Interview with Gregory Arlt: Make Up Artist
c911da.gif” alt=”" width=”189″ height=”300″ />I had a fabulous date with Gregory, after he finished a hectic day doing makeup! Gregory is a freelance makeup artist based in Los Angeles whose focus is in fashion, video, and beauty editorial. He is also a Senior Artist with MAC Cosmetics’ Pro Team and has lots of Hollywood beauty scoop. Read on all you makeup maniacs!
How did you start in the makeup industry?
I was dragged into it kicking and screaming (in a good way)! I started doing makeup about ten years ago. I worked at a retail shop in Santa Monica called Fred Segal. Fred Segal carried a huge range of makeup; it is a true shopping experience. They asked if I had makeup experience, I said, YES. I used to tie down my two sisters and practice on them. They had no choice, neither did their dolls! That’s how I started in the makeup industry.
Did you have an artistic background growing up?
All my life! It’s in my blood. My father is a graphic designer and a fine artist. I have always painted from childhood on. While most kids were out playing ball on the weekends, my Dad set up easels for us in the yard. We would paint all day long. This was a wonderful experience. I have always been obsessed with sketching and drawing caricatures. Obsessively as a child I would draw eyes, lips, and faces. I guess my calling was makeup.
Did you have any formal makeup training?
I never went to school for makeup. I did look into makeup schools, but decided against that route of training. I was more interested in the beauty and editorial side of the makeup industry. I think schools are great for people with no artistic background, or people interested in special effects makeup, TV or film makeup. That’s not where my focus is in makeup. I didn’t feel the need to learn how to make someone bald, older, or scraped up.
I just practiced my craft. I was lucky enough to have a roommate who was a makeup artist. Her name was Andrea Kessel. She worked in TV, film, and beauty makeup. We used to have creative night where we would invite people over once a week for a big makeup party. Andrea helped me get to the next level with makeup. She was a great teacher!
After working at Fred Segal, did you begin working with a major cosmetic company?
Yes. I started working for MAC (Make-Up Art Cosmetics). I have been with MAC for six years. Fred Segal was an amazing learning experience. It was like going from elementary school at Fred Segal, then jumping to college graduation working for MAC.
When did your freelance makeup career begin?
About one year after working at Fred Segal I began doing outside freelance work. Music videos, beauty editorials, testing with photographers, and fashion layouts with models, were some of the jobs I experienced as a freelance artist. I did all this while maintaining a full-time job.
What areas of media do you frequently work in?
TV, print editorials, music videos, runway, and press releases. I also work with several hair companies doing their campaigns.
When did you first discover your interest in MAC?
I started using MAC cosmetics in the early 90′s as a freelance artist. I used to buy MAC at Nordstrom’s and Umberto Hair Salon. One of my friends at the time worked for MAC and was always begging me to work for MAC. He said, “you would love it, and they would love you!” As a freelance artist, the only company I would ever want to work for would be MAC. I believed in the products, always used, and trusted the products on all my jobs. In 1993, I decided to take the jump from Fred Segal into MAC.
What is your daily routine as a freelance makeup artist going on a job?
A typical day usually starts the night before, which is me inventorying my kit. I am very obsessive about my kit. The night before I shampoo and condition my brushes. I lay them all out in front of the heater so they can dry nicely, and are perfectly clean. I make sure all my supplies are marked for identification purposes, so I know what is mine. The following day, I do a final check, making sure I have every last supply necessary. From tweezers to tissue and see that everything is in its place!
I go to the location, wherever that might be. I introduce myself to every last person so I know whom I’m dealing with. I find out who’s who, and who’s in charge. Sometimes on these sets there are many chefs in the kitchen and you have to make sure you’re answering to the right person. A normal shoot day might last six hours but has gone on for eight! I usually listen to upbeat music on the way to the job to put me in the mood. On the way home, I collapse and listen to peaceful music. That’s a typical day!
When you are booked for a job, do you meet with the photographer and/or designers to find out what kind of look they want? Or do you have full creative freedom?
Usually there is a game plan. I make sure I talk with the photographer at the shoot to find out what look they want. Most really good photographers will throw you a scenario. For example, “this is an English rose that went to Italy for the summer.” You can be creative and design the look, but it is usually planned out. Fashion shows are pretty specific. I meet with the designer about a month before the shoot. I go over the designs, look at the clothes, fabric, textures, and the hair so I can get a story for it. We work together to get the whole look complete. The day of the show the designer may decide to change something. I always like to be prepared, so I make sure I pack up all types of makeup colors for backup. YOU HAVE TO BE PREPARED!!! I like the challenge of things changing last minute; it keeps me on my feet.
What is a typical rate you charge a client for makeup services?
Typically, all rates depend on the overall budget of the project. The typical day rate for makeup artists right now is between $500 and $700 a day. I know some makeup agencies pay their artists $750, some $500, it depends where you are in the agency and with makeup. Average rate is $600 a day for a seven to eight hour day. Overtime can average $50-$100 dollars an hour.
Do you establish your rate with a client on a first initial phone call or meeting?
Yes. I definitely try to work out all the financial details initially. Things change after the fact depending on budget changes. If my rate changes due to budget issues, I will adjust the amount of time I spend on the job if necessary. You have to adjust where and when needed, you have to get paid what your worth. You have your kit to think about, supplies and all that comes into play.
What amount of money will you decline work?
In the infamous words of Linda Evangelista,”I won’t get out of bed for less than $200 dollars a day.” It’s just not worth my while. It starts averaging out less an hour than I make on a typical workday. I try to also consider competitive rates that makeup artists are making freelancing for cosmetic companies or on a TV show. You have to be competitive in this industry. There will always be an exception to the rule based on how amazing the job is. If there is an opportunity to meet people, make connections, or a chance to get a unique photo or tearsheet out of it, I would definitely consider the job!!!
If we took a peek in your makeup kit what would we see?
My kit is 99% MAC makeup products. I use MAC like no other. I am really obsessed with tools. I love Tweezerman products, scissors, and individual lash curlers. You would see every shade of foundation you could ever hope to see. Like I said, I like to be prepared, I can’t be caught off guard.
What sets you apart from other makeup artists? Why would I want you to give me a makeover?
My focus with makeup and ultimate goal is to enhance someone’s face in a way they have never seen before. I don’t like to accessorize people. I like to enhance them. My philosophy towards makeup is to let it come out of you as opposed to me putting it onto you. I like makeup that makes sense! I like to bring out someone’s real personality with makeup. That is my favorite part. I don’t like people to feel like they have a mask on, or like a clown. I want my clients to feel ten times more beautiful. I love people to look in the mirror and say “oh my god, I have never seen myself look like this before.” That to me is the ultimate high, more than prestige or money.
You would want me to give you a makeover because I would make you feel good! I appreciate beauty, that’s why I’m in this business. People have something incredibly beautiful about themselves that they might not acknowledge. It is my job to let them know what that is. I don’t believe in insincerity or pulling the wool over someone’s eyes. I love the face and love beauty. I think what you would benefit from by sitting in my chair is a lot of honesty and positive feedback. I also love to teach and educate. I don’t want people to feel like they have to continue coming back to me over and over again. I want to teach them the basic tools and knowledge to do it themselves.
Give Makeup Mania readers your best beauty tips.
Less is more and you are out the door! Most people feel they have to pay attention to every square inch of their face. Often you should play up a feature you feel is your best. Don’t be afraid to take chances! Most people are afraid to change their makeup because they feel their face is how others perceive them. I think people are nervous to go that extra step whether it is changing a color or texture. The minute you say “frost” people think your taking them back to Studio 54 in 1970. There are so many things you can do now.
Give Makeup Mania readers a “hands on” beauty tip we can do at home.
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! That’s all I have to say. Moisturize to the tenth power! So many people don’t do that. Putting foundation on skin not moisturized is like spilling water in the Sahara. Your makeup is only going to look as good as your skin. Take care of your skin ladies, and don’t ignore those eyebrows! You want more eyelid space? Get out those tweezers for an instant eyelift.
What is your advice to aspiring makeup artists?
Practice, practice, and practice. Get your friends over to the house and do their makeup. Look in magazines, see what you love, and see what you hate. Practice a new technique, that’s the only way you’re going to learn and get experience. Look into makeup schools, there are some amazing schools out there that offer a variety of different services. A lot of cosmetic companies offer seminars and training on how to do makeup. Educate yourself and really check things out.
How do you keep up with all the new trends and styles? How do you incorporate them into your makeup repertoire?
I am obsessed with European magazines because they are spot on with trend. They are forecasting things into the future that we could not even imagine. I think that American magazines are so safe and not quite as avante guard. I love looking at fashion in terms of what textures are being used in clothes and in what colors. Makeup will definitely reflect on that. I read a lot and also look at young people on the street. Young people are spot on with trend. I try to take something I’ve seen, read about, or heard about and throw my own twist into the overall makeup look. I have even done makeup based on dreams that I have had. You have to adopt trends to fit into a person’s makeup personality and be versatile.
Being a male in the makeup industry, how has that been a challenge in a predominately female-based beauty industry?
If anything it has actually worked to my advantage, believe it or not! About 98% of the time I hear feedback from women who prefer having men do their makeup. A lot of wmen say, “I prefer men to do my makeup because men know what women want, men have a sense of what looks sexy or pretty on us.” In general, makeup should be genderless and to me is an art.
What is the most exciting or challenging opportunity you have had as a freelance artist?
Two things, one on a positive note and one on a negative note. I have worked with some celebrities who are very particular about how they want to look. I find the biggest challenge is when people are afraid to open their minds to something different. That is a huge brick wall when you’re trying to work with someone who has done his or her makeup the same way for so many years. They were told they looked good in that look back when they started doing their makeup that way. Some are not willing to take that chance and that’s a hard challenge. Personally, I find the most challenging and gratifying people to work with are drag queens. I love working with drag queens because they are not afraid to go over the top, be garish, and larger than life. Even with drag queens I still have to make them look beautiful. I can’t make them look like clowns. I love RuPaul, she has the most amazing makeup and look. I think that is the most challenging/fun thing for me to do. I have a large celebrity drag clientele. Overall, I have had some great opportunities.