October 21st, 2016
You’ve no doubt seen her handy – or should we say hands-free – brush belt designs and clever carrying equipment. Emily-Jane Williams is the MUA behind the best-selling emJ Company, and her vast experience has fed into every single one of her products. Warpaint caught up with her to discuss how a little bit of elastic and a big idea changed her life.
WP: What first sparked your interest in make-up?
EJW: I was bought up in an extremely creative house so my whole life has been a continuous string of making and editing things, so there was a natural transition into make-up through high school. I will never forget doing my friend’s make-up, aged 11 – she had very low self-esteem at the time. I made her blue eyes pop with a kohl pencil and covered a few spots, that was all! Yet I had never seen her so confident and beautiful. That feeling of knowing I had the power to give someone so much confidence will never leave me.
WP: Were you professionally trained? If so, where?
EJW: Yes I trained at Leicester College for two years part-time, while I also juggled A levels, and then for two years full time after those. I loved that course!
WP: Making the transition from trainee to a stand-alone artist can be tough – how did you make the jump, and do you have any advice for others in the same position?
EJW: Test, test, test! I would be arranging test shoots, two or three a week, and made excellent relationships with photographers while I was doing that. As we were busy and our skills were improving, models started booking us for portfolio shoots and brands approached us to shoot for them. Of course we all need to earn money too so I would be working day and night, because I knew it was just something I needed to do. Promotional work, I think, works brilliantly alongside starting out as a self-employed make-up artist. Hours are super flexible, money isn’t bad and it’s great for building your confidence.
WP: You’ve got a great range of skills, from working with the army doing SFX to film/TV and fashion make-up. Do you have a favourite genre and why?
EJW: Oh gosh, that’s difficult. I honestly love it all. Being a successful make-up artist, for me, is 80% getting on with people. I think to do that you have to be a well-rounded person, have your fingers in lots of different pies and be able to relate to people from many industries and classes. Having a varied work lifestyle will always add to that.
WP: How did you come up with The emJ Company and its products?
EMJ: I have known to be quite scatty over the years and would always lose products from my kit! One day I thought “if I just sew this elastic onto this piece of fabric, it would keep it all together!” It really was the simplest idea ever. I then started making pencil and gloss rolls in my mum’s factory and selling them on eBay. A few months later a friend gave me a pink, flowery gardening bag which I thought would make a great set bag. I took it onto a BBC job with lots of make-up artists, who were all asking where they could get one. As my mum is a magician of a manufacturer, a light bulb switched on in my head that we could make them. The very next morning we popped down to Leicester market to buy fabric… and the rest is history!
WP: What is your bestseller in your range and why do you think it’s the most popular?
EMJ: Our Brush Belts are our best sellers. Most make-up artists like to use brush belts I think so it’s a staple kit accessory. Besides that I think they are so popular because we have such a vast selection of designs to suit everyone’s style and personality.
WP: Which products are your go-to saviours when you’re on set?
EJW: I don’t go anywhere without my Phoenix Make-up Mat. They are great because not only are they easy to wipe clean, but as the Phoenix is gold you can see products so clearly and it’s light reflecting to shine more light onto the actress/model’s face. My trusty Derma palette from Kryolan comes everywhere with me as well. It can be used for anything – concealer, foundation, contouring, cream blusher, bronzer, eye creams and even lip stick! Every make-up artist needs this in their kit. I’d also be lost without my Anastasia Beverly Hills brow products.
WP: What would be your dream job/project? Who would you be working with and what would you be creating?
EJW: I love the challenge of creating a look that tells a story and gives someone true confidence. I really adore working with new music artists, getting to know them and then designing an iconic look which they will get known for and set new trends. I am a huge traveler too so going on a world tour with a new artist would be a dream!
WP: It’s a tough and competitive industry – do you have any advice on how to stand out from the crowd and how to deal with rejection/disappointment?
EJW: Be passionate, but don’t be ruthless; the industry is smaller than you think so be careful not to stand on anyone’s toes. Most make-up artists that I see as having ‘made it’ will tell you they are far from what they really want to achieve. The truth is that we will never stop striving – that’s what makes a successful person. Remember it’s about the journey just as much as it’s about the goal. Enjoy and be thankful for every opportunity, no matter how big or small – and don’t forget to keep your fingers in lots of pies.
WP: What does the rest of 2016 hold for you?
EJW: I am wanting to delve deeper into the ‘cruelty free’ world and create some campaigns/articles around that. There are some exciting shoots coming up in my diary, as well as focusing on some work for my brothers charity (@legs4africa, check it out!). We also have some very exciting movements for The emJ Company over the next few months… keep your eyes peeled!