your work!  take before and after photo’s while you are completing the look….your excuse can be that your checking the light or making sure your product photographs well.  Build a rapport with your model (s),  follow them on social media in case they  posts any pics from your session….ask is he/she wouldn’t mind tagging you.  It’s a great way to build your visual resume and a record of YOUR work,  especially since you more than likely won’t receive any editorial or professional credentials or pictures to go along with the lack of pay.  Make sure the event hosts gets your card, comp card or a copy of your resume if it isn’t noted on your business card….which it should be!  Look the part so that when you slink into a group photo,  you look like you belong there!  You can’t always avoid being exploited by our industry but you can do a little of the exploiting yourself.





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