T. Cooper is a native New Yorker, and self-proclaimed “Bronx Girl”. After years as a successful tailor, she discovered her ultimate passion while working on set…Beauty! What started as a hobby turned into a complete career change; and she found herself trading in her sewing machine, for a blow dryer and makeup brushes full time pretty quickly.
Now, she’s an accomplished beauty professional and highly sought after hair and makeup artist. Cooper has an impressive hair and makeup artistry resume including celebrities, key artist for New York Fashion Week designer shows, and editorial shoots for globally recognised magazines like Essence, . T. has found her lane and with her exciting career in both hair and makeup, she’s a confident and talented asset to any project she steps into.
Hey T, can you give us some background information on your career prior to where you are today?
Well, this is not my first career. Right before I started doing makeup and hair, I was a professional tailor.
When I decided that I wanted to switch over from wardrobe to beauty, the struggle was real. I thought that I would be able to leverage my relationships from fashion so that I could start getting jobs right away, but the joke was definitely on me. No one took me seriously – it was a total joke to them that I wanted to be an artist, and no one wanted to take a chance on me. It was like since I was the girl that was always doing alterations on set, I wasn’t capable of being good on the beauty end. It took me about a year before I started getting paying jobs, and it took me about three years to get to a point where I could support myself off of doing makeup and hair solely. Over the years I’ve built my loyal clientele, and started a mobile salon ,Metro Look, with my business partner, Dana.
What is a typical day in the life of you like?
It depends on what the day is because I have different kinds of jobs on different days.
On a day where I’m doing session work, I make sure to study the photos or references given to me before I leave the house. I like to make sure that everything that I need is in my kit, as well as some alternative products that could also work, you just never know. I dissect the look completely and plan what products I want to use to achieve the desired look. I try to get to set nice and early because I set up slow. I have a chat with whoever is doing the creative to see what the scheduling as for the day, and then I get right to work. I’m super friendly with models, but I don’t tolerate them telling me what they would like for me to do, because it’s not about them, it’s about whatever the client wants. You kind of have to find a nice way to tell them that it’s really not up to them what they want to look like.
On a day when I have a private client, I confirm with them first thing in the morning. I like to know that we’re still on track for the time that we confirmed because sometimes that can change last minute. I also like to confirm that we’re still going to do whatever look that we discussed and agreed upon – That can change in the blink of an eye, so I like to be prepared in case there’s anything that I need to have with me. With private clients you’re in their personal space, (whether it’s their home or hotel room) so I like to be very respectful. I don’t set up until they tell me where it’s OK for me to set up, I asked them if they’d like me to remove my shoes, and I don’t touch anything. We usually have a conversation about what we’re going to do, and I usually perform the service in front of a mirror because they like to see what’s going on. Unlike with models, it’s entirely up to private clients what they want to look like, so you have to do everything that you can to make them happy.
You originally spent years as a tailor, so what later sparked your interest to become a hair stylist?
I had actually started doing makeup first. My interest and hair came from doing so many shoots where photographers and creative directors would ask me if I could do light hair for a shoot. I was completely intimidated by hair, so I would always say no. What made me decide to learn how to do hair was through my mobile salon. I would always have to hire hairstylists to do weddings and bridal trials, and I had a lot of bad experiences. I got sick and tired of having to take responsibility for other people’s unprofessional behavior, so I decided to learn how to do hair. I wanted to make it so that I wouldn’t have to depend on anyone to complete a job from start to finish.
From there, I started doing hair on sets, and at fashion shows. Most makeup artists hate doing hair, but I actually love it, I took to it immediately. Every season of New York Fashion Week I am the lead hairstylist for several shows, and it’s amazing!
You are also a makeup artist, where did the passion lie there?
While working on commercial an editorial sets, they usually put wardrobe (me), makeup and hair, and manicurists in the same area. I would watch the transformations that were made to these women simply by changing their makeup and hair, and I would be in awe! I thought it was really cool, but I never thought about doing it professionally, let alone that I’d ever be good enough to. I started doing test shoots completely as a hobby, and after I did a few, I got a lot of encouragement from people who saw my pictures telling me that I needed to pursue this. I thought they were giving me false confidence, especially since I was so new and that I didn’t have any training, but enough people kept telling me that I actually decided to give it a shot. It’s funny because I know now that this is what I was meant to be doing, but I didn’t even know that. If you would’ve told me six years ago that I would be doing this, I would’ve laughed in your face – I had never even picked up a makeup brush before.
What is your favourite type of project brief or collaboration to work on?
I love doing press days. It’s so much fun for me to go from location to location, and change the looks for each appearance they have to make. Being chauffeured all over the city in a car doesn’t hurt either.
Favourite season or particular trend?
My favorite trend is glowing skin. I remember back in the day where super matte skin was the only way to go, and women used to powder their noses if they even looked a little shiny. I love that letting your skin do what it does is a thing now, some people are actually adding additional products to make the skin appear even moister and supple. I love it!
How do you handle the pressure?
This probably sounds really unhealthy, but if I’m not under pressure, I don’t feel complete. Pressure is how diamonds are made I thrive and high-pressure situations, it’s euphoric for me. There’s nothing better than the pride you feel when you did a great job while you were under immense pressure.
What about criticism?
I’m getting better with criticism. In the beginning of my career, I took criticism so personally, especially since a lot of people don’t know how to give it constructively. I used to beat myself up all the time, but now I know that when someone criticizes you, that’s only their opinion. I have learned to take what I need from a critique, and let go of the rest of it, especially if I feel like it’s not coming from a good place.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
The best device I recently received was that there is no greater disservice you can do to someone, then to give them an opportunity that they’re not ready for. That’s why you have to constantly educate yourself and be the best that you can be, so that when you’re given an opportunity, you don’t squander it.
Best advice you could give someone?
The best advice that I could give someone is to be professional. I know that I’m very good at what I do, but a lot of the opportunities that I have been given and continue to get, are because I’m super professional. A lot of artists think it’s completely about their craft, and that’s just not realistic. In addition to being a good artist, you need to be able to answer correspondence quickly, show up on time, be prepared, pay attention to what’s going on on set, and be willing to make changes if asked by the client – without taking it personally.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I get inspired by everything and everyone all around me. I can see beauty in almost anything.
How do you market yourself and your business?
I market myself through my website, social media, Yelp, Wedding Wire, and emailing prospects.
What social media tools do you think are most beneficial to you?
Definitely Instagram and Facebook, I have gotten great jobs through them both.
What does ultimate career satisfaction mean to you?
My idea of ultimate career satisfaction is being able to be financially comfortable in my career while creating opportunities for other people as well. It’s not enough just for me to be successful, I want to be able to create success for others through my success.
How do you define success on your terms?
I define success as being able to support myself doing what I love. Even if I’m not a multimillionaire, that in itself, is priceless. I look forward to going to work every day. How many people can say that? So many people wake up knowing that they have to go to a job they hate just to financially support themselves, that’s a miserable existence. Happiness is the greatest success that you could ever achieve.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
In the next few months, my goal is to do more work in beauty advertising. In order to achieve that, I am testing with photographers who are great at shooting beauty. I want to have a good amount of it in my book to show potential clients.
Finally, what can we expect from you in 2018?
In 2018, you can expect for me to step it up as a beauty expert. I love giving advice on how to achieve beauty trends, and I’m going to work on doing more of that. I want to be one of the first artists that you think of when you want beauty advice.