Category: Real-Life Curvy CEO

From Office Worker to Makeup Artist: An Interview with Aina Lee

aina lee headshotaina lee headshotToday I'm so pleased to present an interview with my good friend Aina Lee, a faaaabulous makeup artist in New York City. Even though she has an impressive resume filled with celebrities, tv shows, and high-profile events, beauty is actually her second career. Keep reading to find out how an unfortunate turn of events led her to leave the corporate world to follow her bliss.

When did you first fall in love with makeup? I first fell in love with makeup as a child. It all started by watching my mom do her makeup every day. I thought she was the most glamorous woman alive, like Diahann Carroll. I'd marvel at the way she softened her Maybelline eyeliner with fire from a match and then rim her eyes. I was always in trouble for playing in my mom's makeup. When, I got old enough, I started buying my own. To this day one of my favorite things to do is a drugstore crawl all over the city and see what makeup products are out there.

Did you ever think you would ever pursue makeup artistry as a career? I wanted to be a lot of different things as a kid; a lawyer, a teacher, a politician, and actress or singer. Makeup Artist was not on that list!

How did you eventually take the leap of faith to become just a casual lover of makeup to a professional makeup artist? I was working for an education company and kept hearing about a co-worker who did wigs and makeup on the side. When I met him, I asked him if he ever needed help with wigs and makeup and that I'd love to help out. I wasn't interested in money. I had a full time job so I wasn't thinking in terms of career. My first show with him was with the Gay Men's Chorus. I had no idea what I was doing, but he was a great teacher. We were styling wigs and doing zombie makeup for a "Thriller" number and doing all this 80's makeup. It was so much fun. I was hooked from that day! I helped out with more shows. Setting wigs for Off-Broadway shows also helping design makeup looks for tech week. The more I did, the more I loved it. A few years later I was laid off from my full-time job as part of the economy crash in 2008. I decided at that moment to give makeup artistry a go and I've never looked back.

What were some of the most surprising things about your new career? The most challenging? The most rewarding? One of the most surprising things for me is that a large part of my work is doing internal videos and head shots for corporations. I think most people assume that makeup artists are doing high fashion shoots with avant garde makeup. The work is inspiring but the clean, no makeup look a Gap ad requires will keep you clothed, fed and sheltered for many, many months. Most people don't see my work on a big screen, but the money is still green!

One of the most challenging things is learning that you will not have an infinite amount of time to work your magic on a clients' face. Time is money. I currently freelance for a local sports network. It is live television and sometimes you only have 5 minutes to work on someone. Doing high quality work is important. Doing high quality work fast is more important.

aina at workThe most rewarding things are the little things; the compliments. When a client looks at themselves and they love what they see. Recently, a client said to me, "I usually feel like I have to adjust my makeup in the bathroom when an artist finishes my face. This time, I don't have to."

Recently, you took another leap of faith and began working for yourself. How has that transition been? There have been good days and not so great days, but I've never regretted my decision to freelance full-time.

What are some of the most interesting jobs you've taken as a makeup artist? One of my most memorable moments was working as Makeup and Hair department head for the feature film "All Wifed Out". I love how the crew becomes your family because for those days, you will see them more than your family. It was my first feature and I'll always cherish the experience.

What advice would you give to women who are intimidated by makeup but who want to add it into their daily regimen? Try products that are multi-taskers. Powder or cream-to-powder foundations are a one-step solution to a flawless face. A cream eye shadow in a soft shimmery shade like champagne or bronze you can sweep on with your fingers and blend. Cream blush can also be used on the lips. A theatrical, stage-ready makeup is not necessary!

Is there anything else that you'd like to share? Being a Makeup artist is so much more than lipstick, blush and mascara. It is a business, and we are businesswomen and men. Makeup artistry has risen from being viewed as a vocation (i.e., something you do when you can't get into college) to being viewed with the respect it deserves.

Be sure to stop by AinaLee.com to check out my girl's work!