How Makeup Helped me Conquer Depression by Jenna Clayton
Posted on August 12 2017
When I meet my lovely clients for the first time, the conversation usually meanders through to the question: 'So, how did you end up in makeup?' I usually reply, 'well...how much time ya got?!'
I think like many graduates from The Academy of Makeup, I came to makeup a bit later in life, having tried a few other careers on for size and finding myself miserable. At Uni, I qualified with a 1st in English, and felt almost obliged to try out teaching. When I was in the classroom, I absolutely loved the actual teaching itself, but found the politics, the hours and the jaded attitude of some teachers to be overwhelming. I then made the decision to leave half way through my probationary year.
Jenna working at one of her Weddings
I then took the first job I could find, at a major bank in their contact centre. I met some of my best friends and even my now husband there, but the job itself still didn't fulfil me. It was at this point in 2010 that I started a (quite sad looking) makeup blog. Having ALWAYS been into makeup and now rejoicing that YouTube was making it more and more accessible. In 2011 I even did makeup for a friend's sister's wedding which, looking back, I can't believe I agreed to! I must have had about six brushes, but I remember feeling completely 'in the flow' and like I was doing what I was meant to be doing. It would just take me four years to actually do something about it!
In 2014 I was offered a promotion, which included moving to London. I made the move, and even on the trip down, I was beginning to crack. In London I shared a dull flat with a stranger. I worked at least 11 stressy hours in the office, and went home to work some more over a crap takeaway. I had no friends, and I ended up coming back to Glasgow almost every weekend. My relationship broke down, nearly permanently. Other team members left and I inherited their jobs. Within 6 months of moving I had a nervous breakdown, and developed severe depression and anxiety.
To be completely honest, my memories of 2014 are almost non-existent. I think we have an in-built protection system when we simply can't handle reality, and I certainly couldn't at that point. I felt completely flat and like a total failure. I had completely lost myself, and I felt like I was terrible at everything.
Jenna's makeup on BNTM Simone and Victoria for the Wella Hair Xposure 2017
As I started emerging from the worst of the depression in December 2014, I tried to remember what I was good at, and what I enjoyed. I went back to watching YouTube makeup tutorials, and one sleepless night I Googled makeup training courses in Scotland. The Academy of Makeup popped up and I remember going 'wow'. Not only was the work incredible, I simply couldn't believe there was a school of that calibre in Scotland - I had assumed all the amazing places would be in London (my now nemesis!). For the first time in a year, I felt myself feel excited. My partner convinced me to book onto the pro course, and I started in January 2015.
I was terrified going along to the first class, but as soon as I arrived and Sara was there to greet us all with the warmest of smiles, I felt instantly reassured. Everyone was so lovely, kind and supportive, and it was so wonderful to forget about my depression for a while and channel my energy towards something creative. I met my husband and mother in law after my first class for a coffee and I was beaming - I saw both their faces light up because I was actually smiling, fully and properly.
I looked forward to every Sunday class with the encouraging and lovely tutors, practicing during the week and feeling an incredible sense of purpose, which had been completely absent from my life. I would lose myself in the colours, textures, and mini therapy sessions with whoever you were practicing on. Week after week I felt myself feel just a little bit more like myself, and not the numb robot that depression had turned me into. Getting great feedback about my work from the tutors lifted my spirits hugely and made me think I was pretty good at makeup - it genuinely felt like coming home, and I knew it was something I had to pursue.
I left my job at the bank and threw myself into makeup. The aftercare opportunities with the Academy were phenomenal. I remember getting the first call out to do makeup for a runway show and nearly convinced myself I wasn't good enough, I didn't have the kit, I wasn't ready etc and just thought 'f**k it, go for it' - and I've kept that philosophy ever since. It's the jobs that you feel a bit scared about that you gain the most from, and I always felt so accomplished when I tackled something new. I did work for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the Daily Record and before I knew it I was getting bookings for occasion makeup, and then even weddings, films and TV and commercial work!
An example of one of Jenna's Music Videos she did the Makeup
By late 2015 I honestly felt like a new person. Every spare minute I had, I was reading about makeup, practicing it, doing shoots and jobs - I felt so grateful to be doing something I truly loved. Knowing that the Academy and Sara were always only a phone call away helped immensely, and I continue to learn from them even to this day. Working for myself is challenging of course, but the sense of fulfilment I get from meeting incredible new people everyday, helping people look and feel incredible and genuinely being myself at work has been instrumental in helping me overcome depression.
The tutors and fellow artists I have met at the Academy are amongst the most empathetic and engaged people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. We all want each other to do well, which is such a refreshing change from my previous job, and we help each other be better artists whatever way we can. The fact that my business is going from strength to strength and my work is even on billboards right now with work for Glen's Platinum Vodka is icing on the cake - I'm just thrilled to do what I love and make a living that way.
Words by Jenna Clayton