My Makeup Mentor: Backstage Etiquette

Posted on June 15 2019

Sara Hill

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The makeup Industry has blown up in the last five years. With more makeup artists than ever before, the Industry can feel a bit like the old Wild West when the gold rush was on. Everyone out for themselves trying to make it big and there’s no treasure map to tell you where best to dig to get that pot of gold! 

I have been riding this rodeo for 22 years and I’ve fallen off my horse many times, so I hope my weekly nuggets of info help all y'all find your way to your fame & fortune. Yee-Haw! 

London Fashion Week

Getting Prepared for London Fashion Week
LFW assistant work.

Before you start to email London agencies about assisting artists at fashion week you need to ensure your book is fashion focused. Make sure it contains only professional models. Having published editorials helps as well. They love no makeup makeups and good skin work best. Having a website that contains bridal, SPFX or Glam client work may put off an agent so you might want to separate this.

Think about emailing in early August with a link to your website (not Facebook or Instagram). I would avoid telling the agent if you live outside London. Be specific about which artist you want to assist, too. That way they can see if your work is a fit for them. If you don’t receive a reply this is their version of a 'NO' – remember they will receive hundreds of emails every day and will not have time to reply. You just have to keep trying.

Backstage Etiquette

Backstage Etiquette

I remember my first show assisting at London fashion week many, many years ago! I was so terrified and excited! It was to assist the legendary Alex Box for the brand BIBA. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer lead artist. There’s no greater buzz, especially when the music kicks in at show time.  

Here are some tips on how to play it cool at your first show. 

#1 There is very limited space backstage at shows and not always the ideal environment for tables and mirrors. Keep your kit small (Zuca size) - big cases are not welcome by assistants. Bring a towel to lie on the table and only put out your skincare bag and brushes once you have seen the lead artist’s demo.

#2 Terrible lighting: Backstage lighting is renowned for being terrible, I carry a head torch just in case as there’s often no room for your own lights. 

#3 Taking photos or videos: Even if the key artist is doing this it doesn’t mean you can too. Revealing the makeup look or designs before the show is a huge no no! Remember you are there as an assistant to support the lead, not to promote yourself on social media. 

#4 Model chat: Always introduce yourself, ask the model their name, a little small talk is fine but you are there to work so no long chats. 

#5 Don’t bug the key artist: The key artist has a huge responsibility and has lots to think about during a show. Don’t ask them too many questions and don’t chat to them while they are working. It’s best to ask the first assistant if you have an issue. Make sure to take notes during the demo and straight after the demo has finished is the best time to ask questions. 

#6 Dress appropriately:  I remember a girl turned up to show as an assistant with a full face of glam makeup up, false lashes, cleavage showing and high heels. She was sent home by the lead artist before the show even began and was told she was obviously not there to work. I felt so sorry for her! Most artists wear casual black clothing, flat shoes and minimal, natural makeup. it’s best to blend in, not stand out.

I will go into more detail on how best to approach and build your book in posts to come.

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