We all hold this idea that working with our friends will create the best memories. But, like anything in life, there is a massive gray area – especially when the job at hand is bigger and more career-altering for one friend than for the other.
Let me rewind a little bit here, and discuss my personal knowledge (and less-than-best experience!) on this subject.
About a year ago, I was organizing a cover shoot for my magazine, Mirabella. Our cover artist was someone I had long admired, watched on one of my favorite shows, and was so excited to work with; she was none other than the incredible force that is Mia Michaels. Michaels had long been a positive force in my life with her take-no-prisoners attitude, her constant breaking of societal barriers and a level of creativity and artistry that, in my opinion, has and always will be second-to-none. To me, she is the epitome of a strong, confident, successful woman.
I had interviewed Michaels about three weeks before our shoot, and her encouraging words and story filled me with both hope and the courage to pursue things I had put on the back burner. I was eager to share her message with as many people as possible. After our almost two-hour-long phone interview, I knew the cover belonged to her and no one else.
When I approached her with the opportunity, she eagerly committed and the rest, as they say, was history…. Or was it?
By looking at the magazine cover, one would never know the rocky truth of how it came together. It was a day that I never imagined would be tainted and almost ruined by a friend I I trusted so much – someone I chose to put on my team, and who I thought had my best interest at heart both personally and professionally.
But before I get into the story, here’s an insider’s perspective from the magazine world: When planning a cover shoot, there are so many things that need to be addressed and ready in order for the shoot to run smoothly. For instance, travel and hotel arrangements need to be made for the talent, wardrobe needs to be selected, music must be chosen, refreshments placed on set, etc. And all involved must agree on the message that is trying to be conveyed with the images. Basically, it all starts with an idea – a look, a feel, and an atmosphere.
Deciding where to pull your inspiration from is crucial. I always suggest a vision board which includes your plans and intentions for hair, makeup and wardrobe. Agreeing with the talent on wardrobe is crucial. They should be comfortable because, if they are not, it will reflect in the images for sure. Once you have gathered all of your ideas for the image, now it is time to begin to assemble your team.
Everyone on your team must be able to work well under pressure. Makeup and hairstyling for a photoshoot is extremely different than doing makeup and hair for a wedding or event.
So, considering all of that, it was on the day of Michael’s shoot that I realized I may have made a huge mistake in choosing my team. Because this shoot was huge for me, I knew I wanted people I had worked with before and shared a pre-existing friendship with. The hairstylist I decided to partner with for the day is someone I have known for a long time, and have always admired for not only her work, but also for her perpetually happy-go-lucky attitude. She had been schooled on the impact Michaels could have on a life and, as a bonus, had spent most of her life dancing (like Michaels). I knew she realized the magnitude of the opportunity she was being given.
Next up was deciding on a photographer. The Director of Photography for Mirabella was of course my obvious choice. His knowledge of art and his craft, the fact that he is an extreme perfectionist, and the general positive vibe he perpetuates made him perfect for the task at hand. Finally, it was time to choose a makeup artist. I knew I needed someone who worked well with the other two amazing individuals I had chosen for that day. I am a celebrity hairstylist by profession, and my arsenal of makeup artist friends is extensive – it reads like a regular “who’s who” of the industry. I felt confident in all of my selections.
Which brings me to the day of the shoot. While on my way to the shoot with Michaels, both of us were excited and eager. As we neared to our destination, I received a text from the makeup artist saying she would have to leave earlier than planned. I tried my best to not have a “freak out,” and in my mind decided that it would be fine; we would just need to hustle a little harder All was well, right? Sort of.
When we entered the space, the hairstylist and photographer were warm, welcoming, and just as excited as we were. However, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the makeup artist seemed to be in a bad mood – feverishly texting in a corner. Again, deep down I knew that she was my friend, and would want the best for me always, so there was no doubt in my mind that she would be a team player that day. Prior to the shoot, I had sent reference photos to the entire team (including Michaels). Everyone was on board – I was more excited than a kid on Christmas morning! Nothing was going to shake that.
As the day progressed, the hairstylist produced exactly what was discussed. I was thrilled. Then came makeup. When Michaels introduced herself to my friend, the makeup artist, and said she had a few more reference pics for her, my friend seemed immediately turned off. Being on television for as many years as Michaels had been, and being no stranger to getting her own makeup done, I thought any tips and tricks she provided were gold. Unfortunately, my friend thought the exact opposite. Instead of being grateful that Michaels was literally taking the guess-work out of her makeup application, she was immediately threatened and reacted as though she was “being told what to do.” As I observed their interaction, I knew that, completely unbiasedly, Michaels was not talking down to her in the least.
But then it got even worse. The only way I can describe what happened next was a big disconnect from one individual to the other, and a situation I could have never seen coming from a mile away.
After repeated (and failed!) attempts to obtain the shape of eyeliner and eyeshadow we were hoping to accomplish, I walked in as the artist was angrily, aggressively and unnecessarily wiping off yet another application. I was panicking. Then the absolute unthinkable happened.
Michaels called me over and asked if we could have a “quick pow wow” because it was not working for her. She expressed how the makeup artist’s negative vibes and attitude made it abundantly clear that she did not want to be there. She then said something that will stick with me forever: “Christina and I have worked really hard to make this day happen. I do not work well with negative vibes so can you please check your attitude, so we can all get past this and have the good day we are all hoping for?”
There she was! The strong-minded individual I had admired for so long – who perpetually speaks her mind and who was trying to diffuse a situation that never should have arisen. As I was standing there – in my own version of somewhere between a bad dream and the twilight zone – the makeup artist’s next move permanently burned itself into my brain. I thought I was having some weird, out-of-body experience, but I wasn’t hallucinating. The makeup artist slammed the brush down and said, “Well maybe you should do it yourself then!” And she walked away.
What?! The hairstylist and I both looked at each other with the kind of horror I can only equate to having seen a ghost. Instinctually, the hairstylist and I both grabbed some makeup brushes and tried our best to convince ourselves that we could recover from this awful situation. And, in truth, we did.
While the makeup artist secluded herself in the restroom for about 20 minutes, we did damage control. Trust me when I tell you: If Michaels had her own vehicle on set or waiting there would be no recovery (or cover!) to speak of. And I would not have blamed her if she had chosen to leave that day. Thank God she didn’t.
After about five more uncomfortable minutes, Michaels broke the silence and said she was glad we were back in the groove and could continue on with the day despite what had happened. The rest of the day was nothing short of magical for the four of us (myself, the hairstylist, Michaels and the photographer.) Notice how I did not mention my friend, the makeup artist? That’s because, in between shots when she should have been re-applying or de-shining the talent, she was sulking in the other room – alone.
I could not believe this was my friend – the one I had hired and trusted with a huge opportunity. She was not only hurting me but also her own career (because it is not every day an Emmy Award Winner makes her way into your makeup chair and onto your resumé).
“You stood there and watched me being degraded and said nothing!” she snapped at me when I went to check on her. Perhaps we were watching two different scenes of the same movie, because that is not what happened at all. There was simply no way I could justify her attitude, behavior, or lack of enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, in the other room, shot after shot, we were absolutely nailing the shoot – complete with laughter, smiles and a few strap-on unicorn horns for good measure. The makeup artist? You guessed it. Still in the corner with a permanent scowl on her face.
Two days later I received a lengthy yet half-hearted apology (which in my mind was much more “I’m sorry if you feel that way” vs “I’m actually sorry”) from my friend. Needless to say, I knew our relationship was over. And, as I continue to grow into myself and realize what and what is not meant for me, I have become more secure in terminating relationships that no longer serve me or do not add positive value to my life. To this day we have not spoken to one another, and have extremely different recollections of how the events of that day actually occurred. I maintain mine, and she of course stands by hers.
Working with friends can be the best experience ever, but there are definitely some things to consider first. Just know that, once you add a pre-existing friendship into the mix, things can quickly and easily go awry without warning.
Getting to share certain experiences with friends can be amazing, but if they do not see it for how big an opportunity it really is, their lack of appreciation will infuriate you.
Professionalism never goes out of style. Choose wisely who you choose to align yourself with both professionally and personally, for both will impact your life in ways you never could’ve imagined.