Chicago-based makeup artist Sonia Roselli had an unorthodox route into the industry, but her hard work and determination has seen her launch her own beauty brand and work with some of the biggest TV networks in America, including NBC and CNN.
Her makeup artistry skills have also landed her an impressive roster of celebrity clients ranging from Lenny Kravitz, to Elton John, to Betty White.
Sonia recently provided an expert insight for our article about the must-try makeup trends for this summer. We recently interviewed Sonia via email to find out more about her career and what advice she has for people wanting to break into the makeup industry, and here is what she had to say:
When did you decide you wanted to be a makeup artist, and what was your journey to becoming one?
I actually wasn’t looking to become a makeup artist. I wanted to be a photojournalist and reporter, I loved telling people’s stories. While in high school and college, I worked at makeup counters to earn money.
While interning at CNN in Atlanta one summer for college, I saw there was a makeup crew on set. I knew there was makeup in news, but I didn’t know people actually got paid to do it. Once I was out of school, I realised reporters didn’t make much money, so I stayed in makeup and thought, “I want to do what that gal did at CNN”. The rest is history.
You’ve worked with some serious A-list clients – who was the most fun to work with?
They all are nice and professional. I’m not with them for very long to get to know them.
When working with celebrities it’s super important to be professional and remember you are the staff, not the star. A lot of new makeup artists forget that. I see newer makeup artists asking for autographs, selfies (and we all have been guilty of it) but the deal is you must remember you are there to do a job, not be the star of the show. You are there to make the director, client and photographer’s job easier. My friend Anthony Gordon used to say “Celebrities are everyday people in extraordinary circumstances”, and I think he’s spot on.
Treat them like you would any other person and chances are you will be called back.
Which products do you never leave home without?
The Makeup Light and Skin Prep products and good brushes. If I have great light, I can make smart choices as an artist. I remember getting out of my car one day where I forgot my makeup light and I screamed so loud I thought the cops were going to arrest me!
I also need good complexion products because that really sets the real pros apart from faux’s. Skin prep is my secret weapon that kept me at the top of my game in Chicago for years (I’m a licensed esthetician as well), and to this day people are blown away when I teach them the importance of skin prep, especially new artists.
I love skin prep so much I created Water Balm Skin Prep. (I created this with my friend Vivian Baker). I combined my top-five steps into one product that allows professionals to work much faster on set. Every day women go nuts for it too because it’s like a huge drink of water for the skin.
What is the best part of being a makeup artist?
As cliché as it sounds, nothing is better than seeing a woman feel good about herself when she looks in the mirror. I also love the fact that when people take a makeup class with me and realise the knowledge I give them, people are in awe at how much I know about the industry.
Which of your services tend to be the most requested?
I do a lot of makeup classes for everyday women these days when I’m not busy with my makeup line. They too are frustrated with YouTube and we do at least 10 makeup classes a week in our studio.
Client’s leave our studio feeling confident and smart, which is how makeup should be.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Learn business as much as beauty. I spend 10% of my time these days doing makeup; the rest is all business. Learn your numbers. Learn what it costs you to be in business. Learn how much you have to do in faces just to pay for your makeup, much less your mortgage. Learn the cost of application. Learn about taxes, accounting, profit margins, etc. Think about bringing in a retail line to sell to your clients.
The key to being successful is having many egg baskets, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Learn how to be helpful to clients. Let your motto be “How can I help you today” and mean it!
So many new artists throw a shingle out there and think the title of “Makeup Artist” is glamorous. A lot of new artists want the title but not the job. Those are the ones that get the huge wake up call when they find out it’s work and doesn’t happen overnight!
The other thing? If you are not qualified for a job, send the client to someone who is. The whole “fake it ‘til you make it” will bite you in the ass eventually. You show up to a job without skills to back it up, people will talk and you will never work with that client again.
People will appreciate the fact that you’re turning down a gig because of lack of experience. It will show you care about the project and not your ego, and people will respect that. You have to know when you can handle something and when you can’t. If you can’t, just say you’re booked and then practice the skill that was needed.
The other big piece of advice I give to new artists all the time?
For Pete’s sake it’s makeup, get off the computer and go out and get dirty! You will never develop skills if you don’t practice your craft. Even at the level I’m at, if I don’t do makeup for a few days I’m rusty on my next face. Makeup is an art and you don’t learn your art by watching. You learn art by doing!
Our thanks to Sonia for taking the time to answer our questions.