In our long-running series, "How I'm Making It," we talk to people making a living in the fashion and beauty industries about how they broke in and found success.
Yes, Hrush Achemyan is known as one of the Kardashian-Jenner clan's go-to makeup artists. (See: Kim's recent barely there, lip-ring-enhancing look for lunch with hubby Kanye West, Kendall's tech-themed Met Gala outing last year and multiple Kylie Cosmetics campaigns, including the Love Bite.) But she's an established brand in her own right — name: Styled by Hrush — boasting 1.8 million Instagram followers and counting, collaborating with Tarte Cosmetics on a limited-edition palette and teaching aspiring MUAs her craft via globe-spanning beauty tours.
However, Achemyan didn't train in cosmetology or begin by assisting a more experienced makeup artist. Her career advancement involved a mix of scrappiness, long hours, a little right-place-at-the-right-time fortune and of course, strategic use of good old Instagram. Achemyan actually began her career in fashion, with an internship under Karoza, a bridal designer in Los Angeles. There, the owner helped her realize her underlying interest and aspirations, influenced by an artist uncle and oil painting, her hobby of choice.
"'I would ask you to sketch designs, [but] you pay more attention to the highlighting and contouring on the face of the image, versus the clothing,'" laughs Achemyan, as she imitates the designer. "[He said], 'maybe you should try makeup.'" Her boss also played a fairy godparent role in securing her first official gig. When a bridal client's makeup artist canceled at the last minute, he immediately volunteered his 17-year-old intern for the job.
"He basically had someone go get a makeup kit, and said, 'this is your chance. I want you to do her makeup,'" she says. "My hands shook the whole time. I cried afterward." The bride was thrilled with the newly minted makeup artist's technique. "I basically manipulate makeup the same way I manipulate oil paints to make it last for 10 hours," she explains. (The secret: "You have to let a color dry before you apply another texture or another color." Huh.) And from there, it was all word of mouth. "[The bride] referred me to 20 people, and then those 20 people referred me." At that point, Achemyan began her career in bridal, which led to a life-changing opportunity to become a celebrity makeup artist.
"The first celebrity client I had was Kim Kardashian, which is pretty insane, because it was jumping from having zero celebrity clients to the biggest and highest authority in glam," says Achemyan. About two and a half years ago, Kardashian first saw the LA-based makeup artist's work in person at an event. Then, being the savvy marketer that she is, Kardashian conducted her due diligence by inspecting Achemyan's Instagram page and was pleased with the visuals. "[Kardashian] definitely stated there was a social media aspect [involved in hiring me]," says Achemyan. "[She said], 'when I looked at your page, it was just what I was looking for.'"
Today, she works with every Kardashian-Jenner sister — Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kylie and Kendall — all of whom fully understand the benefits of having an active and deliberate social media presence. And their makeup artist knows how important that tool is for her career, too. "Social media should definitely be manipulated and used for whatever it is that you're trying to push, whether it's fashion, fitness or beauty," Achemyan says. "As long as you're producing unique images that somebody is inspired by, you'll draw followers; you'll draw attention to your account."
Of course, she recognizes that having famous clients is also a plus because they credit her on their social media feeds. "I definitely think it's a really big bonus for anyone that does celebrities, not just me," Achemyan says. "These clients help you create trends because they are such famous faces that your work is put on a bigger pedestal." She references a time she showcased a lip contouring technique, involving lining a notable client's lips with a dark liquid color to create a fuller effect, which blew up from there.
But there's a fine line to walk when it comes to being well-known as a big celebrity's makeup artist. "A lot of people get cornered [when] they only do one person's makeup," Achemyan says. "I just think that you just have to keep doing different faces and just post different images [on social media], as well. You can't ride someone else's bandwagon. They worked hard to get where they are. You can't just ride off of their coattails."
She makes a point to work with a mix of clientele, including "regular," non-paparazzi-stalked "canvases" to diversify and continue improving her craft. Achemyan also expanded her own brand portfolio by collaborating last year with Tarte Cosmetics on a sexy eye-and-cheek palette bearing her brand name, Styled by Hrush, which sold out multiple rounds (and is now available on Ulta). Tarte, a brand which supported her early on in her pre-influencer career, gave her "full-on creative freedom to control the shades, the formula, the design concept, the images and the photo shoots."
Four years ago, Achemyan also started touring and teaching makeup classes to aspiring makeup artists, a concept that Kardashian-Jenner hairstylist and Mane Addicts founder Jen Atkin embraces for hair. Most recently, she jetted to fashion and beauty hotspot Dubai for the Make Up Forever Brow Show. She finds motivation in providing education to people starting out in the business because she didn't have formal training of her own. "It just makes me so happy because it makes me feel like I'm leaving a legacy behind," she says.
Achemyan also speaks about the power of cultivating a brand and beauty #aesthetic via social media during her presentations to fledgling MUAs. "I always preach how important it is to visually stimulate people that are viewing your page — and really showing your work in the best light you possibly can — because you never know who's looking," she says.
Plus, Achemyan recognizes the opportunities that stem from becoming your own brand as a makeup artist. "I feel like makeup artists have become influencers," she says. "They are the new trendsetters of what's in and what's not. That has to be the coolest thing that social media has definitely done for a lot of makeup artists. It's amazing. If we post something, the product sells out." (It's worth noting that Achemyan does make a point to differentiate to her followers what products she actually uses on the job and what she's just "unboxing" via Snapchat.)
Since we had the beauty influencer and Kardashian-whisperer on the phone, we figured we'd take the time to also find out what the next big beauty trend she's predicting (or setting) for the year will be."Two thousand seventeen is going to be about the bold brow, the dewy skin, the no-makeup, makeup look," Achemyan says. "You will see a lot more people just calming down on the glam. I feel like it's a nice change because I see so many 14-year-olds with a full face and there's a time and place for everything. It's not about less contouring and less highlighting. It's just going to be a more minimal level of everything that you've been seeing. Everything can still be applied, but just a smaller amount."
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