Freelance makeup artist turns each job into the next one

Makeup artist Karen Malcolm-Pye talks about the work she has done for famous people and why she never rests on her laurels

Karen Malcolm-Pye is a makeup artist in Calgary.

Karen Malcolm-Pye makeup artist
Karen Malcolm-Pye

What is your career and what do you do?

Malcolm-Pye: I’m a freelance makeup artist – a dream job for me really! I do makeup for television, advertising, broadcasting, commercials, weddings, celebrities and anyone else who wants to look and feel a little extra beautiful – and I also am a beauty expert and do television segments across Canada, including the Marilyn Denis Show in Toronto.

My job is not a normal Monday-to-Friday career, I never have a regular schedule and my workday is different every day. Honestly, this is part of what I love so much about this career. I love being creative, versatile and not know what opportunity is next!

How did you get involved in this and why?

Malcolm-Pye: Like many people who work for themselves, I didn’t have a traditional start to my career. My initial education was in public relations and my first career job was in the marketing department at WestJet – which in hindsight was one of the best things that ever happened to me. That’s what helped me figure out that I needed to do something that was not restrictive, at a desk all the time, and I really need to use my creativity and people skills.

Once I decided to be a makeup artist and make this my full-time job, nothing was going to stop me. I searched for every opportunity, I volunteered to get experience, I marketed myself in multiple industries (not just one!) and I started setting goals.

When opportunities did arise, I not only took the job but tried to turn it into the next job!

One of the biggest opportunities was doing makeup at CBC television for seven years – that was one of the strongest platforms I was able to jump from.

Who are some of the most famous people you’ve done makeup for?

Malcolm-Pye: Throughout my career I’ve had the opportunity to work with all kinds of people. Again, this is something that I love about my career because my days are never the same.

I’ve been working with the Banff World Media Festival for over 10 years. At the festival, they honour different actors and I’m the makeup artist for the actors who are honoured. Some of may favourite celebrities who I’ve done makeup at the festival are Kim Cattrall from Sex and the City, Lisa Kudrow from Friends, Christine Baranski from The Good Wife, the hilarious Nathan Lane and many more.

I’ve also worked in the music industry for years doing makeup at the Junos and CCMAs, some of the artists I have worked with are Bryan Adams, Nickelback, Michael Buble, Paul Brandt, Jason Aldean, Teri Clark and this year Alberta girl Tenille Townes (I think her career is about to explode and she deserves it – such a talented and sweet girl!).

A client (friend and mentor) I’ve worked with for seven years is Marilyn Denis. She’s such an incredible woman to work with and she is such an inspiration for me in this industry.

I’ve also been fortunate to work on the Michelle Obama and Oprah Western Canada tours.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received about running a business?

Malcolm-Pye: When I started working for myself I never thought about working for someone else again. It was a mindset that I made for myself, I wanted to be my own boss. This was crucial for me, as you need to be 100 per cent behind yourself when you start on your own business path.

I’ve had a few mentors who have reminded me to always work at being better, keep educating yourself and never take your current work/busy schedule for granted – I’m always looking for the next opportunity. When you work for yourself, you can’t expect the work to come to you, you have to continue to work for it.

I remember being told to not become complacent and that has always stuck with me. Just when you have an expectation that the work will keep coming in, your attitude changes. I treat every day at work like it’s my first day, even if it’s a client I have had for 10 years. I don’t wait for work to come to me, I’m extremely outgoing and reach for goals that might seem out of reach. I’m so appreciative to be hired for a job and I want everyone on set to have the most positive experience when I’m working.

Is there one person in the world you would love to do makeup for and why?

Malcolm-Pye: There has never been one specific person that I would love to do makeup on. I suppose when opportunities come up for me to work with a specific person or celebrity, then my laser focus goes on them. I do my research on the image, prepare images and get excited for the opportunity. That experience then becomes a highlight.

But if I had to choose one person, I would say Sarah Jessica Parker, who is most familiar from her character Carrie on Sex and the City. She has been an actor I’ve admired throughout her career and of course she was part of a show that was a movement for women. I’ve always been a fan of hers and would love a chance to do her makeup someday.

You could also ask me this question next month and I might have someone new who I would consider a goal to do makeup for – again things are never the same in my job!

Interviewed by Mario Toneguzzi, a Troy Media business reporter based in Calgary.

© Troy Media


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