Jobs 101: Make-up Artist

She is an artist and people's faces are her canvasses.

Lim Bei Ling
Lim Bei Ling

Published: 18 November 2011, 12:17 PM

She makes people look good for a living. Armed with an Economics degree from university, Ms Christine Yong could have settled for a cushy job in the financial sector but she chose a job with irregular income that required unearthly waking hours. Sometimes, she wakes up at 2am to go to her client’s house, only to be criticised for not making her client look like a supermodel or celebrity.

But she takes it all in her stride. After all, she loves what she does.

This week, we visited Christine at her home studio to learn about being a make-up artist. She even kindly gave one of our campus spies, Vanessa, a free makeover!

WHO: Christine Yong, 37
OCCUPATION: Make-up Artist and Hairstylist at Habitat Studio
STUDIED: Bachelor of Arts (Economics) from NUS, Diploma artistry in Make-up and Special Effects from Cosmoprof , Diploma in Make-up from The School of Make-up

At Habitat Studio which she started three years ago with her husband, David, Christine does hair and make-up while David does photography.

We learnt more about Christine and her experience as a make-up artist:

Tell us about yourself.

I do both make-up and hair. However, I hate to have make-up on myself because I dislike the feeling of something ‘covering’ my face. When I am free, I go online to look at videos and check out the latest trends. When there are renowned make-up artists in town, I will go and see them at work to pick up a few pointers.

Besides make-up, I like golf and used to go golfing once a week. However, due to my job, I do not have much time for it now.

How did you start out as a make-up artist?

When I was in Junior College, I used to help to put on make-up for my friends from the dance club. However, after I went to university and after getting married, I have not used make-up much.

I was working as a career counselling manager at Singapore Management University before this. My husband encouraged me to take a make-up course. He is a photographer and wanted to embark on something we could do together.

Can you tell us more about what a make-up artist does and the type of make-up you do?

As make-up artists, we dress people up and enhance their features by giving them a makeover. I also style their hair to give them a suitable look for their events. My clients are usually those going for events such as weddings, proms and dinner and dances. I also work with production houses occasionally to do make-up and hairdo for their advertisement models.

Describe a typical day at work.

I usually just pack my huge bag (of make-up and hair styling equipment) and go to work.

On the most recent hot wedding date, Nov 11 (11-11-11), I was at Sentosa to do make-up for a bride by 8am. After that, I had a quick lunch before rushing home as I had another bride coming in for her Registry Of Marriage (ROM) makeover. After finishing at 2pm, I had to clean all my brushes immediately before rushing for another job at 3pm. After that, I went back to Sentosa at 6pm to do a second make-over for the first bride.

Giving us a peek into what she does, Christine gave our ‘model’ Vanessa a free makeover! And phew! Who knew make-up involved putting so many layers on your face?



Applying lotion to moisturise the face first


Working on the eye shadow


Curling the lashes


Sticking on the false lashes


Applying the blusher


Some light lipstick for more colour


Happy looking Vanessa halfway through the makeover


Christine working on Vanessa’s hair to complete the look


After an hour—pretty girl!

What memorable experiences have you had as a make-up artist and why were they memorable?

Once, a client’s family treated me very well and her parents even insisted that I have lunch with them before leaving.

But I meet tough clients too. For example, some tell me that they are having their ROM ceremony but when I arrive, it is actually their bridal day. ROM and bridal rates are usually different but because I already promised to charge them the ROM rate, I went ahead.

Sometimes, clients are demanding. Some show me a picture and say that is what they want. After I finish the look, they realise that the look is unsuitable for them and insist on changing the hairstyle. One client wanted me to make her look like Fann Wong as her friends said she looked like the celebrity.

Many times, we tell clients that we cannot make them look exactly the way they want as everyone looks different.

How long have you been in this industry and how has it changed over the years?

I have been doing make-up full-time for three years.

In the past, clients were more easy-going and gave you the freedom to do what you wanted. Today, clients learn more from the internet and television and they have higher expectations.

Industry-wise, there are more make-up artists now—also because there are more (make-up) schools.

What are some challenges or unexpected things you face as a make-up artist?

One of the biggest challenges is to meet the clients’ expectations. Communication is very important as I have to explain to my clients which look suits them. Some clients do not tell me whether they like what I am doing but I have to be able to tell from their expressions and get them to talk to me.

Another challenge is pricing. Many new make-up artists charge low rates and clients tend to compare prices without comparing the ability and skills of the make-up artists. Some of them will ask me to lower my rate.

It is also a challenge to lug my huge bag of make-up and hair styling tools whenever I go out for jobs.


Sometimes, the unexpected happens when clients are late and I have to rush for another job. I have to ensure that I always have enough time in between jobs so I don’t end up rushing.

Lastly, it really annoys and frustrates me when clients cancel an appointment at the last minute without telling me. I don’t mind if clients cancel, but they should inform me. Some of them do not even return my calls or messages and at the last minute, they tell me they found someone cheaper.

What motivates you in your work?

Unlike working on a big project in a company where it takes a long time to see the results of your work, I see the results of mine immediately. My greatest takeaway is when my clients are happy and appreciate it.

What are some of the things you don’t like about your job?
I love my job, but sometimes, as make-up artists, we feel demoralised when we have difficult clients.

I also have to sacrifice my sleep and time as the hours can be erratic. Most people have their weekends free but I am busier then. That makes it hard for me to meet up with family and friends.

What advice do you have for aspiring make-up artists?

You must really like it. Get lots of practice. Read and be updated with the latest trends.

Take criticism positively. Don’t be demoralised when people don’t like your work.  Instead of being defensive, look back on what you could have done better.

It is good to take make-up courses so that you learn make-up the proper way. After that, continue learning on your own if you want to improve.

If you have just completed a make-up course, get lots of practice. Gather a few friends and do make-up for them or their friends for events like weddings—for free. You can set up a website or blog to showcase your work and put up advertisements to advertise your website.

If you need a more stable income, you can start by doing sales at make-up counters. Besides gaining product knowledge, you get hands-on practice from the customers. From there, you can build up your reputation and contacts.

Being a make-up artist:

Educational requirements: None, but a Diploma in Make-up will give you more skills and better prospects.

Qualities of a make-up artist: People skills, ability to comprehend what clients want, eye for details, beauty and colour coordination.

Working hours: Irregular and flexible – depends on your clients.

Salary range: Varied, as it depends on your clientele and how hard you work. Beginners may earn less than $1,000 a month but as you go along, you can earn between $300 and $3,000 a day.

Career prospects/advancements: Freelance, work at boutique stores or set up your own make-up school.

Specialisations: Proms, dinner and dances, bridals, commercial works, events, parties and special effects.









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