Want a career in cosmetics? 3 top M.A.C makeup artists share their road to success

12 June 2018
By Fashion Quarterly


It’s all about developing your identity and craft.

If you’re interested in a career in the makeup industry but you don’t know where to start – look no further. Miss FQ sat down with three top M.A.C makeup artists – Kiekie Stanners, Lochie Stonehouse and Sarika Patel – to find out how they got their big break in the industry, what their day-to-day looks like and their career highlights to date. Plus all the details around the latest M.A.C GIRLS range and which palette personality they gravitate towards the most.

To learn more about a career in the makeup industry and M.A.C’s GIRLS range scroll below:

Kiekie Stanners – Senior artist, M.A.C New Zealand

How did you get your first break in the makeup industry? Tell us about where it all began.
I started working instore for M.A.C Cosmetics 11 years ago with no makeup artistry experience at all but a huge drive to learn everything I could from the best fashion makeup brand around. I had hardly ever picked up a makeup brush before (!) so I worked my butt off to learn and teach myself as much as I could about makeup artistry whilst being surrounded by other incredible artists. I made it obvious what I wanted my end goal to be all those years ago and was lucky enough to get opportunities to assist and work on editorial photo shoots way back when to learn how it all worked.

Explain to us what your day-to-day looks like as Senior Artist at M.A.C.
Every day as a M.A.C Senior Artist is always different. I may be working on an editorial photo shoot, backstage directing the makeup for a designer’s show, taking M.A.C artists through advanced makeup training or educating beauty writers or influencers on latest makeup trends or technology. Plus there’s always a little bit of time curating content for social media.

What has been your career highlight so far?
Getting the cover of Australian Vogue with Lorde was a major career highlight. Being able to have a Vogue cover in your portfolio of work (especially with an amazing musician) is surely most makeup artists’ dream. Other career highlights include working backstage at Balmain in Paris and Moschino in Milan – the supermodels, the paparazzi, the hectic backstage chaos and the fashion!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to make a start in the makeup industry?
It is such a creative, exciting and constantly evolving industry to get into. But like anything – success can take time and experience. So, say yes to all opportunities to learn or assist, work hard to learn all aspects of your craft, ensure you have an edge that means you stand out from everyone else and don’t give up. You never stop learning when it comes to makeup and if you think you know it all you won’t progress any further.

Where do you see makeup trends developing in the next five years?
We have seen trends in makeup recently shift towards individualising beauty – so there are no carbon copy rules of what you should wear but rather how to make it your own. I hope that this is the direction that makeup continues to take – it seems so dated to be told how you should be presenting yourself or that beauty should have rules attached. I hope that makeup trends continue to evolve into individualism and owning your own style rather than feeling that we all have to look like each other.

How would you describe your personal style across both makeup and fashion?
Hopefully a little rock ‘n’ roll biker and a little 90’s supermodel.

If you could pick one MAC GIRLS palette that reflects who you are, what would it be?
I am Mischief Minx on the daily – the warm bronze shadows teamed with leopard print casing reminds me to be my true mischievous self every day.

What is your favourite rule-breaking makeup look?
I will forever be obsessed with gloss, gloss, gloss. Red lips that are glossed for the gods that look like they are plastic and glossed up eyes that look like jelly – not the most comfortable makeup to wear but boy does it look amazing.

Who are the risk-takers that you look up to?
Isamaya Ffrench, Terry Barber and Stevie Nicks.

Lochie Stonehouse – Events artist, M.A.C New Zealand

Tell us about your career progression in the makeup industry. Where did you start and how did you become an event artist for MAC?
It all started in Christchurch, at the Kristen Stewart School of Makeup. After graduating, I knew that I wanted to pursue a makeup career that consisted of fashion work, rather than that of bridal or film and TV. I did a lot of unpaid freelance work with local photographers in order to build up a portfolio and to gain industry experience. This was back when Instagram wasn’t around, and so hard work, relationship building and face-to-face interactions held more weight.

I soon realised that in order to pursue my backstage fashion dreams, I needed to move up to Auckland. I noticed that within New Zealand, M.A.C Cosmetics had the strongest relationships with the most successful industry professionals, and so I became determined to obtain a job with the brand so that I could work my way up the ladder. After a few failed attempts, I eventually obtained employment at (what was at that stage) the only M.A.C counter in Christchurch.

As soon as I could, I transferred up to Auckland. For the following few years, I worked across a few different M.A.C stores, where I was given some opportunities to prove myself by ‘stepping-off-counter’ to work on lookbooks and shows for NZ designers. I eventually obtained a position at the national flagship store in Britomart, which we call M.A.C PRO. After working at M.A.C PRO for a few years, I secured my desired role in the support-office as an events artist.

Over two years have passed since I obtained this role. My daily schedule is never the same, although generally, I spend about half of my time working across our stores where I help to train the M.A.C artists. The other half of my time is spent in the studio or backstage environment, where I’m lucky to work alongside New Zealand’s most prolific and hard-working designers, photographers, models, influencers and talents.

You’ve worked on many cool projects during your career, what has been your favourite to date and why?
A couple of years back I was able to work with one of my favourite musicians, Claire Elise Boucher (Grimes). Claire is a spiritually conscious and emotionally liberal musical genius. She also happens to be a Pisces, and so as a Scorpio I really connect with what she puts out. Other highlights include doing makeup for Leon Bridges, Billie Eilish, Lorde, Fifth Harmony, Troye Sivan, and Matthew Healy from The 1975.

What has been the greatest risk you’ve taken in your career and how did it pay off?
For me, decisions relating specifically to my career haven’t really been driven by the need or want to take risks. The nature of my specific role in the industry, on a professional level, means that every decision is best researched, practised and planned. When you know you have the power to garner the most desirable outcome, you kind of don’t need to take a risk. Professionally speaking, I prefer to bring a calculated and success-ensuring plan to the table, rather than to take a risk. How I do love taking risks is in my personal life.

What is one pro tip that everyone needs to know about makeup application?
Surprisingly, most faces I work on have visually textured skin because of blocked pores. Foundation will look so much smoother if it’s lying flat across clean and unclogged pores. People are investing big money in fillers, smoothing primers, and foundations, although I truly believe that cleaning out your pores with an exfoliating product should be the priority. Mineralize Volcanic Ash Exfoliator by M.A.C Cosmetics is legitimately the most gentle yet result-based product. It is sugar-based, so washes away in the shower as it begins to melt.

If you could pick one M.A.C GIRLS palette that reflects who you are, what would it be?
The Risk Taker palette!

How would you describe your personal style across both fashion and makeup?
Fashion: Save Mart shopping sprees. Makeup: Versatile, ft. undertones that reference a message, era, genre or culture.

MAC Palette ‘Qween Supreme’ @maccosmetics

A post shared by @ lochiestonehousemua on

What makes you a risk-taker in your day-to-day life?
I guess risk-taking for me is more pertinent to my personal life, rather than that of my career. Outside the confines of the 9-5, I take risks in what I wear, how I express myself emotionally, and in how I approach certain situations. You could call it risk-taking or you could call it self-expression.

Who/what is inspiring you creatively at the moment? Are there any movies, tv shows or books on your radar?
At the moment I’m feeling inspired by the things I really enjoyed as a child, but kind of lost along the way. I think society presents us with limited options, and so the older we get, we tend to get lost in the constructs of social norms, i.e. what we should follow and should be inspired by. I was totally into bugs, stamp collecting, freedom, flower-pressing, being a loner – and so I’m totally revisiting these things as an adult! I also recently watched David Cronenberg’s 1986 The Fly, after not having seen it since I was a kid. Chris Walas and his SFX team won an Academy Award for their work in the film. While it definitely won’t inspire the makeup that I create on others (the main character is a grotesque fly/human hybrid) I love that beneath the satire, the film points to the uncontrollable process of aging/physical transformation.

Sarika Patel – Freelance makeup artist, former resident trainer for M.A.C cosmetics

Have you always been interested in makeup? What were the steps that lead you towards a decision to work in the makeup industry?
My interest in beauty started during my last year of college when I decided to do my own school ball makeup. Growing up, makeup was all about the eyes and eyeliner and I would watch my mum apply her black kajal eyeliner every day. I was also always in awe of the bold eyeliner and eye makeup in Indian films growing up. During my last year of school, the careers adviser suggested a makeup course, as I initially said that hairdressing interested me. I looked into the makeup course and now roughly 12 years later I’m still in the makeup industry.

How did you land your role as an NZ resident trainer at M.A.C?
My journey with M.A.C started in 2008 where I worked in store for 5 years before joining the M.A.C training team. I discovered my passion to teach and inspire others during my time as an assistant manager and product specialist instore.

What has been your career highlight to date?
I was lucky enough to attend the Indian International Film Awards (IIFAs), which is the Oscars of Bollywood, in Sri Lanka and Toronto.  There I was given the opportunity to work on Bollywood celebrities, dancers and models. It was an incredible experience working at the IIFAs where a lot of colour, glitter and diamantes were involved. At the awards in Toronto, I met my makeup idol Mickey Contractor, makeup artist to the top Bollywood actresses and formerly the director of artistry for M.A.C in India.

Where do you see makeup trends developing in the next five years?
Personally, I think makeup will end up heading two ways in the next five years. I think product innovation in the skincare and face category will have a huge part to play in makeup trends in the sense that people can achieve their desired makeup look while appearing natural at the same time. Secondly, I think that social media-inspired makeup trends will continue to play a huge part in the next five years allowing even more people to source their makeup inspiration from platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.

If you could work alongside anyone in the makeup industry who would it be?
My makeup idol Mickey Contractor and Isamaya Ffrench. Both have two extremely different styles of makeup so I would love to see them both in action.

If you could pick one M.A.C GIRLS palette that reflects to the world who you are, what would it be?
I would say Qween Supreme, mostly because I love gold and shiny things and also working at M.A.C has allowed me to create makeup looks that I love all while dressing up in my most glam outfits.

Describe your go-to makeup look.
My go-to makeup during the day is very minimal as over the last couple of years I’ve been focusing on skin treatments so that I can use makeup to minimise imperfections. My day makeup consists of M.A.C Lightful C Coral Grass SPF30 Tinted Moisturiser (SPF is a must have), M.A.C Shape and Shade Brow Tint, M.A.C Clear Brow Set (layers upon layers of it) and a dramatic mascara like M.A.C In Extreme Dimension Mascara. For the evening I will always amp up my eye makeup using M.A.C’s Uninterrupted and Embark Eyeshadows and another few layers of mascara.

What are your favourite fashion brands?
Alexander Wang, Zara and Balmain.

What are the makeup products you simply can’t live without?
I cannot live without a colour corrector to neutralize the darkness under my eyes. I am currently using M.A.C Prep + Prime Highlight Pen in Peach Lustre. And I’m not sure what I was doing before using this product. Also, I would never leave the house without grooming my eyebrows with some M.A.C Clear Brow Set.

The M.A.C GIRLS collection is available in the following curated palettes: Classic Cutie, Risk Taker, Mischief Minx, Power Hungry, Qween Supreme, Rockin’ Rebel, Fashion Fanatic, Prissy Princess and Basic Bitch) and are priced at $90 each. They’re available now at all M.A.C locations but please note, stock varies between stores. Please contact your nearest location for availability.

Interview: Ella Francis
Photos: Instagram

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