I want to tell my story: The confessions of a makeup artist

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I love being a makeup artist. I fell in love with makeup as a 5-year-old when I looked up at a few teenagers wearing sparkles on their lips and eyes and asked my mother how old I needed to be to wear that. She said middle school and on the first day of school I had carefully applied a full face of makeup that came from a shoebox of products I acquired by stealing the makeup my mother didn’t use.

I was a tomboy but I still loved makeup. I saw it as a way to express myself and the different parts of my personality. Sometimes I wanted to feel pretty and then there was the punk rocker in me. Makeup allowed me the opportunity to express various sides of my young self.

Fast forward a few years and makeup became something I was lucky enough to do for a living. Even as I became a feminist in college and was accused of buying into the expectations of a male dominated sexist society (MDSS), I argued that wearing makeup was a privilege. I didn’t need it to feel beautiful and I can leave the house without it, but I used it as a tool to express who I was.

I went to work at the Lancome counter in college and so began my career in the beauty industry. I fell in love with putting makeup on women. I loved my customers. Could there really be anything better than applying makeup for a living?  What I found interesting as a 19-year-old was listening to my clients (25+) telling me that they only spent five minutes applying their makeup. I silently thought, ‘How could you only spend 5 minutes on yourself?’

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In my world, my application time was at least 30 minutes or more. It was sacred time for me. In those days, we used at least five to six colors on the eyes and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute it took to put them on. I also frequently heard, ‘I don’t look in the mirror.’ What was that all about, I wondered? Who doesn’t look in the mirror? As a young sociology student, I wondered if there was some dissociative disorder with these women!

THAT WAS THEN. THIS IS NOW

I had my son when I was 25 and my daughter when I was 27. I was not prepared in any way shape or form for what my world was going to look like. Little did I know that spending 30 minutes to apply my eye shadow would become a luxury. I was lucky if I got a shower and got dressed.

Having two children less than two years apart meant I was busy! I would feed one, change a diaper, make food, try to clean up, change another diaper, get one down for a nap and then the other, etc.  I would do what I was told and sleep while they were asleep. I never contemplated my appearance, but deep down, I longed for the time I could just spend 20 minutes to get dressed by myself.

Eventually, I went back to work at a salon. I had to get myself dressed and put together. I was a makeup artist after all. I had my tips and tricks and I used all of them to get myself ready as fast as I could, but there was one problem. I found myself doing the same thing I had always done, and I barely looked in the mirror at myself. I just applied my makeup in a way I trusted looked good. I began to recognize that I had become that client I had all those years ago. I was ignoring the mirror and relying on the way I did my makeup from the past. It was no longer an act of self-expression or a  creative act and now I had a case of that previously mentioned dissociative disorder. I had to do it for my job to be socially accepted and I was going through the motions.

Until…

THE GRAND AWAKENING 

For my 30th birthday, I was given the book Something More, the Path to Excavating Your Authentic Self, by New York Times bestselling author Sarah Ban Breathnach. In this wonderful book, she asks her readers to consider life as an expression of one’s Authentic Self. She offered up exercises to help you discover what that life looked like from your surroundings, to your lifestyle, down to your physical appearance.

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Her questions made me really think about how I was living my life. “When you are living your Authentic Life what do you look like in it,” she pondered and that was an amazing question to me. If my image became a reflection of my Authentic Self, my clothing, makeup and hair choices were now a way to express my authentic self. It was not about finding the latest trend; rather, it was about what trend of style fit me

EXCAVATING MY AUTHENTIC SELF

I began to take on Sarah’s recommendations for exploring my Authentic Self and began collaging. Collaging is a visual representation of your Authentic Self. She believes that by exploring images it allows you to connect with your heart. We didn’t have Pinterest back then and now that is my preferred way of collaging but I went through stacks of magazines and clipped images to create a visual biography of what resonated with me. As I performed these exercises, the pictures began to weave a story as I asked myself the question What does my Authentic Self Look Like?

Makeup Inspirations on Pinterest

Makeup Inspirations on Pinterest

MIRROR MIRROR ON THE WALL

I was ignoring the mirror because my reflection was showing me a me that no longer expressed my Authentic Self. I had stopped looking at myself because what was staring back at me was not what was me anymore. Now, what my clients had told me in the past and what I had labeled as a dissociative disorder made perfect sense.

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So, what does my Authentic Self look like? I looked for images and visual representations that resonated with me and then I saw the movie the City of Angels starring Meg Ryan and Nicholas Cage. Meg Ryan’s character had short blonde curly hair which was soft and feminine. That was it! I knew that that was my style icon. I was ready to cut my hair off and go blonde.

WILLING TO BECOME

So here’s the thing. Being willing to give up who you are today for who you can become tomorrow takes courage and a lot of courage especially when it has to do with your hair! Cutting your hair off and changing its color is a jump into the abyss. Changing your makeup is one thing because you can just wash your face, but your hair is more permanent. The act alone of cutting your hair is symbolic. As Coco Chanel said, a women who cuts her hair is a woman who is ready to change her life!

So, I was ready to change my image but it took a lot of convincing the hairdressers. It took me six months to convince everyone what I really wanted it, and four months after my 30th birthday I cut six inches of long red curly hair off and went blonde. Just like that, I embarked on a life that was a reflection of my authentic self.

What’s so funny about making this kind of change is that everyone has to tell you how they feel about it. So many opinions so little time. The funny thing is  that I was so clear about my choice that I didn’t care at all what people thought. The level of confidence I had in myself went up a thousand fold. I did not feel influenced by others. I loved the way I looked and I had a confidence in myself I had never experienced before.

THE POWER OF THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY

I believe the beauty industry’s power over us has to do with the strong message we receive letting us know that we are not knowledgeable enough to make our own decisions and we must rely on the experts to tell us how we should look and dress, and we buy into it. As a beauty professional, if I had a nickel for every time I have been told by a client, you are the expert just tell me what you think looks best’,  I would be rich. This mentality is what keeps us from taking responsibility responsible for how we look. It keeps the dependency on the industry intact.

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Every so often, I get to give a talk to high school students and I ask them what the purpose of art is. I receive a variety of answers and the one that seems to recur is the notion that art is for inspiration. What we forget is that all those images of how we are supposed to look are art. Those images are collaborations between many artists. The cost of producing one image can be well over 100k. There is the art director, the photographer, the model, the makeup artist, the hair stylist, the stylist, the clothing designer, the jewelry designer, the set designer and then the artist in post-production. So why do we compare ourselves to these images?

AUTHORING YOUR OWN IMAGE

Until we can use the industry instead of it using us, we will continue to feel badly about ourselves. We all know that comparing ourselves to anything can be detrimental to our sense of well-being but there is an alternative. It’s authoring your image. It’s taking the time to do a little soul searching to figure out what you are drawn to and having the courage to evolve our appearance.

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If you are able to hone in on a clear sense of what you want to look like then you can employ the help of experts to help you get there. And this is how Authentic Beauty’s Image Journey was born!

THE IMAGE JOURNEY

After I did this process on myself, I began to develop a procedure for my clients. As an artist, you are taught to design makeup looks based on your opinion of what you think the person wants. You ask questions and if you are good at a consultation you will be a good makeup artist; however, as good as I was, I wouldn’t nail it 100% of the time what someone wanted. When I developed this system of collaging specific to makeup, I began to have stellar results with my clients.

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This way of consulting is now known as the Image Journey and it is a 90 minute self-discovery makeup lesson that allows you to discover and then learn how to express your Authentic Image through makeup. In creating this, it took away so much of my opinion of what I thought someone should look like. Instead, it allowed me to really hone in on what style my clients were desiring and to teach them how to get there!

If you are ready for a transformational experience and truly want to learn how to do makeup that finally feels like you, this is the lesson for you. It goes way beyond how to apply your foundation and eye makeup. It addresses what do I want to look like.

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You will have simple homework (creating a collage through Pinterest or making a physical collage) that looks and feels true to your Authentic Self. You arrive with your completed homework and all the makeup you currently own as well as your brushes. Your artist will then interpret your collage or Pinterest board, look through all your makeup and tools and then teach you how do to your makeup based on the callings of your Authentic Self.

This lesson includes a follow-up session in which we will observe you applying your makeup to ensure that you can do it yourself! We only teach simple and easy techniques that you can absolutely do yourself.

ARE YOU READY TO OWN YOUR PRETTY?

I created Authentic Beauty Salon & Studio to be a safe place for women to learn how to do their makeup. I do not believe that department stores honor the experience of transforming your image. They can suggest what’s for sale and what the latest and greatest products are but their purpose is to sell to you. Their job depends on it. There is no room for learning or evolving. It is about getting the sale.

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Alyson Howard-Hoag: Authentic Beauty CEO & Founder, the brow guru and professional makeup artist.

I love the studio we have created at Authentic Beauty. We have products that are non-toxic and fully customizable to make the process of evolving affordable and easy. Our artists are committed to you and not to the sale. It will be an experience you will never forget.

I encourage you to take an Image Journey. This fun, transformational, one-of-kind makeover experience will leave you loving what you see when you look in the mirror!

Authentic Beauty is located at Authentic Beauty, 4674 Roswell Rd. Atlanta, GA 30342. Check us out online here or call us at 404.849.0443.

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