Stephanie Cozart Burton’s philosophy when it comes to picking a career is to choose something that you would do for free. That way you never have to dread going to work. She should know. As a young girl, she obsessed over her mother’s cosmetics and creams, and would coax people into to buying her makeup in exchange for doing their faces.
“Get out of that mirror!,” her mother would scream, fearing that she had raised a narcissist, when she was unknowingly nurturing an artist. It wasn’t until Stephanie was a teen and read a story about the legendary Westmore family- a makeup artist dynasty in Hollywood that would span four generations- that she realized she could make a career out of this thing she loved so much.
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Fast forward 35 years and Stephanie’s a five-time Emmy Award-nominated makeup artist, who got her first win in 2015 for daytime TV’s The Talk.
In addition to working with host Aisha Tyler, who Stephanie calls a “dream client,” for the past six years, she’s beat the faces of favorites like Jada Pinkett Smith, Tracee Ellis Ross, the dreamy Larenz Tate and one very special guy.
It was on the set of Roots: The Gift that a certain actor dressed in all white linen sat in her makeup chair. She learned they were both raised by divorcees who were teachers and had a lot to chat about. A friendship morphed into a romantic relationship and eventually, marriage. That actor was LeVar Burton, who starred in a series of memorable films and TV shows, including the original Roots, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Reading Rainbow. Today, they’ve been married for 25 years, and have a daughter named Mica, who is an avid cosplayer and budding thespian in her own right.
Stephanie knows makeup in and out, so if you’re even remotely interested in pursuing it as a profession, keep reading for her pro-tips!
“If you’re just starting out, I advise working for free, when necessary to get your name out there. Sometimes you can do a magazine editorial for a name credit. However, I don’t encourage doing it too long because you don’t want to cheapen what you have to offer. The wedding business is also a good way to get in. I advise taking workshops, reading, and studying to find out which genre of makeup fits your lifestyle and skills. No matter what you decide to specialize in, learn it ALL.”
“When people have a choice between makeup artist A and B, and skill level is the same, professionalism will always win out. Good makeup artists know when to speak and when to stay quiet. You want to be very conscientious of cleanliness both on your person and in your kit. When I’m hiring makeup artists as department head, depending on the job, I’m thinking about who can work for long hours, who can be creative and who can get out of a jam in an emergency.”
“Make sure clients walk into an environment that feels special. I like to light a candle, play music – create zen. If you’re on a tv or film set remember, you are the first person your client sees at the start of the day and probably the last one at night, so keep a positive and healthy attitude. Whether it’s for a wedding or a feature film, you want your clients to leave your chair feeling confident, cared for and ready to slay!”
“It’s important that you get from in front of the mirror to practice on people outside of yourself. Especially, those who are a challenge for you. Can you do a 60-year-old, someone with a different skin tone, or someone with a skin condition? Make sure to see how certain makeup looks under different lighting. Once, I used new makeup on the red carpet for a client and it didn’t work. I figured out my mistake, and apologized. Thankfully, I didn’t lose that client.”
“Makeup artists are like bartenders; we hear and see a lot. It is an intimate relationship, so clients tend to chat about their personal lives. You never want to share what you’re heard with others, and believe me, reporters will call you if they know you have a celebrity client. Be a professional at keeping secrets.”
“Information is always at your fingertips. Join makeup forums online to get answers to any questions. Attend workshops and seminars. Read magazines and blogs to keep up with trends. Test new products. I actually have some tricks that I’ve been using for years from artists in the 30’s and 40’s that are still relevant today. Study everything!”
“Unless I’ve given marching orders, I like makeup artists to do their thing. It’s okay to ask questions, but you don’t want to be babysat. When you’re on the job it’s your time to be creative and bring it!”
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