Welcome to Career Week! While we always make career-focused content a priority on Fashionista, we thought spring would be a good time to give you an extra helping of tips and tricks on how to make it in the fashion industry.
In this series, we look into what it takes to succeed in a specific field within the fashion industry by speaking to several professionals who've done it. Read on for your unofficial guide to becoming a beauty agent.
A beauty agent's duties mainly take place behind the scenes, as they work night and day on behalf of the makeup artists and hairstylists responsible for your favorite fashion editorials, ad campaigns and red carpet moments. So much so that most of the beauty agents we spoke to for this story didn't even know their job was a thing until they got into it. While they all come from a creative background — photography, PR, beauty school and theater — there is no singular career track that leads one to become a beauty agent. A lot of it has to do with working from the ground up at an agency and becoming familiar with your colleagues and their artists. Deanna DiDonato, who's been at Art Department for eight years, started as a receptionist before climbing the ranks and becoming an agent. Brennan Casey from Bryant Artists got her first glimpse into the world of representing the beauty professionals as an intern.
Though, one common thread among beauty agents is an ability to multitask, because between booking shoots and travel itineraries, catching up with clients on projects (and payments) and helping an artist reach their career goals, they're also seeking out new clients, new artists and new brands to partner up with.
Sound like something you're interested in? Read on for seven things to keep in mind if you want to make it as a successful beauty agent.
It's a 24/7, always-on-call job.
Being responsible for an artist's livelihood is demanding, especially if he or she is often on the road for work. Of course, over time, you'll know what needs to be addressed right away and what can wait until later. But be prepared for those last-minute bookings or travel hiccups, whether it's receiving a call sheet from Los Angeles at midnight while you're on New York time, or getting a phone call at 2 a.m. because an artist who's overseas happened to miss a flight. And, according to a number of agents, sometimes artists will call you just to chat.
When you're that easily accessible, you need to be able to multitask. DiDonato recalls one instance where her artist couldn't get on a plane to travel to another country for a shoot because of an expired passport. At the same time, a client needed a makeup artist right away for a premiere. "Sometimes you want to scream, but it’s just figuring out what’s more important at that moment," she says. So what happened? DiDonato quickly found a makeup artist and then went back to deal with the passport fiasco.
Prepare to be well-acquainted with a calendar.
Essentially, an agent’s job is to fill an artist’s schedule up with some sweet gigs that they will not only enjoy — a tropical trip for a swimsuit ad campaign, perhaps — but that will also give them the opportunity to grow as an artist. (Editorials, for example, keep them relevant and push their creativity.) "You're always strategizing the next step," says Darrell Blakely of Atelier Management. "Have a good perspective of each artist's individual aesthetic, their career path and how to land the next best job."
Casey likens the charts (that's agent speak for calendars) to a puzzle while Smulders notes that agents must always keep a helicopter view over artists' projects. For beauty jobs, it's a pretty quick turnaround compared to photographers who have to deal with their work in post-production. So once a shoot has wrapped it's a swift shift to the next one. Therefore, mastering logistics is key. Try booking a hairstylist who has to travel across countries and time zones for their next project.
"It's our bible," says Casey. The website, which keeps stock of nearly every fashion magazine cover, editorial and ad campaign that exists, is what agents check in on to make sure their artists’ work is up to date. (If not, they simply log on to the site and update it themselves.) Also, it helps agents keep track of who’s working on what and with whom. Other editorial-focused websites that they regularly visit are Visual Optimism, The Fashionography, Fashion Copious and Fashion Gone Rogue.
Your artist’s social media presence is another priority.
Like everyone else who works in fashion, a social media presence, no matter how big or small, is required. Posting a behind-the-scenes look, specifically from a celebrity or Instamodel, has actually helped hairstylists and makeup artists build their own follower base. (How else are we familiar with the members of the Kardashian-Jenner family's glam squad?) "It's crazy to say, but thanks to the Kardashians, when I meet with new artists, it's a conversation we have," admits DiDonato of the social media frenzy. "The more they work with a celebrity, people will know who you are."
Of course there some best practices to adhere to in order to not screw yourself over on social media, and agents are aware of this, particularly for newly signed artists or those who have been in the game for so long that social media isn't exactly their top concern. Luckily, some agencies have someone on staff to help them with just that, whether it's a boot camp on a certain platform or simply providing a few tips on how to curate their feed and garner more followers.
Negotiating rates for jobs is strategic, fun and sometimes worth walking away from.
While rates for some jobs are set in stone, there are opportunities for agents to negotiate with a client or producer. And that's something you learn while on the job. For a few agents who started out as interns and assistants, listening in on how their top-level colleagues negotiated proved valuable. "Always start high because you can never go up from what you give," says Shae Cooper Smith from Streeters. "You definitely have to be a good listener and communicator," says Claire Frajnd, an agent at Exclusive Artists Management in Los Angeles. "You have to make sure no one is feeling slighted."
Plus, agents always keep their artist's best interest in mind. Mandy Smulders, also from Streeters, often tells her artists to not be afraid to walk away from a project if it's not what they want. "You have to really know what you're standing for and shouldn't be afraid to ask for it. Otherwise, you won't ever get it." she says. Adds Cooper Smith, "If you lower your standard just to get a paycheck, it's going to go downhill from there."
Your clients are just as important as your artists.
Since the majority of correspondence between an agent and a client (like magazine editors, advertising agencies and brands) happens on email or phone, face time and is very important in order to maintain those relationships. It could be as simple as having a quick chat over coffee to see what projects are in the pipeline, attending an event your client is throwing or sending a card during the holidays. "Before, I was the client, and now I work with clients all day long," says Blakely, who was a photo editor at InStyle for seven years before switching gears to become an agent. "That relationship really is a special thing, or I think should be, and having that client perspective makes it easier for me to focus on that."
Most importantly, don't ever take things too personally.
Having a "thick skin" is thrown around a lot when it comes to having a career in the fashion and beauty industries, and for agents, it's a piece of advice that should be taken seriously. When you're dealing with a dozen artists at a time, you're coming across strong and complex personalities. Bad days, mood swings and mistakes can happen. "You need to have good judgement and know when an artist has been on a set for 12 hours and is at their wit's end," says Frajnd. Cooper Smith suggests taking a step back to assess the situation: "How do you make this work, move forward and find a solution?"
The same applies for when you're trying to book gigs for your artists. "You can only do everything within your control," explains Frajnd. "If I've done all of the following up and pitching for an artist and it's just not a match for the client, there's nothing more. It's not my fault, the client's fault or the artist's fault. As long as you can go to bed and know you did everything that you could, then you did a good job."