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The Confessions & Lessons Of A Make-Up Artist

In my world, being great at what you do isn't enough. And honestly, it never will be.

As Told To

As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.

This is Tiffany Humphrey's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.

I'm a make-up girl in a digital world.

Which can be a good and bad thing—depending on the situation. On one end, make-up artists are always in the forefront, which ensures I have a market to promote my passion to. On the other end...everyone seems to be one, or at least feel like they can.

Don't get me wrong, I am class. room. HERE. for anyone trying to learn how to properly apply a beat face or even perfecting their craft. But our industry is one of the most underestimated industries in the game, primarily due to the fact that a lot of people don't see makeup as a profession or art. We really have to know how to sell ourselves and our craft; we're consistently having to think of ways to build our brand.

And what's worse, we often face potential clients who don't see our value, or don't understand and agree with our prices.

Ladies. We know how expensive makeup can be. Like. C'mon. There's nothing worse than someone wanting us to provide our best work, for the minimum.

So needless to say, in my world, being great at what you do isn't enough. And honestly, it never will be.

I became a MUA by chance. A true tomboy all my life, born and raised in Chicago—Southside Englewood to be exact. I grew up as an only child, raised as a Jehovah's Witness. I never knew my mother, so my father's parents raised me. And even though I lived with them, I saw my dad every weekend (we've grown so close over the years, he's my best friend).

Anyway, one day I decided to go out with friends; a night out with the girls. For some reason, that day, I noticed my bare face compared to everyone around me. We took a group photo, and I remember absolutely hating the picture. It bothered me probably more than it should have, but it also lit a fire. Literally the next day, I purchased L'Oreal concealer and went to work. Everyday I would practice applying my makeup. Soon, I fell entirely in love and have pursued all aspects of beauty ever since.

Fast forward to today, with putting in the hard work, I've been fortunate enough to have worked with amazing brands such as ORS, Puma, ample hair companies, salons, and photographers, I've built a social media following of amazing supporters, and I have created my own everyday wear product line that can compete with the best of them.

Literal full-circle manifestation.

And girls, times have certainly changed since. I mean this from an industry perspective, as well as the opportunities I've been afforded.

For one, when I began my artist journey, there weren't any "influencers", and maybe 3-4 beauty gurus on YouTube—if that. And no one looked like me. Even when shopping, there were only two or three shades available for deeper skin tones. You'd literally have to mix multiple shades to perfect your blend—and the black community kind of learned to cope with that reality. Over time, companies finally realized how lucrative and profitable the black beauty enterprise really is, and they woke up. They started to market to our demographic. And boom: suddenly, there were over 20 shades available to consumers. Then 25. Then 30. And now, some beauty brands offer 40+ shade options, almost as a standard (thanks, Rihanna).

What's even more crazy, now these very brands are using women of color and influencers in every campaign. We truly are big business.

Simply put, the beauty industry requires different levels of tenacity in seeking genuine success. And it's hard ladies, for various reasons.

A few reasons being:

We are always learning.

Just as clothing trends change, so do the trends within makeup. We have to always pivot with the times, learn new techniques, and adapt outside of our comfort zone. One of my favorite looks that I ever did was an orange glitter look that I did on myself. I am such a neutral girl, but my supporters love bright looks, so I loved it because it was a look that really pushed me. Anytime I do brights, they love it. And I love that they love it because it challenges me.

You may not notice, but makeup is a key component in everything you see.

The makeup industry is a billion-dollar industry—$90 billion to be exact. So, a lot of what you subconsciously see everyday, whether in film, ad campaigns, commercials, etc., they all require beauty services. Even if you think makeup is not there, it is.

We actually aren't that glamorous.

I will bet that your favorite makeup artist doesn't even wear makeup everyday. I legit wear it maybe two days a week, but I talk about makeup and look at it most of my day. My days consist of brushes, contouring techniques, blending, pigment formulas, and engagement with my supporters—not my own slay.

It hurts.

When I say it hurts I mean it. We stand for hours on end. Our hands cramp up from constant application. Our body aches from carrying all our bags, ring lights, cases etc. Ladies, book that massage for yourself—or ask bae. Because we really go through it.

Our job is more than makeup.

Makeup Artists are marketers, brand ambassadors, creative directors, web designers, and everything else you can think of. We legit do it all. And most importantly for me, most people believe that all we care about for our clients, is piling on unrecognizable makeup, which is not true. My focus is always on the skin! So, damnit, I'm a dermatologist too.

We have dream clients, and we have those that give us a hard time.

Again, our prices are our prices, sis. So that's first.

But secondly, as a client, it is very important to not fall into the category of being unrealistic. Do NOT let Instagram fool you. Some looks are strictly for the 'gram. If you do not have a large lid, glitter and large lashes is not a look that you can particularly wear, and as your MUA, it is my job to prevent you from rocking a look not tailored to your face.

Great clients book consistently, and great clients trust that we will paint within reason.

Ladies, I preach all of this in hopes of educating what most do not understand: the ups and downs of the beauty industry. We hold a responsibility to the public to provide the most quality services that we can. Had a bad experience with an artist? Keep trying until you find your artist. Look on YouTube, practice until you find YOUR look.

And if you're considering becoming a makeup artist:

  • Focus on you. Find your makeup style and focus on yourself. One thing my father always taught me was, "In your lane there is less traffic." Stay in your lane.
  • Practice. Practice on your skills and build your craft.
  • Like with any business, invest! Invest in your branding, invest in your product, invest in classes, invest in yourself.
  • Find artists that are where you would like to be and let them be your motivation. I follow entrepreneurs, influencers, and women who are really next-level in their business as inspo.
  • Be patient and pray. Your time is coming. And when it does, your patience would have prepped for you to be ready.
  • And learn to shut up. It sounds crazy, sounds harsh, but it's the truth. Don't run around talking about what you are going to do, just do it.

As for what's next for me, continuing to build my brand, continuing to host makeup boot camps, and creating larger revenue sales goals for my products, are all my focus. Oh, and also, YouTube. I'll finally be creating my channel, as my supporters have been asking me for so long (ahhh, I'm nervous!). And now that I have said it out loud, I have to do it.

Either way, with or without, I will remain true to my course: a curator of Glam $hit. A make-up artist that not only knows glam, but teaches glam to everyone, from beginner to advance.

And I'm here to take my piece of the $90 billion pie.

To connect with Tiffany, you may book an appointment on TiffDailyBeat.Com. Follow her on Instagram @Tiffdailybeat, where she hosts full-face tutorials every Tuesday, titled 'Tuesdays with Tiff' on her live.

You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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