What Are the Realities of Becoming a Professional MUA?

April 11, 2017


London has a thriving creative industry, but do makeup artists receive enough support? We asked our friend, full-time MUA Grace Vee to shed some light.


 Grace Vee for Notion Magazine


Hey Grace, tell me a little bit about yourself, what you're working on at the moment?
Hi, Tori! I'm Grace and I'm a London-based makeup artist. I'm currently working as a first assistant to an agency represented artist whose one of my favourite makeup artists, I juggle that with my own freelance jobs. So currently getting prepped for a busy show season with him in London, Paris and Milan. I'm also working on a self-directed beauty story for my favourite publication! with my friend and photographer Mia Clark, it's no styling just make up and going to be quite a mad one we are very excited for. So currently casting and designing all 8 makeup looks for that 


When did you discover you wanted to become and MUA?

I was always interested in makeup I would say from as young as 4 or 5. My favourite thing to do was watch my mother apply hers which to this day she still does beautifully. I'd sneak into her bathroom and play with all Chanel and Clinique products and get in a lot of trouble. The real turning point, however, was thumbing through her copies of Vogue, Tatler and i-D. I was always in awe of the makeup that people like Mary Greenwell, Pat McGrath had created. After a summer job shadowing and assisting a makeup artist I decided that I could do this for a career and it would never feel like work so I enrolled at makeup school and the rest is history!


London has such a thriving creative community, but so you believe make-up artists receive enough support?
London is my home and so proud of the thriving scene we have here, I think now artists such as Isamaya Ffrench have paved such a way and shown that make up isn't just about being glamorous it's a true art form, we are finally getting our moment. We are definitely supported however competition is now so tough as more people want to do the job you have to be one step ahead with your own original ideas, I feel we are more heard on sets and I am very much involved with casting and production for a lot of my beauty stories where the makeup is focus. Nice photographers that I work with are supporting my vision and letting me pick the faces I'm painting.


 Sos Steve Smith AW17 lookbook

What are the realities of becoming a professional/full-time MUA?
It's not a profession you should do for money it's one you do out of love. Especially in the creative sector of it, money does come! But for the first year, I was waiting tables 4 nights a week and doing tonnes of unpaid agency tests and editorials for independent magazines. It's long days, early call times and a financial investment to get your kit up to scratch with lovely high-end and necessary skin care and product. Get used to back ache too I'm lugging sometimes up to 4 heavy suitcases all over London and overseas.


What is your greatest accomplishment?
One is being able to be on some major jobs with my best friend of 10 years stylist Charlotte Moss @smokeytabboo, collaborating with her and also watch her grow and conquer makes me feel so honoured. Also, being published and now be on my fourth editorial for wonderland. Less than a year ago that was my dream it's been a publication I bought and sought inspiration from for years, the collection I have of them I still use for references.Getting to be on some amazing teams for fashion week shows! I love runway and the pressure and craziness of backstage I'm so proud I've been on some teams with artists I hugely respect. 

What advice would you give to those who want to make it in the industry?
Assist! Assisting is so vital, being able to watch someone whose work you admire and also makes a living off. You're never too good to assist because there's always someone who has been doing it longer and doing larger scale jobs. I've assisted some amazing artists and lucky enough to work for one currently whose work has been so inspiring to my career and partly the reason I got into it. Also, collaboration is key! The top, is a lonely place alone, find your teams and contact agencies for tests to experiment with looks and build your portfolio, through this I've been able to find amazing hair stylists that I work with a lot. Hair is your best friend, respect it and work together. I'd be lost without Jake Gallagher we work together a lot and bounce ideas off each other, he's also there for a hug if I'm having a bit of a bad day on set and vice versa.

Which artists work do you admire and who would you tell the next generation to type In their Google search engine for some good old makeup porn?
Thomas De Kluyver - he's just an artiste with what he does, his references and inspirations are so unique and the way he works with a product is mind blowing. He's also my boss and mentor and one of the kindest souls I've ever met. Being able to watch and assist him on dream jobs and calling it work makes me a very lucky girl! Peter Philips- he was one of the first artists work I saw that made stop, think and inspire- which is what art does. Lucia Pieroni- one of the greats, her love magazine costume drama issue make up is still one of my favourite editorials of all time. That makeup was the most romantic and beautiful I've ever seen.



Do you have any favourite models or particular looks that you enjoy working with?
I'm always a fan of a strange sort of beauty, probably the girl who got bullied in school for having weird features. My favourite models are Lindsey Wixson and molly Blair they both have strange features that are either oversized or small that transform into magic in a photo. I find beauty in people that people in other fields wouldn't see because I'm constantly so close to the face that I see things that could be beautiful with texture or colour on. My current muse is my friend Lou Lou she's super striking and has the most amazing untamed eyebrows I've been using her for a lot of stuff because her face just inspires me! 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully signed to an amazing agency and travelling the world keying the designs for shows for amazing designers and working on cover stories for mags like self-service and document journal, I also see myself doing more creative direction for beauty stories, I'm constantly mood boarding ideas for concepts and also help do research for my boss. It's something that really fulfils me coming up with unique and show-stopping ideas that I feel people will enjoy looking at and also make them think.

Who are your favourite teams to work with?
Photographer wise I'm blessed to work with such talented people who actually respect my work and I out id say @campbelladdy @nadineijewere @nadiaryder @__miaclark  @ambergracedixon and @pollyhanrahan are ones to watch and the people I shoot with most frequently they all have a unique style that I love working with for different reasons For stylists I'd say @smokeytabboo, of course, is killing her streetwear game and also @yukihaze @cassie_walker_. For magazines, BRICKS of course! Grateful for the platform you give to especially female creatives @niijournal and King Kong. Designers always bring it with the makeup for fashion week - for sure Mimi wade, Marta Jakubowski, Ashish and J.W Anderson, if I'm not on the team then they are ones I always go home and watch on the internet purely for the makeup.



Can being a woman in the creative industry be tough?

Yes but, I'm all about girls supporting girls! I've created long lasting relationships with other makeup artists at the same level as me and if we are booked or away we can refer each other for jobs. It's so lovely! Don't see everyone as competition but peers. It's great because now I'm on runway teams with a lot of them and we will all be in Italy and Paris together in June for some major shows. It's really important to create nice relationships with other artists. 


Lastly, what are your must beauty basics, we know you're a huge skin care junkie?
Wow ok, tough one but bioderma Micellar water for clean and beautiful skin, Elizabeth Arden 8 hour cream for lips and cuticles, touché éclat by YSL concealer and paw paw lip balm and moisturiser I love embrolyse it's the richest and beautiful cream that will make you feel like you've been reborn. Skin care is half of having great makeup on! My prep and primes are a big part of my job before even putting product on the face.



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