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24 Sep 2017


By Gracie Carroll

7 Tips For Working Your Way Backstage From Makeup Artist Leah Elliston

By Gracie Carroll

Leah Elliston - Fashion Magazine Cover Shoot, Assisting Grace Lee

Fashion Week is currently in full swing and, if you happen to be an up-and-coming or aspiring Makeup Artist, the glitz and glamour from the runways to behind-the-scenes action may have you longing for your chance to make it into the ‘big leagues’ (AKA backstage) too. The only question is: HOW? Breaking into the fashion and entertainment industry is no easy feat and it can take years of hard work.

Often the best advice you can get is from a true pro, so we were quick to take note when Vancouver-based Makeup Artist and Blanche Macdonald instructor, Leah Elliston, offered up her tips for how to work your way up (and into backstage) in the industry.

Starting From The Bottom:

“I started working as a Makeup Artist for MAC at The Bay. I practiced, practiced and practiced. That’s what makes you learn. And after three years of practice I became the Resident Trainer for MAC at Metrotown in Burnaby. A Senior Artist position at MAC became available for a year as someone was going on maternity leave. I applied and got it! That changed my career. I started going to collections in Paris and Milan. That first year I did Salvatore Ferragamo and Roberto Cavalli in Milan. It was amazing.”

Get Connected:

“How I broke into it was through a brand (MAC Cosmetics); I was on their pro team. As a member, I would do many of the shows that MAC Cosmetics were sponsors for. Agencies in major Fashion Week cities will also have assisting lists that form the teams for all the big fashion shows. Reaching out to those agencies to find out what the requirements are to be added on is one way to get your foot in the door!

leah elliston makeup - industry tips for makeup artists

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due:

“Nothing about the makeup, clothing or hair should be posted on your social media until after the show is finished.” It’s also very important to tag and credit the appropriate artists. When you’re on a team for a show, you’re responsible for recreating a look designed by a Lead Artist. “If I post my look I always tag the lead Makeup Artist and the Designer for that show!”

Pack Light and Efficiently:

“Don’t have your kit be too heavy because usually you’re hauling it from show to show!” Downsizing your products to smaller containers will reduce the weight. You’ll also need the right products to be able to do makeup on any skin tone. You never want to be in a situation where you don’t have someone’s shade. Being able to blend and understand colour tones so that you can mix a colour for anybody is crucial.”

Be Adaptable:

Being flexible and adaptable is huge. I’ve been on shows before where we’ve literally been halfway through getting the models ready, and suddenly the designer has changed their mind about the makeup look. Which means changing the makeup look on all the girls you just did in usually a very short period of time.”

Sit Back, Be Humble:

Being in any backstage environment you need to be humble, that’s the #1 thing. Because not everyone you come across is going to be nice. Sometimes you can be told “No it’s horrible. Take it off.” You gotta take it with a grain of salt. You can’t go in with a big ego. Basically attitude is the #1 thing to make it!”

Leah Elliston Makeup - Backstage at Berlin Fashion Week

Be Cool with Celebrities & Models: 

“Professionalism is key. You’re not there to be their best friend or take photographs with them unless its okay with them. Your job is to do their makeup and to make them look and feel amazing most importantly.”

Prepare Yourself For The Not-So-Glamorous: 

“It might look glamorous on Instagram but its not always the case. You can literally be on your hands and knees rubbing moisturizer on a model’s ashy legs. Covering scabs, cuts and bruises. Even hauling your kit from show to show can be exhausting. Physically it can be very tiring. It’s hard work but it’s fun and really exciting to be backstage.”




(Story by Editor-in-Chief, Gracie Carroll)

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