Frontline Artist Interview: Jill Glaser of Makeup First School

We first met Jill several years back at The Makeup Show in Chicago. In a town full of hard people, Jill may be the most hardcore. She's a badass, to be honest. She's an attorney, a makeup artist, a (reputable) makeup school owner, and more.

Frontline: Tell the readers a bit about you.
Jill: I am a state-certified freelance makeup artist, working primarily in makeup for high definition media.  I am also the founder and owner of Make Up First ® School of Makeup Artistry, located in the heart of Chicago’s business district.  I am the proud mother to three grown daughters, all of who work in various facets of the creative industry.

Frontline: What made you get into makeup?
Jill: As a young girl, I would watch my mother (a professional watercolor artist) apply her makeup, using highlight and contour techniques to best enhance her features.  As a pre-teen and adolescent, I would spend hours in my bedroom, applying different products and using different techniques on my face; I would always take the makeup off before leaving the house-I just thought it was fun to “play”; in fact, I wore only mascara and lip gloss and mascara for decades.  In high school, I had the highly coveted job of working at the local pharmacy, where I was able to eat all the chocolate I wanted and play with all the makeup for sale.

Frontline: You became an attorney before you went into makeup professionally. Tell us about that.
Jill: I grew up in an era and in an environment that did not consider makeup artistry as a viable career choice, so I attended college in Washington D.C., and graduated within three years with a double major in Psychology and Education.  Following graduation, I taught second and first grade in Virginia.  I loved the kids, but after only two years, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career that was dominated by men: I decided to become an attorney. I returned to Chicago, and with my Psych degree, I was able to obtain a job as an Adult Probation Officer, so that I could save money for law school.  Working as a probation officer helped me define my upcoming legal career; I wanted nothing to do with criminal law and everything to do with business, which turned out to be an important decision with respect to the business of makeup artistry. After graduation from law school and admittance to the Illinois Bar, I worked first as a commercial litigator, and then as transactional attorney, putting together and closing deals for multi-million-dollar businesses.  I actively practiced law for eleven years.

Frontline: What made you transition from law to makeup?
Jill: I loved practicing law, but really missed my daughters; after eleven years, I was fortunate enough to be financially able to be a stay-at home mom.  I did not work outside the home for the following sixteen years.  When I was ready to reenter the workforce, I found that employers were willing to hire me only as a glorified secretary or paralegal; I wasn’t really heart-broken because I had lost my enthusiasm for law.  I continued on as a full-time stay-at-home mom until…Pivotal moment:  For one of my daughters’ middle school plays, I was randomly asked to volunteer for the makeup committee.  Working with transformative makeup, decades later, I was reminded of my love for makeup artistry.  I decided there and then to take some makeup artistry classes, (Columbia College-Continuing Ed Department) just for fun; that “fun” turned into a healthy obsession with makeup artistry.

Frontline: How did you grow your freelance business?
Jill: Able, Affable and Available - Starting as a freelancer in 2000, (pre-computer marketing days), I worked retail part-time, and as a freelancer on the side.  I provided makeup services anywhere and everywhere for little or no pay in order to have photos of my work, as well as to build a referral network.  I reserved a company name, organized the business, branded the business and then, together with a skeletal website, business cards, and comp cards, I cold-called every photographer, agency, production company, etc in Chicago with moderate success.  I worked at live events, advertised in bridal magazines and participated in several bridal trade shows.  I then advertised in the Chicago Creative Directory (both print and online).  Little did I know that advertising in the Chicago Creative Directory would be the “game-changer” of its time; I started booking one commercial job after another.  After three years, I was able to quit working retail, and devote all of my time to building my business as a full-time freelance makeup artist.

Frontline: Why Did I Open Make Up First® School?
Jill: In approximately 2003, the Continuing Education Department of Columbia College closed, leaving Chicago without a state-certified vocational program for the training of makeup artists.  In 2005, I thought about my background as a teacher and a business lawyer, and decided that it was time to seize the opportunity and open a school.  I created the curriculum, practiced actually teaching makeup artistry classes at a local community college, and then began the laborious process of filling the forms for Illinois state certification.  I opened the school in September 2006, offering night classes only, so that I could continue to freelance during the day.

Frontline: What advice do you give to students who graduate from Make Up First® School?
Jill: Able, Affable and Available!  From day one, we emphasize, among other things, the following:

First and foremost, be a good person.  This is a small industry: If you do not treat others with respect and integrity, you may find yourself out of work.  Keep in mind:  It’s not about you; it’s about the client. Every job and person in your chair should be treated as worthy of all of your attention. Regardless of what you have been told, assume the project will be filmed or shot in high definition (or more!) and there will be close-ups taken.  As soon as you complete the Certification Course, concentrate on organizing and branding your business, which includes your website and portfolio. In the beginning years, set aside virtually all evening, weekend and holiday plans for work; your social life will have to wait.  Accept virtually every freelance job, even if it may be outside your comfort zone:  if too uncomfortable, ask us for help.  Don’t stay in any one “day” job too long:  once you have learned everything you can, you need to move on so that you do not become complacent.  Be patient; this career is hard and will not happen by itself overnight.  Keep learning by researching, networking and taking any additional workshops or courses offered either at the School or elsewhere.  Keep in touch with the School so that we can help with your portfolio, answer ongoing questions, and send you on jobs!

Frontline: If the 2010's will be memorable for any reason in beauty, it'll be the advent of YouTube and Instagram beauty. What's your take?
Jill: With social media, now anyone and everyone are claiming to be makeup artists.  I compare the majority of the Instagram and YouTube “artists” with myself as a young girl, practicing putting makeup on myself.   I had no knowledge of color theory, light theory, facial anatomy, how to conduct myself on a set, etc.  In fact, I had no idea what a crew or set would look like!   I think I became adept at applying makeup on my face, but there was no one but myself to critique me. I certainly was in no position to teach anyone anything.  Formal training, either on the job or by attending a reputable school taught by working makeup artists, coupled with several years of working in the field, are still essential for building the skills to be a successful makeup artist.  However- Makeup artists do need to be aware of, and adapt to, the social media phenomena.  Therefore, at Make Up First ® School, we incorporate some of the social media trends within our curriculum.   By so doing, the young artist is current, and can add the social media trends and techniques to the essential classic, formal education.

Frontline: What's the funniest / craziest thing that's happened on set?
Jill: The most embarrassing (funny) things I will have to tell you in private/confidence!

One Word: Immodium

I can share the following:  In the first years as a freelancer, a hair company exhibiting in a large trade show hired me.  This was at the time, unlike now, that vibrant, colored hair was not so common, particularly on adults.  The company needed one more model, and they asked if I would mind if they colored and cut my very long brown hair. I ended up with an extremely short, razor-cut, dated “shag” in the color of eggplant.  I looked like an adult Smurf for a long time.  And I didn’t even get paid extra for being such a good sport!

Frontline: What are some must-have products for your kit?
Jill: The “FIRST” Makeup Mixer by MaqPro (cleanser, moisturizer, primer, makeup remover); Make Up For Ever Flash Palette (eyes, lips, cheeks, foundation or base); Translucent Setting Powder, preferably the “FIRST” HD powder by MaqPro;  Cinema Secrets Pro Foundation Palettes (theatrical, beauty and clinical applications); Japonesque makeup remover wipes.

Frontline: Finally, what's one beauty product that you won't leave home without?
Jill: Rosebud Salve. Chicago winters are cold and windy. The Rosebud Salve is great for lips, cuticles, dry skin, and can just provide skin protection for our excessively windy/cold days.