express takes pleasure in presenting those in our community who have been successful in their chosen field, whether it be artistic, business, sporting or other.

This month, Zakk d’Larté meets up with Grayson Coutts about his success as a freelance makeup artist.

Hi Grayson! Firstly how did you get started in the makeup business?

Quite unexpectedly really! When I was younger I never knew this could be a career and so I decided to study Business & Marketing. It was then I met some friends who did makeup and they let me assist them from time to time.

Eventually, they would pass me work they couldn’t do and I was also lucky enough to be offered a position with Smashbox Cosmetics. When I graduated university, I took a job in fashion PR as a publicist/stylist, and it was through that I met so many incredible people who really helped me get to where I am today as a freelance makeup artist. 


Are you self-taught or did you study makeup? If you studied, where?

I’m largely ‘self-taught’ in that I never did a full makeup course, although I do think, even now, I’m always learning from other inspiring artists and honing my skills as a result. As with anything (particularly creative), you never stop learning. Early on I was also lucky enough to have a few private sessions with the phenomenal Dianne and Gabrielle who own The Makeup School in Ponsonby and that was immeasurably helpful.

What has been your biggest challenge as a makeup artist?

Managing the schedule. You’re usually working early mornings, late nights and weekends, then you have odd times off when nobody else you know does! Even so, you never really stop working, in that enquiries come in at any time and I always try to respond as quickly as I can, so often it can feel like I haven’t really had a day off. Also there’s only one appointment at 4pm on a Saturday and everybody wants it!

Do you think that being a man in the field is advantageous?

Yes and no. I think as a male working in a primarily female dominated industry you definitely stand out more which is beneficial. Yet early on it was tougher to build  my skillset as I wasn’t practicing full makeup on myself everyday (though there’s no reason why a guy couldn’t, of course). However the flip side is that you never get used to doing makeup one way for just one face shape, or one eye colour etc.

What impact do you hope your work will have in the industry?

I think the industry here in New Zealand is still very young and has a long way to go. I’m very grateful to the iconic artists who’ve come before me, some of whom are still in the industry today and put out consistently amazing work. I’d like to see the value of makeup artists better recognised, particularly within the fashion industry. Our skills are a commodity, just like any other self-employed contractor, yet too often we’re expected to work for far less than were worth, or for exposure which isn’t right.

How have your makeup skills evolved since you began?

Hugely! It’s so hard for me to look back at work I did when I started but at the same time it’s encouraging to see that I have improved so much and to think where I’ll be in another 10 years. I think if you truly love something you can’t help but seek to improve at it but it’s also important to be proud of what you’ve already achieved and live in this moment as well, instead of only ever looking forward.

What advice would you give young designers and/or dreamers?

Gain some solid business skills. Being good at the creative side is half of it but if you have no idea how to run a business effectively, you could be putting out the most incredible product but no one will know it’s there. I’m convinced I wouldn’t have made it this far if I hadn’t studied marketing and business. If tertiary study is not an option, consider meeting with a business mentor who understands your industry. It will be invaluable to your career.

Do you have any motto(s) that you like to live by?

If you constantly compare yourself to others, you will never succeed. There will always be someone faster, stronger, better looking or more intelligent; someone with more money, a better car or a nicer house. Measure your success by how far you’ve come, and not by how far someone else appears to be ahead of you.

What is your greatest achievement (so far!)?

Finding a good work/life balance. My weekends are spent working and the evenings spent cleaning and prepping for the next day so it’s really hard to have a social life as well. When you’re starting out, you sacrifice it completely to take on every job you possibly can. But now I feel very lucky to be in a position where I’m comfortable enough to turn down work sometimes, because I’ve realised that work should not be the only thing in your life. I’m in a great place currently and I’m so happy I’ve found that balance.

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