Archive for the ‘career’ Category

Halloween Tale–Makeup In The Lemp Mansion

I thought it would be fun for October (and Friday the 13th) to tell a story about a makeup job I did in a famously haunted building, The Lemp Mansion.

When I had come home from work that day, I wrote it all out so I would not forget it.  I never thought I’d have a Lemp Mansion story of my own, but here we are.

This is not a work of fiction. 

On Monday, October 17, 2016, I was doing makeup for a photo shoot at the Lemp Mansion. The photographers, the keyholder, and I arrived before dawn. There was no one in the mansion itself except for a guest in the bed and breakfast. The person with the key was one of the models, a friend of the owner who was getting an excellent favor granted. Though it was dark and empty, nothing spooky was going on whatsoever. We went up to the second floor and the two photographers left me to begin the model while they went to the studio to get more gear.

I quickly forgot about my location and set to my task. The room gradually filled with sunlight to help along the ring light and the overhead pendant lights. There were two of these pendant lights, dangling from chains under gorgeous ceiling medallions about 8 feet apart. With the march of time/progress over the decades, Lemp is now overlooking Highway 55, so while we heard a lot of morning white noise, like traffic and big trucks barrelling down the highway, it was nothing unusual.

An assistant and another model showed up, then the photographers, another model, and the office folk. Soon after the office folk, the downstairs dining room opened for lunch. It was broad, sunny daylight and the building was bustling with life. I was barreling to the conclusion of the models, at which time I was free to go home.

The middle model asked me what I knew of the history of the place. I’m a bit of a paranormal fangirl, though I told her I didn’t KNOW much for sure, other than the publicized suicides. I mentioned there was allegedly an illegitimate son who was born with some sort of impairment. Due to the practices of the day, unfortunately, he didn’t get proper care and instead was allegedly stowed away in the attic. I told her I had heard the story on the radio a few times before, but wasn’t sure what details were true and what were fanciful. I said he had a rather rude nickname that it was rumored he hated but I told her if he had hated it in life, I didn’t want to perpetuate it by saying it out loud. We sort of went about our business after that.

The photographer thoughtfully bought the group lunch between 12:30 and 1. I was almost done with my last model, too warm to eat, and pretty ready to go after being on my feet that long, so I declined. I figured if I worked through lunch, I could leave sooner. The photographers, assistant, and two models were eating at the table under the far pendant lamp, which was 8 feet from where I was standing under the other lamp, doing the face of the last model.

The model I spoke to about the son in the attic asked the model who let us in about him. She said the owners had told her it wasn’t real, it was just a story made up to titillate, and that he wasn’t one of the official spirits that were in the place. She also used the name he hated, “Monkey Boy,” as she dismissed his existence.

After a few minutes, I heard a continuous noise–really only noticed it in the background because I was focused on my job. It sounded like a large piece of machinery with a busted motor mount—a loud, metal rattling. I ignored it, figuring it to be a truck outside at a loading dock or something. It went on, though, and right about the time I was thinking, “Damn, that truck is friggin’ CLOSE!” one of the models exclaimed. I looked up and the pendant over my head was shaking hard, like someone above it was aggressively yanking on the cord/chain above it. It didn’t stop when we noticed it, either.

My model, the photographers, and another model whipped out the cell phones to record it. We were trying to figure out a practical reason for what made it shake (Actual conversation: “Can they land helicopters on the roof of the Lemp?” “No, they can’t land helicopters on the roof here.”) and chatting rather loudly over the noise. One of the models pointed out that nothing else in the room was shaking—no photos, furniture, nor even the other lamp. The one over my head finally stopped moving.

That was all rather interesting enough, but out of the four videos recorded, one showed no movement at all and one showed only the tiniest bit of sway (though you hear us talking super loud about how the lamp was moving, including the helicopter conversation). One disappeared off the person’s phone entirely. I never did get a chance to check in with the fourth model to know what her video looked like.

7 witnesses, broad daylight.

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Overheard In The Beauty Department (Or “Mean Boys (And Girls) Suck”)

Overheard in the beauty department, uttered by a high-ranking artist from a makeup brand I know you all know:

“Ask her what her favorite designer is. If she doesn’t have a favorite designer, well, she probably has no business wearing (makeup brand redacted), but we’ll sell her stuff anyway.”

I do not possess the vocabulary to adequately express to you how horrified I was.

Though I heard this particular fellow say this rather audaciously on the selling floor, I can name you at LEAST two other brands who have trainers and/or ambassadors who have said things like that behind closed doors.

It is this kind of unconscionable snobbery that is part of driving consumers to buy online. We all want to feel pretty and not be judged. The sad part is that there is some sort of longstanding badge of honor to be exclusive, especially among the executives in the cosmetics industry, so this sort of thinking winds up being encouraged instead of re-educated…then brands wonder why they aren’t getting their increases.

Including people feels a hell of a lot better than excluding them–on ALL sides.

Dear Models

Dear Models (particularly photographer festival/convention models),

If a photographer is asking you to skulk around an abandoned building for a shoot, please exercise caution and good sense–or (best option) give it a pass completely. You will find everything from rats to falling staircases to broken glass to collapsing ceilings to other people in those buildings doing things far less innocent than a photo shoot. This goes double if the photographer wanting to “experiment” is from out of town and doesn’t understand how it is in your city.

Other key points to remember when considering a shoot like this–

*A photographer who “carries” is NO substitute for actual security and will likely get you hurt more than they will actually protect you. It isn’t like the movies.

*You know where the bathroom is for those shoots? Yeah, neither does your photographer–you’re going to be squatting in weeds with no TP.

*If you have to call emergency services to the building because something horrible happened there while you were trespassing, you’re also in for big legal trouble that your “wild, crazy, fun” photographer is NOT going to help you out of.

Free (and likely crappy, let’s be 100% real) pictures for your portfolio are simply NOT worth it.

Regarding “Exposure:” Key Advice For Burgeoning MUAs

When someone asks you to work for “great exposure,” pause for a moment and ask yourself, “Exposure to whom?”  If you are looking for a sustainable career as a MUA (as opposed to being a hobbyist), your follow-up question must be,  “How is this going to help me pay bills in the future?”

For example, let’s say you’ve been invited to work on a regional fashion show.  I don’t need to know the organizers, the event, or even your town to be able to bullet point two things you will encounter with utter surety–

  • It will involve several hours of your time the day of as well as time with the designer prior.
  • It will involve using your foundation/lashes/products on anywhere from 5-30 models.

Maybe your promised credit is your name on a program or a website, or perhaps the exposure they’ve promised is having your work “seen,” which is a vague promise at best.  Possibly, if you are very lucky, the show might be photographed or filmed for airing later.  I can already sense your excitement at all those people potentially seeing your work.  However, ask yourself some questions and be brutally honest with yourself regarding the answers–

Is this project going to expose me to paying customers?  Or is it going to expose me to other promoters and designers who know I worked it free?  Will they be willing to pay me themselves if they know I can be had for nothing?  Who is going to see my name on the website, or in the program, and decide they want to call me for their makeup needs?  What is the likelihood of that person being prepared to pay my rate vs offering me “exposure” of their own?  How likely is it that a future customer will see my makeup on a model walking the show and take the time to seek me out as an artist?  How many calls is it going to take from potential paying clients to recoup the cost of my time, effort, and usage of my kit to make this job worthwhile?

I used the fashion show as an example, as it is a prevalent request, but this also goes for photo shoots, videos, performances, art pieces, and more.  I was once contacted–via Model Mayhem, the serial and epic waster of a career MUA’s time–for a shoot of a pin-up calendar that was going to tie into a regional rock band’s promotion and help fund their next tour.  Their coordinator wanted two extensively lengthy days on set with an impossible sounding number of models, promising me my name would be credited in the calendar in the same tone she might have used to announce I had won the lottery.  I asked myself, “How likely is it that a paying client will see the makeup on one of the pin-up models, flip through the calendar to the credits, and go to the trouble to hire me?”  Pretty damn unlikely, given that the target audience was largely comprised of male fans of the rock band.  It was also notable that the production team were names I knew from the TF/exposure circuit (more on that in a moment), none of whom I had ever known to offer their beauty support a dime, so exposure from them would in all probability merely net me more opportunities to empty out my expensive kit for zero compensation.  I declined. The woman who had contacted me was rudely insistent, as though I was throwing away an opportunity of a lifetime, but I was firm.  Although the band made the money selling their copies, to date the artist they used has never gotten another paying call from them or anyone associated with the project.  She also had two utterly miserable days on set, but that’s another story.

The end of that anecdote brings me to another important question to ask:  Who else on this project is working for no monetary compensation?  If the promoter is making theirs and asks you to work free, your answer to their inquiry should be a flat no.

Bragging rights could vaguely be considered a form of payment if you are a hobbyist who doesn’t need your makeup job to buy your groceries.  If you want to make a real go of it as a MUA, though, it is a vital to your survival to be wary of exposure gigs and avoid remaining in those circles that only seem to offer trade/exposure work.   You will not have frequent, solid opportunities to trade up to better jobs if you can be had free.  What is someone’s motivation to pay you if that guy over there managed to get you to put in a 10 hour day on a video set for nothing more than your name on a fast-scrolling credit at the end?  People will not respect the value of your work until you put a dollar amount on it.

Once I stopped doing trade/exposure work, my circle completely changed…and so did my bank account.  Surprisingly, I learned people in the trade/exposure circles have absolutely no overlap with the next payment tier up.  Most of the paying circles beyond trade/exposure didn’t even know the names/organizations I would mention, except a select few in which the reaction was horror, not approval.  It is also fair to mention that my highest profile gigs–tv, celebrities, and the like–never once asked me to work for less than my rate.  Make no mistake:  Legitimate high profile opportunities have budget built-in for beauty services.

Trade/exposure work is a hamster wheel, keeping you running in fruitless circles unless you decide your work is worth enough to jump out of it.