A Makeup Artist On Her Industry’s Uncertain Future

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images.
While many are now well-accustomed to (and subsequently complaining about) working from home, millions of people have lost their jobs and don’t have the luxury to enjoy — or get annoyed by — WFH home life. Among the affected are those in the beauty industry. Makeup artists, hairstylists, and nail technicians around the country have had their salons close, photoshoots cancelled, and incomes slashed for the foreseeable future because of COVID-19. After all, touching someone else’s face, hair, or nails for a living isn’t exactly social-distancing friendly
To get a sense of what beauty professionals are going through right now, we spoke to Toronto-based makeup artist and influencer Nate Matthew. Matthew went from spending her nights at industry events and days on the set of fashion shoots, and fancying the faces of celebrities like Rupi Kaur, Ralph, Melina Matsoukas, and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, to a suddenly clear iCal. Here, she tells us how she’s coping with the major changes to her industry, how the pandemic is going to affect influencer culture, and her best makeup tips for your Zoom meetings. The following interview was told to Kathleen Newman-Bremang and has been edited for length and clarity.
What did your days look like before the pandemic and what do they look like now? 
Before, most of my week consisted of being on set doing models' makeup and sometimes hair. It’s pretty intimate. Because of the close-contact nature of my job, hygiene and being cognisant of sanitation and things that I'm touching throughout the day [like my makeup brushes] was already second nature to me. But you can’t do my job and practice social-distancing.
Pretty much everything was cancelled. I was supposed to do makeup on two commercials, one US client and one Canadian. There were also on-camera opportunities for me, like a PSA ad for a non-profit. Any type of production with large crews has fallen through. Another big part of my job is doing makeup for e-commerce clients. As far as I know, no clients are shooting in-studio right now; a lot of e-commerce clients are having models doing in-home self-shoots where they do their own makeup.
I’m a very extroverted person, and my day job and my extracurriculars and my social life have done a full 180. Now, my days are mostly spent alone in quarantine with my partner while he works from home. The changes can feel overwhelming, but ultimately, I [try to] remember that I’m not the only one. Everyone's going through it.

COVID-19 has definitely impacted me financially. There's no point in shying away from that. I'm making almost 90% less than what I was bringing in before the pandemic.

How have these changes affected you financially? 
It has definitely impacted me financially. There's no point in shying away from that. I am getting the CERB checks from the government every month. It’s hard to say how much money I’ve lost because every week my jobs were different, but it’s definitely now almost 90% less than what I was bringing in before the pandemic.
How are you making money now?
Before, I would get asked to do content creation for beauty companies. I would have brands reach out and offer a fee for a post on my Instagram feed or a fee for story posts. So I've taken on a couple of those, but that hasn't equated to my usual income at all. It is nice to keep busy and to have an opportunity to make money, but you need to be conscious of doing things intentionally and not taking every single opportunity that comes your way. I’m conscious of staying somewhat on brand and making sure I’m paying attention to what is and isn’t appropriate to market right now. 
How do you see the role of influencer changing post-pandemic? 
Influencer and content-creator culture was already entering a new chapter before this happened. A lot of brands were awarding opportunities to people considered influential and inspirational, over just being influencers. I think now we’re leaning even more in that direction. There were a lot of discussions prior to the pandemic about the frivolities surrounding influencer culture and the kind of people that we were seeing produced out of it. Influencers aren’t going anywhere, but the ones who will succeed are people with a message and a purpose.
Once you can go back to work, how do you see your job changing?
Face masks are going to be mandatory for us for sure. People are going to be very conscious of someone they've never met touching their face, even with gloves and brushes. I think they will be wary of being in such close proximity [to makeup artists and hair stylists]. We’ll see processing times (the time that you're working on a model or on talent) increase. We’ll have to have an assistant disposing of brushes and disinfecting products as soon as they've been used. Part of our job is making sure that the person in your chair feels comfortable, so I think that’s the priority.
I’m sure there will be supplementary online safety certifications and things to further our education surrounding sanitisation in a post-pandemic world. Of course, they will be in addition to whatever government regulations will be in place when work resumes.
Are people still are coming to you for makeup tips?
People want to play around with makeup. Some people are not confident in how they apply their own makeup and if they're home alone right now, they're like, “Well, why don't I perfect that now? Why don't I just try all the things that I wasn't confident in trying before?”
What are they asking you for advice about?
Questions are mostly about winged eye liner and smoky eyes, things that are really dependent on your eye shape. For perfecting winged liner, make sure your wing suits your eye shape, and draw the wing as a continuation of your lower lash line. If you feel like full liner is too heavy for your lid, you can always start the wing at the centre of your lash line rather than the inner corner. For smoky eyes, an approachable, wearable smoky eye doesn’t need black eyeshadow. Opt for browns to keep it soft while still making an impact. Build slowly, focus the darkest shades on the outer third of the eye, and of course, blending is key. 
Any secrets for looking great on a Zoom call? 
Skin first. Makeup is so fun to play around with, but make sure you're dedicating the same amount of time to letting your skin breathe throughout the day. You don't really need to dress up your face a whole lot for a Zoom meeting, but if you feel like you want to give yourself a little bit of an enhancement — because Zoom calls are so much more lower-resolution than real life — the first thing someone will notice on the other side of that screen is a bold lip.
The coronavirus pandemic, and resulting economic downturn, has disproportionately affected some professions — doctors, nurses, teachers, small business owners, cashiers, and food-industry workers are just some of the folks on the front lines. Checking In is an ongoing series where we pass the microphone to workers in industries most impacted, and ask them what they want us to know about their hopes, fears, and needs right now. Click here if you want to participate. This story was originally published on Refinery29 CA.

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