Makeup artist and wedding stylist Melissa Schwartz Jones tests looks on bride-to-be Sarah Srivastava in preparation for Srivastava’s November wedding.
Name: Melissa Schwartz Jones, 34
Position: Makeup artist, hair stylist and owner of Georgetown Bride
What She Does: Schwartz Jones helps some of D.C.’s most frequently seen faces get camera-ready. Her clients have included former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Washington Mystics’ basketball player Crystal Langhorne, in addition to visiting celebrities Eddie Vedder and model Lauren Hutton.
During the week, Schwartz Jones primps regular people for private events, corporate headshots, television appearances and magazine photo shoots.
Weekends often find her primping brides-to-be through Georgetown Bride, her 4-year-old wedding styling business.
Schwartz Jones describes her results as clean and natural, a style that appeals to D.C.’s more conservative tendencies. “The challenge with the makeup in D.C. is bringing out somebody’s features but making sure that it’s not the makeup that’s speaking,” she says. “You’re focusing more on things like flawless skin and matte skin and sculpting with contouring.”
“It’s basically making someone look picture-perfect and making them the most polished version of themselves,” she says.
The pace is unpredictable. “I could go three or four days with no physical work and just doing admin stuff, and then I could be booked on five different jobs over the course of two days,” says the Bloomingdale resident.
Most of her clients find her through her website or her wedding business. She’s also represented by the Zenobia Agency, which has a roster of artists who do hair, makeup and styling.
But it’s not all photo shoots and glamorous people. While Schwartz Jones spends about 25 hours a week doing clients’ makeup, she spends about 10 hours a week on the less exciting realities of running her own business, including invoicing, scheduling and maintaining her portfolio.
How She Got This Job: After earning a bachelor’s in interior design, the California native worked in kitchen and bath design for three years but found herself bored.
“I had a friend who worked for MAC Cosmetics and she persuaded me to come and audition for them,” Schwartz Jones says.
She joined the Tysons Corner Center store in 2005. She also began volunteering her services to photographers and wardrobe stylists just so she could build a portfolio. The freebies paid off down the road, when her portfolio landed her paying customers and an agency contract.
“Most of what I know has been self-taught,” Schwartz Jones says. In fact, her first lessons came from her mother, who owned a salon. After she kicked off a career in makeup, Schwartz Jones honed her skills by taking private lessons in airbrushing, red-carpet makeup, editorial makeup and bridal beauty through the Powder Group, and MAC Pro.
Who Would Want This Job: Hard-working creative types are a perfect fit.
The job requires physical stamina. — “There are definitely days where you’re standing in one spot for eight hours and you’re hunched over,” Schwartz Jones says — as well as the ability to handle unpredictable locations: “You could be out in a field in the middle of West Virginia somewhere trying to do makeup on a tree trunk or you could be at the Presidential Suite at the Hay-Adams,” she says.
How You Can Get This Job: One route to becoming a makeup artist is enrolling in a cosmetology program. Check out programs at Graham Webb Academy, Hair Expressions Academy, the Arlington Career Center, and the Bennett Career Institute.
Another option: Enroll in private classes such as those at Studio 400, MAC Pro and the Powder Group.
Since no license is required to be a makeup artist, Schwartz Jones suggests skipping school in favor of getting a job at a department-store makeup counter or finding a mentor you can learn the ropes from.
No matter how many classes you take, success requires patience and persistence. “I don’t know many artists in this area who are really doing this full time and paying their bills,” says Schwartz Jones, who primarily worked for free for the first few years of her career. “It’s not something you can get rich on overnight.”