There is no cosmetology major at UCLA. It simply isn’t taught. Luckily for Michelle Chung, there are other roads to success at UCLA than just taking the classes you need, roads like networking.
Chung, who graduated from UCLA in 2002, studied fine arts and is now a professional makeup artist. After graduating, she attended Makeup Designory in Burbank.
“I don’t even think “˜designory’ is a real word,” Chung said, laughing while explaining what she was taught there. According to Chung, she was given projects beyond just using makeup for beauty.
One of the projects she recounted was designing an animatronic head, a type of electrical puppet. Another task was to make a mold of her face and apply it onto somebody else.
Chung became interested in makeup after graduating, despite a short spree working in the fashion industry.
“I just wanted to go in a new direction. Being a creative person, I was looking for something creative, and makeup was one of those things,” Chung said.
According to Chung, the most interesting job she’s ever worked on was the set of “Untold Stories of the ER.”
“They re-enact actual stories from the emergency room, like a tree branch through one guy’s neck, two girls impaled by a telephone pole. We’d get pictures of the accident and then we’d remake the incident,” Chung said. “There were a lot of things that I probably wouldn’t have been able to do if I weren’t working for that show.”
While Chung is working her way toward larger projects, she has developed strong relationships in the industry. Maria Haro-Flanagan is just one of the many people Chung has collaborated with in the professional makeup industry.
“I’ve been doing this for 32 years, so I’ve seen a lot of people in my field,” Haro-Flanagan said. “A lot of times, I find myself having to do more work because a lot of (makeup artists) don’t know what they’re doing. Michelle was very comfortable on the set, very confident and I didn’t feel like I needed to direct her.”
Haro-Flanagan and Chung first worked together on the set of a Budweiser commercial.
“We needed another person on the set to help, and she was referred to me through a
wardrobe girl. … She worked me on the job and, since then, I’ve been hiring her for everything,” Haro-Flanagan said.
According to Chung, this is not the only time that having connections has paid off.
Chung, who used to be an orientation counselor at UCLA, then coordinator, has had one of her former orientation students repeatedly hire her as a makeup artist for his photography firm.
Jesse Carrasco, a program manager for the New Student and Transition Programs, which oversees summer orientation, worked with Chung when she was an orientation counselor. Carrasco said that networking while the students are at UCLA is common, but afterward, communication tends to be far rarer.
“She did a lot of artwork. … She had a lot of experience with communication skills, leading discussions, things like that,” Carrasco said.
The most valuable skills to Chung, though, are not just makeup skills. It’s how to handle the people she works with.
“You’re working with people, so some people like makeup a certain way. You just have to make people feel comfortable as a character so they can go out and act,” she said.
“Be persistent. (Understand) that it’s not a normal career; there can be long days ““ just try to meet as many people as you can, and (take) every job you can regardless of pay.”