Why I became a Makeup Artist: My Story

So many of my clients ask me about my story. The story of how I got into Makeup Artistry and the places it’s taken me. I’ve learned in life that everybody has a story to tell. Whether grand or humble, we’ve all had experiences that have shaped us into the people we are today. So, without any fancy pictures, here is my story, straight from the heart. My story of why and how I became a Makeup Artist…

Ever since being a little girl, I loved playing with makeup and styling hair. But then again, a lot of little girls did exactly the same too. I grew up playing ‘makeup artists’ with my friend, I was influenced heavily by the makeup that my favourite pop stars wore and I subjected my mum to many hours of playing ‘hairdressers’ where she’d inevitably end up with high pigtails which I used to find particularly hilarious.

One of my first makeup artistry books came with a copy of J17 (I believe it to be this magazine anyway), my favourite teeny bopper magazine after graduating from Mizz, and it was a Bobbi Brown makeup guide. I read the book from cover to cover many times over and tried to re-create the looks. I thought she was an absolute goddess. She knew so much about every skin type, which colours worked for who and exactly how I could enhance my fair, freckled skin. Bobbi still is a makeup goddess by the way. She’s still an inspiration and a very influential makeup artist that’s helped to shape the industry. Soon after my Bobbi Brown book, I was given a Body Shop beauty book and was even treated to a blush from the shop too.

I started to wear makeup properly when I was in school, high school, that is. I was around 11 years old when I began to wear makeup daily and let me tell you, it was a disaster. I’d sneak my black Miss Sporty eyeliner to school in my bag as I got a severe roasting if I tried to leave the house wearing it, and applied it before 9am every morning in the mirrors over in the History block at school. I’d also apply a fairly thick slick of Bourjois Coupe de Theatre on my lashes (you know, the one where you could never quite cover the ‘white’ mascara that went on first), sweep a clear No7 brow gel over my almost invisible blonde brows, and apply a layer of strawberry chapstick to my lips. I thought I looked great, but in reality, I looked pretty terrible! As time went along, I started to wear foundation, it was called Dream Matte Mousse. It was exactly four shades too dark for my skin, slid away from my oily-skinned face before 11am and looked terribly cakey. Around this time, I also started to experiment with ombre eyeshadow. I’d wear a silver creme eyeshadow from Littlewoods on the inner half of my eye, and switch to a pink creme for the outer corner. My poor teachers must have thought I was straight off the banana boat.

As a teen, I really, really struggled with my appearance, and my skin in particular. I was bullied badly in school because of my hair colour, my freckles, my weight, how I walked, how I talked, for being ‘stuck up’, for being a prude, for being ‘a s***’, for being ‘a swot’…every contradictory slur you could imagine, I was subjected to. I was punched, I was kicked and I was pushed. I had my nose bust along with my lip, and I had beer poured all over me as I walked down the street heading home from the shop one evening. Sometimes the bullying came from boys much bigger than me, not just the girls. In the end, I felt so ashamed of how I looked because of these people, so I tried to cover my face in layers and layers of products to try and look ‘normal’. I was waking up two to three hours before school, and even college, to slather my makeup on. I tried many drugstore foundations that were all way too dark for my skin and in desperation, my Mum even bought me Estee Lauder Double Wear and a proper primer to try to help me. They were dark days. I didn’t want to live anymore, I felt ugly, worthless and like nobody would ever look at me and see anything other than a gruesome face.

After being hospitalised for being so poorly with my asthma and not recovering as I should, my lovey hospital consultant got to the bottom of why I was so poorly – the complete and utter distress of what was going on in my personal life. With the help of my parents, my doctor and a few friends, things gradually got better.

I continued on with my love of makeup and kept on experimenting daily, gradually getting to know the products that worked better for my skin. The nasty slurs from school were replaced by ‘Plastic’ and ‘Barbie!’ chants at college. I couldn’t win either way, but with better self-esteem, I laughed in the bullies faces and didn’t show any sign of being affected.

Fast forward many years….

When things got serious and it became time to decide on my career choice and start working towards it seriously at uni level, upon my parents advice, I took the academic route and instead stuck to what I had always excelled at in school and college – writing. They told me that I needed to do something academic and that a creative career wasn’t stable enough. “Keep creative endeavours as a hobby rather than a main source of income“, they said. So off I went and enrolled on my degree to study Journalism. I managed to swing most of my stories around to a fashion or beauty angle and was quite happy plodding along learning more about the industry that my heart truly belonged to – the beauty industry. After three years, I graduated, and after much searching for a job in journalism, I didn’t have much luck. I was desperately unhappy – educated to degree level yet unemployed. I still kept dabbling in makeup and buying in products to write about on my blog which was now becoming a priority to me, and eventually, I enrolled on a short college course in Complete Makeup Artistry. My parents helped me to pay for my training and we agreed that I would work alongside them as their in-studio makeup artist and hair stylist for their makeover shoots once I’d qualified and gained enough experience. I’d gotten sick of spending my days dreaming about my dream rather than living it, and it was time for a change. For the first time in a long time, I felt excited about what the future might hold. Funnily enough. I was offered a job on an Illamasqua counter straight after I qualified – the result of having a foundation colour match and getting into conversation about my love of makeup with the counter makeup artist. I snatched it up as I knew it would give me the experience I needed along with higher training. My work there really opened doors for me – I got to meet and make over so many different people. I got used to different skin tones and types, and, one of my proudest moments, I finally faced my fear and applied winged eyeliner to a client! But although I loved making over clients and learning from the masters at Illamasqua such as David Horne, Alex Box and Daniel Busuttil, the job didn’t offer much in the way of a wage and I was struggling to keep up to my friends for social events, so when I was headhunted for a job that would allow me to use my journalism skills with a much more attractive wage packet, I took it on and moved away to Leeds.

Although I worked in an office, I still dreamed of makeup and geared all of my content once again towards a fashion and beauty angle. I travelled home during weekends to make over clients for shoots at our family run studio, and to apply bridal makeups and special occasion makeups too. I also carefully crafted my skills with SFX makeup and started to get heavily into YouTube and lost in a world of beauty vloggers and makeup tutorials. Pixiwoo and Lisa Eldridge were some of my favourites (and I still adore them today). After the breakdown of my relationship with my then boyfriend, I moved back home and travelled in to the office daily. It didn’t take long for me to have enough and hand my notice in. I wasn’t being challenged by my work and I was stifled stuck in an office all day. I felt like I was suffocating and needed to have a creative outlet. I came home and announced that I was setting up my own business, much to my parents dismay. It wasn’t that they weren’t supportive, it was just that they didn’t want me to struggle and were worried for what the future might hold with not having a guaranteed wage every month. They’ve ran their own business for over 23 years so know perfectly well of the struggles small business owners can come up against, and wanted an easier time for me. Never the less, I took the plunge and registered my business name and set to work.

Within two years, I’d been globally recognised for my SFX work. I’d gotten a great client base and even made new friends, I’d taken on extra training in media makeup and also improved my SFX skills along the way. I’d been able to teach my own skills to students at a college level and gotten into YouTube which in turn led to affiliations with some of the companies that I shopped at almost weekly. And most importantly of all, I’d gotten to create beautiful images for clients with the two people I loved most in the world – my parents. Things were starting to come together, and the hard times were starting to feel like they were worth it.

Fast forward again to today…

Today, makeup is still my full time job. I get to do what I love every single day of the week along with building up my YouTube channel and blog, all whilst learning and growing. And I still work in the studio with my parents too. It always amazes me how knowledgable my dad is about his craft and just how creative he is, and just how well we all work together as a team and as a family. My work is an ever-evolving process. Some days it’s hard, but some days, it’s the dream. My dream.

To me, makeup is special. It helped me through dark days, it taught me to have fun again and more importantly, it taught me, even when you’ve had a bad day, you can take a look in the mirror, wipe it away and start a fresh again tomorrow. It’s not just a red lipstick, its confidence in a tube. It’s not just a concealer, it’s the secret to giving that teenager the confidence to walk down the street with her head held high when she has a blemish she’s ashamed of.

Makeup has the ability to give confidence, to change a life, to evoke a smile or even a tear. It empowers women to be confident and stand up and be counted. Makeup taught me many things as a teenager, but most of all, it taught me how to accept myself for who I am once again and to appreciate the face that makes me unique. And if I can teach just one person that very same lesson that I learned, then choosing makeup as my career was the best choice I did ever make.

© This post is copyright of Rachael Divers 2017.

Beauty. Fashion. Lifestyle.