This topic was always a mystery to me, it’s like going on a blind date. You never know what personality you are going to get or even knowing what you suppose to do as an assistant. I was fortunate to assist some of the top makeup artists in New York City ranging from some of the most incredible ones that I will forever be thankful for of the lessons they have taught me; to walking out of a job just so I can have a pep talk to myself in the bathroom mirror to try to make it through the day.
In the end, I have to be thankful for all of them, because they gave me perspectives. I’ve learned that it is extremely important to experience the good and the bad. You will only gain from it and it will give you an idea of the type of artist you want to become. When I assist someone I will always give my 100% no matter if they are nice or not. If they need me to mop the floor, I will get on my knees to mop the floor, if they need a coffee, I will get them a coffee and make sure it’s exactly how they want it. Im not saying that everyone should be like me but I am just sharing with you how those experiences groomed me to be who I am today. (ps. I actually did moped the floor and ran out for coffee multiple times)
You are going to run into personalities that clash with yours but remember, keep your pride and feelings outside the door because you signed up to be there, which means you have to give it your all and then decide if you would like to work with that individual again. If you still reading this, thank you for letting me ramble for a bit. The good part begins now! Instead of me giving you advices on how to become a successful assistant, I reached out to 5 major artists in the industry to see what their thoughts are!
Romero Jennings (Director of Artistry, Mac Cosmetics, NYC) | Started in 1980
“Attention to detail, anticipating what tools and products the Key artist needs”
I can say that Romero Jennings IS my favorite artist that I have ever worked alongside with. I hope that every makeup artist meet someone like him and get a chance to experience what it’s like learning or even just interacting with him. His personality and positive energy is so in contagious. I am beyond thankful to have him in my life and all the feedbacks and lessons he have given me over the years. For that, I want to say thank you.
Michael Patterson (Pro Artistry & Development Manager, Charlotte Tilbury, NYC) | Started in 2003
“Assisting a great makeup artist is an art form in itself. The ability is to get inside of the key's head and predict the next steps allows you to strengthen your eye and broaden your method. It's half skill set, and half mind set. Tune into the thought process, study the application and work quickly. You should absorb something from every experience. Apply this to your personal technique and aesthetic. A good assistant always grows, both technically and professionally”
Michael was the first person that gave me a chance in this industry. I printed out a stack of resume, took a bus from Boston to NYC to pass them out to every Mac locations. I remember every store that I walked in, no one noticed me or did I get a chance to speak to any managers on duty. It was just in and out, I felt very discourage and empty at that very moment. As I was about to take my bus home back to Boston that night, I saw another store in Soho and thought to myself, why not? I walked in not expecting much. That is where I met Michael Patterson. He stepped out of the office and spoke to me and took my resume out of my hands. He is my mentor, my friend, and I can honestly say without his unconditional support, i would not be here today, writing this blog. For that Thank you.
Regan Rabanal (Senior Artist, Mac Cosmetics, NYC) | Started in 1998
“Someone who thinks ahead of what you will need during the makeup and is always on time for an appointment”
I have been on set with Regan countless of time; assisting on Lookbook Shoot, Campaigns, or backstage at NYFW for the past 8+ seasons. He is always so calm and collected. I don’t think I have ever seen him stressed out on set ever. Trust me this industry can be quite stressful at times. One amazing quality that I really appreciate Regan for is that he always been very transparent and stay true to himself. Always there for his team and making sure that everyone is taken care of. Another incredible artist. For that, I want to thank you.
Lucie Nguyen (International Makeup Artist, NYC) | Started in 2007
“It’s not about you, get over it and get ready to work your ass off!”
Where do I even start with Lucie. I assisted Lucie on a campaign shoot for New York & Company in NYC. Let me tell you this woman is one of the hardest working artist out there and I mean it. If the work day is 12 hours, you will not find her taking a break or resting somewhere. She is either working on models, touching up on set, or standing a foot away from the photographer and the monitor to make sure everything is perfect out of camera. That is some incredible work ethic that i don’t come across often. I am very thankful she gave me an opportunity to be on such an incredible shoot while giving me her trust!! For that, Thank you!
Lee Xhakollari (Education Manager of East/ Central, Anastasia Beverly Hills, NYC) | Started in 2007
“An assistant is a learner of a craft”
I met Lee while she was a trainer with Mac Cosmetics in New York City. Every time this woman do makeup, she is so focus, so concentrated and the results are always impeccable. Another thing I will always remember is while I was assisting her at an event. She was doing an eyeliner on a model and I casual said “I hate doing liners so much, like who even likes them” she answered confidently “I, Do” Since then, my life changed. Im pretty sure she won’t even remember this but it stuck with me for a very long time. I want her to know that she made a pretty big impact on me as an artist probably without even knowing that she did. For that, thank you!
I hope you guys see the trend here, it’s not always about how good you can do makeup. As an assistant, most of the time you probably won’t even get to do any makeup. You are there to be a step ahead of the key at all time by studying and learning how they work individually. I honestly think being an assistant is the best and the quickest way to learn, build relationships and set yourself up to be successful in the future. My advice is, find yourself a good mentor, assist as many artists as you can, no matter if the experience is good or bad, you will benefit from it in the long run. I want to thank everyone that contributed to this read. Please share, leave a like and a comment if you enjoyed this read! PS, apologize for the awful English grammar =0| Follow me on Instagram: @vanmakeupartistry