When I was starting my career in hair and makeup, one of the most memorable moments was the shoot for my first-ever solo print ad. Apart from the fact it was going to be seen everywhere, it was a big deal, because I did not obtain the contact through my mentor. I was going to shoot with new people that I have never met nor worked with before.
On the way to the studio (which I had also never been to before) there was an internal pressure to prove I was capable at my craft and to deliver the client requirements. I also ran through a mental checklist of things I should do to manage my time and achieve the hair and makeup pegs sent to me. The night before, I even tried the makeup look required on myself just so I would be more confident on the actual day of the shoot.
As the taxi was making the turn towards the studio, I checked my kit to make sure everything I needed for work would be there.
Check. Check. Check. WAIT.
Of all the things I could possibly leave at home during a major shoot, I left my set of makeup brushes. My. Entire. Set.
I had a slight panic attack and hyperventilated a bit while on the brink of incredulous tears. What kind of a professional makeup artist leaves her set of brushes at home on a work day? And a major work day at that? A stupid, forgetful and careless one.
I wanted to laugh it off, because really, Murphy chose a very inopportune time to say hello.
I debated heading back home and consequently being late for the shoot. Mind you, I was in Makati and my house is in Marikina. It would take me an hour and a half to two hours for the trip back and forth. (Traffic was not as bad back then. Today it might just take three to four hours.) Would I really choose to be a little over two hours late? That is also a very unprofessional thing. Damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I wondered which would be more forgivable.
I decided that being several hours late is worse than arriving at work with a handicap.
I had to pretend everything was okay. That I was doing great and that I would be able to deliver despite my missing tools.
If my background in theatre has taught me anything, it is to own whatever action you have to do. Whether it is for a role or in real life. The point, basically, is to create truth in everything you accomplish.
So, I went in there and owned it. Somehow I was confident in my skills to make things work even when it outwardly seemed like it would not. Instead of looking at it as a handicap, I thought of it as a challenge.
While setting up my workstation, I tried to figure out what alternatives I had to accomplish the job. I realized all was not lost as I still had my personal blush brush (the free one that comes with those blush compacts), sponges, cotton pads and cotton buds. In my head I made notes about what I could use to still end up with a fully made up face — complete with contouring and bold eyeliner.
When the talents arrived, I prayed that no one would come in and nitpick on my things. As I was doing makeup, the female talent noticed my lack of brushes and just commented, “Ang galing noh? Hindi ka gumagamit ng brushes for makeup?” I just laughed it off and said, “Minsan.” Then she went back to her business and I went back to work. She had no comment as it looked like I was making things work anyway and I had really meant not to use my brushes. But, deep down, I was holding onto a brown paper bag and breathing into it heavily to calm myself down.
I ended up using sponges to apply my base, the teeny free brush from my compact for contour and blush, cotton buds for eyeshadow, eyebrows, eyeliner, and lipstick. I was actually able to make it work and the rest of the shoot went great. We wrapped up and no one was the wiser. After that shoot, I would always make sure to double check if I had my brushes in my bag every single time I had a job. Even if I know I can manage without them, I never want to subject myself to that kind of stress again.
Since that shoot, I have had my fair share of minor handicaps of the forgotten kind: lash glue, false eyelashes, cotton, tissue, eyeliner, a certain kind of hair brush, a curling iron, limited hairpins or hair elastics. Most of the time, I could make it work with what I had on hand. I have swapped eyeliner with eyebrow gel in my darkest shade or black eyeshadow, applied toner with tissue instead of cotton, wiped with cotton instead of tissue, made do with just one hair brush or a flat iron instead of a curling iron, found a structurally sound way to make hairstyles last with whatever I had left in hairpins and elastics. I would rather isolate the panic and keep mum about my “challenges.” Hair and makeup is a service after all. Beyond that is just the actual beautifying process, it is putting the client at ease. It is both a physical and emotional task.
But a few weeks ago, I had to actually speak up and ask for help from someone else for the first time. I forgot to bring lashes. I left my box of lashes in my car and since I was coding that day, I took an Uber instead. There was no way to have a go around with missing falsies. I wondered if I should cut some hair strands and make lashes but realized how unhygienic and aesthetically questionable that would be. There was another makeup artist in the room, but I was so embarrassed to ask her for a pair. While working, the debate whether to ask her or excuse myself to buy some at the nearest mall went on in my head. I was working so slow and stalling the inevitable.
What if she said no? What if she complained about me to some forum? What if? What if? What if?
For a brief moment, I considered insisting my client not wear lashes. But, I looked at her and knew she was counting on me to make her look her prettiest. I could not let her walk out of there without lashes.
So, I manned up and asked the other makeup artist if she had a pair of lashes I could buy off her. She gave me a pair instead and I was extremely thankful.
No, there wasn’t any backlash or judgment. She just gave me a pair. And for that, I was thankful.
On the way home, I realized that sometimes we tend to think of things as a competition and too often we judge harshly for mistakes made. But really, what matters more is how you are able to find ways to rise above them. That says more about you than any output you are able to accomplish. We judge ourselves worse than how others actually perceive us.
This craft, although highly visual and technical, is not reliant on tools and other material objects. It is not in the brand of brushes or makeup that you carry, not in the range of colors or kinds that you have. It is not in how big or small, how basic or diverse, your set-up is. It is in your skill. You can lose all the implements, but as long as you have the skill, you can express the craft. Mistakes can happen. Rise above them and see them as opportunities to be better. Make sure to learn from them. Then these mistakes, instead of being setbacks, will end up as testaments to how well you know what you’re doing.