This month I will be 13 years old and have been a professional make-up artist for nearly three years. The story goes back to the Christmas when I was 10 years old and Santa brought me a complete makeup kit with eye shadows and lipsticks of various colors. The first time I took it into my bedroom, Mom thought I would emerge looking like a young princess, but I came out looking like one of the walking dead. Mom was impressed with what a good job I had done transforming myself into a zombie. I inherited my artistic sense from my dad, Rickey-Lee, who has been a professional tattoo artist for the past 26 years. He is the owner of Pleasant Hill’s Diablo Ink Tattoo.
That was the beginning. I took such pleasure in the startling change in my appearance that I decided to do that some more, and quickly developed a passion for doing it as well as possible. Makeup began consuming my free time. I never signed up for any classes but you can learn anything on the internet. If you type “How to do makeup” (with the quotes) in a Google search box, you get more than 2,600,000 hits — 900,000 of them are YouTube videos. I didn’t watch them all, but spent hours pouring over a number of them, trying to master whatever interesting techniques I could find.
At first I would practice on myself, doing techniques over and over until I was able to do them correctly. I experimented widely learning how products and processes worked together.
When I thought I had gotten a particular technique under control, I would find some volunteer to experiment on — often my parents, sometimes my brother Sebastian, my best friend, or anyone who would permit themselves to be my experimental guinea pig for an hour or so.
When summer came along I spent a week at Pali Adventures, which is an overnight summer camp in the San Bernardino Mountains teaching real world skills to kids ages 8-16. The camp is located in Southern California and the week I was there our focus was on acquiring makeup skills. It wasn’t a great week for me physically because I had come down with a virus and spent the whole time hacking and coughing. Nevertheless, I took the classes and gained some valuable tips on all kinds of makeup from horror to beauty.
The camp also taught techniques for face painting, which became a breakthrough for me because as soon as I got home I began to do face painting as my first professional gigs. It began when friends hired me for birthday parties. I did the first ones for no charge but ended up getting more than $60 in tips, which for a ten year old was a nice return for two hours of work. I began to get the word out about myself on Facebook and business began to blow up. After that I began charging for my services and business really started taking off.
By the time Halloween came I had been developing my techniques for a few months and had done my face painting art with a couple hundred people, so clients began making their way to my door to get my professional assistance in transforming their appearance for whatever party or event they were going to attend. They arrived looking like normal people, but left looking like zombies or survivors of some truly ghastly trauma. I had discovered the magic of scar wax that could, for example, make a hand look like it had been terribly gouged in some recent accident or attack. After applying the scar wax, I would color the margins and “blood up” the area. I created massive face wounds that were so realistic they caused people who saw them — sometimes even the client — to recoil in fear and disgust, which of course is the absolutely greatest response you can get from any Halloween effect.
My efforts at creating a bloody gash became so convincing that one day I sent a picture of my hand with a livid oozing wound to Mom at work with the text, “Should I come home?” She was horrified by the picture and immediately called me up to make sure I was going to the hospital. The great thing about the story is that Mom works at Sutter Delta’s Wound Care division; I had her completely fooled by my realistic-looking terrible laceration. I can’t fool Mom like that again, but she sometimes shows my pictures to doctors she works with and none of them ever said, “That’s a good makeup job.” Every one of them says something like, “Better get that in here for surgery right away.”
When I was 11 years old I enrolled in a theater makeup class at DVC. It took some maneuvering with the school’s administration to get me in, since they had a policy of admitting no one under the age of 13. However, I had some inside support because one of the students in the class had seen my work and arranged for me to be introduced to the production manager who was teaching the class. She saw some of my pictures, gave me a tour of the facility, and extended to me a personal invitation to join the class, which I guess is why the administration had to trick the system to allow me to enroll.
I was still in sixth grade, so it was a little weird having classmates who were more than twice my age. They apparently thought it as strange to be in class with me as I was to be with them. Fortunately, their shock at seeing me turned to respect when I began to surprise them with some of the effects that I was able to create.
The class was interesting and helpful. In each session they would show a how-to video teaching some new skill. Then they would give us an assignment that we would work on in class. Some of the students would perform the technique on themselves; others would bring in a model to work on. During one class I successfully transformed my 14 year old brother Sebastian into a drag queen. My classmates loved it and laughed at how convincing Sebastian looked after I got done with him.
Last summer I went back to Pali Adventures. It was a much better experience for me from a physical point of view compared to my visit two years before, but much less profitable because I had advanced too far; they were covering subjects that I already knew and demonstrating techniques that I had been practicing for months.
I have a mentor and guide, Margaux L. Lancaster. She is a professional makeup artist with screen credits for Angels & Demons, Batman & Robin, and Poseidon. She currently does make-up on Dr. Phil, and is a Disney Imagineer. Margaux offers me advice whenever I feel in need of professional consultation. We communicate over text and phone calls. I occasionally visit her at her Orange County home and she takes me to visit the vendors where she buys her makeup. I inherited a makeup kit Margaux herself received from her mentor. I’m carrying it with pride and plan someday to pass it on to any novice makeup artist who someday might come to me for mentorship.
Some friends of my parents own Antioch’s Drama Factory, and I landed the position of lead makeup artist. It was a Greek tragedy, so the job was challenging because each night I had to transform one of the actors into a mythical creature, half goat/half human. I had to disguise another actor to look like a woman during the play. It was especially difficult because I actually had to make him look like a badly disguised woman. It was gratifying, however, because a lot of people laughed at my transformations. The play connected me with the local theater community. I made some new friends and especially developed friendship with the second makeup artist named Tati.
My Facebook Page keeps getting me work. I’m doing a wide variety of parties these days including company parties and baby showers. I’m also expanding into beauty makeup for proms and dances. I’m ready for next year’s homecoming dances, winter balls, proms, Sweet 16s, and bar mitzvahs.
Mom made a lot of sacrifices to promote my success. At first she was protecting me by chauffeuring me to parties and would remain by my side during the whole time. Without any complaint or showing attitude, Mom patiently spent her 40th birthday by my side at a kids’ party. As I’ve gotten older and more confident, Mom sometimes lets me work on my own.
Mom performs as my unpaid but excellent agent. I call her my momager because she books my parties and keeps me on schedule. Mom is humble as well as helpful. She asks me what I want to do and then does whatever she can to help me in the direction I indicate.
Mom talks about me and my skills to anyone willing to listen. She takes advantage of the fact that adults are intrigued by my talent and experience considering my youth. A couple years ago she met a short-film producer named Gus Guillen who was working with the Napa Valley Film Festival. She told Gus about me and set up an interview, at which Gus gave me the opportunity to do makeup on a horror film called Mind Over Matter, which was produced as part of a 72-hour-film challenge. The shooting took place in a house on the outskirts of Sacramento. It was fun to be part of the energy and excitement of a film crew actually on location. I was subsequently pleased, of course, but a little embarrassed when I attended the premier and was even more embarrassed when I was invited to go onto the stage and talk to the crowd.
I teach beauty makeup at birthday parties to little girls who would rather learn makeup than get their faces painted. Their moms buy the kits and I teach the children how to use the makeup.
I am in the class of ’22 at the Contra Costa School of Performing Arts (SPA) in Walnut Creek, majoring in Production and Design. My best friend, Ireland, is in classes with me. She is a makeup artist also, specializing in making people beautiful. We hang out and do makeup together. I turn 13 this month and will finally be able to take classes at Kryolan in San Francisco.
After graduating from high school, I plan to move to Southern California and enroll in the masters Makeup Artist program at Burbank’s Make-up Designory (MUD). Since I will still be only 17 years old, my Nanna Gayle will get a job in HR somewhere, probably with Disney, and make a home for us during my first years. I do weekend workshops every few months at MUD. They are the only ones that will let me work that young.
One of the outcomes of my brief movie experience was that I now have my personal IMDB page. So far, Mind Over Matter is the only credit on the page, but I expect that to change radically during the years ahead, especially by the time people can see Raven Rogers’s star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.