Meet Tracy Ewell, professional freelance makeup artist. A mutual friend connected me to Tracy and her background instantly intrigued me. She’s resilient and creative, surviving Hurricane Katrina and rebuilding her business in Atlanta. Tracy has owned her own shop, which was featured in Daily Candy and Allure magazine. She’s also done makeup for print (including a Fortune magazine cover), videos and movies.
Now, Tracy is again living in her beloved New Orleans – where her grandfather was a famous astrologist – and is building a plan for the next phase of her business. Regardless of your chosen independent or freelance field, you can definitely gather some priceless business tips from Tracy. You can also check out her website at www.tracyewell.com.
What inspired you to become a makeup artist?
My attraction to the art of expression. I literally drew on my [bedroom] walls in high school and, if you came over to visit, you were asked to draw something, too. I had managed hair stylists in a big fancy salon for years before I was hired by a professional makeup artist. Susan Spaid was the first professional makeup artist to show me the platform of looking at a women’s face as a canvas. She showed me a few of her tricks, then I began to practice on the only subject I had: me. I loved the way I became the subject. How did I feel? How did I look? How did I want to look? I always came to makeup with a bigger picture in mind. The makeup was one aspect of the work. I learned makeup strictly by the knowledge I had from studying art and my ability to get people to talk. I would look at a person and see things that they didn’t and I would be challenged to show that to them. And then, of course, I fell in love with it.
Makeup is first washable; it is not permanent. It can be all about color, it can be all about neutrals, but most of the time it’s all about light and dark. The medium of makeup is a great texture, easy to manipulate and fun to use. Makeup has so much variety in styles, formulas, techniques, colors, trends, etc. It’s more than just a pretty blush.
What’s the best advice you received as you were striking out on your own?
Perhaps it wasn’t advice but I swear that when I was 15 my grandfather, who was a famous astrologist in New Orleans, told me, “You will be discovered when you decide, you have to believe in yourself before anyone else can.” I was a child but I knew had something to share with people.
What advice would you give to someone starting up his/her own business?
Know your craft inside and out, and then challenge that often. Know your clients, where they live, what they buy, what they really want. Listen, be patient and know that you will go crazy, which is why you have to love what you do. You first have to believe it can happen before it ever can.
What do you know now that you’d wish you had known before starting your own business?
I know what it costs to run a business now. I know how to get away with less. I know that my challenges have been in not finding my target client – it’s not that this isn’t a valuable business. I know that first you have to believe it can happen before it ever will.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve faced with your business ventures?
When I had a store in Atlanta, my best friend Natalie Essiaed (since 6th grade) was my business partner. It was such a dream to work together doing what I love with whom I love. I believe it was in those moments I grew to love what I do even more, learned the true ins and outs of running a business, and was inspired daily. It was also in the loss of that dream that I began to truly hurt. It was the saddest and hardest thing to do, to close that business, harder than surviving Katrina, which was something that happened to both of us. If it hadn’t been for that storm we never would have worked together. It was her belief in what I did, that gave me the courage to believe in myself even more than I already did.
What do you enjoy most about being on your own boss?
I can’t get fired. LOL! I love that there are no limits. If I have an idea, I can explore it, I am not limited. This is both the blessing and the curse. Living in my own head often causes me to rethink and rethink and then question whether it’s even a good idea or not. It’s hard to always have perspective.
What should your customers/ clients know about you as a makeup artist?
That I love what I do. That I am an artist and that people are my medium. Creating art is when I am truly happy, it’s when I can look at the world and think I am able to contribute. I have always believed that if I can inspire one woman to feel better about who she is, then that woman will go out and be a better self, which will effect everyone she knows… which makes it all worth it.
I am good at what I do. I believe when trying to achieve natural beauty, it is all about “less is more”. In order to be good at this, you must understand the structure of the face, knowing where to highlight, where to shade, where to bring color out, and when to stop. I teach people how to do their own makeup; it’s become my specialty service. I call it “cut the crap” technique. I really listen to the woman, asking her all the right questions to find out what she likes, what she is willing to do or not do, where she is going, what does she wear. I find out what colors, textures, perspective a woman might have and if she doesn’t know then I will help her figure it out. Looking beautiful is also about feeling beautiful.
I also teach women how to spend their money on makeup. By purchasing only the right colors and textures, you waste less, you stop buying the same shade in every brand. I love helping women help themselves!