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The Real Poop

There's one thing no one ever said about Natalie Portman's makeup job in Black Swan: Maybe she was born with it. 

This isn't your grandmother’s makeup. (Thank goodness, because she actually gave herself neck problems from the three pounds of foundation she smears on every morning.) This isn't just you prettying up your dolls or seeing what daddy might look like wearing mommy's wig. 

Hair and Makeup Design is serious business. It takes years of training, involves a wide variety of styles and requires extensive knowledge of many techniques. Is it fun? Oh, sure. You get to work for a producer on a television or film set, hobnob with the stars, and the work itself is pretty enjoyable, too. But like any job, doing roughly the same thing day in and day out can get tedious, so don't just expect it to be all mascara and roses. 

The good news is that, while you are performing the same general duties each day, the precise nature of the work itself changes enough to keep the job continually interesting. You may be doing hair and makeup for a period piece on one project, laying on the blush pretty heavy and trying your hand at a Marie Antoinettesque bouffant; then on your next project you might be applying layers of prosthetics to make Eva Mendes look old and unattractive. (Good luck with that.)

What a hag.

If you ascend the ranks and start working on big productions, there may be one person (or team) on hair and another on makeup. But much of the time these two jobs will be handled by a single individual or department. So hopefully you're not one of those hair people who hates makeup, or makeup people who hates hair. Everyone hug it out and play nice. 

Major films have pretty big hair and makeup teams to accommodate the huge casts; in that case, what you'd really like to be is the head hair and makeup designer. You would be hired by the producer or director, and work alongside the director to help accomplish his vision, but then you would be in charge of ordering around all other members of your team. You're like the offensive line coach of a football team—not the big guy, but you still get to do a fair share of yelling and pointing. 

Regardless of what projects you’re working on, at least it beats cutting hair at Betty's Hair-Cutting and Pillow-Making Shop. That Betty has a real attitude problem. Seriously though, there are several other careers that call on a similar skill set... hair styling, cosmetology, even some people who work in funeral homes have the job of making the dead seem more... lifelike. But are any of those as fun as working in the movie business? It will be more hectic for sure, but if you can handle the hustle, this is probably where you want to be. In Hollywood, you can really wig out.

You do have to love what you do, however. This isn't a job most people get into because their mother was a makeup and hair designer, and her mother before her, and you would be ostracized and cut off from your share of the family fortune should you go into something else, like medicine. No—this is a biz for artists who happen to specialize in the art of designing hair and makeup. There are thousands of designers throwing themselves passionately into their work, and that passion shows up in the finished product. If you just phone it in, you will almost certainly be disconnected. So only consider this line of work if you have a real love of the craft. If you're not sure yet if you love it, practice on your dog until you have your answer. Ringo won't mind. Just be sure to use a shade of blush that really brings out his eyes.