Thursday, January 15, 2009

Shanghai - How I Got Here!

So a few ppl have asked me to tell my story about how I came to live and work in Shanghai in these recent mths. So I'll try to explain it as best as I can w/out being too long winded and boring (umm definitely ended up being long winded, hopefully not too boring lol). I think it's actually a pretty interesting story but I guess that will have to be for you guys to decide :)

Okay well I'll start w/ a little background info. I'm actually a pretty new MUA. I've actually only been finished school a little less than 2 yrs now so in the grand scheme of things I'm still a rookie! I was doing shoots while in school but officially I've been at this less than 2 yrs now...overall I'm pretty excited and happy w/ how I've grown as an artist these past two yrs and what I've been able to accomplish and do thus far. I wish I had some pics from my very first shoot so you guys could see just how much I've grown but I'm pretty sure I've burned all that evidence lol! Actually here's a pic from my third ever photoshoot (it was for school). The model is my beautiful friend Sophia. I actually still really like this pic but I can tell you they weren't all winners like this one!

I've been able to find a few pics from shoots I did while still in school...ugghh I can't believe I'm going to show these to you guys but I think they will motivate and inspire newbies that they can/will get better. Also it will show I didn't always work w/ great photographers and models! Even though I had some hits (ice princess above) I definitely had some misses and still do and I think it's important to see and realize that not ever shoot is going to be amazing and it's good for the growth process to sometimes suck lol! Here they are (btw these aren't the worst...those don't exist anymore lol):

This was for a school assignment not a real shoot just my digital camera - see even I did cliches like sprinkles on the lips lol! It's actually not that bad I mean my lines were clean...always a big thing for me!
This was my take on Kate Moss' The Biba look in Kevyn Aucoin's Making Faces

This one actually does make me was suppose to be pheasant inspired or something stupid...this was a shoot where I just felt oh no this is sooo not working! Btw same model as the pic above.
This was kind of a Halloween inspired look...for me the lines aren't clean like they should be!

Okay so that's a visit down memory lane now I'll get to my first "big break". About 6 mths after I finished school I saw an ad posted in Craigslist looking for an MUA for some magazine editorials. I thought this sounds kind of crazy (I mean what legit photographer advertises mag editorials on Craigslist lol) but whatever what did I have to lose! So I responded and the photographer got back to me and we set up an interview at Starbucks. So I went to the interview that day and that's when I met photographer Todd Anthony Tyler. He looked through my book and explained why he was looking for an MUA for mag editorials on Craigslist. Turns out he didn't know any Toronto MUAs b/c he was just in from Shanghai, China visiting his family in Toronto and wanted to do a few mag editorials while in town.

So anyway, he explained that he would be shooting editorials for two mags - Maxim China (male fashion editorial) and Vision (female editorial). We talked for a long time about his travels, work, fashion, the business, life...everything lol. I really lucked out b/c the MUA that was suppose to come after me never arrived so I talked to him for over an hr that day (I will forever be thankful to that flaky MUA lol)! He interviewed a lot of MUAs that day but he just really enjoyed my enthusiasm and excitment about the shoots and his work so he took a chance and hired me on the spot for the two editorials even though I can tell you my book was definitely not that strong!

So the first shoot we ever did together was for Maxim China w/ the male model. This started off awfully and thank God he didn't hold this day against me! I had to take the GO train out to the location (his mother's house lol) and I made a mistake and got off at the wrong stop. I was waiting for him to pick me up for over an hr and I was freaking out that I was blowing the biggest opportunity of my life. I kept trying to call him to find out what was going on but I couldn't get through b/c he only had a Chinese number. I was ready to cry right there and give up when finally this woman came frantically up to me "Jessica?" she asked..."Yes!!" I was his mother they had somehow figured out that I went to the wrong stop and she found me! YEAH! I felt soo bad though b/c I'm super anal about punctuality and all of that I even spoke to him about this in our first meeting...thankfully he didn't hold it against me lol!
Here's a couple of pics that were featured in that editorial (it was an X-mas shoot). The model's name is Justin:

So now on to the second shoot! The big shoot! I mean a male model is nothing but the next one was a female makeup and hair concept! So this shoot was on a Sunday and I almost royally screwed up this one too! Again I had to take the GO train out to Whitby but I almost did not make that train! I forgot on Sundays the subway doesn't start until 9 am in Toronto and I literally almost missed that train...OMG my heart actually starts racing when I think about it! The train was set to leave at 9 am I got to the station and bought my ticket at 8:57 I then had to run through the station and up about 4 flights of stairs to get to the train...did I mention I had my kit w/ me of course! Now this is why I am so glad I've always been one to condense my kit and never believed in those kits on wheels. Relying on the metro and living in a city w/ a lot of snow in the Winter a kit w/ wheels just doesn't make sense so I've always had something I can throw over my shoulder and run w/. And man did I run....OMG I ran up 4 flights of stairs and I literally was ready to throw my body through the doors if the train was closing I didn't care what kind of bruises I would have gotten! I mean can you imagine after the other mishap saying to the photographer umm I missed my train you have to come get me in Toronto the next train isn't for an hr! I got on that train w/ 1 min to spare. I sat there shaking and hyperventiallating for at least 10 mins once the train got moving.

Once on set everything was great that day! The only real issue was the model - Victoria (Elmer Olsen) was brand new...she was 15. Like other than a test shoot this was her first real shoot...damn what a way to start an 8 pg editorial in an international mag! Of course her posing was stiff but Todd made it work for the story. We were shooting at this awesome location. It was this stone, gravel and sand work yard and Todd shot two stories 1. featuring the stone, sand and gravel and 2. featuring the trucks and metal. I personally liked the stone and gravel story better in the end but all the mags went for the truck story (China doesn't really have big trucks so I guess it was different for them). Here's a few pics from the shoot that day. I'm including one pic from the unused stone story and a couple that were actually printed w/ the trucks:

I still love this pic! From the unused story! She's 15!!

These pics were actually featured in the mags!

Okay so that explains how I met Todd Anthony Tyler and our first couple of shoots together. During the shoots he said something to me about all the opportunities in Shanghai and how I should think about going out there to work or something. I'm sure he was probably just saying it casually like when someone says yeah come to my cottage this Summer...I mean no one actually goes to the cottage lol. Well I didn't care whether he meant the invitation or not I was going to take him up on it. So before even the second shoot ended I said I'm going to come to Shanghai at some point! I'm sure he didn't think I was serious but he was like yeah that would be cool. It's so funny b/c to me it seemed like a no brainer to take this opportunity but after talking to a lot of ppl it seems I'm actually a bit crazy b/c most ppl I talked to said they don't think they would have done it but I looked at it like I'd be CRAZY to NOT do it! But I guess that's what truly separates ppl - some are willing to risk everything to go after what they want and some like to play it safe.

Anyway, over the next few mths we kept in contact and emailed each other every couple of wks. Then I started to seriously talk to him about the prospect of me going out to Shanghai. He was totally up for it and was willing to help me out a lot. I decided that I would go in the Summer and check things out. Unfortunately, this past Summer was probably one of the worst times as a foreigner to try and come to China...umm the Olympics anyone!?! Yes they were in Beijing but getting a visa was an ordeal in itself. So before I left for Shanghai Todd came back to Toronto and we did three more editorials together while he was in town and then I left for Shanghai w/ him! So during my two mths in Shanghai I tried to do as much as I could as far as networking, meeting other photographers, mag editors, ppl in the business etc. Right away I knew this was a much better market for a newer MUA like myself. To be honest it was not that profitable for me in the Summer b/c everyone was preoccupied w/ the Olympics so there just wasn't as many shoots as usual which sucked but I could see there was potential and I liked the city enough that I decided I wanted to come back and give it a real try a few mths later.

When I got back to Toronto I made it my mission to build my book as much as I could during the next few mths before I went back to Shanghai. Plus w/ the few editorials I had in my book and working in Shanghai for the past few mths I seemed a lot more exciting and enticing to a lot of good photographers in Toronto. It's amazing how cool you sound when ppl ask so what have you been up to and you can say "well I just spent the past few mths living/working in Shanghai" lol. I mean isn't that the way in Canada ppl only care about you once you've gone somewhere else and done something lol! So it was during this time that I met photographer Troy Moth and as many of you know some of my fav. work has been created w/ him. It's literally been like the last 6 mths that my book has just gone threw an amazing growth and change and I've really started to come into my own.

So come Nov. I decided to head on back to Shanghai where I've now been these past 2 mths. It hasn't all been easy as many of you know from reading this blog. I've been pretty broke and I've been working hard but I feel it's all starting to come together now. It's important to remember that it takes time even when you have a great connection like Todd. I'm really optimistic about this yr. and I'm excited to see where this crazy adventure will take me! I mean if someone had ever said to me 2 yrs ago you'll be living/working in Shanghai I would have laughed at them! So yeah basically that's my story...I know it's long sorry lol. But hopefully some of you will find it inspirational or something and I figure if nothing else I can be the Urban Legend of the Makeup Artist who got her big break through a Craigslist Ad lol!


Askmewhats said...

Very inspiring!!! I enjoyed reading and it's not boring at all!!! You inspired everyone for sure, even me!!!

Siân Lidgate said...

Jess this is such a great story - i had no idea you were so relatively new to this!

I just finished school in May 2008, so it's really inspiring to see how far you've gotten in such a short time.

Makes a nice change from the usual "there's no work for new makeup artists anywhere" comments that fly around.

I think if you are good at what you do, you're determined and willing to take risks to do well - then you can do well... you are proof of that, and you're only just beginning!


Amy V. said...

jessica, loved the story and thank you for posting your "begining" photos. shows that with much practice and alot of passion you can work towards becoming something great.

what the pros do... said...

Hey Jessica Thanks for sharring it was such an interesting read and not boring at all! :D