One of the best parts about interviewing bad-ass women is that I get to highlight the triumphs of women whose drive and determination inspire me personally. This week I chose Megan Fraser, because she is a comedian-turned-makeup artist who took the plunge that only some of us only dream of taking. At 29 she went back to school (a terrifying prospect) to study a subject that she is both passionate about and for which she has an incredible amount of talent. The result of that decision and all of the subsequent hard work and sacrifice that goes along with taking a worthwhile risk is that she is now working as a freelance makeup artist, and was generous enough to answer some questions about her career.
Was it always your goal to be a makeup artist? If so, how did you set yourself up for success? If not, what led you to your decision to pursue it as a career?
Not at all. I moved to Toronto eleven years ago to be a comedian/actor/writer. It wasn’t until I was on one of the only acting gigs I ever booked (I’m not good) that I was chatting to the makeup artist and realized I was more interested in what she was doing than being in front of the camera. I always enjoyed Halloween and blood and horror but it wasn’t until my friend Kristen told me I should just go for it that I went back to school for makeup and special FX. I still perform comedy and write, but I knew I needed another skill-set.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
Seeing the reaction from people and seeing the transformation. Whether it’s a bride seeing herself in the mirror for the first time after I’ve done her makeup, or seeing a monster or a wound/bruise I’ve done for film.
Can you describe some of the challenges that you’ve faced in your career so far?
Being freelance is scary since you never know when your next job is going to be. And then sometimes all the work comes at once and you don’t want to say no to anything and you end up with no social life or clean clothes for a while. But so far so good.
Are there any common misconceptions about your job or line of work in general? How do you address those misconceptions?
A lot of people don’t realize how expensive it is to be a makeup artist. I have to stock my own kit with high-end products and it gets pretty pricey. And a lot of lower budget films don’t budget in for makeup and hair, so a lot of the time I’m asked to work for free or they cover the cost of the makeup I’m using. I will work for free time and again if it’s something fun or will build my portfolio, but I have to start paying back my OSAP so I can’t do it very often. If I’m getting lowballed, I usually tell them that they are paying for quality of work and if they go to someone less experienced or “cheaper,” they won’t be happy with the result. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to any young woman looking to follow in your footsteps?
Research and practice. There are tons of online tutorials everywhere and I’m not knocking YouTube makeup gurus at all (maybe a little), but I didn’t learn until it was hands on and supercritical, like it was at school. Teachers would point out every flaw at first. If you don’t have someone teaching you the proper products, safety of using certain products, and, you know, how to actually apply things in the correct way and keeping everything clean and sanitized for your clients, you could actually injure someone. And it’s going to sound stupid, but knowing colours; for instance, knowing what colours will work with different skin tones/eye colours. I thought that class in school was stupid until I started working. We actually had a test question about what two colours mix to make purple. I thought it was a trick question.
Also, practice. You know your own face, but applying to different skin tones with different bone structures, eye shapes etc. is a hard skill to learn. Grab your friend or your mom and have fun with different looks.
Do you have a preference in regards to the type of makeup work you do?
I will always have a soft spot of blood and monsters and gore, but making someone look natural on camera is also challenging as well. I love being on set working because there’s such a good vibe in the air and you meet some great people.
What is the most fun and/or challenging project you’ve worked on so far?
A few weeks ago I body painted Maylee Todd for her music video and it was both fun and challenging. I had to apply a bald cap (which is hard to do well) and then create three different looks of the human muscular system, skeletal system and then giving her a realistic bald head look. It was a ton of work for one day of shooting but it was so fun to make her into these looks.
Is there anything you can tell others about working freelance that they might not know?
I feel I’m still such a freelance newbie, but I’m getting the hang of it. My big mistake for a while was not following up on invoices. I always gave people the benefit of the doubt and assumed “the cheque was in the mail” when sometimes they would just forget and I waited a month longer for money than I had to. Oh, and don’t assume you have money until you cash that cheque.
What is the most common makeup-related question you get asked?
Currently, it’s about eyebrows and eyeliner. “How do I do a cateye,” and “How do you fill in my brows.” I wish I could teach the world how to fill their eyebrows in correctly, ‘cause damn… And always “What’s the best brand for….” Bigger brands have better pigmentation usually, so it’s worth the money but there are a lot of great drugstore brands, such as Rimmel and NYX, so people don’t need to spend a million dollars at Sephora (even though that’s my favourite thing to do).
What motivates you most in your day-to-day life?
This is going to sound super lame, but I always want to make my mom proud. She never wanted me to move away from my hometown of Calgary, so I knew if I did I had to be doing something worthwhile. Also, I love learning. I want to know how to do everything, so I’m always Googling for new ideas and tips.
Do you have a “life-motto” or words that you live by?
Can I curse in this interview? “Just fucking do it.” I went back to school at 29 and was surrounded by 17 year olds because I found my passion. Life is too short to be stuck in a blah job and feeling blah all the time. I was so scared to start something new because I was stuck in a crappy old routine that made me miserable. That’s no fun. Being able to be creative every day is a great feeling and I recommend it to everyone.
You heard it here first: “Just fucking do it.” To check out some more of Megan’s work (and hire her for all of your events!) you can click here. You can also follow her on Twitter.