With her extensive experience in the industry, makeup artist to the stars Denise Ochoa knows the ins and outs of her chosen field by heart. Painting the faces of today’s biggest stars such as Kathryn Bernardo, Sarah Geronimo, and Bea Alonzo, her job can be easily described as a dream. But to get to where she is right now, it takes more than a mere interest in makeup or having celebrity connections to make a living off this craft.
It’s easy to be swept away by the industry’s promise of glamour. But for anyone who’s interested to take part in it, Denise reveals that despite the glitz of it all, her job requires real hard work and sincere dedication. “When you’re doing makeup, you can be in a glamorous environment. But it’s not all that. It’s doing the dirty work and it literally takes a lot of sweat.” She explains, “You have to follow the celebrity around wherever they go and constantly do touch-ups. Photo shoots can last for really long hours. A lot of people will be turned off by this because it’s so tiring.” But for those who are extremely passionate and have firmly decided that this is the career path they want to follow, Denise has a handful of tips to survive the business.
Here, this makeup pro shares with us her accidental beginning, the qualities she looks for in an assistant, and the priceless rewards of enhancing the beauty in others.
What sparked your interest in beauty?
A few years after graduating from college, my mom franchised a salon and asked me to manage it. There were days when we lacked staff in the salon, so my mom asked me to try haircutting and coloring as well. So hairstyling was the first thing I was exposed to when it comes to beauty. At that time, I got curious in makeup after reading through my mom’s collection of books. I remember trying out the looks in Kevyn Aucoin’s book during my spare time because the instructions were so detailed and easy to follow. I would play around and put makeup on our staff sometimes. I never really had a solid intention or dream to become a makeup artist when I was younger. People just noticed that I have this talent, and one thing led to another. I used to just do it for our salon clients – students who were going to their prom. And then word got around. I started doing it for magazines and eventually I met some celebrities and directors. I also fell into advertising. Everything just happened on its own. I’d say it was a beautiful accident. Instead of forcing myself into it, it sort of just called me.
What do you love most about being a makeup artist?
For me the best part about it is feeling good after seeing someone love the look that I’ve done for them. When I work with celebrities and try something new and we achieve it, there’s this excitement afterwards. Being able to bring out the beauty in someone and seeing them happy afterwards give me a great sense of fulfillment. It’s incomparable to any material reward.
What is the power of makeup?
It can bring out a certain vibe in a person just by enhancing their features and using the right colors and textures. In short, it’s kind of like turning dreams into reality.
Who was your first celebrity client?
Shannen Torres. She used to be a VJ for MTV. I worked with her in a fashion editorial shoot for a newspaper. It was my very first makeup stint, and I remember borrowing makeup from our makeup artist in the salon. One of the first few people who also pushed me to do makeup was Alma Concepcion. She used to come to our salon and then asked my mom if I can do her makeup. I was very hesitant at first because I didn’t have any formal training, but she pushed me to do it. Whenever she would have appearances on TV or events, she would pass by the salon and have her makeup done by me. Those who followed after that were Miriam Quiambao, Camille Prats, and Maxene Magalona who I think was only 14 years old at that time.
What do you always keep in mind when you’re creating a look for a celebrity?
I’m never the playful type when it comes to celebrity makeup. I don’t have that much courage because for one, celebrities are remembered for their own faces. So I just want to enhance their beauty. I keep it classic. As much as possible I don’t want to give them “trendy” looks because I don’t want to make them look outdated when people see their pictures in the future. I think it’s also in my personality. Even the brides that I work with, that’s what I do.
What’s one makeup rule you will never break?
One of the guidelines that I will always stick to is to never put too much primer and foundation especially when you’re outdoors. Your makeup will easily melt off that way if you’re directly under the daylight and it won’t look good. That’s the worst thing that can happen for me. Letting the skin breathe is also important for me which is why I don’t like putting anything heavy on my clients.
For someone who’s just starting out as a makeup artist, what products should they invest in?
Start with the basics. For foundation, get light, medium, and dark shades. For eye shadows, go for a basic palette with neutral colors. For blush, get a peach and a pink. And for lipstick, make sure you have a nude shade and a few other basic colors. From there, get a feel of the actual work, of the industry that you’re choosing to be a part of. I don’t suggest that you buy everything at once. If this is something you really are dedicated to do for the long haul, then that’s when you add more to your collection.
What does it take to have a withstanding career in the industry?
First and foremost, it’s all about being professional. That’s the quality that most people that you’ll be working with will look for. Connections would really help so you always need to make sure that you have a good relationship with the people around you. I also believe that if you’re passionate in whatever that you do, everything else will follow. You will hardly complain because you know that you love what you’re doing. You won’t think much of the financial aspect of it because you’re prioritizing the craft.
What do you consider as the hardest part of your job?
You know what’s funny is that I hardly see the hard parts because perhaps I’m always having fun when I’m at work. Maybe the only challenge for me is that being a mom, I have to be away from my son when I’m working long hours. That’s just it for me. Everything else, I really don’t mind. I’m the kind of person who always perseveres. Maybe the competition in the industry can also be a challenge but I don’t think it’s the hard part. It really just comes with the job and I use it as a motivation.
What do you look for when you’re hiring an assistant?
Someone who has a vision and goal. I want someone who doesn’t complain and is ready to make sacrifices in terms of time. I’ve had some experience where an apprentice would hurry up to go home during shoots. I want someone who doesn’t simply “like” putting makeup on celebrities. If they just want to be around celebrities or models, then I don’t think I see a big future for them in the makeup industry. I want to see it in their attitude that they do want to get somewhere. Also, they have to learn how to humble themselves because as makeup artists, we have to serve the client. It takes a lot of humility to take instructions from celebrities. A good makeup artist knows how to listen because it‘s always a collaboration between us and the client.