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The big betty careers Q&A: we meet a special effects makeup artist

The end of school is nigh, and all of a sudden you feel like you’ve got 100 decisions to make. What do I want to do with my life? Do I want to go to college, or uni, or do I want to get stuck straight into work? It’s easy to feel lost when you don’t know what you want to do, or how to get there.

But while you have literally your whole life to make up your mind, a little bit of good advice can go a long way. So with that in mind, in a series of interviews, we’re speaking to women who’ve ‘made it’, and asking their advice on how to follow in their footsteps.

This week, we speak to Joanna Masiewicz, a makeup artist who specialises in prosthetics and special effects.

How did you get into it?

I went to Delamont Academy, which covered everything from beauty, to fashion, to hair, but I chose to specialise in special effects and prosthetics. My school had an agency which helped me to develop contacts. Since then I have taken whatever has come my way, from theatre makeup (which includes everything from body painting to gender change and facial hair) to helping out on glitzy film shoots.

What’s the coolest part of your job?

If you love doing makeup, the job is just amazing in itself. I’m happy when I work, because I’m doing what I like, an even more so when everyone is happy with my work. I just love doing it, and that I get to meet so many people and travel to all different places.

What are the bad parts?

It can be really long hours but you do get used to it. In the beginning it’s really difficult, but you get to know the team and it becomes fun. And it’s not all the time, either – you might work really hard for a month, but then have a bit of a break before you do another job. So it’s not that bad really!

How is making prosthetics different to glam fashion make up?

It depends which project you are working on, but if you are in a workshop it’s life casting (so, making a piece for an actor). To do this you need to make a life cast first, and then you need to sculpt it, and fill it with either silicon or if it’s a big piece latex, then paint it. If you’re working on set, you might be applying the pieces to the actor, be it a mask or smaller pieces such as gems, or whatever. So it is completely different to traditional make up. If you work in fashion, you’re mainly required to do touch ups on a shoot, or it could be music videos.

The Big Question: uni, or no uni?

You don’t really need qualifications—no one is actually looking to see if you have a degree, it’s more about your skills, but it helps if someone can see that you’ve studied and what you’ve done. You’ll get more jobs if you’re qualified, particularly if you’ve been to a well-known school. I would say find a good school, for either a long or short course, that has an agency, which will help give you some contacts when you graduate. It depends on your personality, if you’re the sort of person who makes contacts easily and is confident to just put yourself out there and ask then great, but if you’re a bit unsure how to go about it it can be such a comfort.

What else should we do if we’re going to make it?

Practice! Even just on friends and family in your free time. Post things on Instagram or Facebook, where a lot of people will see what you’re doing—maybe someone will notice you! For prosthetics in particular, you need to be really hard working, and be a good team player. That’s probably the most important thing—you’re going to be in a workshop, so you’re going to be working with so many different people and everybody needs to be helpful to each other. Your attitude is really important—it’s not just about skills, it’s your work ethic. You need to learn how the industry works. You might be dealing with an actor and you need to know when to talk and when they don’t want you to! So it’s reading people’s behaviour and being able to deal with different people and situations.

Is it better to try and go freelance?

Being freelance is really good, because you can just work as much as you want, in your own time. It’s never boring, because there’s so much variety—you never know what job will come up. You could be laying in your bed one day, then get an email saying I need a makeup artist tomorrow somewhere seriously cool!

If you could give your 14-year-old-self any advice, what would it be?

Start early, don’t waste time and try to be disciplined, that helps a lot. Try to get into social networking – Facebook, Instagram – so people can see your work. Develop a strong work ethic and you’ll go far.


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