Today we’d like to introduce you to Brielle McKenna.
Brielle, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I decided to go to makeup school right out of high school for various reasons. I wanted to learn how to apply makeup on myself to help boost my confidence and I also wanted a career that was fast paced, creative, ever-changing and allowed me to travel. After a year-long program learning from Hollywood’s makeup artists, I began working for free by testing with photographers and models or filmmakers. I began to get more work as my network and skill grew. I ended up doing a bit of everything – film, photography, fashion, bridal, and special effects. It took about 8 years for me to feel comfortable dropping all other “normal jobs” that gave me most of my income to just do makeup full time. All makeup artists not working on a film or photo set need to be a licensed Esthetician or Cosmetologist to legally work on clients in California. This means anyone doing your bridal makeup, house calls, or salon makeup must be licensed – the scary thing is the majority of makeup artists working out here are not licensed and trained in proper sanitation. I went back to school and got my Esthetician’s license so I could legally take non-film industry clients and also provide skin care services. I am now working full time in Los Angeles on film/television/commercial sets as well as doing about 40 weddings per year for my bridal clients. I have had the opportunity to work on Grammy, Academy, Tony, and Emmy-winning talent. Everyday is a new experience and I am thankful to be doing what I love!
Has it been a smooth road?
It has never been a smooth road and I don’t expect it to be for the duration of my career. Working for free for the first few years while you build a network and a portfolio is never easy and really tests your will. For years, I tried to balance a job that gave me income (like managing an office for a Plastic Surgeon) with trying to work any makeup gig I could find – but I could only do makeup on the weekends. That limited the work I could take and made me unavailable to do big projects. Once I took the leap to only do freelance makeup, there are still many days where I lay in bed worrying about when my next job will come. I don’t think that changes when you work for yourself. You really have to be out there networking and selling yourself at all times, which can be very difficult for me. A current struggle for myself and many of my fellow artists is dealing with the surge in social media and beauty apps. There are thousands of untrained, unlicensed makeup enthusiasts who now have a very large platform to influence the public. The popularity of highly photoshopped pictures and techniques that are not fit for most situations have made it difficult to communicate what is actually realistic to clients. The value priced “beauty-on-demand” apps available now have undercut talented working artist’s wages and are trying to take over our industry by providing clients or companies with subpar makeup applications at a ridiculously low rate.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
I did makeup for a client who was nominated for multiple Grammy awards and was walking the Red Carpet for her first time. My proudest moment was when she turned to me with tears in her eyes, hugged me, and thanked me for helping her feel confident and look stunning for the biggest night of her career. She won her first Grammy award that evening, and she was my first Red Carpet makeup. Needless to say, I felt overwhelmingly proud of both of us!
Every story has ups and downs. What were some of the downs others might not be aware of?
There are many struggles when it comes to being a freelance artist. I think finding balance is always tough. Between last minute bookings, weeks of work filled with 18 hour days. periods where you wonder if you’ll ever work again – I am constantly on my toes and working a very non-traditional schedule. Family and friends don’t always understand it.
Is there something we can do as a city to improve the outlook for professionals like you?
Los Angeles is one of the top places to live to excel at a career in makeup. We have everything from film/productions, red carpet/celebrity, fashion, photography, corporate, and (year-round) bridal markets. There is also always education readily available and an immense network of other artists.
- Website: www.briellemckenna.com or www.bellebybrielle.com
- Phone: 805-758-3424
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: briellemckenna or bellebeauty_brielle
Brielle McKenna, Jan Lim, Getty Images, Deborah Kolb