‘We’ll keep doing what we love’, say Malaysian freelance makeup artists despite challenging times


Grace Wang (right) doing makeup for her client who was celebrating her 10th year wedding anniversary in Redang Island in September last year. — Photo: Ethanity Photography

In this pandemic when events like weddings and photoshoots were put on hold, freelance makeup artists suddenly lost their source of income.

In part 1 of this story, Usha Sevi Ganeshwaran, a Johor-based freelance makeup artist in her 30s; Kuala Lumpur-based freelance makeup artist Grace Wang Su Tin, 39; and twenty-six-year-old freelance makeup artist based in Penang Syifaa Syamimie Binti Aziz, who is better known as Mimie, shared their experience in facing this sudden loss of income and what they have been doing in this downtime, along with plans they have to make a living.

All three women have been juggling their work as fulltime freelance makeup artists with being a mother.

Usha is a mother to a two-year-old son and 16-month-old daughter; Wang is a mother to a five-month-old daughter; and Mimie has an eight-month-old son.

Although it’s a tough time to be a makeup artist now, all three - who are passionate about what they do - say they want to remain in this field.

While working as an IT programmer, Wang learnt makeup skills on her off days, from a Taiwanese makeup artist.

“I became a makeup artist because I love makeup and believe that proper makeup helps enhance someone’s features and makes them feel good about themselves.

Grace Wang has been exploring an opportunity of starting an online hair accessories business and tapping on her knowledge in programming to develop websites. — Photo: Grace WangGrace Wang has been exploring an opportunity of starting an online hair accessories business and tapping on her knowledge in programming to develop websites. — Photo: Grace Wang

“My biggest satisfaction comes from the joy my clients experience when they see their beautiful transformation, ” says Wang who quit her full time job four years ago to focus on being a freelance makeup artist.

Wang has 10 years of experience in doing bridal makeup and hairstyling. It is very competitive now compared to the time when she just started but she says there are lots of opportunity to grow.

“Being a makeup artist now is much easier as one can learn through YouTube videos.

“Also, a lot of makeup artists have started to teach and some have opened their own makeup academy.

“With many students graduating yearly, we need to put in more effort to promote ourselves and be knowledgeable about the latest makeup trends, ” says Wang, who actively gives talks about makeup on her social media platforms.

Mimie, who has been a freelance makeup artist for six years, agrees.

“It is quite a competitive career since nowadays everybody knows how to do makeup and for that reason many who are passionate, choose to make it their career.

Mimie Aziz, who is cherishing this downtime to care for her baby boy, says she will resume offering her makeup services when things get better. — Photo: Mimie AzizMimie Aziz, who is cherishing this downtime to care for her baby boy, says she will resume offering her makeup services when things get better. — Photo: Mimie Aziz

“But, so far, the competition hasn’t affected me much and some of these new makeup artists have become friends”.

Although she studied hairstyling, Mimie enjoyed doing makeup for others. She learned the craft from a professional makeup artist, but is also self-taught.

Before becoming a freelance makeup artist, Usha was a cabin crew for eight years, working for a local airline and then a western airline where she was based abroad.

“Being a cabin crew I was introduced to makeup.

“I am basically self-taught but I also attended a hairstyling course in Chennai in India that was taught by a celebrity makeup artist, ” says Usha, who became a full time freelance makeup artist in December 2016.

Usha Sevi Ganeshwaran says this pandemic has been tough but it has also taught her to adapt and look at other ways to earn a living. — Photo: Usha Sevi GaneshwaranUsha Sevi Ganeshwaran says this pandemic has been tough but it has also taught her to adapt and look at other ways to earn a living. — Photo: Usha Sevi Ganeshwaran

“It takes time to develop skills in makeup artistry.

“Also, you have to book your own clients, set up consultations, negotiate contracts, advertise services and build your own portfolio.

“As a freelancer you need to build your own makeup service business and run it, ” Usha explains.

But, being passionate about makeup and fashion, Usha finds it absolutely thrilling to work with brides, models and actors.

“It feels great when I see my work stand out and someone I made up looking really radiant. I love being creative in my job every day, ” she says.

Adapting to new normal

When they have jobs, makeup artists are also following pandemic-related SOPs to ensure the makeup sessions are safe for their clients.

Wang says her clients are definitely concerned about safety and it’s important for both parties to feel safe and comfortable during the makeup session.

“A day prior to a makeup appointment, I will communicate with my client over the phone to get to know each other’s health condition and travel history.

“All my products are sanitised and my brushes are washed before and after every job.

“For lipstick, I will suggest that the bride buy a new tube to be used during the makeup session and for items like eyeshadow I would scoop out a portion for every client, to avoid contamination, ” says Wang.

During the makeup session Wang wears a face mask and a face shield since the job requires being in close proximity to the client, and she only allows the bride, groom and one bridesmaid inside the makeup room.

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