A lifelong artist, Michael Fels, turned his interest from drawing and painting faces to actually painting on faces in 2014 when he attended the John Casablancas Institute. Now, Michael loves to connect with each client so they can leave the chair feeling confident and fabulous. Today, we have interviewed Michael to learn his journey, what got him to JCI and his exciting upcoming events!
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Prince George to an immigrant family from Austria. We moved to Vernon when I was 7 and I grew up there, until moving to Vancouver in 2009 because I felt the pull of the big, shiny city. After 10 years here I am ready to try something new and am moving to Toronto in the spring!
What inspired you to pursue a career in the makeup industry? Was it something you always wanted to do?
I grew up drawing and painting, so I’ve always been creative. After high school, I tried a Fine Arts program at UBC Okanagan and then did a 3D Animation Program in Kelowna, before landing a job in the office of an online vitamin shop where I did sales, customer service, and marketing. After several years I left and became a server while returning to art in my spare time. I saw some friends doing bodypainting which I thought was the coolest thing EVER! That led me to JCI where I took the Makeup Artistry Program. My love of drawing and painting faces led me to a career where I get to draw and paint ON faces!
I learned so much at JCI! I did not know ANYTHING about makeup, and I had no idea what area of makeup I wanted to work in. I chose JCI because they had the broadest program that I felt would give me a great base of knowledge in both beauty makeup and special fx, compared to other local makeup programs that seemed to focus more on one side or the other. What every instructor said, which I didn’t understand at the time, is that makeup school is not going to makeup you perfect – it only step 1 of the learning process. Good schooling gives you a solid base from which to can learn even deeper from experience in the real world. Doing makeup 5 times in school isn’t the same as doing it 100 times or 200 times or 500 times on set. The learning never stops and I am thankful for that base that JCI gave me.
What did you do after graduating?
What didn’t I do? Haha! I graduated in the fall of 2015 and my first step after school was landing a job at the MAC counter at Nordstrom, which I started literally the day after graduation. I also did creative shoots, painted my own face A LOT (check them out @mikeymakey87), worked on music videos, short films, commercials, fashion shows, weddings, and clients. I returned to retail for a while, working as a brand rep for Anastasia Beverly Hills in Sephora locations. Eventually, I joined some hair and makeup teams and started working more in special events and bridal where I also learned hairstyling.
What is some advice you would give yourself when you were a student?
Stay open to coaching and feedback. As an artist, I found it so hard at first to receive feedback or make changes to my “masterpiece”. Throw that thinking out the window – the sooner you can let go and accept constructive feedback the sooner you will improve! People don’t like working with someone who can’t take direction and WILL NOT HIRE YOU. Be EASY to work with – be early, be cheerful, be willing.
Start working right now! You don’t need to wait until you graduate. Once you have completed your beauty module you can already start working at a counter and learning. Once you have completed your Bridal Module then reach out to bridal hair and makeup teams and try to get work through them to get you started. Practice on friends and take good photos in good lighting with the best camera that is available to you. Photos of clean, basic beauty makeup will help you get jobs for more than all of the fun creative stuff you think is so cool right now.
Try out different areas of the industry so you know what you do and don’t like. Knowing what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you won’t want. You might be surprised to find that you love working in a special fx shop, or that the in-person interaction of retail cosmetics feels rewarding to you.
Reach out to other artists, especially those who are where you want to be and ask them how they did it. Take them out for coffee or lunch. People love sharing their story and their advice! And one day, return the favor to newer artists.
Learn how to style hair right now! Being able to do both (if you want to work in special events and bridal) will make you SO much more employable.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I never know where I will be, who I will be working on or what they will want from me. It is always a new adventure and keeps things so fresh and interesting! I also love how many areas of hair and makeup exist – the options for what you can do in these industries is truly endless. My day-to-day favorite part is connecting with clients and learning their stories– every person has life lessons they want to share. I have had the opportunities to see inside the lives of so many people and understand that even with how different we are all we truly are all the same. Don’t just put makeup o