The Beauty Brigade: Brush Up On The MUAs In Fashion

Those fashion pictures you’ve been gazing at? Yeah, a makeup artist had something to do with that. A considerable amount of something, if we’re being honest. They are the inconspicuous professionals behind every look.  Inside their retractable, portable cosmetic bags is a world of makeup that many wouldn’t know where to begin with or how to make the most of it.  Who could have predicted that with the creation of the first commercial lipstick in 1884, the option of becoming a MUA would be an accepted career today. Not to mention, an industry that fashion greatly relies on.

[Image: Naomi Campbell for Soon International Fall 2011 by Seb Janiak]

For aspiring MUAs, the good news is that it’s a versatile industry. Meaning, more options for you when it comes to genres and styles. It also means designers, creative directors, editors and photographers will be looking for specific or specialised skills depending on the occasion or desired end-result. Note: just because you’re killing it in the wedding scene or owning Instagram, doesn’t mean you’re particularly ready to play in these waters. The Best MUAs keep learning and developing their skills to offer multiple makeup artistry services to cater for each sector. Here are some of the MUA options in the fashion industry:

[Image: Project Runway]

Television & Commercials

With Hollywood A-listers making the jump from the silver screen to TV Shows, it’s no surprise that there’s money in telly-ville. Naturally, Fashion also got slots in the guide with successful shows such as Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model. Additionally, being a billion-dollar industry, commercials are part of the foray to push products to the masses. In the former, MUAs will work with the script to create the storyline provided. Whereas the latter will call for natural application to produce an enhanced or accentuated version of the model/celebrity.

Runway [Image: Desigual/Getty Images]


If you like a fast-paced environment and a dash of amusing ‘pandemonium’, this could be the area of specialisation you’re looking for. When you’re new to the backstage life, you’ll be one of the key members of the beauty chain, working to put together beauty looks to interpret and compliment the designer’s collection. Should you graduate to be the chief artist, then you’re tasked with developing the looks that will make it down the runway. Not a small feat, considering you’ll have a hand in affecting the trends that will be ubiquitous in the upcoming season. That requires a audacious, provocative and exhilarating eye to compliment your skill.

[Image: Pat McGrath]

Execution wise, you’ve probably noticed that the catwalk demands more dramatic texture and pigment from the makeup used. Primarily, because the audience is a distance away from the runway, the look needs to amped up to be more noticeable. It’s a gruelling process, with early call times, crazy deadlines, last minute changes and a handful of models to cater to.

[Image:Getty Images / Jamie McCarthy]


Like TV commercials, fashion photography in print is selling an idea, lifestyle or brand identity. Consequently, the MUA must translate the mood of the clothes or accessories, as well as the theme, into the makeup direction. It could be through dramatic makeup to play off a story or minimal makeup to ensure all the attention is given to the product. Either way, executing your work flawlessly reduces the amount of time the photographer will have to spend in post-production.

[Image: Vogue]

High Fashion / Avant Garde

While majority of designers will stick to basic beauty, there are those who will call for something more over-the-top for their runway showcase. It’s also a extremely common feature in editorial spreads. Bringing together the worlds of fantasy and beauty calls for a much higher level of creativity and peculiarity than required for conventional beauty. Furthermore, these MUAs must be able to be able to interpret a storyline from a makeup perspective.

Gareth Pugh [Image: Nick DeLieto Art]

While you may be excited to have a little more playing room, you’re work will need to be even cleaner and perfectly realised because it WILL grab people’s attention. These kind of MUAs will also have a wider arsenal when it comes to their kits with items such as glue guns and hammers being the norm. Plus, you’ll probably spend hours pre-shoot or showcase creating props to compliment the look. Suffice to say, a lot of product application is involved, and your work undoubtedly won’t be practical for everyday use, but at least your get to flex your ingenuity muscle.

[Image: WWD/Shuterstock/REX]

Special effects (FX)

They’re not just for horror and action films. FX MUAs can be considered the 2.0 of Avant Garde fashion. Their ability to work with wild textures and colours can make them great assets in dramatic runway showcases or editorials. If you choose to specialise in this field, a deep understanding of how lighting affects the final product is required. Out of the career options, it’s one of the most labour intensive but it’s also the field that gets nominated for awards such as Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes.

America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 19 College Edition

Body and Face Painting

Over the recent years, this has become incorporated in everything from music videos to festivals. It’s also become popular in fashion either as decorative or as a medium of expression such as a political stance. This art form takes your knowledge of enhancing and downplaying physical features and uses it on a wider surface area than most MUAs in the field.

[Image: Billy Rood Sung @ Ford Makeup / Grooming by Loni]

Being a makeup artist demands a lot of time, practice, training and stamina. However, if you’re good at what you do with a healthy dose of interpersonal communication skills, you can easily grow your career. And, you don’t have to be limited to just one option either. Hey, you could even end up launching your own beauty brand like Bobbi Brown. The key is to enjoy what you do and continuously develop your skills. Remember, your limits are defined by your own imagination and passion.

[Image: Jamie Nelson]

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