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Amanda Bell on Being a Makeup Artist During COVID-19: “We’re Driven by Hard Work, Tenacity, and Talent”

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Amanda Bell has worked as a makeup artist for 20 years. She’s travelled the world, created the makeup for dozens of magazine covers, and collaborated with countless beauty brands. Normally, she’s perpetually booked and busy, but when COVID-19 hit, like many others in the beauty industry (and beyond), she had to pivot her work. While Bell was lucky enough to have work through other mediums, she was no longer painting her clients’ faces day-to-day.

Here, in her own words, Bell shares with POPSUGAR how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted her work as a global makeup artist. She delves into how a makeup artists’ job extends well beyond doing beautiful makeup, the significance of sharing years worth of experience and technique online for free, and why celebrities doing their own makeup for various shoots is perhaps something we shouldn’t celebrate with too much enthusiasm. This story was told to POPSUGAR editor Tori Crowther and has been edited for length and clarity.

COVID-19 Gave DIY a Whole New Meaning For the Professional Beauty Industry

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, I feel that it’s been so disappointing for so many people when it comes to business, especially for beauty salons and aestheticians, the latter of which were the last to reopen following the UK lockdown. When it comes to makeup artistry, over lockdown, a lot of photographers were shooting remotely. As much as I respect that, and whilst I can understand that that’s just the way it is, what is really, really difficult is the fact that for five months, makeup artists have not been allowed to touch people’s faces.

Because of that, it’s meant that this [remote way of working] has morphed into the “new normal,” where either models have been doing their own makeup or they’ve been instructed on set by makeup artists who have put together full kits, sanitised everything, and then guided the models through applying makeup to their own faces. On the other end of the spectrum, makeup artists have been cut completely out of the equation. It’s given a lot of people a way of trimming that cost, feeling like, “Oh, we don’t need makeup artists, we’ll just do it like this.”

During the coronavirus lockdown, I was still being asked to talk about trends in makeup for autumn/winter. I was still being asked what’s coming up for the next season and for my opinion as someone who’s relevant in the industry. Yet, we weren’t allowed to continue to contribute what our skill set actually is.

I understand completely the reasons as to why content creators took the direction they did and obviously the need to keep a team as safe as possible. But I also don’t want that to overshadow the strengths, the positives, the heritage of having a team of makeup artists that actually make a huge difference to the final look and the final image [of a photoshoot].

One of the fundamental things with makeup, and with makeup artistry, we’re in this really amazing position of trust. We frequently see people at their most vulnerable.

You Can’t Learn Colour Theory Overnight

Makeup artists have a specific skill set, which is truly unique and can’t be self-taught overnight –like colour theory, for example. On set, someone can say to a makeup artist, “I want a hot pink lip,” and we already have references in our mind of what that perfect hot pink lip is to go with that undertone on the skin. Or, if we have to, we’ll combine multiple different colours to get that shade. Someone who isn’t a trained makeup artist, or hasn’t been a makeup artist for a long time, won’t have the same references. It’s all about being able to understand nuances and all of the technicalities, which we just take as part of our everyday job. These are the things that maybe people don’t quite understand and obviously it’s something which we bring to the table. A makeup artist’s kit is another element. We bring thousands of pounds worth of products to set in order to bring the [photographer or brand’s] vision to life; we understand each and every product and curate our kits to get the best result for that particular job.

We’re More Than *Just* Makeup Artists on Set

Oftentimes, we’re almost like the on-set psychiatrists, nurses, and mums. It’s about this ability to shape shift and calm people down, to make them feel comfortable when they often feel very awkward and self-conscious. The majority of makeup artists have this very empathetic nature where we can put ourselves in the position of that person. We watch faces all day, and often see whilst watching shots being taken, if someone is uncomfortable. We’re also there to step in and say, “Oh, just give us two minutes.” We can go and comfort the person being photographed, “Are you okay? Do you want to take a minute?”. They might say, “Oh, actually, can you get me some water?” and right away we’ll reply, “I’ll get you a water.”

I’m really proud to be part of a community that isn’t driven necessarily by ego, but driven by hard work, tenacity, and talent. I think that’s the thing which we’ve striven for, and it’s such a shame for that to then be erased so easily or forgotten – especially for lack of budget.

As an industry, as a body of people, we assimilate into so much and it feels hurtful that it’s almost like all of these qualities, all of these extra little fairy dust elements, are just erased so easily.

It’s not about being a minion, it’s about understanding that the person in front of the camera is just a human being. I’m not putting shade on art directors and photographers, but sometimes they want an end result, and they will push people to get that end result. Whereas with a makeup artist, being there, we can say, “they need two minutes, they need water, they need a break,” and we can read a situation and read a room.

One of the fundamental things with makeup, and with makeup artistry, is that we’re in this really amazing position of trust. We frequently see people at their most vulnerable. I have always, always, always been mindful of that, and I feel very privileged to be in that position.

As an industry, as a body of people, we assimilate into so much and it feels hurtful that it’s almost like all of these qualities, all of these extra little fairy dust elements, are just erased so easily.

 

 

Does Sharing So Much Knowledge Online Come With a Price?

One of the things that we’ve become very much part of is sharing the knowledge that we have through Instagram and YouTube. There are a lot of makeup artists who share their techniques and the products that they use to achieve certain looks. On top of that, when you are someone who is constantly having your makeup done, you will learn certain processes, you will be able to do certain things. Some people are really talented, there are no two ways about it. I think that’s one of the beautiful things about Instagram, the fact that people who have a natural talent are just as respected as people who’ve been working in the industry for 25 years.

The difference comes in with the entertainment industry, for example. There’s an Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe, and BAFTA for makeup work. People who have won accolades that go outside of the traditional industry. I think other people probably feel that through the advent of social media, that it’s taken away a little bit from the people who have striven and had an education in the craft, versus solely self-taught people.

However, I do understand the perspective that if people are able to shoot remotely during COVID-19 without huge teams, they will. I do understand from Taylor Swift’s perspective – who did her own makeup for the 2020 Academy of Country Music Awards, for example – that there must be frustration in, “Why should I not make content, why should I not be able to have my own video shot?” just because she can’t get a makeup artist to do it. But then, you also have – and I could literally kiss her for it – Awkwafina, who came out on the flip side saying, “My glam squad, my team, are my family.” She wouldn’t ever do a video or do content without her people, because they mean so much to her on a human level. So you’ve got both sides.

During this time, all of the tips, the tricks, the knowledge we’ve shared, it’s just like, “Jesus, is that coming to bite us in our ass now?” If we kept all of our magical ways to ourselves, then it could potentially have served us better.

I’m proud to be part of a community that isn’t driven necessarily by ego, but driven by hard work, tenacity, and talent.

Moving Forward as a Makeup Artist During a Pandemic

But it is what it is, and I feel like this is just a moment in time, and we’ll probably have to understand that these times try us on so many different levels, and we will get through this. It’s not about pointing fingers, not getting angry, and once again, picking ourselves up and saying, “This is what we bring, this is what we can do as makeup artists and it goes beyond the superficial.” In this precise moment in time, we can’t predict what the future is going to be. We’re just going to have to be, as us makeup artists always are, adaptive.


Credit: Original article published here.

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