March 12, 2012

I admit it: I am at a complete loss when it comes to applying makeup. That being said, I truly believe makeup professionals are artists. I think my hesitation when it comes to makeup makes me appreciate their effortless strokes all the more. They make us look our most beautiful, and when you meet someone who is as passionate about beauty as makeup artist Melanie Mills is, you find yourself moved. 

As an editor for Made Woman Mag I lucked out with the opportunity to interview Melanie, makeup artist to the stars and owner of her own makeup line. Naturally, the first thing I asked Ms. Mills was how to best get my feet wet with new makeup products. “You gotta try it! Sit down and use a vanity. Getting out and trying is huge, it’s the only way. Play. Have fun with it.” Her answer to this question speaks to her attitude about life as well: play, have fun, and try.

Melanie has actually played with makeup her whole life. She remembers doing her friends makeup for dances as a teen.  She enjoyed experimenting with it, but it wasn’t until she visited a makeup school in Milan at the age of 21 that this hobby turned into a serious passion. When she came home she immediately set out to pursue this newfound love, but the lack of funding and formal esthetician training were a… small hitch.  Melanie didn’t give up hope. While getting her hair done, she told her stylist about her goals, and the stylist offered to introduce her to a friend who could possibly help. As fate would have it, Melanie ran into her hairstylist and this connection at a bar that very same evening. It turned out that an extra hand was needed on the set of the film Everything's George, and Melanie went for it. She tried it, had fun, and wound up doing makeup for a bunch of indie films for three years before going union. A bit of luck and some chance networking had given Melanie her start. “After that, I just climbed the ladder,” she says.

Melanie soon went from working on little known indie films to Charlie’s Angels and Six Feet Under. She was then referred to Dancing With the Stars in its second season, and ended up staying. “It all fell into place. I picked up the craft really easily,” says Melanie. But it wasn’t all glitter and glam. The world of beauty is fast paced and you have to pay your dues. “You are never given a job, you aren’t locked into a contract … it’s never a guarantee,” explains Melanie. “You have to plan ahead because you might not always get a paycheck. You can work 15 hours a day and all of a sudden have a month off.” Melanie had to learn to balance work and family too. “I have an 8 year old daughter, so sometimes I have to deal with missing functions at school. When you’re on a set you can’t just come and go.”

But all the sacrificing has definitely paid off. After all, Ms. Mills did win an Emmy for her work on Dancing With The Stars. When asked what it felt like to win this prestigious award, she said, “It is awesome! It is also completely nerve racking. You feel great and stoked when nominated, but you are a nervous wreck every single day up until the ceremony. But winning it is amazing!” Despite working on set for numerous television shows, the Emmy win made Dancing her favorite gig. “It’s high energy, live, and I got to do fabulous, fun glamorous makeup all the time!”

And An Emmy isn’t the only reward for hard work. Melanie’s longtime dream of having her own cosmetic line, like Bobbi Brown and Laura Mercier, is coming to fruition. While on DWTS, Melanie formulated a body lotion called “Mel’s Mix”. When celebs started coming to her house for this magic potion, Mel decided it was time to move forward with starting her brand.  The mix has been around for six years and earned its name because people would describe it as “gleamy.”   Launched in May of 2011, Gleam by Melanie Mills has received fantastic press and is getting a reputation as a product that is glamorous and good for your skin. Melanie has recently expanded her brand to include Lip Radiance — a line of candy-like lip glosses that are really good for your lips.  Melanie describes her company as “young,” “small,” and “women based.”

There is much to learn from such a savvy business woman. Never one to shy away from hard work, she says that sometimes when you are getting your start you have to work for free. That’s right… work for free. Because “[Meeting] Any person will always lead to [meeting]another person. You have to be willing to do. You have to be able to give in order to get, and when you give, I believe you can get that back threefold. It’s all about motivation and persistence.” Melanie also believes in having a tough skin, but being positive. “When you are positive, you draw positive. Keep yourself healthy and happy. Be happy at what you do.” And right now Melanie couldn’t be happier with what she does. Working on iCarly and Victorious on Nickelodeon keeps her busy, but this Made Woman has not slowed down. “Of course the dream is to have a full blown cosmetic line. Next things are eye radiances. The color schemes are based off of travels I’ve taken and the palette is very vibrant, bold, plush, and glamorous.”

There’s also a huge, gorgeous coffee table style makeup book in the works. Inside the covers will be vignettes, stories, and photos of celebrities Melanie has grown close to. The concept will be to show two or three very different makeup looks on each celeb. For example, Brandy will portray Nefertiti and Josephine Baker.  You can check out Melanie’s YouTube channel, GleamBodyRadiance, to see behind the scenes clips from the photoshoots done for the book so far.

Who knows what else the future will bring for Melanie Mills. With a positive attitude and the utmost ambition, this glam girl is truly unstoppable; and her personal motto “live it, work it, own it” is proof. Melanie explains, “If you want to be a makeup artist, architect, doctor, etc. then you need to tell yourself that’s what you are. David LaChapelle said ‘I picked up a camera and I called myself a photographer.’” It’s that easy. Just like the brilliant stain of Lip Radiance lipgloss, Melanie’s words left a bold imprint. Her example left me feeling more confident and eager to pursue my own dreams…and maybe even try my hand at getting all made up.

Published in Entrepreneurship