Written by Jill Sheets
Recently, I the pleasure of interviewing the talented professional makeup artist Ally McGillicuddy. She has done makeup for movies, TV shows, music videos, print, and much more. Read on and learn more about Allison, find out who she has worked with, and what it takes to be a makeup artist.
R: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into makeup art.
A: My name is Ally McGillicuddy, I’m twenty-nine years old, and I live in Hollywood, California, but I’m originally from Boston, Massachusetts. I love live music, comedy, art, and makeup, of course! I’ve always been fascinated with makeup, and trying to emulate characters from movies (like Rocky Horror Picture Show) or people in magazines (like Seventeen or Vogue).
R: You are amazing at what you do. Was this something that you have always wanted to?
A: No, I didn’t even realize it was a profession. I honestly wanted to be so many other things, from an actress,to a comedian, a director, a photographer, etc., and then finally a makeup artist.
R: Is there a certain “type” of person that would work best as a makeup artist?
A: You definitely have to be patient, adaptable, you must be very detail-oriented, and you must be very aware of your client and surroundings. For example, if your client is shy, or is studying their lines, it’s best to not talk too much. However, if your client is talkative and bubbly, it would be strange if you didn’t talk to them at all.
R: Are there any classes in high school that someone should take if they want to become a makeup artist?
A: Art, hands down. You should take a basic art course. Color theory is very important. I started as a drawer and painter and I’ve found that has helped me tremendously with my craft. I also have such a love for all things art that it’s much easier for me to express an idea or find inspiration through visual references, and communicate it to someone (i.e. the client, or director).
R: What kind of college education do you need and what degree would be the most helpful for it?
A: You technically do not need a college degree–you could start apprenticing today. However, many people go to a makeup school to learn. I myself have a degree in Film Media and Art History from a university. When I came to L.A., I apprenticed under a makeup artist and I still, to this day, continue to take classes and assist well-known artists because I believe you can never be done learning. Always work on your craft!
R: Other than school, what can one do to prepare themselves for becoming a makeup artist?
A: Talk with artists, find yourself a mentor, and don’t be afraid to reach out to people you admire. Be respectful of their time, but if you have specific questions, most will answer you or give great advice. Practice, practice, practice. One of my mentors told me when I first started out that, after working on a thousand faces, I will finally become proficient. I’ve also heard that it takes about seven years to master a craft. If you see a makeup you like, try to recreate it, and make sure you always give credit to whomever you are paying homage to if you post it online.
R: Who are some of the people you have worked with? What are some of the projects you have worked on?
A: I’m so lucky to have worked with many talented actors, singers, performers, directors, and photographers. It’s hard for me to pick out just a few, but if you want to see who I’ve worked with, my website has an ongoing client list. I work on many different types of projects from film, TV, music videos, print, and commercials. I just wrapped up a dark comedy assisting Jen Grabel, and right now I am prepping for another metal music video where I will be doing special effects makeup.
R: What has been the biggest issue you have ever had when you are doing someone’s makeup?
A: A big issue is miscommunication. I try to let my clients know to be vocal about something they like or dislike, because I don’t read minds and I would rather fix something than hear about it later. It doesn’t hurt my feelings, because every one has different ideas and opinions of what they want to look like. My biggest pet peeves are talking on the phone when in my chair, eating, or being late.
R: What are some of the best things about your job?
A: I love seeing the reaction people get when I am done. Either they are so happy with the way that they look, or if it’s a SPFX makeup, they are totally grossed out or think something is real. One time I did an injury makeup and I walked outside with the actor (on the street) and someone asked him if he was ok and needed an ambulance!
R: Are you allowed to tell about some of the upcoming projects that you are working on?
A: There are some projects I am not allowed to talk about until they are released (most make you sign an NDA). But there are some that I can; I work with Super Deluxe a lot, and they usually let me share behind-the-scenes photos to promote the videos.
R: What advice would you give a teenager who wanted to become a makeup artist?
A: Being a makeup artist is not just about doing makeup, which is why so many people quit. Ask yourself, do I want to do makeup on all types of people, all skin colors and textures, all ages? Would I get up at 3 am to be on set at 4 am and work a 12 hour day minimum (sometimes 14 + hours)? Am I willing to carry bags and bags of makeup in the desert or out in the rain? Will I make cold calls, network, and take low-paying jobs to get my foot in the door? Being a makeup artist seems glamorous, especially because of the YouTube MUA’s, but the reality is that there is so much more work that goes into it, so are you prepared?
R: What is your favorite memory so far?
A: My favorite memory so far is working on a film in Hawaii with my best friend. We both were doing makeup, hair, and SPFX for a Lifetime film and it was just so magical being in Oahu, staying by the beach, doing what we loved. It was very special and I will never forget it.
R: What is your official website? Are you on any social media?
R: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: If anyone would like to book me, please email email@example.com I am also looking to mentor, so if there is anyone who wants some help becoming a makeup artist in the L.A. area, feel free to email me too (serious inquires only, please)
R: Allison, thank you for the interview. Have a great day.