How to Become a Celebrity Hairstylist/Makeup Artist


Image courtesy of: Bode Helm Photography

Pursuing the career as a makeup artist or hairstylist nets you with opportunities to pursue different avenues. There are many different areas that someone can take part in as a makeup artist or hairstylist, and master to their heart’s content. As a hairstylist, you can operate your own business servicing clients behind the chair or on stage at hair shows. Makeup artists can service clients preparing for a major event or a photo shoot. Both professions help women and men look professional, presentable, beautiful, handsome, sexy, or glamorous. They play a major role in several industries, from fashion, modeling, health and fitness, and entertainment (TV/Film/Sports).

That boils down to the great question, what does it take to get into the entertainment industry and serve the famous celebrities, music artist, movie stars or sports athletes we can only dream of coming in contact with? How is it possible to become a celebrity hairstylist/makeup artist? For some they may see it as their dream job from the get go while still in beauty college, while others it breeds in their minds while in the process of gaining experience and expanding their portfolio. Whatever the case maybe, just the thought of being in that atmosphere with famous people doing what you love is something that seems like a dream career one can only hope to come true. There are celebrity hairstylists and make up artists that are enjoying the fruits of their labor.

However, as challenging as it may seem to gain the opportunity for that door to open for you, there’s also another factor to keep in mind. As a hairstylist or makeup artist you’re continuously networking, servicing clients, and developing your portfolio to one day achieve your dreams in servicing celebrities and stars. However, once you are locked in, there’s an emotional and psychological aspect that some may not even be aware of. Are you flexible with your time? Can you apply your services to your clients around the clock in the midst of pressure? Are you ready to deal with the many different personalities that the TV/Film industry has in store?

For Laura Schakosky, a celebrity hairstylist/makeup artist, those questions were easy for her to answer. From the beginning, Laura knew she wanted to be where the action was. She wanted to be one of the few in her profession to service celebrities and famous stars. For her, it was just the matter of how to get there. She knew the result would be very fulfilling. At the same time however, sacrifices would have to be made down the road. As great as it maybe to service individuals of the Drew Carey Show, Entertainment Weekly, or Nickelodeon to make them look presentable in front of the camera, it’s also important to look at the big picture of entering into those industries.

Sheldon Alexander, Marketing Director and writer for Heavenly Essence, decided to find out from Laura herself how to become a celebrity hairstylist or makeup artist, and what to be prepared for once you’ve walked through that door of opportunity.

Sheldon Alexander: What got you into the profession of doing hair/makeup?

Laura Schakosky: I started in Dallas and first looked into working in the music industry. At the time I worked with photographers, while conducting some training. I tested my services for free, and worked with commercials, and some music photographers that I met. I did a lot of free jobs to build my experience and my portfolio. One of my goals was being a part of MTV. I wanted to know how to get into MTV, so I researched multiple producers of MTV, and sent my resume to 200 people. I would call producers, and would tell them, I wanted to work with you, and in return would like to include the client’s name in my resume.

As I was building my portfolio, one of my friends introduced me to Jonathan Lawton. When Jonathan began to work on writing the screenplay for a movie called Pretty Woman, I contacted him to let him know that I wanted to work with him. I was trying to move from my hometown to LA, where many celebrities were located. At the time, he would speak for the screen writers guild, and being that his speaking engagements would be video taped, he needed to look presentable. I did his make up. At the same time, I called and sent resumes to thousands of places to book more make up jobs. For me, being focused was a primary concern. 

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to work with celebrities, and sitcom. However, I needed to find out my niche. I wanted to be famous for creating a look.  I would work with corporate executives of FOX, and would offer to do make up services to help them with their headshots. They then asked me to do make up services for FOX regularly. One thing led to another. Next thing I knew I was doing make up services for the Drew Carey show for one season. 


Image courtesy of: Fernando Ceja Photography

SA: Before servicing celebrities, popular brands, and the media, when in your career did you reach that point where things were taking off for you? 

LS: Things were really taking off when I started in Dallas, TX. When I did commercial work, catalogs, and corporate work in Dallas, I was making quite a bit of money. I was doing really well in Dallas, but they didn’t have the glamour and the media/entertainment appeal that I wanted compared to Hollywood.

SA: At what point did you successfully break into the entertainment industry with your hair & makeup services? How did you feel at the time?

LS: My first job was with Bill O Riley when I made it to California. His producer was calling and trying to find make up artists, so when I got the call, I was on it. However, things really took off when I did press chores. One of the people that really helped me break into the industry was Karyn Parsons of Fresh Prince, whom I served as a personal make up artist. I did her make up for her photo shoots, while on set to film, and she really helped give me a big break. I was wondering where celebrities go. Later on I found out that celebrities went to the publicists, as they are who help them with getting publicity. That’s how I met Karyn Parsons.

SA: What do you think is the challenge when venturing into entertainment as a hairstylist/makeup artist?

LS: One is getting the clients, which is the hard part. You must get masterful when it comes to interviewing. The key to being masterful while interviewing is being able to center the interview on the person you’re interviewing, what inspires you about them, and what you look forward to when helping them.

The biggest challenge is getting people to settle down with you for an interview. Being that there’s the Internet now where people showcase their work, it’s about getting to know the people instead of what work you have done. People look at the quality of your work, but also the quality of the models, the quality of the clothes, the level of the photographer you’re working with, etc. You have to work your way up to top-level enthusiasts of fashion, beauty, and glamour. The quality has to be high end. You want someone who is seasoned in every part of his or her field. You really have to work your way up to get to the high-end people before getting noticed.

Makeup artists/hairstylists have to have what is clean and interesting, not artistic for the sake of it. Your work has to appeal to the people a part of the entertainment industry. People also want to work with others who are fun, and understand their needs.

SA: What challenges. if any, did you have to face when you began going the route of servicing celebrities, high profile brands, and TV/Film?

LS: When in this profession, you’re dealing with people who have lost their relationship to reality. They’re seeing themselves as part of a billboard. I have worked with people who thought that the money and fame would bring them happiness. But these celebrities were dealing with portraying the persona/character that the people want to see out of them, not the person they really are. I’ve had situations where I accidentally overdid their make up, or when their make up would turn blue instead of black when someone would go on set.

I’ve had actors/actresses tell me the amount of brush strokes to do when doing their make up, or to put make up in one part of their face. I’ve seen actors/actresses yelling at the crew. In that type of working environment, I would have to keep my energy levels up. In one hand you’re in an environment that is very creative, and you’re helping to create a project that’s larger than life. People you’re working with become family until the next episode. Maintaining my energy, staying enthusiastic, and having fun along the way were the challenges I was having.


Image courtesy of: Bode Helm Photography

LS: I think that it is the key to success. Just being an artist is not enough to be successful. In this business you have to become masterful at marketing and really connect to people very quickly. That becomes an art form in and of itself. To meet the people that you need to meet, make an impact, and be memorable and to inspire them to call you. In addition, being a successful makeup artist/hairstylist, the way you look is just as important as the work that you do. You are a walking business card. When you show up on a job interview, you have to look the part, dress the part and act the part just like an actor does. For corporate jobs, you need to dress more conservative. For fashion shoots you have to wear the trendy clothes.

I can’t tell you how many times people say I hired you because I like the way that you wear your makeup. Most makeup artists do makeup on others the way they makeup themselves. So simply said, you are a walking example of what people expect. I get calls sometimes to pull together teams of makeup artists. The client tells me, make sure that you hire someone who does not have a lot of tattoos, wild hair colors and outrageous looks. I don’t want to scare my conservative clients. That idea applies in middle America when you are working with CEOs of corporations, but in Los Angeles, for example, if you don’t look creative and a little edgy then people think you are not a creative risk taker. So it is important to develop yourself as a brand based on the city you work and live in and the clientele you are trying to connect to.  

It is important to have a contact management system to stay connected to people. It is also important to blog about your experiences on set and to do social media. People in our business are really into that. It is a great way to stay connected.

SA: How can marketing tie into breaking ground into the entertainment industry?

LS: One way is to connect to people who are the decision makers of the entertainment industry on LinkedIn. That is where many professional profiles are. Another way is to be listed on various sites that list makeup artists. Having yourself online with a great SEO (search engine optimization) strategy is another way to be found especially when people type in your name and the city you live in. All of this is crucial for success. But, the most important thing is to know that people hire people that are their friends. What I did when I first started in the business was that I had a list of questions and I interviewed successful makeup artists. I asked them how they became successful. I followed their road map to success and that saved me a lot of time. I assisted under other makeup artists and learned how they acted on set, how they worked with the clients and basically learned to set etiquette. One key way to break into the industry is to join certain known organizations such as Women In Film to donate your time, while getting to know other people that are in the organizations. Tell them what you are doing and then they will recommend you. That is one way to put yourself at the right place at the right time.

SA: What should hairstylists and makeup artists do first in order to gain proper footing before venturing into the celebrity/media scene?

LS: Hairstylists and makeup artists should first build their portfolio just to have proof to show that they can do the job. Then after that they should start building their resume with known names, and in the beginning that means providing free services to get experience. Once they get the jobs, they have to handle the negotiations. If you don’t take the jobs when they’re looking to hire you, there’s a chance you may not have other jobs available. Remember, the hardest part is getting the clients.

You got to figure a way to maintain your well being, and re-energize yourself. Sometimes nights turn into days, and you’re forced to expect the unexpected. When you get tired, you get emotional, and then you get num. When dealing with all the personalities in the entertainment industry, you really got to stay focused. You’re one minute working to make a person look sexy in one shoot, beautiful the next, professional another scene, then finally like they had a gunshot wound. That all will require long hours of your time.


Image courtesy of: Fernando Ceja Photography

LS: I hope I am answering this question with the intention that you had in mind.  I would say to be confident in what you are doing. Practice until everything feels natural. Get used to being in people’s personal space. People that you are working on will be able to get a sense of whether you are confident in what you are doing and will react to that. As a freelance makeup artist or hairstylist you never ask a person what look that they are going for. It is up to you to determine that and to get direction from the photographer and director. If you work in a salon, you would ask what the client wants because they are hiring you, but on set they are the model and you are the artist. So it is essential to let your intuition to be your guide and to develop your confidence to get on the same wavelength as the person who is giving you direction and just trust that you can do it. 

You will also want to make sure that you prepare for the job that you are doing, whether that means going online to get inspiration for the job that you are doing, looking at French or Italian Vogue to see what is ahead of its time, reference makeup and hair books such as Joe Blasco’s Makeup and Hair book series, etc. I think that they are $300 each but will show a timeline of makeup every year through all time. Simply said, do your homework, but reference items as you go based on the look that you are going for. That is the best way to build your hair and makeup portfolio/skills. You don’t have to have everything at once. 

SA: What have you done in order to maintain your relevance in the entertainment industry? How can new hairstylists/make up artists do the same? 

LS: Stay in communication with the people who hire people that do what I do. I find that as I go through different phases I attract different types of people. As a makeup artist/hairstylist, for a while all I will do is print. It pays the best, requires shorter hours, but then suddenly all of those clients shift and I am working more with TV. Another way I stay connected is that I am always looking at how I can contribute to the people that keep me connected. So for example, I work with a makeup artist that is key on the Dr. Phil Show, the Doctors, or ESPN. I am always referring jobs to them as a way of giving back when they refer me. I also offer a lot more than most artists, which is why people hire me. I am not only doing the work quickly, which is really important to clients so that the schedule stays on track, but I am also doing personal coaching with the people that I work with. I have honed a skill to bring out the best in a person, to get them focused and their energy aligned before they go out on camera. I balance their chakras; basically doing a meditation on them while I do their makeup which puts them into a different state of mind. That is one thing that sets me apart. People may go into the makeup room nervous because they have never been on camera and they come out of the room laughing and being themselves on camera. I also bring a sense of teamwork to the set, which is unusual. People hire me for that. I think that we are all in it together. It is not about ego. It is about getting the job done, working together to have the best results. I think that the mistake that most makeup artists and hairstylists make is that they think that the work that they are doing is about them, that it is personal when in reality it is about furthering the brand, whether that is a product or clothing. We are there to enhance what is already there, not create something that is not. Another way to stay relevant in the industry is always talking to people about what you are doing now. Always being busy. Always acknowledging your clients for calling you, versus other people. Making them feel special. 

SA: If not servicing clients in the TV/Film/Sports industries, where do you think you might have taken your career as a hairstylist/makeup artist?

LS: If I were not working in this industry I would have created inner and outer beauty centers. The centers would be a place where people who are ready for change and want transformation in their life could come to go on “beauty journeys”.  The purpose would be to utilize the inspiration of ancient beauty philosophies and healing techniques to help clear people’s energy so that they could express themselves more powerfully and authentically in the world. In the center, all of my products that I have already developed with my Laura Leigh Beauty line would be used and sold with rituals that people would practice within their everyday lives. Every product is like a treasure that when you purchase it tells a story of your life, what you are healing and balancing within yourself.

Currently I am doing all of this work, but have found that the best way to duplicate myself is to do it virtually. Some of these ideas are still in production. I am also developing the makeup artist training programs to share what I have learned over the years. I go in to the psychological, all of the structures that need to be put into place, even the spiritual intentions behind makeup in tribal times.

That also brings me to the last thing I wanted to share. When looking into long term, as you’re landing jobs and receiving repeat business from existing clients, you must establish a business around what you do as a hairstylist and/or makeup artist. That can mean developing your skin care products, fashion clothing, your own training program, etc. Because if for example, an emergency comes up that requires you to take some downtime, you won’t have any steady income coming in.

Find out more about Laura Schakosky and her work at


Darlene Alexander is a licensed cosmetologist for 31 years, is an author, and is a manufacturer of professional hair products. She helps salon professionals provide healthy hair solutions for their clients to give them beautiful, healthy, sensational hair! You can contact her at her email and visit for the latest hair care and salon business tips.

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