That Counter Life
We've all walked through a department store at some point or another and been blown away by the beautiful girls that adorn the makeup counters. Are they real ? Do they wake up like that ? How long does it take them to get ready ? As I've been lucky enough to work on one or two I thought I would write a little blog to give you an insight into what goes on behind the blusher, bronzer and lashings of Mascara.
Like most Makeup Artist's there was only one counter that I wanted to work on....MAC! I wanted to wear all black, and I wanted to have a belt full of beautiful brushes and a face full of makeup! So as soon as I started attending makeup school, I filled out an online application form to work on my nearest counter and prayed to god that should I get an interview, I could manage to act cool for long enough!
For anyone aspiring to work for MAC it's worth knowing that you don't actually had to have had any makeup training to work for them. Obviously it looks good on your CV, but some of the best makeup artists in the world are self taught. So don't let not having a fancy certificate put you off. The main thing is that you can talk to people, put them at ease and be good at learning anything and everything about the products you are selling. Because as everybody who already works there knows, the main part of your job is to SELL!!! I don't mean that to sound negative, MAC is a business and it needs to make money. In order to do that, they have to sell as many products as they possibly can and that's just the way it is. But you will have targets and they will need to be met.
For my interview I ordered a ton of super edgey black stuff from Topshop, (that I never wore again) dyed my hair bumblegum pink (well it was more orange than pink but I tried) and hoped for the best! My first interview was an informal chat with the counter manager about my experience and why I thought I would be good for the job! That was easy enough for me, I could talk a glass eye to sleep and by this point I'd had my fair share of jobs so had plenty to talk about. The next stage was not such a walk in the park.
On a busy Saturday afternoon I had to take a makeup model onto the counter with me and do a makeover on her. All the while pretending that I didn't know her.....I'm sweating just thinking about it! I took my best friend Becky and I'm so glad that I did because 2 seconds in she saved my bacon! I was just about to start when she got my intention by jerking her head ferociously at the hand sanitiser on the side, I'd only forgotten to use the bugger! This is a huge NO NO and so I quickly slapped some on my hands and prayed that the trainer hadn't seen it. What followed was the longest hour of my life. To this day I have no idea what I said or what I did, I'm sure she looked horrendous and I'm sure I sounded like a moron, but under the circumstances I'm just glad I managed to do anything at all!
There was no way on earth that I thought I had got the job. So when a call came through whilst I was away on a hen do in Dublin to say I'd been successful, the screams from me and the girls nearly brought the hotel down. I'll always remember my manager saying that she felt like she'd just told someone they'd won the X Factor! And honestly that's how I felt! I couldn't believe that something that seemed so scary and impossible had actually become my reality. I'd done it. It's was the first time in my life I realised that I could do whatever I wanted, I just had to believe.
I can't really remember my first day but I do know that I wore Film Noir Lipstick and I had the time of my life. As soon as I stepped foot on the counter, all of those scary, amazing looking girls and boys became normal people with names and smiles and they really looked after me. Helping me out with key info about products and what lipsticks go best with what liner and all sorts of things. It really is a team effort on a makeup counter, especially on a Saturday or at Christmas when all you want to do is hide in a cupboard till the madness is over. I'm sure you've seen a MAC Counter on a Saturday afternoon, it's scary stuff! I know that a lot of people feel intimidated by the sales assistants on the MAC counters but I promise you that they are the kindest, they wouldn't have got the job if they weren't good with people! So don't be scared, grab hold of one (maybe not literally) and ask them for tips and advice, that's what they're there for and they love it!
I didn't work at Mac for too long but I think in my time there that I saw enough to know that for me, it wasn't what I thought it was going to be. And that's nothing to do with the people I worked with, they were amazing! So talented and kind, I still speak to a lot of them now. And it's also nothing to do the with the products, everybody knows how good they are. It's more to do with the brand itself. Obviously MAC is huge, it's a global phenomenon. But I definitely feel that something has gone wrong somewhere along the way. I don't want to sound negative because I'm very grateful for my time at MAC , if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be doing what I am today. But I have to be honest otherwise there Is no point in writing this. In my opinion to work for them you have to be prepared to work very hard, for not much in return.
The second counter that I worked on was Laura Mercier and my experience was completely different again. I was on a much smaller team for starters, which straight away I preferred because it meant you got to know your team so much better. It was also quite a bit quieter, which allowed you to spend more time with your customer and offer a better service. Another thing I liked was that the style of makeup is a lot more natural, which suited me better as I don't tend to wear much! As with every counter you had targets to meet, but with the team being much smaller it was a lot easier to help each other out. If you had hit your target for the month but your team member hadn't you would take a step back and vice Versa! At one point when I had only been there a couple of months I got impetigo...it was awful, I thought the end of my nose was actually going to drop off! With it being highly contagious (not to mention it looked god awful) I wasn't allowed back on the counter until it had completely gone. My manager and Area manager were so kind and understanding and made sure that I was paid for any time I had to have off. It's the little things like that, that really make you feel valued! I absolutely loved my time working for Laura Mercier and the girls I worked with were amazing. The only negative I had was that sometimes through the week it could be really quiet and there is only so many times you can clean the lipsticks before you start to lose your marbles!
2 completely different brands and 2 completely different experiences, but both had a massively positive impact on my journey to becoming a Freelance Makeup Artist and I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity to work for both company's. MAC has given me the confidence to go for anything I want in life and Laura Mercier has helped me realise what style of makeup I prefer and ultimately what kind of artist I want to be.
I would encourage any budding makeup artists out there to work on a counter, even if only for a short while. I trained at an amazing makeup school but I still didn't really have a clue what I was doing when I finished my course, because the only way to get better at makeup is to do it...over and over and over again! And working on a counter gives you that opportunity with the bonus of earning a steady wage. You will gain experience of different skin types, learn about products, perfect your people skills and learn from the other artists around you! It's high pressure, and unsociable hours for not much money but the experience and the discount more than make up for it! All I would say is do some research and pick a brand that you can relate to. I went for MAC even though I'm not very edgey and I don't like wearing makeup, so it wasn't a great match. It's super important to pick the right the brand for you!