Thursday, April 28, 2011


zang toi photoshoot makeup by me

When I first started in fashion I would send out my photos to anyone and everyone who I thought would be kind enough to impart some of their wisdom upon me.  In a 6 month period I’d send out over 1000 emails with my precious photos attached hoping for some guidance.  Out of over 1000 emails I received about .2% return on my investment of time. I even got a response from Michael Jackson makeup artist—(rest in peace Michael).  Most of them saying—good work just keep doing what you’re doing.  HUH?—keep doing what I’m doing— hhhmmmm I’m perplexed--I don’t have a clue what I am doing I'm a newbie. At least I know I’m doing something right—right?

Until one day I actually got a meeting with a photographer I admired.  I met him at a restaurant down in Battery Park City—I was working a regular job at the time I was in transition from film to fashion.  I proudly presented pics I had-(not in a portfolio either).  I was so thrilled to have someone there to finally talk to about my new venture.  I started out with a few pics of the only produced photo shoot I had done at the time. --- Wooooo I was nervous people.   He looked at my favorite one—and said point-blank.  “I don’t like that” I was shocked—crushed and embarrassed.  What? How could he not like it? It was my crowning glory—a beauty shot to rival all beauty shots.  OMG I can’t do makeup—I must suck—I thought to myself.  I was ready to turn tail and run.  BUT then something said—go on DeShawn get bold—ask him why.  So I did, all the time waiting for the fatal blow of—“your makeup really sucks.”  His reply was—I don’t like the fact I can see up her nose.  HUH? What? —You don’t like the shot because of the angle?  BUT I’m here for a review of makeup? My actual reply was –Ohhhhhh? He said -- I can see you’re makeup is great but man I hate those up the nose shots. It stopped him cold.  He gave me some pointers on what I can do on my next few shoots, and when I had those done—give him a call.  Now that was something I could totally understand. Though I appreciated the encouraging words from previous artists, he gave me somethings to work on (like attention to backgrounds, model positions, stray hairs, retouching and yes the up-your-nose angle)– Thats what I call my homework. I love homework.  Had I not asked him why I would have perhaps left the business—and second-guessed my whole career change.

One day while assisting Sharon Gualt on all things a David LaChapelle shoot, really not too far after my meeting with the photographer previously mentioned—yes another long story J.  It was lunchtime and I found myself a seat away from David—shine the light on me.  I was eavesdropping, David was going on and on about certain magazines that were left on the table.  He’d flip through them and then commented on them being SH…--well let’s just say he didn’t like them.  Earlier I had looked through those same magazines dreaming of the day I would be in there and thinking everything was just fabulous.  So I couldn’t understand what was so wrong.

Me being a total newbie (I was less then 5 months in fashion) I dared ask a question to him (not something I’d recommend).  He replied rather sternly—as he picked up one of the magazines and said to me— LOOK, that lighting is horrible, he flipped a few pages, LOOK at this model she has no real expression, and on and on. YOU’VE GOT TO LEARN WHAT IS A GOOD PHOTO!  He then slammed the magazines down and in only a DLC way he left the table without a word. I almost peed in my pants-LOL.   In that 2 minute conversation and a rare DLC act of kindness to a newbie (well sort of), as well as the brutally honest photographer before him— I received some of the most valuable lessons I ever have in this business.

Those life’s lessons I never ever forgot and I keep with me everyday.  I am so grateful to have them.  I share them with you: 
  1. It’s not all about your makeup
  2. You must pay attention to every detail in the photo
  3. You must pay attention to every detail in your photo shoots
  4. You must surround yourself with the most excellent team you can
  5. You must learn as much as you can about other details other then makeup
  6.  Remember when seeking advice the critics are drawn to what it is they do first—and then look at the peripherals later i.e. makeup artists always look at makeup first etc.
  7. Never take anything personally
  8. Don’t be afraid to ask a question—well unless its to David LaChapelle
I continue to do my homework—study greats, arts, photography makeup etc.  I’m sure some of you are wondering if I ever shot with that photographer—the answer is no.  BUT years later I got a call while on set working on a fashion editorial for Ocean Drive magazine.  It was the photographer who didn’t like my up-your-nose shot—asking me if I was available for a shoot with him.  I wasn’t I was booked--BUT I thanked him for being so honest with me that day.  I told him I never forgot him and was grateful for everything.
Ahhhh a life lesson—don’t you love them?


  1. Attention to detail is not a game...great share! Thank You.

  2. WOW...Thanks D for sharing this. I've always found myself being drawn to "the small things" in life period but this has given me a new outlook about my craft.

  3. WOW! You solidified this entire story with THANKING the person who gave you your first real taste of honest feedback! You didn't dwell on the fact he didn't like the photo but saw the bigger picture! That's immense and look at your progress! Loved the story and I too have learned the lesson.

  4. love it! love it! love it!!! i absolutely hate nose shots too! esp when ppl in the blogosphere are taking lip swatch shots, hahaha! yes a photog i work with, we compare notes about what i like and what he likes... the model may have posed well which gave him a good photo, but a certain angle didn't capture the makeup.. yes i love the stories from you! thanks for sharing!

  5. Deshawn this was a great post. It reminded me of the things you said when you came to DC nearly 4 years ago when I just started in makeup.

  6. This was an absolutely amazing post. I am reading through your blog and really enjoying it. Thank you for sharing


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