Updated: Sep 1, 2020
I'm going to tell you story about my Fashion Week assisting career and some lessons that I learnt along the way which went on to have a huge impact on my success and growth as an artist. You can apply these teachings to any avenue of your career to help you achieve goals.
The moment I decided I was going to pursue a career in makeup I made it my mission to work my way to the top of the Fashion Week ladder. I made a wish list of all the shows that I wanted to work on and all the "Makeup Monsters" I wanted to assist, starting with the most achievable, and then finishing with my end goals. Pat McGrath was at the end of that list as the ultimate dream.
I was about 2 years into my Fashion Week assisting journey, when I received a text message from a Makeup Artist I had recently assisted. They worked on Pat McGrath's team and asked if I was available to work on a show with her the next day. I could not reply with a YES to that message fast enough! I was so overjoyed with excitement that I completely forgot I was already confirmed on two other shows that following day. I burnt a couple of bridges cancelling those other two shows so last minute, but I knew it was the right decision because it was my chance to make my goal a reality. Within minutes Pat's agent had emailed me and I was confirmed on the show.
Up until then Pat Mcgrath wasn't keying many shows in London. She would work between New York, where she lives, and Milan and Paris where all the major designers would show. However on this occasion, she had flown into London to work with long time collaborator and friend, John Galliano. It was his debut couture collection as Creative Director at Maison Margiela. Despite the Margiela fashion house being based in Paris, he decided to show his first collection in London due to his formative years and his beginnings in the industry. Thanks to this decision Pat McGrath needed lots of London based assistants. When a Makeup Artist is in need of new assistants they usually turn to their existing team for recommendations.
It's important for you to know that a few months prior when I assisted the Makeup Artist who recommended me, I was very much aware that they worked on Pat McGrath's team. I knew that it was in my best interest to make a good impression that day and i was on my absolute A game from the second I entered that room. There were 12 other assistants there that day, i was one of the newest members. I was given the easiest looks to begin with but by the end of the day I was helping out on the most complex makeups. This happened because I put my head down, focussed, worked quickly and concisely and when I was given a correction I made sure I understood it so I could nail it the next time - all important factors when working in a fast paced environment such as Fashion Week. It paid off and I was complimented on my skills at the end of the job.
So lesson number 1 is to always remember that whenever you are assisting anyone or you're working on a job, any job, no matter how insignificant it may seem, there may be someone in that room that holds a key to a dream of yours. This is why it's super important to always give 100% and more because it will be noticed and it will be remembered. Had I not given it my all that day, I would not have been recommended to work on Pat McGrath's team.
That Maison Margiela show still remains as one of the most incredible memories I have working backstage at Fashion Week. I had spent years pouring over images of Pat McGrath's work but nothing prepares you for the beauty of it all in real life. I truly had never witnessed makeup like it, I had goosebumps all day long. Everything from the makeup and hair to the clothes was mesmerising. This is why i strongly recommend every Makeup Artist tries to work backstage at Fashion Week. It expands your creative mind to witness that level of artistry in real life. I have created a Pinterest board of all the makeup from that show so you can all have a look if you are not already familiar with it.
I didn't even do any makeup that day. I was asked to assist the more experienced assistants on the team by holding out crystals for them or helping them tidy up. Whenever you enter a giant makeup team like that it takes time to work your way up. There is a specific hierarchy that you must respect and you really have to earn your place as a Makeup Artist on those teams. After that Margiela show i made myself available for every show Pat did. I would fly myself to Milan and Paris and wait for a call in case they needed an extra pair of hands. When there were bigger shows that required more assistants, I would be confirmed and asked to assist the assistants again. I used that as an opportunity to observe and absorb as much as i could just by watching how that team worked. It was long hours and a lot of standing around but i always tried to make sure that i remained focussed and offered my assistance wherever needed, even if it meant carrying suitcases or making drinks for the team.
One day one of the makeup team told me that if i want to be a Makeup Artist on her team then i have to find a way to get noticed by Pat. Every person on that team has a unique story of how they made it. So this is mine...
On October 29, 2015 Pat McGrath released 1,000 pieces of her first limited edition makeup product - Gold 001. It was a high impact, rich yellow gold pressed pigment that could be mixed with a mixing medium to create a liquid gold chrome effect. I went halves with a friend and we managed to get 1 of the 1,000. When i saw that Pat was reposting images of makeup's created using Gold 001, i knew that was my opportunity to get noticed. I spent an entire day playing with that pigment, mixing it with all kinds of mixing mediums and glosses to get the most effective finish. I photographed it on my lips from day to night to see which light made it look the most effective. I settled on the picture above and posted it. To my delight she reposted it the next day. The repost really helped my following on Instagram and i was happy with that. I continued to assist on shows, but not much had changed, i was still assisting the assistants on the bigger shows and i was still yet to unpack my makeup kit backstage at a show. It was frustrating but i knew i had to be patient.
It all changed in July 2016, a year and a half since that first Margiela show and 10 months after i had created those gold lips. I arrived backstage at Versace at the beginning of the Couture season in Paris. I was shown my place and told to unpack my kit - my time had finally come! I was given a model straight away, i completed my makeup and it was time to show my model to Pat. I can't quite describe the feeling of taking your work to be inspected by a makeup legend who you admire so much, its a brilliant combination of fear and excitement. As soon as i approached her she said "I know you! You're the girl that did that major gold lip!". Afterwards her producer told me that they were at a makeup test a few days back and Pat got her phone out with my gold lip picture on show and asked for someone to "find that girl". Her producer told her that i was already on the team and it was from that day forward that i was confirmed on every single Pat McGrath show in New York, London, Milan and Paris. I even travelled to Tokyo and Beijing to do shows and had the incredible opportunity to go to Makeup Tests with the team also. I'm not sure why it took almost a year for her to notice that gold lip, she's a busy lady so perhaps she genuinely didn't see it until then, but it doesn't matter because eventually my plan worked and it taught me to always keep going and to never give up. I worked on that team for 5 years and it's the part of my career that i am most proud of and grateful for. I wouldn't be half the Makeup Artist i am today without all of the invaluable knowledge i learnt from her and her incredibly talented team over the years. All because i posted that picture of myself in a gold lip.
The moral of the story is to never take your eye off the prize, stay focussed and don't give up on your dreams no matter how long you may feel it's taking. Always remember to direct your energy towards the people that matter most, make them aware of you are and what you are capable of. Believe in yourself and think of unique ways to get noticed and make yourself stand out from the crowd. It doesn't have to be complicated, i did it with a simple gold lip.