Becoming a Makeup Artist – Karla Bonilla

Makeup artists are taking over the world…or at least that’s what it seems like when I look at my social media feed. Times are changing and it’s fascinating to watch people create a career for themselves through platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and more. We caught up with Karla Bonilla, makeup artist and National Education Manager for Pixi and POP Beauty to get a glimpse of the hard work it takes to make it in the industry.


Please tell me your name, age, job title, how many years in your industry, and what city you’re from.

“My name is Karla Bonilla and I’m 28-years-old. I’m the National Education Manager for Pixi Beauty and POP Beauty and I am from Van Nuys, California.”


How did you first become interested in makeup?

“I was always curious about makeup since I was a child watching my mom get ready. I remember sneaking into her makeup bag every chance I could. Growing up I always admired makeup artists, but I was never good at it myself. It wasn’t until I was 22-years-old that I got inspired from working at Paul Mitchell the School Sherman Oaks and started to play with the idea of taking classes to learn more and possibly pursue it as a career.”


What was the first step you took in pursuing this career?

“After two years at Paul Mitchell I moved on to work as a Beauty Advisor for Rite Aid. Although I loved makeup I didn’t know how to actually apply makeup on someone other than myself. So I took initiative and found a quick four-week course at Napoleon Perdis Academy to learn the basics of applying makeup and proper sanitation techniques to get me ready for my new position. That was the beginning of it all, a year later I decided to take my career further and get more extensive training at the E.I School of Professional Makeup.”


How many gigs did it take to finally feel like you got a job that felt legitimate and what job was that?

“In the beginning of my career most of the gigs I got were unpaid or trade for photos and the paid gigs I did get were severely underpaid. It took a while for anything to feel legitimate because I didn’t have confidence in my work. During the past year and a half I’ve truly become comfortable in my abilities, which is why being the National Educator for Pixi and POP Beauty feels like the most legitimate career move thus far. I have been challenged in every way to step out of my comfort zone to reach my potential as an educator and artist which I find to be so valuable in any job.

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“Van Nuys in the house” 😉 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I am a nervous wreck when I’m up there and can’t believe I’m given these opportunities. So so so grateful! @pop_beauty @ipsy ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Link is in my bio if you’d like to check out the entire Beauty Lab and support♥️ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #popbeauty #popette #ipsy #ipster #genbeauty #genbeautynyc #newyork #generationbeauty #beautylab #masterclass #beautyclass #education #nationaleducator #beautyeducator #eialumni #latina #latinastyle #latinamua #salvadoreña #vannuys #valleygirl #panoramahighschool

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What steps did you take from that first job to land where you’re at now?

“Short version of the steps I’ve taken to get to where I am now is showing extreme work ethic in all I do and a whole lot of networking. In the beginning I never turned down a gig, whether it was paid or not. I said ‘yes’ because experience is more valuable than anything when you first start out. Networking has been a huge factor in my success as it’s helped me get most of the gigs I’ve worked and got me into the permanent position I am in now.”


What does a typical day look like in your current position? And during an event?

“When I’m in office my day can consists of emails, meetings, conference calls, and lots of planning and executing for upcoming events/trainings. Some days I’m out in the field visiting retailers who carry our products to see how operations are running and to help build relationships between the stores and HQ. During an event there’s a ton of prepping prior to show time. Once all the setup is done that’s when the fun begins. Most of our events consist of networking with event attendees, educating guests on all things Pixi and POP, demoing products, and sometimes teaching masterclasses.”


If you knew what you know now, would you have done anything differently?

I sometimes kick myself in the butt for not taking advantage of the power of social media within the beauty community. My career could have went a different path had I dedicated time to creating content and posting client photos/videos from the beginning. I don’t dwell on it though, everything I’ve done has led me to where I am, and I am content with position, for now.”


What advice do you have for younger people who are considering a career as a makeup artist?

“My advice for anyone one who is considering pursuing a career as a makeup artist would be to be persistent and never let anyone’s negative experiences or opinions deter you from following your dreams.

Also, stay humble, there’s always more to learn, you will never know it all. As you navigate through the industry remember to stick to your values, know your talent and worth, and stand by your word.”


Anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask?

“I just want to add that there have been many situations in which I didn’t know what I was doing, and that’s okay because that’s the best way to learn. I always say, ‘Fake it till you make it,’ because the way I see it is you have no choice but to succeed and kill it.”




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