She's One of a Kind - Celebrity Makeup Artist Unique London
This week’s Image Maker is Ms. Unique London. I first heard of Unique London a couple of years ago, and later on learned through the grapevine that she’s THE makeup over at BET, but it wasn’t until I saw her on BET’s Spring Bling Hair & Makeup Show that I knew I had to interview her.
I LOVED her personality and her energy, so of course I did what? You got it! Logged on to Twitter to see if she had one and… yes there she was, I immediately sent her a Tweet requesting an interview. She obliged. Unique is an absolute sweet heart and funny as heck (be sure to check out some of her YouTube videos. This industry veteran had paid her dues, yet she continues to give back to the community. I have to say that this is by far the most candid of my interviews. Ms. London went "there" and you’ll be glad she did. Unique spills on her unconventional launch into the world of makeup artistry, what a day in her shoes is really like and what you absolutely need to have in order to work with celebrities.
BEAUTY SCHOOLED! How long have you been in the industry?
Unique: It has been 16 years as a professional makeup artist and loving every minute of it.
BEAUTY SCHOOLED! When did you know you wanted to be a groomer? I say groomer because I realize your expertise extends far beyond makeup artistry, or what do you prefer to be called or classified as?
Unique: I like to call myself a makeup stylist and guru, I love faces, skin, color, people and makeup, I love beauty, I love art!
I started my makeup career in 1993, at costume shop in the village in NYC called Abracadabra after being laid off from a Wall Street position, I fell in love with Theatrical and Special Effects Makeup first and started assisting at MTV with the help of a fab Makeup Artist Ana Triani and being a Candy Striper at Lenox Hospital beautifying the sick. Then that's all she wrote I knew this was my calling!!!
BEAUTY SCHOOLED! That’s an awesome start! Did you receive any formal education after that?
Unique: Actually I am self taught, through reading tons of books on makeup application and color theory, any and everything about makeup and by practicing on anyone that would let me! Later on I went to FIT to take image consulting classes and some MAC classes.
BEAUTY SCHOOLED! What would you say are the biggest misconceptions about the industry and makeup artists specifically?
Unique: That we are magicians!
BEAUTY SCHOOLED! LOL! So, was MTV your first big break?
No, actually shortly before my MTV break I assisted a fab makeup artist Euphema on a Music Video "Why I Love U So Much" with Monica and Treach, it was a great experience and a super long day. They had us stranded on the Staten Island Ferry for 24 hours, but of course you don’t get paid for all those hours. That’s when I learned the business side quickly.
BEAUTY SCHOOLED! Wow 24 hours is a long time! Tell me Unique, what’s a typical working day like for you, if there is such thing as typical in your world.
Unique: Everyday, I repeat everyday is unpredictable sometimes you’re like a doctor on call. It is a hurry up and wait situation, at BET I may work on three shows, plus celebrities that will be thrown in at the last minute, then I may have to run and do the CEO Debra Lee for an important event and still have to get back to 106 and Park. Normally I have half hour per person to make it work or sometimes even only 15 minutes. Some days are light. I also do speaking engagements for nonprofit programs, high schools and doing makeup workshops. Then at the end of the day I still have to go home and take care of my household, and cook for my son. My day is hectic! I am running on constant adrenalin! Love it!!
BEAUTY SCHOOLED! Wow, Unique I’m out of breath just thinking about all of that! It's great that you shed light on how grueling your days can be. It seems as though every up and coming makeup and hairstylist wants to work with celebrities, and I’m sure they don’t imagine days like the one that you just described as most only think about the glitz glam and fame. So, what advice do you have for someone new who is trying to break into the industry and wanting to work with celebrities?
Unique: Be ready to give part of your life, because they can be a lot, you have to have patience and never have a bad day, you need to be there and at their beck and call. You have to be prepared to give them want they want plus more.
Don't take things personal, celebrities are finicky it is a rare that you get a celebrity that you click with and create a look that everyone is buzzing about. Though once you are able to create that buzz that celebrity will keep you around. Most of the time celebs or their reps hire the most talked about makeup artist. I always say be patient your time will come.
I had no idea I would be doing celebrities, I just wanted to do makeup. Please don't ever forget that the everyday woman is the celebrity too. Being a makeup artist in the industry is becoming difficult , because the celebrities are cutting corners and budgets, because people are not buying music, going to movies as much or buying their products, so it trickles down to us, (makeup artists) and we are not get paid as much. Or, celebs take your skills and do it themselves. Did you know Beyoncé saves a lot of money by doing her makeup herself while she is touring?
BEAUTY SCHOOLED! That’s an awesome reality check, I bet those are things most up and coming makeup artists haven’t considered. You mentioned earlier that you do workshops can you tell our readers about that and also do you hire assistants and do any mentoring?
Unique: Yes, I have an internship program for selected people, currently I am putting together workshops at the Tina Pearson Salon in NYC. I have a foundation called BNU Foundation, where I speak to high school students about careers in the entertainment industry.
For more information on Unique London visit her website, or contact her directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for internships, training and workshop information. Also, be sure to follow her twitter.
Ciao for now... Class is dismissed!