Here’s a really dense look into the life of Alexandra Butler! I wish I had enough room to post all of the pictures she sent over!
I’ve always been a very artistic person throughout life and originally thought fashion design was my next step, but then I realized I couldn’t sew… So I started to realize whenever I was watching those fashion makeover shows, I was intrigued by the makeup part of it. I then started practicing and collecting makeup. I even made my own YouTube channel geared towards makeup tutorials because I saw others doing it and KNEW I could do it too, and possibly better .
2. Did you go to makeup school? Was this a benefit to you? If so, how?
No I didn’t go to makeup school. I actually went to school for Industrial Engineering #gofigure. I worked in the field of engineering for 3 years and quickly realized that it was not the career for me. I actually got fired TWICE because I was underperforming, lol. I took that as a sign that God was pushing me out to do what I was passionate about. So I did.
As far as others going to makeup school, I think it could be beneficial, just depending on what you are learning. I must say, the “School of Hard Knocks” taught me a lot. I was thrown into a lot of situations without proper training or experience, but how I learned to tackle those road blocks made me who I am today. So you definitely don’t have to go to school for this. Just practice and get you a good mentor who can help guide you. Oh and do lots of FREE makeovers in the beginning. When you do FREE stuff, people can’t expect much out of you so if you mess up, they can’t get that mad, lol. But you learn from your mistakes and I highly doubt you will make the same mistake twice.
3. Did you work at any makeup counters? Was this a benefit to you? If so, how?
Yes I have been at the MAC counter for 3 years now. I started out as a MAC freelancer in Aug 2008 in Indiana and started working full time at Nordstrom MAC May 2009, here in Atlanta. Working at a counter is VERY beneficial in my honest opinion, from many standpoints. First off, you get real life training by coming in contact with so many different faces. Different shapes, colors, sizes, textures, and ATTITUDES, lol. You get a first hand experience on how to perform on certain people and you learn patience which will help you in the future. Second, when you work for an awesome company, you get gratis (free makeup), free testers, and discounts, so this enables you to build your kit and to try out new products. Third, you get to network and meet so many people. I can honestly say that 90% off the freelance jobs that I have gotten come from connections that I have made with people I meet on a daily basis. For me, working in a department store like Nordstrom is great because I get to use all the cosmetic lines and I come in contact with customers who are use to the superb customer service and are willing to spend a pretty penny on their appearance. Also depending on what location you are at (i.e. your mall) you may be in the center of all things of that type of industry. So if celebs frequent your counter, it won’t take much for them to meet you and see your work and want you as their makeup artist. That’s why it’s important to treat people equally and to be very professional and always be on point, you never know who is in your chair
4. Do you do bridal work? If so, give us details.
Of course! I LOVE doing bridal work because you have a large role in a special part of their lives, their wedding. They are so appreciative and are so happy when you make them look and feel beautiful. It is truly an awarding experience. Not to mention you can make some decent money too . I always pride myself on making other beautiful, and as small as it sounds, I love when I do someone’s makeup and then go and take a self pic and then upload it and make it their Facebook Profile or their Twitter Avi. It makes me feel very proud of my work. I’m telling you. Girls turn into “Sasha Fierce” once they see the final work of art that is them. They lose their mind and their “Swagga” is birthed in that makeup chair, lol.
Ok, so I was taught at the beginning of my career by one of my mentors (shout out to Ms. Synthe) that whenever discussing rates, never just give a flat out rate when someone asks you what you charge. For example, if a young lady walks up to you and says, “How much would you charge do my makeup for my wedding?” You say, “$100.” Then she says, “Great! So I need you to come to me at 6am and the wedding is 50 miles away. I need lashes. I need you to cover my tattoo. I need you to stay and touch me up.” Etc… Then all of a sudden, you undercut YOURSELF or make it hard to add on all these additional costs to what you originally quoted her. Always get all the needed information firsthand before quoting prices. You can give an initial range of prices if you like, but every situation is different and not every person wants the same thing. You can’t assume that or you will come up short. Just that quick $100 job that you quoted could turn into a job that should’ve been quoted at $350. I have a list of questions I ALWAYS send to folks so they can fill it out and send it back to me and from there I can itemize a list of what costs what. If you want the list of questions I ask, just email me.
That’s another thing, don’t make your services a la carte. For example, if someone walks up to you and says, “How much would you charge to apply just foundation?” or “How much would you just charge for just eye shadow and lips?” or “How much would you charge to just do eye lashes and eyebrows?” Unless that’s what you are known for and you want to always market yourself as an “A La Carte Makeup Artist,” go right ahead. Otherwise, market yourself as a package. I tell clients, “It will cost x amount of dollars for me to do your makeup and that includes lashes. If you don’t want lashes, it will still be the same amount.” If you go and lower your prices based off of them not wanting something originally, what happens if you get there and she changes her mind and wants those lashes now? Then you gotta figure out what to charge her, how much more time this extraness is going to take, and then make sure you have all that you need to do the extraness. Always be prepared.
Never short change yourself because you will regret it and it will haunt you. Know what the going rate is in your area. Starting out, I did whoever I could for free, I just wanted the experience. Then as time went on I started charging, like $20 a face, lol. Now that I am a well established artists, I know my worth. I know how much makeup I have in my kit and how expensive it can be to maintain it. Now there are times that I still work for free, but I am getting something in return. Whether it’s prints with a world renown photographer, free mentions in a magazine, or free VIP entry to an event. Know your worth and be able to market yourself, and stand firmly behind it. That takes some time so don’t start out charging folks $200 a face, do your research and be patient.
6. People always have crazy stories about doing makeup in the worst places! Where’s the most unfitting place you’ve worked?
LOL, so me at the trainer for MAC in my region had to do makeup on about 8 girls in a bathroom that was the size of my car’s passenger seat. It was nasty and gross and we had all this makeup on the toilet, on the sink, on the floor, in the models lap, wherever! The girls were sitting on the toilet, we had NO lighting, and it was hot, I mean it was a mess. But we made it through. And the show that we were doing the makeup for was for a GREAT cause and it turned out beautifully. I’ve had to do makeup outside in an alley in Atlanta summer weather before. Honestly, that wasn’t horrible because the lighting was perfect, natural light is the best. But on those occasions, I made it work. You can’t sweat the small stuff, you gotta woman up and do what you gotta do.
7. What are the things you wish you knew before becoming a MUA?
I wish I knew that it is okay to follow your dreams and to tackle them head on, even if it is going against the norm or what you are “supposed” to do. I am really proud of myself, I have accomplished a lot, but sometimes I sit back and think, “What if I had pursued this earlier, where would I be?” Or I always think that I am behind and that I need to catch up to others because I have lost some years when I was in engineering. But at the end of the day, God does things for a reason. He puts you in certain places and in contact with certain people for a reason. However things happen, they were meant to happen that way, so just trust God and put the blessings that he has given you into action. You have to do the work and let God guide you. Real talk.
8. How do you keep your makeup skills fresh?
Working for an industry leader like MAC, definitely helps with that. MAC is a trend line and is always updating, discontinuing, reintroducing, and improving makeup looks and products. I attend Update classes 4 times a year (seasonal) and we always see what’s new and hot and what was featured in NYFW or the latests shows. I also stay current by reading fashion magazines and by paying attention to what the trend is. Now to be honest, some stuff I may not do or apply on my clients, but it’s good to know so that when you do want to do something more current, you can know what to do or have an idea of where to start. Working at the counter, I am always introducing new things to customers, especially those who say “Well I always wear ‘Oh Baby’ and ‘Chestnut’.” It can be challenging, but I get a since of validation when I am able to show her the latest plum lip and how she can rock it everyday. I like to always keep my makeup and my client’s makeup fresh and not outdated looking, because you don’t want to take pictures and look back 10 years from now and be embarrassed. I like to have my work reflect who I am as an artist, not what nationality I am or how many years I have been doing it. I just want to produce amazing work.
9. How do you market yourself?
I use every free social media outlet I can use. Twitter. Facebook. YouTube. Wix. Blogger. ModelMayhem. Now there are others I haven’t tapped into, but in 2012, I will. I stand out amongst other working makeup artists because of my YouTube channel and FB following, especially in Atlanta. There are lots of industry folks who live here and who are successful, but I feel I have an edge because I have a very successful YouTube and Facebook fan base. Which is great because that means my work is getting out there to the masses and to the regular everyday people, which is who I want to connect to the most. Once I have established my name as THAT makeup artist because of my print, commercial, TV and movie, celebrity, and bridal work, I want to be able to build my own Makeup Academy. This Academy will be mainly for the up and coming makeup artists who need help building their portfolio, who wants to start a YouTube page, who wants to know proper etiquette on set, who wants to know what should be in her kit, or who wants to know how to do makeup. But I do want to also reach out to the everyday woman who wants to just know how to do her own makeup. I want to have stylists, photographers, website designers, etc, on deck so they can take part in developing our makeup artists. Doing mock photos shoots, learning the basics about hair and photography in case they have to step in, and seeing how to pick out portfolio worthy images, are some of the topics I want to cover. I have a lot of work to do, but I am ready to get things going.
10. How did you go about creating your kit? Did you go for pricey and drugstore items? How long did it take you? Did you over-purchase? Do you have things there that you rarely use? What do you use to carry your makeup?
I recommend to all who want to build their kit to start off first purchasing good quality brushes. When I first started, I had some Walmart brushes and they were fine, hell, I still have them, but quality brushes make it a lot easier to do a great job. They don’t have to be MAC, they can be Sonia Kashuk, Eco Tools, Elf, etc. Also, build up your foundations and concealers collection. Even if that means only having 4 shades, at least be able to blend and mix if need be. It is very important to be able to have a color to match people’s skin tones, because the wrong color foundation can make everything look crappy. Then from there, start to incorporate colors into your kit. Focus on basic primed looks. Which means browns, nudes, beiges, etc, colors that can be worn by anyone and that can be layered and built upon. If a deeper shade woman can wear a mid town brown as her lid color, a more fair shade woman can use that same brown in her crease. Those are prime colors. Also, don’t focus on a lot of shimmers, glitters, or frosts. Start off using mattes, velvets, or satins, those photograph way better and appear more clean and blended. Same with lipsticks. Be careful of the frosts and glazes, they have way too many light reflecting properties in them that can cause a glare in pictures or on film. Then from there, start to add whatever you like or whatever you need for a particular shoot. That’s where the fun stuff comes in .
As far as what I purchase, I will be honest, most of the products in my kit are more pricey than drugstore products. Not necessarily because I have to “have” expensive products, but because I know how they will perform and appear an they have great color payoff without using the whole container. I work with them everyday in my department so I know what performance I can get from them and I get discounted or free products. There are some less expensive products I have in my kit that I can’t live without, so I have a wide range of items I love working with. But it’s all about what you feel comfortable working with, what your client feels comfortable having on their face, and how it is perceived on film, TV, or print. I will be honest and say, it will be difficult for most makeup artists to charge a person $250 for a face if all you have in your kit is Elf products, unless you can beat a mean face, it will be hard (not impossible) to convince your client. Especially those clients who want to pay for that luxury or higher end products. So start saving and invest in some good quality products. Think about it.
It didn’t take me long to get the basics. I started out with 4 good stick foundations that I got from my local CCO and I made it work on everyone. But it takes time to develop a strong kit. I have been doing this for 3 years and have had the privilege of getting the majority of my products for free or for a great discount, which is why I say it is beneficial to work in retail. And yes I do “over purchase” and go crazy sometimes. Like when MAC introduces a new collection and they bring back a color I absolutely love. Then yes, I do go and buy at least 3 of that particular item. But a lot of my makeup spending has decreased after I’ve worked in retail. I am not as needy of things anymore. Probably because I know I can duplicate whatever the new stuff is with something I currently have. Most of my makeup purchases consist of replenishing things that I have ran out of or specifics for a client or a job. But I do occasionally get excited off of products because I have read a review on it or I have tried it out at work and want one for myself.
Yes I do have things that I rarely use, but I never get rid of makeup unless it’s for sanitary purposes. I keep makeup because you never know who you can use that on. I know I have had this one eye shadow for ions, never been touched. And in one of my shoots I just recently did, I used that product. I just like to collect makeup too, which is why my collection is RIDICULOUS! My friends and family threaten to steal pieces of it all the time and then they get the DEATH STARE O_O.
For my kit that I travel with, I use my ZUCA and I LOVE IT! I’ve noticed that a lot of industry makeup artists have one. I’ve had mine for about 18 months now, and
I can’t even remember what I did when I didn’t have it. I even have a video on how I packed it, when I first got it (Aug 2010) and of course that always changes depending on what I am doing or where I am going. I also carry with me another large bag that holds miscellaneous stuff that the ZUCA doesn’t fit. (I’m working on getting the ZUCA backpack. So keep your fingers crossed for me because if I do, I will do a video on how I pack that too.)
11. Do you have a professional portfolio? Has this helped you?
Yes and no to both answers. Yes I have a portfolio, but it is on my iPad. This day and age, so many people are using their computers, iPads, or smart phones to display things. I am working on my actual print portfolio now and it should be completed soon. So I say “yes and no” that is has helped me because I am still getting lots of work, and I don’t have one. But I’m sure I didn’t get a few jobs because I didn’t have one. So all in all, it is important to have one. Most people appreciate it being digital and on your iPad, but they are even more appreciative to be able to touch the pages and see up close your work in a portfolio book.
12. Do you have any makeup artist role models? If so, who?
Yes I do… a lot of them are your everyday, working makeup artists. I am so proud of others around me that I literally look up to them. They are out there doing the damn thing and are loving what they do. It really inspires me to be the best Alex I can be. As far as makeup artists who are well known, I personally love Sam Fine, Stephen Moleski, and James Vincent who I have had the pleasure of meeting and having conversations with. And who know ME personally, lol. I also love the work of Saisha Beecham, LaTasha Wright, Jeremy Dell, Tia Danztler, Toni Acey, Dionne Wynn, Essie Cha, Pat McGrath, Fatima Thomas, Romero Jennings, Val Garland, Billy B, Mario Dedivanovic, and Jackie Gomez, some who also know me personally… to name a few.
Want to be featured in the Makeup Artist Showcase? Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. I’d like to feature artists from all walks of life, with all levels of experience. Thanks!