Inside a plastic crate, deep in the recesses of the closet that we use for storage, are my old makeup brushes.
Unbeknownst to colleagues and friends here in New York, while working as a beauty editor 10 or so years ago, I had a viable side career as a makeup artist.
Makeup gigs supplemented my modest editor income and afforded me a pretty decent and comfortable lifestyle. With projects ranging from being lucrative—print ads, advertorials, TV shoots—to less gainful, e.g. all-nighter music videos and magazine photo shoots.
Nonetheless, I worked steadily on a wide spectrum of hair and makeup jobs and kept busy; it was a lot of fun meeting and working with models, musicians, and celebrities! That I managed to be in debt and considerably broke throughout my 20s is beyond me…and kind of annoying to reminisce upon. 🙁
When I moved to New York, it came down to choosing between cultivating a writing career or further pursuing makeup artistry. In the beginning, I set out to do both, only to realize that pre-recession America required one to specialize in only one thing. So specialize is what I did…after an art director whom I was pitching to abruptly pointed out that my portfolio was “all over the place” and how it was “like someone fresh out of college, there’s too much of everything!” (“Do you want to be in editorial, or do you want to be a makeup artist?”)
Post-recession America is, by the way, basically like Asia now around the time I left—the more skills you had on the table, the more marketable you were.
Given that an office writing job was always my main job, even if at times my freelance gigs paid more, I followed the path of the former. Also, here in the US, you need a cosmetology license to work as a professional makeup artist. The procurement of said permit was something that I didn’t have the time nor resources for during my early days in NYC. Plus, full disclosure, I never went to beauty school in the first place—I learned how to put makeup on people thanks to my work as a beauty editor, i.e. meeting celebrity makeup artists, chatting with pro artists, researching makeup, and ultimately, writing about beauty, hair, and makeup. My first official/unofficial makeup gig was a lifestyle shoot for the magazine that I worked for, I literally had my personal Caboodles box on set with me. My makeup skills would eventually come in handy when makeup artists couldn’t make it to the shoot at the last minute or if no one was else was available. It was also convenient—with photo shoots having plenty of moving parts involving coordinating everyone’s schedule, knowing that I could do makeup for my own editorial pages was a plus. Exhausting, but still fruitful.
And yes, I picked up a legit makeup train case from Sephora along the way. 🙂
These days, I’m no longer as involved in the beauty world in the way that people from back home remember. True, my main livelihood still comes from a career in beauty, but it’s a very different playing field. Totally different. And if we’re talking strictly makeup, what I own now easily fits in one pouch—granted, said pouch is rather roomy and large and my top drawer at the office has a substantial portion dedicated to personal cosmetics.
Which brings us back to said brushes.
Most of these brushes, pictured above, were my “working” brushes—tools I had with me during bridal makeup appointments, print ads, magazine shoots.
I spent a good hour cleaning each one in the bathroom one Wednesday evening. It was as if I was ready to bring them out of hibernation—not to to revive a former livelihood but rather, to begin to carve some (precious) time before work to actually (mindfully) apply makeup at home in lieu of leaving the house barefaced and then gradually applying concealer, liner, eyeshadow, etc. as the day progresses…Or skipping the whole shenanigan altogether: With the exception of big meetings, it’s pretty casual most days at the office.
Every brush has a story, a memory, a circumstance. And believe it or not, with the exception of one, I remember exactly how I procured each piece: Some were given by friends and family, some came with press kits or events. Most have stood the test of time, while a few brushes, as I lovingly shampooed and rinsed every one of them, were then respectfully retired. (These days, I’m ruthless when it comes to getting rid of things that I no longer use because 1) real estate/closet space is precious in NYC and 2) I don’t like clutter.)
It’s been two weeks or so since I whipped out these brushes. Yes, I’ve made head way when it comes to giving my face at least five minutes of preening before dashing out the door. And yes, some days, I still default to my 5-second application of my go-to bright berry lipstick when I don’t feel like wearing eyeliner and mascara. The beauty (ooh, pun!) of it is that living in New York City has given me the freedom to choose however I wish to present my face to the world—with or without the help of tools.