Industry Insider: Crystal Wright

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Clean beauty looks… One of the first things that came to mind when thinking about this topic was a business workshop I took last year specifically geared towards freelance hair, makeup, fashion stylists & manicurists.  This was taught by the “Empowerment Diva” herself, Ms. Crystal Wright.

Crystal is a former Agency Owner in L.A. and now focuses much of her attention on educating artists such as myself on mastering self-promotion, creating a strong portfolio, obtaining agency representation, and how to get your foot in the door if you are serious about a career in print, video, film, TV and runway. I asked her a few questions about the industry and what decision-makers are looking for when it comes to the type of work you are presenting in your portfolios.

Please introduce yourself and tell the readers about your background in the industry:

My name is Crystal Wright and I got my start in the beauty, fashion and entertainment business after quitting my job as an account executive at Xerox to represent a celebrity and advertising photographer.

Not long after that I found myself representing professional makeup artists, hair stylists, fashion stylists and finally manicurists who worked behind-the-scenes in print, video, film and TV.

It was this experience that enabled me to write my first book, The Hair, Makeup & Fashion Styling Career Guide.

You’ve been a part of this world for over 20 years. Has the industry really changed much when it comes to what decision-makers are looking for in a makeup artist’s portfolio?

No. What has changed is the technology by which artists present themselves to those decision-makers to get the work. The website is now the foundation of an artist’s presentation, the iPad is second and the physical portfolio is third.

Additionally, personal contact has been replaced with email and the internet, which simply means that being a good communicator is paramount in getting someone’s attention.

Many beginning makeup artists want to prove that they know how to do creative makeup and start out by creating a lot of artistic images. What is the disadvantage to filling your book or online portfolio with this type of work?

There is very little of that kind of work being given out every day, so when an artist fills their book up with it, the decision-maker’s first thought is, “Well, when we get this kind of work I’ll call YOU.  But for now, I need someone who can do clean beauty for this Crest toothpaste ad.  And there’s nothing [or not enough of that kind of work] in your book that speaks to excellence in that category.” So they move on to the next artist whose work demonstrates an aptitude for what they are seeking.

Do Agencies REALLY only want to see mostly clean/beauty makeup when looking at an artist’s portfolio?

Yes, because that is the kind of work that they have to give out. Especially when you’re talking about agencies in the Midwest, Seattle, Dallas, etc.  The crazy stuff is given out rarely and when it is, it’s mostly in music videos, high fashion and specialty projects.

Most of what you see in 400 pages of Oprah (and even more in Vogue USA) is clean beauty. If you don’t believe me, just open one up. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a feather sticking off of anyone’s eye, or pearls stuck to anyone’s lip.

I’m not suggesting that you never do it, or that you don’t put any of it in your repertoire.  But I’m suggesting you use it sparingly, consider your market, and make sure that you do it as well as the people who do it really well.

If there was one piece of advice you could give to Hair, Makeup or Fashion Stylists on building their portfolio, what’s at the top of your list?

Stay on top of your game. Pay attention to what’s going on in fashion and beauty from the point-of-view of a consumer (Vogue, Elle, Glamour, Vibe, Essence) and professional (On Makeup, Makeup Artist, Photo District News, AdWeek, etc).

Add a historical perspective to your work by learning what people were doing 10, 20, 30+ years ago in art, beauty and popular culture. It’s the best way I know to become part of the creative conversation.

So many Artists are truly lost when it comes to what it’s going to take to get them PAID jobs.  I was fortunate to take your Packaging Your Portfolio Workshop last summer and also own a copy of your book.  Can you tell us what inspired you to create these tools?

I was on the phone all day long trying to run my agency and give out advice to aspiring artists.  I had a dream one night where the format of a book was revealed to me.  I drew it on a napkin that was sitting on the night stand next to my bed.  The next morning I announced to my staff that WE were going to write a book and that’s how The Hair Makeup & Fashion Styling Career Guide came to be.

The workshop, Packaging Your Portfolio: Marketing Yourself as a Freelance Makeup, Hair, Fashion Stylist or Manicurist was just the next step in the evolution to get artists to the next level after they had read the book.

My former booker, Reesa Mallen, who is now the Creative Director at Lands End, was the one who suggested that we start teaching a class.  It was the furthest thing from my mind but look at what has happened: our first class was only two hours long. Now my classes are 3 days.

God is good, and I’m over here trying to stay in my lane!

For more information about Crystal, her book and workshops, please visit her websites:

Written by  wby Nicole DeMet