The Founder of Beauty Is Boring Told Us Her Top Makeup Tips and Trends in 2017
Robin is a makeup artist, photographer and creative director, with her skills perfectly combining to make Beauty Is Boring possible, but she didn't always know she wanted a career in the beauty world. We got the chance to ask Robin all about what led up to the blog, and why she loves to do what she does.
(Courtesy of Robin Black)
Sweety High: How long have you been passionate about makeup and beauty?
Robin Black: If you had told me as a teenager that I would grow up and have a career in beauty, I would have thought you were joking. I wasn't terribly interested in makeup when I was young, although I did love fashion and often experimented with my hair. My poor mom got all kinds of surprises at the breakfast table—I would show up with a half-shaved head or a bright red pixie or baby bangs that were dyed pastel pink. However, my face remained natural for my teen years with the exception of a brief foray into black eyeliner and a horrible, shimmery, brownish-purple lipstick. Oh—and I once shaved my brows completely off, which turned out to be a really unflattering look for me.
SH: Tell me a little bit about the evolution of your career, from makeup artist to where you are today.
RB: Makeup is actually my second career. I went to college for biochemistry and fine art. Then I worked in tech for almost seven years, but I missed being creative so I spent my free time taking photos and painting.
It had never even occurred to me that "makeup artist" was an actual career until a friend pointed out that since I was interested in fashion, photography and painting, maybe it would be a fun way to pay the rent. I was very lucky in the beginning of my makeup career and was given great opportunities by Laura Mercier—who let me work for her line when I had just started—and Diane Von Furstenburg—who hired me for her runway show when I had never even attended one.
It took me about three years of doing makeup before I began to earn a steady living. Within five years, I started being published in top magazines, but really, it wasn't until I was about six or seven years into my career that the bigger opportunities started to come in on a regular basis.
The industry was also different when I started, because there was no social media like Instagram to promote your work on. It was more about doing endless test shoots, building your portfolio, networking with photographers, models, hair stylists and fashion designers, plus trying to get a good agent to represent you. To be honest, it wasn't very glamorous. It was mostly hard work and determination, but I loved it.
Moving into photography was very organic for me. It had always been a passion of mine, and spending over a decade on shoots with top photographers turned out to be the best apprenticeship anyone could ask for. All those editorial shoots were essentially hands-on education and experience, plus I was able to use my connections in the industry to learn the technical side of photography.
SH: Why are photography and creative aspects of your work so important? Do you recommend that aspiring beauty influencers learn those skills, too?
RB: Being able to professionally photograph my makeup work has definitely been a huge advantage and it's allowed me to create a signature look. However, not everyone has photography training or wants to learn all the technical aspects of it. If photography is not your passion, it's probably easier to partner up with someone who already has photo skills. It also depends on what kind of content you want to create. If you are taking photos of yourself (which most beauty influencers do), then it's definitely worth it to at least learn some basic lighting techniques.
The creative direction is just part of my nature. I am particular about everything and have a very specific aesthetic when it comes to beauty—and everything else! As trite as it sounds, the best creative direction is whatever rings true to you. Beauty should be a broad concept filled with contradictions and room for individuality, not a rigorous definition with strict guidelines to obey. Experiment, have fun and find your own unique style.
SH: How did Beauty Is Boring come about?
RB: I launched Beauty Is Boring completely on a whim in 2012. I had moved to Los Angeles and since the work here was more celebrity than fashion, I decided to keep my editorial skills sharp by snapping Polaroids of makeup looks on my model friends.
The very first person I shot on my vintage Big Shot Polaroid camera was Charlotte Carey. It was against my kitchen wall and she wanted to try bright blue eyeshadow. The resulting Polaroids were great and I decided to upload them so they would be easier to share. I thought that putting them in a blog format would be a smart way to keep myself motivated to continue the project. I sat down at my computer and thought "what would be a good name?" I typed in "Beauty Is Boring" and that is how the blog started.
I started shooting at least once or twice a week—famous faces, new models, musicians, artists and celebrities. I would scan the Polaroids and post them with just a simple model credit. I really didn't have any plans to make Beauty Is Boring a business—I was still working full-time as a makeup artist. it was supposed to be a personal project but it got so much attention that magazines and brands started reaching out.
Eventually I got so busy shooting photos and videos for clients that I had to stop taking makeup-only jobs. Then last year Melissa Barrett, who was previously an executive at Clarins, approached me about partnering up and creating an actual business out of my personal blog. Having a partner (especially one with Melissa's experience) has been really exciting and has transformed my personal blog into a much larger venture. This past year we have worked on projects for brands such as Marc Jacobs, Urban Decay, Sephora, L'Oreal Paris and Estee Lauder, as well as growing our own site and Instagram.
SH: What does your day-to-day work at Beauty Is Boring look like?
RB: My day-to-day work schedule tends to vary depending on what projects we are working on, but it's never boring! I usually spend at least one to three days each week in the studio creating makeup looks, testing new products, taking photos or directing videos. The rest of my time is spent in creative meetings with clients, casting models, writing posts, retouching, handling production details, attending brand events and that type of thing. I also get to travel frequently, which means that some of my studio days are spent in different cities. I love that every day is different—it keeps me inspired and motivated.
SH: What's the biggest mistake you made when you were starting up your career?
RB: The biggest mistake I made was not starting my beauty career sooner. I spent almost seven years working in tech prior to becoming a makeup artist, which means I started my career at an older age than most of my peers. On the other hand, I came to the beauty world with a lot of useful experience in business and that really helped build my career much faster.
SH: What are the tools that no beauty guru can live without?
RB: Great brushes and of course, your fingers. Those are the two best tools for makeup application and the two things I can't do without—well, obviously I also need my fingers for other reasons, but seriously, never underestimate the blending ability of a clean finger tip!
SH: What's one beauty trend that you think will be big in 2017?
RB: Blush is coming back in a big way and replacing the heavy taupe contour that has dominated cheeks for the past few years. Gorgeous new shades in exciting formulas like Glossier's Cloud Paint are so pretty! And while I do like a bit of bronzer under the cheekbones for contour, it's even better when it's paired with a pop of blush.
SH: What advice do you have for aspiring makeup artists and people who want to make an impact in the beauty world?
RB: Make no mistake about it—a career in the beauty industry might seem glamorous (and there are certainly moments when it is), but it takes a lot of hard work to become successful. That being said, there is always room for creative individuals with unique and interesting outlooks on beauty. I love seeing all the young talent coming up!
If you don't already, follow Beauty Is Boring on Instagram @beautyisboring_.
Want to see the transformative effects of makeup? Click HERE to see what happened when we asked three different makeup counters to give us Coachella-inspired looks.