What do you want to become?
Career Overview: As part of a production team, a Makeup Artist’s job is to collaborate with other creatives by painting faces, creating character looks and designing other facial effects in line with their vision.
General Salary Range: Varies widely; $300/day to $3,000/day
Become a Makeup Artist
A typical day for Makeup Artist Alyson Granaderos begins with loading in her trailer, tent or room where she will be working. Once she sets up her station, the Talent arrives and she can begin working on them. During this time, she’ll also be coordinating with the production’s liaison, which is usually the 1st AD or 2nd AD. This liaison will tell Granaderos how much time she has with each person.
Depending on the nature of the production, Granaderos may have anywhere from a half-hour to multiple hours to work on the Talent. The type of makeup heavily determines time as well. For example, facial effects may demand more than a pure beauty application.
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Granaderos began her career at Columbia College Chicago where she studied film. But before college, she already knew the film industry was where she wanted to be, which is why she was taking film classes even in high school. Though she didn’t initially know how she wanted to work in film, she wanted to have a creative role in it.
Granaderos took one theatrical makeup course in school, which sparked her love for the craft. Then through her roommate, she got in touch with the Makeup Artist on the Jerry Springer show, which filmed in Chicago. The woman invited her to come down to the set, and three days later, Granaderos was working on guests for the show. Says Granaderos, “It was like winning the lottery.” Her time on Jerry Springer was a big learning experience, and in many ways, the first chapter of her career.
After graduation, Granaderos moved to Los Angeles where she began working for the Visual Artist David LaChapelle. Through this experience, she further grew in her craft. It also provided her opportunities for future jobs, such as with renowned Makeup Artist Paul Starr. She learned to emulate the qualities of those who helped further her career, which is why she aspires to always be generous in time and energy to others in the business.
Education & Training
Granaderos notes that she’s “never met another Makeup Artist with a film degree.” Because her learning of the craft was done on the job, she can’t really speak to if someone should invest in going to a trade school that specializes in makeup application. That being said, she believes that anyone who takes that route would certainly learn about the craft.
A Makeup Artist is one of many professionals that collaborates on a given project or production. For that reason, Granaderos finds that her background in film has been invaluable to her career. Her college background enabled her to learn how production works, including what the lingo is, how to break down a script — and very important — how to display proper on-set etiquette. Says Granaderos, “You can only get so far knowing how to do a smoky eye.” By having a well-rounded education in film or television, an aspiring Makeup Artist has the opportunity to more quickly understand their place in it.
But given that she gained her expertise through real-life experience, Granaderos recommends taking on any practical opportunities that present themselves, including volunteering to be the Makeup Artist on student films and other small projects.
Experience & Skills
Individuals of all backgrounds may gravitate towards becoming a Makeup Artist, but Granaderos has noticed that those with a fine arts sensibility do particularly well in this profession. Individuals who have studied painting or sculpting often have a strong sense of color theory and can transition their skills from the canvas or other medium to the face and body. While she herself does not have a background in fine arts, Granaderos has time and again come across those who do and she finds them to be phenomenal Makeup Artists.
Granaderos moved to LA with a broken-down car, a credit card, the support of her family and virtually nothing else. She mentions this because it takes fearlessness to succeed as a Makeup Artist. Says Granaderos, “You have to want it — and do it — no matter what anyone else says.”
She’s also quick to emphasize that someone aspiring to be in this field must “pull strength from who they are.” The industry can be extremely challenging. But no matter the adversities, the person who will succeed is someone who can persevere and stay true to who they are. Granaderos also mentions humility. “Be open to criticism,” she says, and always willing to learn.
Granaderos describes the career of a Makeup Artist as one of “hills and valleys.” It’s a world of working freelance, so there can be periods of time when no work is available. Other times, a job might come through that lasts anywhere from a single day to multiple months at a time. Granaderos advises, “Be prepared for the consistency and the inconsistency.”
But it’s also important to find balance no matter how busy one’s professional life is. Granaderos recommends that anyone wanting to be a Makeup Artist still pursue other passions, whether that’s cooking, creating art outside the industry, spending time with family and friends or traveling. The days while on the job can be long, and it’s easy to get sucked into the industry, but it’s vital to step away to maintain health of mind, body and spirit. “You have to sustain yourself outside of your work,” Granaderos states.
When she is on the job, Granaderos works most often with the Talent and her on-set liaison, whether that’s the 1st AD, 2nd AD or Key Production Assistant. Depending on the size of the production, she might also be part of a larger makeup team.
Because her experience has come from on-the-job training, Granaderos recommends taking any opportunity that will help in learning the trade. As she mentioned earlier, that might mean working for free on student films, photography shoots and other small projects. Internships can also prove invaluable, as can apprenticeships, should the opportunity arise. Simply by blindly reaching out to an Artist one admires, they could even land themselves an apprenticeship.
With every gig, an aspiring Makeup Artist will not only expand their skill set, but also make connections and grow their portfolio.
Some opportunities may present where a Makeup Artist will be a salaried employee, such as on a television show where they’re working for multiple months at a time. Those jobs also employ union workers, which can mean more hourly compensation.
But in many cases, jobs are done on a contractual basis, though they might still be union jobs. Granaderos cautions that the day rate for a Makeup Artist can fluctuate greatly, depending on not only if it’s union or non-union, but also if it’s for a film, television show, commercial, editorial or celebrity. While more experienced Makeup Artists can have higher rates, the type of production plays a significant role in what the pay for it will be.
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
Granaderos belongs to IATSE Local 706, which is the Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild. From when she first arrived in LA, it took eight more years to finally make it into this union. But she mentions that one of the first things she did when she moved out west was contact the union to learn about the qualifications to getting in. By speaking to the union and learning what it required, she was able to figure out how to get there. That’s why she recommends that it’s never too soon to reach out to the union.
Also, joining more general entertainment communities, such as Women in Film or Film Independent will give aspiring Makeup Artists the chance to network with others in the industry and build relationships.
- Jump onto as many projects as possible.
- Build relationships.
- Create a portfolio — and Instagram account — and continually grow it.
- Be eager!
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“Don’t let others detour you from what you want to achieve,” says Granaderos. Because whether a person has been in the profession for five days or thirty years, it’s a competitive field, and there will always be setbacks as well as people who aren’t supportive. “Know who you are and you will succeed,” she adds.
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
Granaderos states, “When Makeup Artists don’t understand how the industry works outside of their profession.” Assuming that it’s not necessary to learn about the other aspects of the entertainment industry can lead to a lack of humility and respect for those who work in those fields. It might also mean not getting that respect in return. “Being a Makeup Artist is a team operation,” says Granaderos.
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
Interestingly enough, Granaderos admits that she didn’t ask questions when she first entered into this profession. “I just jumped in,” she states, which circles back to her advice that an aspiring Makeup Artist needs to be fearless. She adds that she always had faith in the process and recommends to “just do it.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
“Gregarious.” (Runner-up is “fearless”!)
Alyson Granaderos began her career in Chicago as a Makeup Intern on the Jerry Springer show. She earned her BA in Film & Video from Columbia College and moved to Los Angeles soon after. Her first job out of college was as an Assistant Makeup Artist for renowned Fashion Photographer David LaChapelle. Continuing her career in music videos, commercials, TV and film, Alyson worked with Actors and Artists such as Britney Spears, John Legend, Sarah Paulson and America Ferrera.
In 2008, Alyson landed a gig as the Key Makeup Artist on ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The show gave her the opportunity to travel all over the U.S. for three years. Alyson has been key Makeup Artist on five feature films, including Amber Tamblyn’s directorial debut, Paint It Black, in 2016. She is a member of her local union 706 and recently wrapped shooting season two on NBC’s A.P. Bio, which premieres March 7. She is also the proud mom of a super handsome five-year-old son.