When Jenny wanted to go back to work in midlife, she found a way to turn her lifelong love of makeup, as well as her passion for helping women feel beautiful, into a successful national business.
Tell us a little about you…
My family is British, but I was born in Canada. We moved to the US when I was 12, first to Minneapolis then to Dallas, where I graduated from high school. I was an American Literature major at George Washington University and worked various jobs out of college, eventually focusing on incentive marketing, marketing services, and event planning.
When I got pregnant, I left the workplace to stay home with our three daughters until my oldest was 10. I did fundraising, board, and volunteer work while I was home with my kids and was very active in their schools.
When did you start to think about making a change?
In 2007, I co-chaired the Medical Research Campaign and Children’s Ball at Children’s Hospital in Chicago, a 12-month, very intense volunteer commitment. This experience was so fulfilling that it triggered my desire to work outside the home.
Because that position was so socially demanding, and I was always looking for someone to do hair and makeup for me, I started to vet a business concept to fulfill that need. My original idea was a to start an on-call agency to send out artists for house calls.
Along the way, I met a makeup artist who recognized my abilities and encouraged me to get some artistry training. In 2008, at the age of 40, I started my training; two weeks after I finished, I was signed by a big international artistry agency, so I jumped in and started working.
What is your next act?
I wear a number of different hats in the beauty industry. I am a makeup artist for celebrity, editorial, and commercial work as well as for corporate and private clients; I have a business called Dollface Beauty School in Chicago where I teach women how to apply their makeup; I’m an on-camera Beauty Expert/Host for an ecommerce website called Joyus; I have a line of makeup brushes called Lazy Perfection by Jenny Patinkin that’s sold all over the country; I am actively in the process of developing new Lazy Perfection beauty products; and I am a sometime Beauty Writer, crafting blog posts and newsletters to keep my clientele engaged, informed, and entertained.
Why did you choose this next act?
I really feel like this next act chose me, and it developed very organically – it really wasn’t very planned or considered because it happened too quickly.
I’ve always loved makeup—and growing up in the 80’s was a great time for experimentation—fuschia eyeliner anyone? I was the one who did my friends’ makeup and always enjoyed doing my own, but it wasn’t something I had even considered doing professionally until I was 40.
It is a joy to help women not only feel confident and lovely, but to help ease the stress and anxiety we all feel about shopping for and applying our makeup. My Lazy Perfection approach is geared to showing women that they can like makeup but not want to wear a lot of it, or that there are ways to streamline their routines and still get a gorgeous look. So many women respond to the Lazy Perfection message.
How hard was it to take the plunge? How did you prepare?
The artistry training I did in 2008 was an intensive 5-week course with a very talented local makeup artist named Rachel Reiman. I met her when I was vetting a different beauty business concept and she was the one who identified my skills and potential. The training included topics such as color theory, pigmentation, product, texture, anatomy, technique, tools, lighting, media, and style; it also educated us on opportunities for careers in the beauty industry and how to pursue them.
In early 2009, I also did an in-depth 2-week seminar on the history of makeup at Jemma Kidd Makeup Academy in London because I felt that it would give me a strong foundation and point of reference (that program is no longer running).
Neither course offered official certification. As far as I know, certification is not required in Illinois, but I believe it varies state to state. So, theoretically, anyone in Illinois can call themselves a makeup artist.
How did you get signed by such a large agency as a relative newcomer with little experience? And where did you go from there?
After I completed my training in Chicago, my name was given to Artists by Timothy Priano, who called me in to test. I spent the day doing hair and makeup for 3 models (and a very difficult photographer who intimidated the hell out of me!). The hair I did was a bit of a bust, but it’s hard to make a model look bad. My makeup work was good enough that they offered me a contract the following week.
I started with the agency, then began to do lessons for my friends because they all said the same things: I don’t know how to do my makeup; no one ever taught me; my mom never wore makeup so I never learned how; I hate shopping for makeup, etc.
I started Dollface Beauty School next, where I wanted to teach women in a safe, non-retail environment what to wear and how, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. My brush line was the natural next step and that took off very, very quickly. The Joyus opportunity came up just last year and I am so delighted to be working with them—it’s a great company and a wonderful platform. I’ve worked very hard studying, researching, and testing so I could really become an expert in my field.
What are your thoughts about women, aging, and makeup? Do you have a philosophy?
I am 100% fine with injections, fillers, lasers, etc. (and do them myself!) as long as you aren’t trying to create a shape or feature you never had to begin with. When you get too far away from what nature gave you, then you can tick over into some pretty dicey territory. People come to me for my impartiality, and there have absolutely been times when I’ve felt compelled to tell my clients that they could benefit from a cosmetic treatment or that they have overdone them. It’s a tricky balance.
Makeup needs to be changed up as we get older so that the overall look is softer. Harsh colors and strong lines create too much of a contrast and call too much attention to the changes in our skin. Makeup for women who are 40+ is definitely my wheelhouse because I am living it every day.
My overall beauty philosophy is Lazy Perfection (also the name of my brand). It’s about putting time in to the steps that are going to give you the most bang for your buck and not stressing about the rest. Lazy Perfection isn’t about making NO effort—it’s about making smart effort.
How old are your daughters? What do you tell your daughters about beauty and age and appearance? Are they involved in your business?
My girls are 13, 15, and 17 and, while they all like makeup and are very skilled at applying it, they are very natural. I tell them that makeup sends a message and that you have to be very careful as a teen what message you want to convey. It’s human nature to judge, so you have to decide what you want to be judged by—your makeup or your personality. The sad truth is that, at that young age, one can very much distract from the other. I also tell them that they need to wear sunscreen every single day of the year, but I know they don’t listen to me!
My oldest daughter applies liquid liner like a boss, my middle daughter has impressive hair styling abilities, and my youngest is not only great at makeup, but she does fabulous nail art and henna art as well. They have assisted me only once, when a bridal client hired them to be the Glam Squad for her flower girls, and they were terrific.
My younger daughters have started a business called B’Day Beauties where they’ll do hair and makeup for little girls’ birthday parties (shameless plug – firstname.lastname@example.org), but I think it’s an entrepreneurial spirit they share with me more than a passion for the beauty business.
Do you want to name some of the celebrities you’ve worked with?
I don’t like to kiss and tell because there’s a trust and intimacy that’s important in client relationships, but I will say that Victoria Beckham, LeAnn Rimes, Anne Hathaway and Paris Hilton all have my brushes. And I have been contracted by E! Entertainment, ABC, Lionsgate Films, Virgin Hotels, and Real Simple Magazine for makeup artistry services.
What challenges did you encounter?
It was a shift to balance the time as a mom and the time as a working person, particularly since I was working—and still work—from home. It was also a challenge to get my financials systematized and running smoothly but, once I did, it allowed the rest of the business to kick into high gear. And now I travel all the time, so the challenges are more about the logistics for my husband and kids while I am away.
Were there times when you thought about giving up? How supportive were your family and friends?
I can honestly say that, while there have been times I’ve been overwhelmed, I have not for a moment thought of quitting, giving up, or even cutting back. My husband is my biggest supporter and he is always rooting me on and encouraging me to grow and expand. I’m so busy that I have to pick and choose a little more carefully now which opportunities I take and which services I will continue to offer, and that helps to keep me sane.
I think some of my friends were confused when I started out. I actually had people say to me, “Why would you want to BE a makeup artist when you can just HIRE one?” A lot of people thought it was just a hobby for me and it has taken some time for them to get used to the idea that it’s become my full time profession.
People also wondered whether I could possibly be any good at it since I didn’t start doing it until I was 40, which I guess is understandable. Makeup artists often don’t get treated with a lot of respect, I am sorry to say, because many people only associate it with their experiences at store beauty counters, which aren’t always satisfying. But there are many different ways to be a makeup artist—it’s a billion dollar industry.
What did you learn about yourself through this process?
I have learned that I am comfortable with being in a go-for-it mode and taking risks. As a younger woman, I would not have made cold calls, networked, or really put myself out there the way that I do now. I have more ambition and drive than I ever did. And I’ve learned to look at the finances of running a successful business more clearly. I never thought I had a head for numbers, but it turns out I’m pretty ok at it.
What words of advice do you have for women seeking to reinvent themselves in midlife?
Take the first step—any step—and be proactive. I know a number of women who want to make a change or get back into the workforce but they’re waiting for inspiration to strike or an opportunity to present itself. You can’t just wait; you have to explore all your options and see what thrills you, even if it feels more like a process of elimination. Walk down the hallway, open the doors and see what’s behind them. You never know where things will go and what other doors will open up.
What words of advice do you have for those interested in pursuing your path?
The beauty industry is enormous and there are so many different ways to get into it. Identify a niche and then go out and do your homework so you can be an expert and offer something that will set you apart.
Do you want to provide services? Do you want to create product? Are you looking at the retail or wholesale sector? You can try to get an agent, you can work retail and take advantage of the training you get from the store/brand, you can assist a professional artist and build up your experience from there, you can align yourself with photographers and work with them on test shoots, or you can freelance and try to gain a following on your own. These days there’s also YouTube, which is a haven for makeup artists.
It’s not easy to make a living as a makeup artist until you get to the point that you can charge based on what your time is worth to you—and someone is willing to pay it. Even then, you only have so many hours in the day. Obviously, the more experienced and talented the artist, the more in demand they are—and the higher their rates can be. So much of the artistry industry is word-of-mouth, and it takes time to build your reputation.
In my experience, there’s a lot of time spent in the beginning working for free in exchange for either an image they can add to their book or for a printed credit, both of which build credibility and experience.
Retail sales jobs can pay as little as minimum wage, with or without commission on sales, but often have nice perks such as discounted product, bonus incentives and additional training.
Freelance jobs also have a wide spread, starting at around $50 for a full application, but good work brings in referrals and eventually the ability to both increase your rates and pick and choose your jobs.
Film and TV pay is dictated by the unions, so I’m afraid I don’t have any particular insight on that.
You definitely don’t need an agent—there are lots of opportunities without one. And keep in mind that agencies keep about 20% of your fee. I’m actually not with my agency anymore because I have enough name recognition now that clients and new opportunities come directly to me.
The beauty business is reputed to be cutthroat and youth-oriented, but I have yet to meet another woman who hasn’t been helpful or supportive in some way. Network, talk to everyone, and use the wisdom that comes with age to your advantage. Then jump in and go for it!
All of my really big breaks came from making cold calls, to be honest. I’m always in go-for-it mode, and most of my big retail partners, as well as Joyus, were risks that paid off. A lot of my success has also been due to networking and developing nice relationships with some of the local press and bloggers, and I get a lot of word-of-mouth referrals from clients and Dollface students. Now, I have a fabulous publicist in New York whose focus is on building more national exposure.
Dollface gets a lot of word of mouth referrals locally, but I have also been contacted by out of town clients who follow me on social media or who have read about me somewhere. The brushes are getting lots of nice national coverage from bloggers and magazines, and Joyus has definitely helped raise my profile. I really enjoy social media, especially Instagram, which is quick and dirty. I’ve never paid for any advertising.
I also have a newsletter/blog that periodically goes out to about 800 of my local friends/clients so that they know what I’m up to, what my new favorite products are, and other interesting beauty news. I enjoy writing them and always try to keep the content short, sweet and amusing. They get great feedback and always bring new client opportunities my way.
What resources do you recommend?
Rachel Reiman Makeup offers classes and seminars in Chicago.
Joe Blasco Cosmetics has training locations in Orlando, Hollywood and Palm Springs.
Makeup Designory has programs in LA and NY.
Since Jemma Kidd is no longer operating, the program I’ve heard about in London now is called The London Makeup School
I love Charla Krupp’s How Not to Look Old: Fast and Effortless Ways to Look 10 Years Younger, 10 Pounds Lighter, 10 Times Better, a fabulous book on all things anti-aging. Jemma Kidd has a couple of great instructional beauty books: Jemma Kidd Make-up Masterclass: Beauty Bible of Professional Techniques and Wearable Looks and Jemma Kidd Make-Up Secrets: Solutions to Every Woman’s Beauty Issues and Make-Up Dilemmas.
Christie Brinkley is coming out with a beauty book this year, Timeless Beauty: Over 100 Tips, Secrets, and Shortcuts to Looking Great, and I am anxious to see what she has to say.
What’s next for you? Do you think you have another next act in your future?
I have my heart and soul in this next act right now and I’m still navigating it. Whatever comes next will be exciting and wonderful, but I can’t begin to predict what it will be.