Beauty Industry Showcase: Social media star Carly Musleh
A passion for make-up and a willingness to embrace new trends and technology made Carly Musleh a hair and beauty star online. Since then, she’s worked with household brands and world-renowned make-up artists.
Here, Carly talks about her experiences as a professional make-up artist in a digital age as well as some of her career highlights.
Direct Line For Business: What inspired you to become a professional make-up artist?
Carly Musleh (CM): I always wanted to do something that involved art and being creative. I considered interior design and architecture, but realised that I was passionate about the make-up in magazine editorials and on the catwalk.
I followed the work of great make-up artists like Pat McGrath and Charlotte Tilbury. Before social media, I’d watch the [end] credits to see who the make-up artists were, and even tear out pages from magazines. Those pages actually helped a lot with my own creativity during the media make-up year of my NVQ course.
Direct Line For Business: Where did your hair and beauty education begin?
CM: In 2000, I started a three-year combined hair and beauty therapy course at South Tyneside College. My love for beauty and make-up was stronger than it was for hair so that was my focus in the final year and I ultimately gained an NVQ Level 3 in make-up and beauty therapy. It was a lengthy route for studying NVQ make-up, however I learned a lot about skincare, which is essential knowledge for every good make-up artist.
Direct Line For Business: How did you use your skills after you qualified?
CM: Once I left college I worked freelance. I mixed mobile work with weddings, and applied make-up for a photography studio.
Direct Line For Business: How did your professional career develop?
CM: It was tricky at first because you need experience to get work, but can’t always get the work to gain the experience! To get around this, I practiced a lot on family and friends. Luckily, when I was at college, I’d gained a lot of unpaid experience doing make-up for the general public (e.g. community centres), working on photo shoots and entering competitions.
In addition to building my confidence, it enabled me to use my skills on a wide range of ages, skin types and shades. I built a word-of-mouth reputation and was asked to work alongside a more established make-up artist, which led to some exciting commercial work. I worked with MTV, ITV, musicians, and at fashion shows, luxury stores and modelling competitions.
Direct Line For Business: When did you start showcasing your skills online?
CM: After moving to Scotland, and giving birth to my eldest son in 2009, I discovered a community of make-up lovers on YouTube. They came from all over the world with different backgrounds and levels of experience.
A few had collaborated to host a competition to win a huge bundle of make-up. I set up a YouTube channel and grabbed my tiny point and shoot camera that I used for nights out. I placed it on a stack of boxes and, in addition to a front mirror, had to put a mirror behind me so I could keep checking that I was in shot. I recreated a Geisha look that I’d seen on Kylie Minogue and came third out of over 1000 entrants.
After that, I started receiving make-up tutorial requests and continued the camera-and-box method for two years until I could afford a better one. The fact that I couldn’t produce brilliant quality videos didn’t stop me from building a faithful audience. I was consistent, and I listened to my viewers. Recreating looks from music videos was huge back then so I’d take requests.
I initially dismissed blogging when I stumbled across it in 2010. Beauty blogs weren’t the business machine they are today, so they looked more like scrapbooks or online diaries. But in 2011 I started my blog so I could share close-ups of the eye make-up in my videos. I was getting lots of requests for product reviews with photos and the blog audience grew quickly — mainly as an overspill from YouTube.
As my YouTube channel grew, I gained more attention from brands and the media. I did my first big campaign with the magazines Cosmopolitan and Company for MaxFactor. I worked with [make-up artist] Caroline Barnes on that campaign, and was also invited to work backstage with [make-up artist] Lisa Eldridge at London Fashion Week. I was the first YouTuber that she’d invited to work with her and it was such an honour and a privilege!
The status and profile of blogs grew and I won my first award in 2014 — Best Beauty Blog at the North East Blogger Awards. I went on to work with brands such as L'Oréal and enjoy opportunities like interviewing Michelle Keegan about beauty products.
I even brushed up on my hairdressing skills from my NVQ days when Garnier asked me to curate and photograph some braided hairstyles for a pop up shop event in London. A team of hairdressers was on hand to recreate the styles on event guests, which included Fearne Cotton!
Direct Line For Business: How have your professional qualifications and experience supported your online career?
CM: Make-up artistry can be self-taught, but studying it provides the experience of applying make-up to a wide variety of people from the beginning. You’ll also gain invaluable client care and scientific knowledge.
My qualifications give me an edge when it comes to beauty reviews on my YouTube channel and blog. My audience knows my professional background, along with my passion for and knowledge of the industry, which gives them faith in my content. Unlike many other beauty bloggers and vloggers, I’m able to break down and explain product ingredients to debunk the beauty myths and simplify the properties.
This ability is something I share with my friend, skincare expert Caroline Hirons. We’ve both trained in beauty therapy, so we’ve gained the trust that our information comes from an educated opinion.
Direct Line For Business: How has being managed by a professional agent helped?
CM: I joined the world’s biggest management company for digital talent in 2014, the same agency that represents Zoella, Tanya Burr, Sam and Nicola Chapman of Pixiwoo, Caroline Hirons and many others. This brought many exciting opportunities and helped me branch out to fashion and lifestyle.
But my years of hard work as a freelance make-up artist gave me a lot of exposure to the business side of the industry. I now have the confidence to represent my own interests and am very fortunate that a lot of brands know of my content and experience, so then contact me directly.
Direct Line For Business: Are you still working as a make-up artist or focusing more on your online career?
CM: I took personal requests for bridal make-up, fashion shows and photo shoots until I gave birth to my second son in late 2016. Since then, my digital work has more than kept me busy and I feel a natural progression that is pulling me more into creative content for brands. This includes make-up tutorials and product photography.
Once you’ve mastered the key parts of make-up (e.g. creating a perfect base, colour correcting, blending, highlight and shade — also known as contouring) you’ll have skills to last a lifetime. But new textures and product technologies emerge all the time so it’s important to stay informed and well practiced.
I keep my skills sharp using the same method that made me fall in love with make-up in the first place — fashion week and editorials. It’s a much faster process now that the information is all available online, along with behind-the-scenes footage of how looks are created and what products are used.
Direct Line For Business: Why would you recommend a career in the hair and beauty industry to young people or someone looking to make a change?
CM: Hair and beauty is one of the largest industries in the world and is still growing at an incredible speed thanks to digital media. Despite all the online tutorials, I’ve noticed a huge increase in people who want their make-up professionally applied for nights out. It’s no longer a service reserved for weddings and the wealthy. Barbering is big business, and many more people are making bold choices with their hair colour — thanks to the range of tones and new techniques that are available.
I would definitely recommend a career in hair and beauty, as there are so many avenues to explore. You don’t have to stay in the same area that you start out in. Take me for example, I’ve enjoyed opportunities that didn’t exist when I started my career and over a decade later, I’m still passionate about it and excited about what the future will bring.
If you're self-employed like Carly, or run your own salon, you'll need business skills and knowledge of matters like tax and insurance.
To find out more and style your own pathway to success, click here.