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The Make-Up Man

April 1st, 2016

April 1st, 2016

Michael DeVellis knows the pro industry inside out – his experience with big brands, key skill training and pro artists’ needs meant he was the perfect choice as our latest collaborator.  In the first of his features with Warpaint Magazine, we delved deeper into his past and found out what makes him tick.  Look out for future features from Michael!

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How did you get your start in the beauty industry?

Oddly enough, it was actually an accident that I became involved with our industry.  It was over 20 years ago and a good friend of mine was supposed to take a position with MAC Cosmetics running one of their new retail stores as they entered into the US.  She declined the job, and the same day I stopped by her place for a visit.  I asked her if she told them about me as an option for the job.  Her response was surprise that I wanted to work for a make-up company.  I knew the brand from their NY store on Christopher Street and understood even then that this was no ordinary make-up company.  I ended up taking the job managing a MAC retail store for the company in the U.S state of Connecticut and that was the start of my beauty journey.

So you really didn’t have any experience or interest in make-up when you got your start?

Well I was peripherally involved for many years.  I was an event producer and party promoter, so I had lots of experience working with make-up artists and hair stylists, and performers and drag queens, but just didn’t do make-up personally.

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So do consider yourself a make-up artist now?

I definitely do not classify myself as a make-up artist.  I can do make-up, yes, but I do not work in make-up artistry as my career.  More importantly I feel no passion for the act of designing or applying make-up.  My passion is the pro make-up artist and pro beauty community and elevating those within it.  My role in our industry is on the career and business side – creating events, programs and opportunities for the pro make-up artist.  Creating the community that brings them together to support and lift each other up.  And as a connector – artist to artist, brand to artist, artist to client.

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How did your work at MAC turn into your company The Powder Group?

Around a year after I started with the company I moved to New York City with the brand to open and manage their new Saks Fifth Avenue shop.  A few months later I was made Operations Manager for the New York market.  It was soon after that I was asked by Frank Toskan, one of the founders of MAC, to manage a project to refocus the brand’s attention on the pro make-up artist customer.  This turned into MAC Pro.  I am very proud to have played such an exciting role in the development of that part of the brand.  The rest of my ten years at MAC was focused as an executive in the company’s Artist Relations division business, creating programs, education and products to satisfy the pro’s needs.  During this time I completely fell in love with the pro side of the beauty industry and never looked back.  I left the company and started my company, The Powder Group, in 2003 to fill that void that I saw in the market helping pro make-up artists to come together and elevate their craft and business through education and community.

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What is the thing you are proudest of about your business?

This would absolutely be the community that we have created over the past 13 years and the relationships that have come from and within that community.  Not only have we been able to bring artists and brands together through our events, On Makeup Magazine and our other brand-focused work, but through our TPG Pro membership program.  Through this unique program, we have provided a resource for the most committed and focused pro artists in our business to connect to each other, as well as to the brands and businesses that are most focused on the pro make-up and beauty communities.

You are the creator of The Makeup Show, although I understand you no longer own the show.  Why did you want to start a make-up trade show and why did you leave the show?

When I started The Powder Group one of the most important parts of my business plan was that I was going to start The Makeup Show.  I didn’t feel that there was a trade show in the industry which really spoke to the broader make-up artist community as a whole.  There were shows that were for more special effects or film artists, and shows that were for the salon industry, but nothing that addressed a broader, more inclusive need.  All the shows also felt like typical trade shows and I wanted to create an environment that celebrated the craft and community of the pro make-up industry, and driven by a focus on education in a unique way.

I sold the show in 2010 to my business partners, Metropolitan Events, as I felt it was taking up a disproportionate amount of my time and I wanted to pursue other areas for The Powder Group.  I’m so proud to still be a part of the show as a speaker and exhibitor and am so proud of all that the show has done to grow and develop.

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You also created On Makeup Magazine.  What made you want to start the magazine and why did you go with a print publication in an industry where so much was going to digital format?

I found that, at the time, there were no print magazines in the US that really spoke to the part of the pro community that I wanted to speak to.  There were magazines about film or special FX but none that focused on the beauty and art of make-up.  I wanted to create a vehicle that spoke to that focus.

What is the first piece of advice you would give someone looking to get into a career as a professional make-up artist?

That if they are not completely and totally passionate about the craft of make-up artistry, to find another career that they are passionate about.  This is a very hard career to become and remain successful in.  The struggle never really stops.  If you want to become a make-up artist just to become rich or famous – you may as well give it up right now.

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What is the biggest mistake you see that make-up artists make in their career?

Well there are a few.  First is simply thinking that it should be easy or fast to become successful.  But on a deeper level, poor branding and marketing is also a huge issue.  With the industry becoming more and more competitive every day, make-up artists must look like and feel a strong, important business as well as do great make-up.  You have to find a way to stand out as a brand and to be sure that you are paying close attention to every aspect of your brand image and experience.  Taking short cuts to save money or time will only hurt you in the end.  Investing in, and putting a lot of time into, your branding and marketing is critical to make your mark in our industry today.

Another thing is that they listen to the wrong advice – or try to listen to all of it.  There are so many “experts” out there now that you have to be very careful not to overwhelm yourself with so much input on your artistry and business that you lose focus on what you see is your path.  And look carefully at the source of information you are relying on to make your decisions.  Everyone has an answer for you but only some should be asked the question in the first place.

What makes someone a good make-up artist?

Well, obviously it starts with being a solid craftsman.  Being able to do beautiful make-up is paramount.  But then it becomes about behaving like a pro make-up artist and being an absolute expert on your craft and industry.  Of course there are so many other things that are important to creating a successful career as well: integrity, focus, loyalty, passion, intellect, humour are all incredibly important.

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Is it who you know or what you know?

The two concepts absolute have to live with each other.  You must have a clear and defined skill set to start with and you should continuously educate yourself and grow your skill.  But then it becomes a mix of your branding and marketing along with your relationships.  We can not get, and continue to get, work without strong relationships.  But if you have no skill to back it all up, who you know becomes a moot point.  You’re better starting as a great artist and then create and nurture every relationship you can and you’ll watch your career soar.

Michael DeVellis is the Founder and Executive Director of The Powder Group and Editor and Creative Director of On Makeup Magazine.  Check out The Powder Group online at www.thepowdergroup.com and follow Michael DeVellis, The Powder Group on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @thepowdergroup and @michaeldevellis

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