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Episode 5 · 58 minutes
Sarah Laidlaw (Award Winning Make-Up Artist and Entrepreneur)
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In this episode, Sarah Laidlaw shares her unexpected journey from aspiring barrister to renowned makeup artist and hairstylist. Initially set on a legal career, a work experience stint in a law firm made her realise it wasn’t for her. This led her to explore more creative paths, and she eventually landed in the beauty industry.

On the podcast, Sarah emphasises the importance of staying open to new opportunities, learning from experiences, and the power of preparation and adaptability in creative work. She discusses overcoming setbacks and the value of feedback, highlighting the significance of authenticity in building a personal brand. This episode is a blend of personal anecdotes, career advice, and insights into the creative process, offering inspiration and practical tips for navigating your own path with resilience and authenticity.

Key Takeaways 

  • Stay Open to New Paths: Sarah didn’t start off aiming to be a makeup artist and hairstylist. If your career feels like it's at a crossroads, consider exploring different career paths. Sometimes the best opportunities are the ones you least expect.

  • Be Curious & Keep Learning: Sarah's shift from hairstyling to makeup artistry came from being curious and learning on the job. Dive into learning opportunities in your field, even if they're outside your current skill set. Who knows what new passion or career path you might discover?

  • Mix It Up: Doing a variety of work kept Sarah inspired and avoided burnout. Try to work on different types of projects. It can keep your creativity fresh and may even open up new avenues in your career.

  • Prep and Adapt: Before starting a project, gather all the inspiration and tools you might need, but be ready to change your plans based on how things are going.

  • Feedback Is Gold: Not everything will go as planned, and that's okay. Use setbacks and feedback as tools for growth. Learning from what didn’t work is just as important as celebrating what did.

  • Be Authentically You: Sarah’s personal brand grew naturally from being herself. Let your personal and professional brand reflect who you are. Authenticity resonates more with people than trying to fit a certain image.

  • Positive Focus: Keeping a positive outlook helped Sarah navigate the ups and downs of her career. Try to focus on the positives in your work and life; it can help you deal with challenges more effectively.

Who is Sarah Laidlaw? 

Sarah Laidlaw is a celebrated beauty expert with 30 years in the industry. She has earned numerous awards, including Australia’s Session Stylist of the Year six times and Australian Makeup Artist of the Year three times. Sarah’s influence extends beyond the stylist’s chair into education, with 25 years dedicated to teaching and mentoring. Her portfolio features work in top magazines like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, collaborations with renowned photographers, and styling for high-profile celebrities and advertising campaigns. Sarah also serves as a beauty mentor for Online Courses Australia, guiding the next generation of talent in the beauty industry.

Links & Social Media

Tap Into Your Entrepreneurial Potential with Online Courses Australia

Dreaming of a thriving career in the beauty world? Take the first step towards making that dream a reality with OCA's comprehensive online beauty courses. Under the mentorship of acclaimed beauty expert Sarah Laidlaw and a team of leading industry professionals, you'll gain unparalleled insights and skills that set the foundation for a successful career in beauty.

Our courses are designed not just to teach you the basics but to immerse you in the world of beauty through the eyes of those who have shaped it. With Sarah and our expert team guiding you, you'll explore the latest techniques, trends, and insider knowledge crucial for standing out in the beauty industry.

Whether you're aiming for the runways, the glossy pages of fashion magazines, or the dynamic world of film and TV, our courses are your gateway. Don't just dream about a career in beauty—make it your reality. Join us at OCA, where your passion meets our expertise. 

Listen on:

[00:00:02.300] - Speaker 2

Welcome to this episode of Brilliant Brains and Beautiful Minds. I'm Melanie Bernicke. Today, we'll be chatting with an award-winning artist whose work has graced the cover of many magazines. We'll chat about her career path till now, delve into her creative process, and share with you the conscious mindset that she chooses to live life by. Please welcome the uber talented, Sarah Laidlaw. Well, welcome, Sarah Laedlaw. Thank you.

[00:00:33.110] - Speaker 1

Thanks for having me. It's very exciting.

[00:00:35.620] - Speaker 2

It sure is. I'm very grateful to have your wonderful creative brain join us today.

[00:00:41.000] - Speaker 1

Saying that, it always sounds like, oh my God, no pressure. No, creative is a big word, really, isn't it?

[00:00:48.310] - Speaker 2

Most definitely. I think you'll be our first creative going live on our show. So this is exciting for me because I do love the way your mind works, having worked for you on Teams and So it's a fun process to watch. So it'd be nice to hear you explain it to everybody.

[00:01:05.160] - Speaker 1

Okay, great.

[00:01:06.980] - Speaker 2

Yeah. Well, before we go into the full creative process, where did you see yourself when you were young? Did you see yourself as a makeup artist and hairstyler?

[00:01:17.140] - Speaker 1

Absolutely not. No way. Look, I know this sounds really bad, but I was a private school girl. And so the idea of being a hairdresser was like, oh, no. I don't know. It would never have occurred to me. I wanted to be a barrister.

[00:01:36.480] - Speaker 2

What? I've missed that part.

[00:01:40.550] - Speaker 1

Did you not know that? No. It's pretty funny. I think it started from my grandfather saying, you should be a barrister because you win every case because you don't shut up. You just keep talking. And I was like, that'd be fun. And I think then once I knew more about it, I was like, oh, yeah, that's going to be amazing. And I'm going to be a barrister. And I held on to that for a really long time, probably until about grade 11 or 12. And I did work experience in a law firm. And I hated it And I went, oh, my God, this is so dry, and these people are so painfully conservative. And I don't know. I don't know that I was very super self-aware or anything at that age, but I did know that I just went, ill. And I just thought, oh, no, no, no, no, And then my mind went to architecture. Yeah, I thought architecture would be a great idea. And along the way somewhere, I thought I would love to be a sound engineer. So I looked into architecture and sound engineering, but I think sound engineering didn't really go down the rabbit hole of that too much.

[00:03:03.660] - Speaker 1

So architecture was my plan. And then at the end of grade 12, doing the big exams, and I was meant to be studying and I was procrastinating like a true creative person. And I started reading newspaper, which I never read. And I read jobs, I read boats for sale, I read sport, I read like anything that would waste time, honestly, and none of it that I was interested in. And in jobs was hairdressing. And I just, I don't know, my school had done a lot of work experience. They sent us on a lot of work experience. And they would do things like they would get the grade 12 girls to give you a job, and you had to do your resume and dress appropriately for that job and come and be interviewed by them. And they would tell you whether you got the job or not. So they trained us in interview techniques. They trained us in go out, see what it's actually like So that was how my brain really worked from a very young age. So I saw a hairdressing and I thought, that'd be hilarious. Did not think seriously about it. Honestly, that was as far as my brain went.

[00:04:14.630] - Speaker 1

So I grew up in Brisbane. And so I looked in the yellow pages at the time, and I was finding all the best salons. And my mum had always gone to amazing salons when I was a kid. Well, all through. And so I'd go and sit with her while she got her hair done in these incredible big city salons. And I remember seeing my first punk in about Grade 3 in a salon. I was sitting there waiting for mum in the waiting area, and this punk girl walked out with green spikes in her hair. And I was like, oh, wow, she's so cool. And I don't know, I think... And in grade 12, I had a boyfriend who was a hair model. So I'd go and sit in salons with him while he got crazy stuff done to his head. So it always I've had that, oh, this is really fun. Never considered it as a job. So I went down the rabbit hole of, hi, I've always really wanted to do this. I've like, interview technique. And the first salon I called, who will remain nameless, said, I'm sorry, we'll have to see what you look like first.

[00:05:23.890] - Speaker 1

And I was like, I'm sorry. Even at that age, I was like, that's disgusting. That has That has nothing to do with anything. And to you. It's hideous. Hedeous. And then the second salon I went to, it was this smaller salon, which was awesome. And he was amazing. But I had my little school girl resume of dance certificates and the Esso Science Competition and the Westpac Maths Competition.

[00:05:52.870] - Speaker 2

I remember the Westpac Maths Competition.

[00:05:54.930] - Speaker 1

Remember it? Oh, my God. Okay, so I've got a little sideline. They put me in the best maths class to try and influence me to do some work because I was really naughty. And well, not naughty, I just didn't do the work, to be honest. And we got back this exam And the girl next to me burst into tears. And I was like, are you all right? What's wrong? And she went, I only got 96 %. And I just started giggling. I just got the giggles. I could not stop laughing. And she And I went, what did you get? And I went, seven. And she went, 97 %. I went, no, seven %. And I lost it. I was laughing so hard. My teacher was just looking at me because I was a bit of the class clown, really. Anyway, the next day, we got back the Westpac Maths Competition, which for those who don't know about it, it was like, I don't know if it's still running. I think it might be. But it was a national maths competition that everyone had to do. It was almost like an exam, but it was a competition.

[00:07:00.520] - Speaker 1

And we got back to the Westpac Maths Competition the next day, and I was in the top one % of the country. I was like, oh, shit, sorry. And my teacher was like, I'm going to stab you.

[00:07:14.360] - Speaker 2

So If you really try and stop talking.

[00:07:18.070] - Speaker 1

Anyway, so look, my little interview at this salon, he was like, oh, my God, at all these certificates going, you get really bored here. I know you're It's really smart to be a hairdresser. You can't do it. And I don't have any space for you anyway. Come and talk to me next year if you still want to do it. And I was like, oh, okay. And off I went. And then I went for an interview at Tognini's hair workshop. So Benny Tognini, one of the best hairdressers on the planet, literally. And he received an award called World Master of the Craft, where they gave it to 10 hairdresses in the world. And there was Vidal Sasun and Anthony Mascalo from Tony and Guy, and Betty was one So that happened when I was in about third year. So I didn't know about that when I went to see him. So anyway, went in for my interview in my school uniform.

[00:08:08.450] - Speaker 2

I love it.

[00:08:09.340] - Speaker 1

And I've always wanted to do this. I've always wanted to be in a creative industry. All of the interview techniques came out, and they went great. Come and do a week of work experience. I was like, okay. And I did. And in that week, I was assisting Benny making avant-garde wigs out of metal shavings, and my little brain just went, whoa. What? This is freaking cool. And I ran around the whole week going, Can you cut my hair off? Can you cut my hair off? Can you cut my hair off? Because of course, it was 1990. And short hair was the thing. And so by the end of the week, I had short hair.

[00:08:46.460] - Speaker 2

I love it.

[00:08:49.050] - Speaker 1

And then, yeah, at the end of the Saturday trading, which was the end of the week, then he said, Come in and talk to me on Monday. And I was like, okay. And I just did not even think what that would be about. I just didn't care because I was just like, oh, whatever, doing work experience, don't care. I'm going to be an architect. And then I went in and he went, okay, you start now. And I was like, start what? He was like, your apprenticeship? And I was like, no, I'm going to go to Uni. And he was like, what are you doing here? And I was like, work experience? And he's like, no, you're here because I need an apprentice. And I was like, oh, And he's like, look, it's the beginning of December. We're about to go into the busiest time. You're a hard worker. We need someone. Uni doesn't come out until what, February? So why don't you have a Christmas job Why don't you just work over Christmas and make money? And I was like, yeah, hell, yeah. And he said, so great. And I went, okay. And so I started working full-time.

[00:09:55.030] - Speaker 1

And he said, look, it'll be a three-month probation anyway. We'd see if we like you, you see if you So whatever. And I was like, Whatever. Anyway, the next year, Uni came out, and I got in and I went, What do I do? And I went to one of my seniors, Bill Signaris, and I went, What should I do? And he went, Are you having fun here? And I went, yeah. And he went, De Fou, go next year. And I went, yeah. And I just never went. Just never went. And so there was no plan. There was absolutely no desire to do it. There was no... I just fell down the rabbit hole and followed my nose. And then that- I had some work experience in a salon that just did normal haircuts and colours. There is no way I would have continued. It takes you, what, probably till you're 60 to be able to do anything incredible as an architect, if you ever get there. Most people will... I would have ended up designing toilet blocks for Westfield and would have just wanted to cut my hair.

[00:10:53.770] - Speaker 2

That would be very pretty, Sarah.

[00:10:56.110] - Speaker 1

And so whereas with hair and makeup, I'm I get to create something from start to finish in a single day. And I have all these really big creative highs constantly, like pew, pew, pew, pew, pew That's my interpretation of it, not that I really know. But looking from the outside, I think, oh, God, it takes such a long time. There's so many rules, and there's so many people in the way, and there's so many people you have to rely on to do their bit well. At least in this part of creativity. I get to just control most of it and then hope that the model is good and hope that the photographer is great and go, yay.

[00:11:41.430] - Speaker 2

Talking about that creative creative process because we're moving into this part of the journey. I'd love to know, for you, do you need to tick those boxes daily? Because for me, I know with achieving something, I need to feel like I'm winning or achieving in my own mind regularly to keep me going. Is that something because you get to do that regularly? Is that the way you would... How would you see yourself on that level?

[00:12:09.610] - Speaker 1

Not daily, but it is a drug. You do really notice it when it's not there. So people say to me, what would you rather do? Would you rather do fashion or bridal or film or whatever, hair and makeup-wise? And I'm like, a bit of everything. Because if I had to come up with big ideas for fashion stuff every day, I would be mentally and emotionally exhausted. If I had to support a bride in getting her to that space with all of her own weirdness about how she looks because everyone has that. If I had to do that every day, I'd be exhausted, but I love doing it. It's the most beautiful thing to do, but not every day. And TV commercials, if I had to get up at 4:00 AM and get out in the wind and the bloody rain and carry carry heavy shit and hike across fields and up mountains every day, I'd actually want to stab myself. So a little bit of everything works really well for me. So the creative thing, there'll be days on a TV commercial where it's not creative. It's like, make her look like a housewife. And you go, okay.

[00:13:18.000] - Speaker 1

But then I get this big, amazing high on a fashion shoot or a bride or someone when you're actually creating this moment. So you get the high. But like anything, if you get that high too much, it's too much.

[00:13:35.570] - Speaker 2

So how did you, from going from a salon, transition into adding makeup to your repertoire and then pushing that forward into a freelance career?

[00:13:45.940] - Speaker 1

It's funny. A lot of people ask, how can I do what you do? How did you do it? What's the formula? And I'm like, oh, my God, I had no formula, dude. For me, there was this, I don't know if you've seen it, but Tim Minchin did this address to a university who were...

[00:14:04.320] - Speaker 2

A few of it things. I don't think I've seen that one.

[00:14:06.260] - Speaker 1

Oh, my God. You have to look it up. It's so good. I can't remember. It's an Australian university because it's where he went. But it's their leaving speech. And he says he has all of these guides, number one, number two, number three. And one of them is, don't have a huge dream. He's like, sure, dreams are great because they send you off in a direction. But if you are too married to that dream, the magic is sometimes in the side road. The magic is sometimes in this shiny thing off to the side, he says. And if you're too focused on this far ahead goal, you miss this magic shiny thing off to the side. And so I didn't really ever have a goal. My goal was whatever I do, do it as well as I can, because my mum really was the person who said, I don't care what you do. If you want to be the rubbish collector, great. But you be the bloody best one. Whatever it is you're going to do, you do it incredibly well. If you're going to run a post office, you be the best freaking postmaster. But if you want to do something here or something here or in realms of what people term or judge to be difficult jobs or challenging jobs or whatever, it doesn't matter.

[00:15:30.360] - Speaker 1

You just be good at it. And so that was my goal. And it didn't really... I just... Once I started down the hairdressing route, I just went, let's see what happens. I didn't think too far ahead. So I got to the point where I was near the end of my apprenticeship, and I was really tired because I worked in a salon that was intense training. And if you didn't come in on your day off to do a model, then you weren't committed. And that was all spectacular and brilliant. And I'm so grateful for it. But I was tired. I was just over it. And I said, I want to work part-time. And they were like, no, we don't have part-time people. And I was like, okay, I'm out. And I really was very interested in fashion styling. And I'd been talking to this fashion photographer and said, I really want to be a stylist. And she went, oh, well, I was going to get someone up from Sydney to style for me. But if you want to do it, I'll teach you what to do. And I won't pay you till you know what you're doing.

[00:16:35.960] - Speaker 1

And I went, okay. So I worked for her for about six months without getting paid, probably four days a week. And two days a week, I was in the salon. So I went to another salon. I got two days a week. It was called Vogue National. And it was great. A few of the people I'd trained with had gone there. And it was just fun. So I still did my two days a week, had a bit of money coming in, and just I was doing creative fun stuff. So I started being a fashion stylist. But the funny thing was, Brisbane was about that big in the fashion industry at that stage. So everyone knew I was a hairdresser A qualified hairdresser from the best salon in the country. So the makeup artists weren't trained hairdresses who I worked with. They'd be like, oh, my God, I'm not doing hair in front of you. How embarrassing. You have to do it. And I'd be like, oh, okay. And so I do hair on the shoots and teach them as I was going. And I was like, no, see how you see this and you use that?

[00:17:38.120] - Speaker 1

And then I'd have to wait for them to do the makeup for me to be able to do anything else. So I just sit there and watch. And I'd I was like, I wasn't interested in being a makeup artist. I was interested in being a stylist. But I'd be like, oh, that product did something interesting. Shit. How did that work? Why does that work? What happened there? And I thought I I was more interested about learning for myself because I had terrible skin and I was really tall and skinny and gangly and right through. And so I always was like, what can I do to fix that? And so I was trying to learn from them. And so along the way, I learnt from probably about 20 different makeup artists. It really started back in Tognini's because Tracy Tognini was a makeup artist, and she'd do all the makeup for our shoots. And so on weekends, when we'd go and do these incredible hair collection shoots, she'd be doing the makeup. And I'd be like, how did that work? What happened? So she was the start of my makeup pinging my brain on it. And then while I was styling, I learnt from all those styles.

[00:18:46.800] - Speaker 1

And I just started going home. And I was living with two of my closest girlfriends. And I would just play hair and makeup on them. And one of them at the time worked at Westpack. And I would send her to work I get in the front counter of the bank with these big updos with flowers in them and winged lighter. And oh, my God, it was just brilliant. People must have thought she was mental. But we loved it. So she'd be in a waist bag uniform with this full floral updo and massive hot pink lips. And it really suited her though, so it was fine. But yeah, and then I started... I'd glam up my girlfriends and we'd do little photoshoots on my little snippy snap ticket and I'd have to get the film developed. And I had no idea what I was doing, of course. And I play with light. And I was only good at natural light because I could see it, physically see it. Never used flash or anything because I didn't know what it would do. And yeah, so I just was having fun. Honestly, there was no plan. I was having fun.

[00:19:50.420] - Speaker 1

And that's been the whole thing along the way, I think.

[00:19:54.910] - Speaker 2

So when your mum was telling you that you had to be the best at whatever you chose to do, can we just talk about that for a second? Because I think you've won every award known to man or woman in the hairdressing world and the makeup world. Have you got a bit of a quick run through of even the last three years? Because I'm sure it goes on and we'll put a list up on the article about what All the amazing things you've won. But tell us a bit of a story about the awards, why you'd enter and what you've won.

[00:20:22.480] - Speaker 1

Well, it started at Tognini's. So the hairdressing industry in the upper echelons of really high-end good salons in the country. Everyone competes, and everyone enters hair expo. And at the time it was hair expo. Hair expo was the thing. And there was awards for everything from apprentice of the year, right through to Australian Headdress of the year, avant-garde headdress of the Year, Avantgarde Headdress of the Year, Colourist of the Year, and the State Headdresses. And everyone I worked with was entering them. And at an awards night, Benny would win Australian Headdress of the Year and Avantgarde Headdress of the Year. And then someone And someone else would win Queensland Headdress of the Year, and someone would win Colourist of the Year. And I got in the final of Apprentice of the Year. But it really started when I'd been headdressing for six months. So it was like, I started in December. Yeah, I know. Crazy. This is what wet my appetite. Benny was like, okay, you have to enter the IHS Awards, which was, I can't even remember. International Hairdressing Society, I think it stands for. And they were the little awards that you'd go to in a nightclub.

[00:21:34.100] - Speaker 1

They'd be held in a nightclub. And there'd be all of these benches set up, and you'd have a mirror and you'd have... And you'd literally do hair on stage, competing with people in whatever section you were in. And you won this little wooden award. But it was what everyone... Not everyone did, but what most of the high-end salons would do. So he went, you have to compete. And I was like, I don't even know what to I don't know how to do anything.

[00:22:02.160] - Speaker 2

I'm going back to you, nick.

[00:22:03.690] - Speaker 1

He went, no, there's an award for first year hairdressers. The first year hairdresser blow dry award. All you have to do is blow dry hair on stage. He said, I'll cut it. I'll teach you how to blow dry, but you have to blow dry it on stage. I went, oh, okay. And so my job was to find a model. Oh, my God. Can I tell you, when you're street-casting for a model, it is everyone looks ugly, right? You're like, nah, nah, nah, nah. And it took me forever. It was the week before the competition, and Benny was like, what's going on? You will be entering this award, so I would find a model. And so funny enough, I ended up finding the most stunning girl who immediately became my best friend, and we have been friends for 29 years now. She's heaven. But I saw her across a crowd. I was working on the weekends at the markets, because, of course, apprentice hairdress, I made $2.03. And so I was working at these markets selling jewellery for someone. And I saw her and I was like, oh. And she had this brown bob and a straw hat.

[00:23:12.500] - Speaker 1

And I was in like, black with cropped hair. And scared the shit out of it when I tapped her on the shoulder. I was like, Excuse me. Oh, my God. I need a bottle and you're really beautiful. And she was like, I don't want to cut my hair off. And I was like, okay, come in and talk to me anyway. So she came into the salon and, of course, Benny, he was like, so charming. And next thing, her hair was chopped off. And she was just stunning. And so I coloured it with overseeing from the senior colorist. But I was like, I want it to look like this and I want it to be like that. And so I chose the colours and they were like, yes, but mix it like this. And I coloured it. And so I entered the apprentice blow dry, first year apprentice blow dry, and I entered the colour. But the colour was open, which meant anyone who was hairdressing for 30 years, right down to three minutes, could enter it. But Benny was like, just enter it. It's just this is all about experience and putting your work out there.

[00:24:16.760] - Speaker 1

And it makes you better because you see what other people are doing. You go, oh, I'm behind. Oh, oh, yeah. And so he was back at the salon making an avant-garde wig and couldn't come to the competition. But someone else, I can't remember who was there. Anyway. Did my blow dry on stage, was terrified. Put her up there and you had to dress them in hair and makeup. And it was the full thing. Anyway, I won. I came first in my first year blow dry. And I was like, oh, my God, this is amazing. But then, I think it was because she was so beautiful and her haircut was pretty beautiful. Benny, of course. But I came first in the open colour I mean all these senior hairdresses in colour. But that meant I got this award, one of those old school trophies with all of the things and the like. And it got columns on it. I won the overall trophy because my overall points meant I won the whole day. That's a classic. And so I went back to the salon straight after it. And I walked in with these three massive trophies.

[00:25:26.780] - Speaker 1

And he just went, oh, my God. I was like, that was really fun. That's what wet my appetite. And then I entered a photographic collection for apprentice of the year, and I didn't get in. I entered the next year when I was in my fourth year, and I got into the final. I didn't win it, but it was such a buzz. And it was at the sell, and it was always, if you get in the final, you've won, because the industry is starting to understand that you're there. They're getting to know your name, and you're putting your work out there, and that's a win. And I was like, okay, great. And then that year, in my fourth year, I entered. There was this big hair expo competition, which was called Apprentice Champion of Champions. So you had to have won a lot of competitions, like local state ones, like the IHS ones. And you got invited to enter this apprentice award. And it was one of the on stage. You had to do two things. So one was a haircut, and one was called Open Look Street And so you could do whatever you wanted.

[00:26:32.860] - Speaker 1

But it was judged on the hair that you did, which was done on stage in real time, plus the way that you presented your model with makeup and hair, the entire look. And I ended up winning that. And so I got to get up on stage at Hair Expo and get this trophy at the same time in the same awards timing that someone was getting Australian Headrest of the Year. And I was like, oh, my God, this is amazing. And then I went, okay, I'm over it. And Betty was like, You are not leaving. And I was like, Yeah, I'm tired. So that started it. And then I went into the fashion styling, and then I did that for four years and got sick of it. Then I went, Oh, maybe I'll go back to basics, which was turning up with a hair and makeup kit. Because styling is such a torture, honestly. A full day or week of prepping, one day of shooting, and then two days of returning stuff. I was like, I'm doing a week and a half's work for one day's work. Yeah. No, too hard. I'm over it. I want to go back to easy stuff, like turning up with a hair and makeup kit, and I can do whatever it is out of that box, right?

[00:27:45.750] - Speaker 1

That's how the award thing happened. Essentially, I moved to Sydney and started working in fashion. And at that time, it was, I think, 2010, 2009 or I ate, something like that. And the Hair Expo Awards had a Session Stylist Award. And that was new since I'd noticed. I didn't really know about it before then. And I went, oh, that's what I do. And just from all of those years of, you just put your work out there and da, da, da. So I entered. And yeah, I ended up winning it. And I was like, what? That was hilarious. Who knew? But the thing is, it was never about winning awards. It was about doing good. Oh, there's this great quote I love. So I'm all about quotes, right? Always quoting stuff to everybody and their dog, which probably drives them insane. But you know what? Quotes say it better than you can. And this quote says, The secret. Number one, do good work. Number two, put it where people can see it.

[00:28:56.590] - Speaker 2

Yeah. Yeah. Simple.

[00:28:59.500] - Speaker 1

Yeah So yeah, the awards thing is interesting. I learned a lot from my beautiful friend, Ray Morris. So she was given Australian Makeup House of the Year, a hundred years ago, before you had to enter it, when the industry decided who was winning it, blah, blah, blah. And she's won that three, four, five times, something, a lot. And it was interesting in the beginning because the industry The fashion industry don't care about awards. The fashion industry could not care less. The hairdressing industry care, fashion industry don't give a shit. And so she had all these awards, but it didn't really mean anything. But then she brought out a book. And when she brought out her book, she had all of this kudos behind her. And the average person who might buy it for their mum for Mother's Day or buy it for their daughter to learn how to do makeup or buy it for themselves went, oh, my God, you're a big And it actually gave people outside the industry a taste of an understanding of what work she did. She wasn't working in a shopping centre in Coonabarra, doing school formals. She was at the top of her field in Australia.

[00:30:21.540] - Speaker 1

But no one would know that unless she had something like that behind her, because you can't stand there and go, oh, no, I do really nice stuff I think it's pretty good. But when you can say, oh, there's this award and this award and this award, people go, I'm going to pay attention. And so I think Tognini's plus watching So Ray, with all of her awards and what it meant when she actually was doing other things, that really just kept me going, well, there's something about putting your work out there for other people to judge. I think, tell me if you hate it. Tell me if it's shit. Because that's a great learning experience. I'd rather know than people go, meh, meh, meh, meh, meh, they're not very good at their job. I'd rather put it out there and people go, nah. And I'd be like, oh, I need to get better. There are 75 ways to skin a cat. You doing a winged eyeliner I can guarantee if you put 10...

[00:31:33.690] - Speaker 2

I've got one on today.

[00:31:35.590] - Speaker 1

I love it. I can guarantee if you put 10 high-end artists, lined them up and got them all to do winged liner, they would all do it differently. So it's not that you're necessarily just getting better, but learning different ways, different techniques, different products, stuff that you're not exposed to because you are working on your own. And that's the exciting thing for me. It's not necessarily holding yourself up against someone and going, oh, my God, they're better than me, but more, oh, I like their technique better than mine. How can I? Yeah. And so learning from all those 20 makeup artists back then meant that I had a really wide range of people's tools and techniques to choose from. And you pick and choose the things that you like. Yeah.

[00:32:20.000] - Speaker 2

Yeah, it's exciting. So can we talk through your creative process? By the sounds of it, there may not be. You've always just I've seen something and made it happen by the sounds of with the career path. But so if you're given a creative brief and someone comes to you with a concept, can you talk us through your process of how you would work with that team or that person? And then when you're looking at the model, how does it get from in here to out here?

[00:32:53.160] - Speaker 1

Okay, so firstly, I have thousands of reference pictures on my laptop and my phone Thousands. I screenshot anything that I think, even if it's ugly. And I go, oh, my God, that's awful. I screenshot it because someday you're going to have to do something on purpose that's horrible. And you'll be like, oh, I need that picture to be able to explain it. So I have a thousand references. Firstly, I try never to copy anything. When I was very young, I recreated a shoot, and I thought it was just fantastic. I didn't know it was not okay to copy someone's work. I just was like, oh, my God, that's amazing. I'm going to do that. And someone went, I know where you got that from. And I was like, oh. And I was horrified. And luckily for me, that happened when I was very young. And so it didn't matter. But thank God, because now I'm like, nah, nah. Because if you have a photographer or someone who's going, oh, no, I like in this shot how her arm's like that. And you go, nobody has the same We've done the hair. We can't do anything else.

[00:34:03.660] - Speaker 1

Yeah. No, no, no, no, no, We go, okay, along those lines, let's collect all of the references that may say futuristic. And then they will have a specific idea and you go, great. But the thing that really changes everything for me as the model. So there's no point in getting fixated on this idea if it doesn't make the model look beautiful. So it's all about the face. So if they have a reference that has a white blonde girl for this futuristic thing, and they've got me someone with mousy brown hair, I'm like, well, it's not going to look the same. So we can't try and do something like that because it's not... No. So I try and have 75 ideas. So when something doesn't work, you have other things up your sleeve. So start with a general vibe. And what I'll do is I'll take, for a thing like that, I'll take everything that may pertain to it. Silver eye shadow, silver things that can stick on the face, silver glitter, like golds, metallics, high shine things, anything that could be considered futuristic, I'll take all of it, even if I think I would never use it.

[00:35:29.860] - Speaker 1

I'm I take hair pieces. I go, what's the model's hair colour? I take every hairpiece and wig I've got that matches her hair colour. And then I take everything that could be a wig on her and change her look so that I've got options to go, I need to build a shape with her hair versus I need to change her. I'll take like, bleach and colour to change your eyebrow colour because you go, okay, if I have everything, I'm going to get the best outcome. So then when I'm in front of the model, often we'll have a meeting and I'll go, right, this is the references and this is what I've got. And then you look at what the stylist has brought. Because that is totally limiting as well. Because if everything the stylist brought is shiny silver, she's going to look like an idiot with shiny silver all over her head, right? She's going to look like a costume. And so you go, oh, well, my idea is not going to work now. And if you only had one idea, you're screwed. Yeah Because then you get weird and defensive and like, no, well, but I want to...

[00:36:35.590] - Speaker 1

No. So if you have 75 ideas, you can go, oh, okay, so we're going silver in the... Yeah. Okay, and then you go all clear, shiny, and it becomes really modern and minimal. So your idea becomes this big, but in the image, it's perfect. But if your idea was this big with all of this metal stuck to her face and shiny chrome And the outfit's crazy. You just can't... It's got to be about the balance. So my creative process is have a lot of options of ideas, have a lot of options of products and things you can use. And then as it gets closer towards the moment, you start taking things away, discarding ideas, discarding products, discarding things, and going, at the end of the day, what's going to make her look really beautiful? You know? It might be we want her to look tough, and you go, okay, so she has to have that Russian grr, eyebrow and strong eyes, or maybe it's completely bear eye because she's already got a feline shape, and you go, okay, she already looks tough. So that's great. So you get her doing that angry eye. And that does half your work for you.

[00:37:52.790] - Speaker 1

So I think the creative process for me is a lot of collecting and putting things around And just looking at it a lot and going, so I lay everything out when I'm doing a beauty shoot or something like that, because if I can't see it, I forget about it. And I need to be able to go, oh, that colour, you know what I mean? Or whatever it is.

[00:38:19.200] - Speaker 2

Yeah, I think that's a really nice process. And I think it keeps you on your toes. And I think what you said about people being defensive is because they get so stuck on that one idea that they They do become defensive, and then they're not open to being able to push themselves into a different part of the moment. And you do see it a lot.

[00:38:39.490] - Speaker 1

But also, if your skills aren't up to scratch. So if you don't feel confident doing multiple types of things, like whether it's techniques or using products or ways of working, and then what you had planned isn't working And you need to do something else. If you can't do it, people get really angry, weird. I don't ever want to do that. I want to be able to go, okay, well, that's not working. We'll just take it off. It's only make up. I often say that to people. It's only makeup. I didn't tattoo them. So I'll just take it off. And they go, really? And I go, yeah. But it took you an hour. And I'm like, it took me an hour, not five years to build a building that now you don't like. You don't like your eyeliner. Okay, big deal, because I can do 700 different other versions of it. And so that's, I think, where the creative reading comes in, to be able to have a lot of practise and skills up your sleeve. People go, oh, I just wish I could do it like you. And you're like, well, just start doing it.

[00:39:46.700] - Speaker 1

Just don't show anyone. The magic in creativity, I think, is that personal time when nobody's judging you, nobody's watching, and you just get to play. And then you stand And I can go, oh, that's really ugly. But you get to change it. And you do it like, for the average person who's not a makeup artist, who would be listening to this, when you get dressed to go out and you're trying this new eye and you can't get it. And you get really pissed off and really frustrated, take it all off and you just do what you normally do. However, if you tried it when there was no time pressure and you weren't going to be in front of all your peers or all your friends and you just did it at home. Bet you, you'd nail it.

[00:40:37.870] - Speaker 2

But how else do you evolve? Yeah. I think it's really nice advice. And I think people, especially while we've had this strangeness going on in the world. You've got a little bit of time. Have a play. Do something for you. Are you okay at not being the best at it today?

[00:40:55.310] - Speaker 1

People saying whether they've got the motivation to do something or not. So for For me, the fascinating thing about the psychology and your own motivations, and working out what your currency is. So for some people, their currency is money. So if that thing can earn them money, they will do it. They will do the same thing 75 times because it earned some money. And you go, great. For some people, it's peer kudos. So getting attention from other people in the industry saying you're good. For some people, it's It's personal achievement, looking at something and going, oh, I did that, and that feels beautiful. So it might be someone painting a canvas, and 20 of their friends see it. But for them, it's this big That's their currency because they feel like they've achieved. So once you can work out what your own currency is, and to be honest about it, and go, actually, I really need the approval, or Or I really need the money for it to mean anything, or I really need the... So if you can work that out, that's where the motivation comes from, because other artists who've been sitting at home doing nothing while the COVID thing has been happening, some of them might just need a bloody rest.

[00:42:23.090] - Speaker 1

Some of them might be emotionally, mentally exhausted, and that's great. But for the ones who say they want to be creative And they want to be doing stuff, but they don't start it. It's like, okay, well, what's your motivation? If your motivation was that it needed to earn you money, of course, you're not going to be motivated, because it's not going to earn you any money. It's just play time. But if your motivation is that artist creating a canvas that 20 people are going to see, but it's a moment of creation, then you'll get so much out of it. Yeah, look, I have a lot of young makeup artists and hairdressers say to me, I want to do what you do. I want to be doing photo shoots and have clients who go to red carpet events and want these beautiful hairstyles and makeups. And I want to do that. How can I do it? And I'm like, just start doing it. There is no one is going to pay you to do something that they can't see that you're capable of. You need to... It's that build it and they will come.

[00:43:22.720] - Speaker 2

I think that's something really interesting what you just said, they build it and they will come. So for me, looking at you, for me, that's your personal brand. Brand and what you stand for. And looking at what you've done to create that, that's amazing. You've got the awards under your belt. You push yourself, you put yourself out there, you grow. And I think that your personal brand, if people come to you, they know and they trust that they will get a great energy on set. You're going to come to set with a million ideas.

[00:43:52.760] - Speaker 1

That's nice. No, but it's true.

[00:43:54.550] - Speaker 2

But you've worked really hard. Like you said, you've been doing 29 years. So you've worked your butt off to create that personal brand.

[00:43:59.900] - Speaker 1

And I think all the talk about personal brand, in the last whatever, five years, 10 years, has been really interesting to me because my brain doesn't work like that. The creative world is divided into two types of people. There's the people who are building a brand on purpose, a personal brand on purpose, and they want to be perceived as A, B, C, D, and that's how they present themselves in the industry. And so that might be someone who's a little bit more entrepreneurial, who's a little bit more business minded. I am none of those things. My brain just doesn't care about that. It's really weird. I want to care, but I just don't. And so with that thing, I think for some people, yes, making a decision on, okay, I want to be perceived as being this professionalism, this creativity. I want to present myself like this when I walk in the room. I want people to feel like this. That is a concerted decision. But then the other group of people who have a personal brand, but they haven't created it because it's just them. And that's where I sit. So for me, the mental tension and concentration to create a personal brand, I can't be asked.

[00:45:21.230] - Speaker 1

So my personal brand is just who I am. It's just because that's how I do it and that's who I am and that's how I think. And that's just how it's ended up. And for me, that works really well, because I've always thought with relationships, with business relationships, with work, if you have to have a level of, and this word sounds quite negative, but pretence, right? If you have to have a level of holding it together, when the life turns to shit, which it inevitably does, Everybody's life turns to shit at some point. It might be you. It might be that your family member is sick. It might be that somehow you lose all your money. I mean, people have lost a million dollars in their super through COVID. So there's things that happen when life turns to shit that are unforeseen, right? You get sick, you die. Someone near you needs full-time care, and you're the one who's going to do it. So you give up everything, or you get sick, or you lose all your money, or no, no, no, no. Life turns to shit. At that time, to then also maintain this pretence of a brand that's not really you.

[00:46:39.850] - Speaker 1

Oh, my God, I couldn't think of anything worse. Because really, you still need to be able to maintain what you're doing because life has to go on. And so for me, a personal brand is this non-event. It's something I guess people would talk about my personal brand, but it's not something that I consciously think of or... Yeah, I just don't consider it because I just go, well, this is just me. And even at my worst, when I've got a family member dying of cancer or blah, blah, blah, I can still turn up on set and turn up to a job and people don't really notice a difference, even when I'm at my lowest, because it's just me. Yeah. Yeah. Whereas I think if you try and create something that's got this layer of marketability on top of it, then the emotional exhaustion that it takes to maintain that.

[00:47:39.590] - Speaker 2

During COVID as well, people are really well and truly, from what I'm talking to people about, They're not buying into the BS. Would you have any moments that you'd care to share of a so-called what people classify as a failure? And this could be something on set where you've created something or a life, whatever it is for you. But something that people would classify as a failure, but you've actually taken so much success in your mind about how you could achieve something differently or learn from that experience?

[00:48:10.090] - Speaker 1

I guess what some people would call a failure or a mistake, I don't really see it like that. So I don't remember them. So just say, being on set and there's been all this talk of this big avant-garde hair shape and this really incredible thing that I've spent an hour and a half, two hours, three hours building. And then they get it on set and go, it's not working. It's too much. And it might be the light, it might be the outfit. But of course, hair and makeup always gets the thing. And you go, well, that's fine because you're part of the team. And it ends up all coming out and she has a slick back ponytail. And you think, why did I do that? But at the end of the day, the shot's amazing. So you go, yeah, you're right. It needed a ponytail. So I don't see that as a failure, because for me, it's not I think a failure would be defending it and arguing with the whole creative team about it and getting weird about it and then making them shoot it and it being ugly. That would be a failure.

[00:49:11.610] - Speaker 1

But I don't know. So I haven't really had anything really terrible, knock on wood. I haven't had anything really terrible happen. No massive dangerous things, no massive embarrassing things. I don't see them as embarrassing. I go, oh, well, well, that's life. Because honestly, I think I hold everything up to a scale of I'm so bloody lucky. And on that, I mean massive life levels. So I look at what my grandfather's went through in the war, and therefore what my life is like. I get to choose that I just want to do hair and makeup because it's fun. I don't have to have a particular job because I'm a woman, or I don't have to have no job because I'm a woman, get stuck at home with making 17 babies that I don't want to have. So on that level, I go, oh, my God, I am so lucky. Number two, I look at the world now and go, right now, the things that are happening to people in all countries, not all countries, all different countries, government soldiers, cutting off their family heads in front of them, just being held against their will. All of that horrendous shit that is happening to people right this second.

[00:50:42.220] - Speaker 1

And I'm sitting in sunny Sydney, having a chat on a podcast to a beautiful woman who's amazing. I go, nothing's a failure. I get held up against that.

[00:50:55.780] - Speaker 2

Work that energy into something really positive and powerful. And whether that's for you, I think it's just it happens subconsciously. And I think that's a great gift that you've given yourself and that you've probably worked on over the years because people can tap into that.

[00:51:13.090] - Speaker 1

Conscious choice is the thing, I think. It is automatic for me now to think like that, but I had to train myself into it. So I remember when I was probably about 18, I know I'd left school and I'd started working. I read And this self-help book, I couldn't tell you what it was called now. But anyway. But one of the exercises in it was to get a journal, and every day before you went to bed, you had to write in it the most It was the most beautiful thing that had happened that day. And the first day I was like, I don't know, I write down, I guess I saw a butterfly.

[00:51:54.720] - Speaker 2

Then as I kept doing it, it just made my brain focus on the amazing moments.

[00:52:02.410] - Speaker 1

And I would go, oh, my God, I had this client today, and all I would do, I was a junior, so I'd shampoo her hair. But we'd have this really amazing conversation about spirituality. And so I'd write that in my book, and I'd remember it. I'd take note of that moment while it was happening and going, oh, my God, this is a really good moment. Or I'd walk out of work and there'd be a sunset, and I'd go, wow. I'm going to write that in my book. Conversations with people or things that happened along the way, little incidentals, the light falling across the floor was really pretty. Okay, but it is a thing, and it's a big thing. And when your brain starts logging all of those little magic things in the world, and then you watch the news. The news doesn't overpower it like it does when you don't notice the magic. Yeah, I'm all about reality. Yes, I understand what's going on in the world. I'm painfully aware of it. But I also believe that there is an equal or bigger amount of magic in the world. And it is an absolute balance.

[00:53:09.920] - Speaker 1

And yes, if all you focus on is the bad news, then you're going to feel like life's shit. And if all you focus on is the good stuff, you're going to miss the... Like, gravity of how lucky we are. And so it's like that balance. And I sit more in the magic side. I choose to sit there and I watch the bad stuff from the magic side and go, I see you. I know what's happening over there and I'm really lucky and I'm staying here.

[00:53:37.300] - Speaker 2

Yeah, I love it. Now, I was going to ask you, do you have a mantra that you go by? But since you love quotes so much, Do you have, or you can feel free to go back to the mantra, but do you have one quote, if you had to choose one that sits above all else?

[00:53:55.670] - Speaker 1

With work, I probably do. Life, probably 700 even 50 different ones. But with work, there's this Andy Warhol quote, and I wrote it down because I knew that you were going to ask me this. So I wrote it down because I thought, if I don't get the words right, it's not right. So it says, don't think about making art. Just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. And while they are deciding, make more art.

[00:54:29.120] - Speaker 2

I'm going to cry.

[00:54:32.180] - Speaker 1

It's just so good because at the end of the day, we are so vulnerable as artists. And when people start going, I hate what they do, their shit at their job, it kills you. You go, oh, my God, and you start believing it and it overpower everything else anyone has ever said to you. But if you keep something like that in your mind of you make art and then you put it there, and it exists out there in the world, and you You don't sit there going, what do they think? What do they think? What do they think? You sit here going, okay, now I'm on this. And that has been set free. And there's this great book that my husband bought for me a couple of years ago. And oh, my God, I have recommended it to so many people. And it's called Big Magic. And it's by... She wrote, Eat, Pray, Love. We'll go back to that. We'll put it on the screen or something. But she talks about once an idea is out there or your work is out there, it doesn't belong to you anymore. You set it free. It's now its own entity.

[00:55:37.430] - Speaker 1

So people's opinion on it should not actually count. So it's an interesting concept. This book, I loved it. It's not like eat, pray, love at all. It's more about the nature of creative living is what it's about. And so she talks about the nature of ideas and that they're this living entity that run around in the ether, and they tap on your head and go, are you going to make me Are you the one that's going to bring me into physical form? And so you might have an idea about a movie, and you think, oh my God, that would be the best. And three years later, this movie comes out, and you go, that was my idea. And it's like, no, it wasn't your idea. It was an idea, and you didn't make it real. So it went and found someone else who could, who had the skills or the interest in actually bringing it to pass. And so when an idea taps on your head, it's like the thought is that you are I'm bringing this idea from the ether into reality, making it physical. But you think you own it? You think you made it?

[00:56:37.340] - Speaker 1

That's funny. That's cute. When people take all this kudos for this thing that they've done. Like, yes, you performed it beautifully, you created it onto the canvas beautifully, or you styled that hair beautifully, or you wrote that song and you actually physically did the to get it out there. But I don't know, it's this weird ego thing of taking it as it's mine. It's like, not really.

[00:57:12.650] - Speaker 2

That's a big word, too, even though It's a little word. It's a very big word, ego. And I think when you take that and you put it aside, you are so much more free as an artist, as a human being on so many levels. Food for thought.

[00:57:29.180] - Speaker 1

It makes such a difference to your mental health.

[00:57:32.090] - Speaker 2

God, yes.

[00:57:32.780] - Speaker 1

Because the pressure changes. It's a pressure of you creating an idea. I'm not creating an idea. I'm just fishing out in the bloody world, out in the ether, and seeing what's around. And sometimes, if it doesn't come, you go, Okay, I'll wait.

[00:57:53.260] - Speaker 2

I love it. Oh, my God. This has been amazing. Miss Sarah Laidlaw, thank you. Make sure you head on over to beautibossbusiness. Com for any of the links associated with today's episode. I'm Melanie Burnicle, your host for Brilliant Brains and Beautiful Minds. Until next time.


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