We sat down with New York makeup artist Emily Amick, featured in such publications as Vogue, Nylon, Schön, Paper, Playboy––and Atlas!–– to talk career moves, favorite products, and Beyoncé. Photographed by Kenneth Sterling Gronquist.
Emily is originally from Indiana, who dreamt of moving to New York from her two-thousand population town since the age of twelve. “When I started doing makeup, it kind of made sense to leave the Midwest and come out after college; I moved two weeks after I graduated.” The spark for a love of makeup artistry came in college, where she majored in theatre. “You had to participate in some capacity in the school shows, so when I was a sophomore I thought I’d try designing the hair and makeup for a show,” she says with a grin, adding “I was very aimless. I knew I wanted to graduate, but that was about it.”
After giving it a shot, she knew it was the one. “I took a bunch of classes–– all of the classes you possibly could in that area, and became more and more eager to learn. I was devouring information all the time about what it means to be a makeup artist. I fell in love with the whole process, and started doing student films.” While working on student films at Ball State University, it was clear to her that this is what she wanted to pursue. “I’ve never been so committed to anything before. I tried a lot of things that I didn’t really like, and [makeup] is the one thing that I’ve loved doing for years and years. It’s lucky that I figured it out. Ten years ago, I never would have thought this is what I would be doing. I didn’t even really think of it as a possible career field.”
When she moved to New York, Emily got a job bartending to make some money until she was booked to work on Impractical Jokers, a show on TruTv which she worked on for two years. “It really gave me some stability and credibility, and opened up all of these channels to meet other producers,” says Emily. This is one of the many reasons that maintaining connections with the people you work with is one of her necessities working as a makeup artist. “They started hiring me for things, and that really opened up the career path that I’m on; a lot of jobs that I get even to this day can be traced back to the people that I met working on that show in some capacity. It wasn’t my big break, but it was definitely my ‘in’.”
Since then, she has progressed to working on more commercial and editorial makeup jobs, having worked with a wide variety of brands and publications. When talking about her work in the likes of Vogue and Nylon, Emily reveals her feelings of Impostor Syndrome. “It feels like a huge accomplishment, but it also feels like–– ‘oh my god, do these people not realize I’m just this random girl from Indiana? Do I even know what I’m doing?’ It was crazy to go to a newsstand and buy a Vogue with [my] name in really tiny writing along the edge of the magazine.”
While preparing for editorial shoots, Emily says the most helpful thing a photographer can do is to communicate. “I usually talk to the photographer and stylist about the way they want to shoot. I really just like to get a sense of what the photographer wants to accomplish,” although she does appreciate being able to wing-it on set. “I think the more you prepare sometimes, the more you’re limiting yourself. I like to go in and play with it and see what happens.” On set, her favorite thing (besides good catering) is the energy. “[Being on set] can be really exhilarating, and I like when there’s a little bit of pressure. Crew people are my people; they are the coolest. Everybody in this industry is drawn to it because of a certain personality type, and I love the majority of those types.”
Although she is always ready and willing to step up to the challenge of adventurous looks, the majority of Emily’s work is more classical beauty. “I like to enhance people’s natural beauty and natural look. I have a pretty light hand; I’m not a big fan of covering everything up.” When asked about Instagram makeup trends, she explains “There is a time and place for everything. There’s a reason that the Kardashians wear so much makeup, they’re being constantly hit with extremely high wattage flash bulbs everywhere they go.” She adds “What comes through on a camera and after a hundred filters have been applied is not the same as when you’re headed to the grocery store.”
The staples of her kit include Embryolisse Moisturizer, a complete necessity–– she has almost never worked alongside a makeup artist who didn’t have it. Another important tool is sanitation products and disposable applicators. For foundations, Kevyn Aucoin is her “favorite foundation on the planet. It’s so rich and thick. I can barely work without it anymore.” The newest addition to her kit is Dermalogica’s Hydrablur Primer, using it to blur fine lines on its own or under foundations. “It just buffs everything out in a really nice way, and provides a good surface for other products to adhere to.” Caring for the skin is a very important part of Emily’s job. “[Skin products] are where you need to spend the money and have a full supply.”
Emily has never been starstruck by the many celebrities she’s worked with, however there are a few celebrities that may change that. “Beyoncé, for sure. That’s a pipe dream, but you never know. I wonder if I would get nervous with her. I definitely would beforehand.” She proudly claims herself a member of the Beyhive (because let’s be honest, who isn’t?). On other celebrities she’d love to work with, “Oprah would be incredible… It would be kind of fun to say I worked with my celebrity crushes, Paul Rudd and Anthony Bourdain.”
Her advice to aspiring makeup artists is to volunteer your time. “You have to volunteer for stuff like student films–– it is the best way to find out if you even like doing this. You’re going to learn so much set etiquette that way, and make so many mistakes, but nobody’s money is on the line for it. That’s the time to figure out if you like doing this.” As with any artist, she also recommends building a portfolio. “Contact local photographers–– you have to have something to show for yourself.” Finally, the reality that “you have to have something on the side that brings in money, because you’ll spend a lot of money starting out. Building your kit is expensive, and working for free is working for free–– but make sure that when you do, you’re getting something of value out of it. Whether it’s experience, or better images, make sure you’re always building and not selling yourself short.”
Thank you, Emily, for taking the time to chat with us! Follow Emily on Instagram @emilyamick to keep up with the latest in her world of makeup.