From painting to fashion styling to wielding a mighty blending brush, Missy Scarbrough is all about her art. As a professional makeup artist specializing in special FX, Missy brings to life some wild visions, from blood and gore to out-of-this-world beauty. We caught up with Missy in NYC to hear about what she’s learned as a freelance makeup artist – as well as what a true MUA should never go without.
How long have you been working as a professional makeup artist?
I’ve been working as a professional makeup artist for about five or six years.
How old were you when you became obsessed with beauty/makeup? Do you remember a specific moment or realization that this is what you want to pursue professional?
I don’t remember at what age my obsession began, but I was very young! My sisters had this little mannequin head that I would steal from them and play with it, putting on makeup on it using markers – blue eyeshadow, chopping the hair off, those type of things. It was my own little secret fun thing that I did as a kid. That’s where I really started loving makeup – it was fun, like coloring on a face.
Years later, I worked in the fashion world for a while, as a wardrobe stylist, and I was producing a fashion show where the makeup artists didn’t show up. I was like, well, I do makeup all the time on myself or on friends – and it’s fun – so maybe I can just step in. So I did just that, jumped in and started doing the makeup for the models at the show. It was a lot of fun, and that’s really the moment I found myself thinking, this is what I want to be doing professionally.
When you were just starting out, what do you feel was most helpful to you in terms of gaining experience and being able to showcase your abilities?
When I first started out in my career, the best way I found to learn and gain exposure was doing shoots for free, and doing test shoots where I could be as creative as I wanted to, and test out things. These shoots were unpaid and were mostly just for fun, but this way I got to see what works, what doesn’t work, what parts of makeup I really wanted to try out. I think that’s really one of the best ways to start out and build your skills.
Do you have a specialty as a MUA or a favorite look you like to create?
I do! A specialty of mine as a makeup artist is special effects makeup – I do a lot of blood and gore. I do a lot of fight scenes, a lot of bruises, cuts, sliced throats, bullet wounds, weird stuff like that. I get called a lot for those special effects, and I enjoy that work very much.
What, to you, represents success when working with a client?
When I’m working with a client, what best represents success to me is when they’re comfortable – when they look in the mirror after I do their makeup, and they smile. The fact that they can go out into the world and be happy and feel confident, that to me is success.
What are some common questions, fears or concerns you see clients coming in with?
Common questions and fears that clients approach me about are if they are dealing with a breakout or a rash of some sort on their face, or dark undereye circles – things that make them very insecure, and fortunately, I can help them get rid of those things. I can fix it, I promise!
What are three go-to tools you like to keep in your kit?
Three of the go-to tools I always carry in my kit are the Skin Illustrator FX Palette, because it lets me do anything from cover a tattoo to create a realistic-looking bruise. Sometimes you’re on set – especially on films – and they throw something at you, like, oh, we need a cut on her, or they need a bruise all of the sudden – with this palette in my kit I can do pretty much anything. A second must-have you’ll always need in your kit is a good, strong red lipstick. My third pick would be makeup brushes that are soft, nice and good – the quality of the brushes really makes a difference.
What is the best insider trick or tip you’ve learned through your work?
One of the key things I’ve learned is that the trick to putting on good makeup is hydrating. So it’s all about water, water and more water. Drink a lot of water – it helps make your undereye circles be less noticeable, it makes your skin look better, and helps you replenish. That would be one of the biggest things that you may not think makes a huge difference, but it really does.
What is the last thing you do before going to bed?
The last thing I do before I go to bed is wash my face. I always wash my face. I don’t like going to bed with makeup or even just the day on my face – walking around New York City means plenty of dirt and grime. If you don’t wash your face, you’re more likely to break out as well.
What is one tip you’d give someone who’s just starting out their career as a MUA?
First of all, be passionate about it – passion goes a long way.
I would suggest assisting someone that you look up to, perhaps someone in your field whose work you admire, or who specializes in the type of work you’re interested in doing. You’ll be doing a lot of free shoots, which is great since you’re going to need a ton of test shoots and free shoots for experience. Those things would take you very far.
When I first started out, I didn’t necessarily know whose makeup I liked, so I would shadow a ton of different people and assist them, and learned a lot through the process. This allowed me to get a feel for their tools, the particular brands and products they used – it’s valuable to have access to these things and learn different routines as they’re going to come in handy along the way as you establish yourself.
The beauty industry can be a cut-throat world, so I would say to anyone trying to break into the field: don’t compare yourself to anyone, because we’re all at different levels. There’s always going to be someone bigger, or better at something, or well-known – it is killer to compare yourself to someone else because we all have different skills and we all have different ways of doing our own art.
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