“You can be successful no matter where you live—whether it be Los Angeles or New York City—or even Nebraska, where I live.”
Melanie Rose Smith loves doing make-up, styling hair—and making everyone in the room laugh while she’s doing it. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, attended beauty school after graduating from high school, and began her career working in a hair salon. Melanie always knew that she wanted to learn more, and that’s when she found Make-Up Designory (MUD). She took the Studio Hairstyling course at MUD’s Burbank campus in 2005, then returned in 2007 to broaden her skill set with the Beauty 101 Make-Up course.
As a trained hairstylist, Melanie describes her first impressions of make-up: “Make-up intimidated me a bit. Right away, though, my wonderful teacher, Jacqueline Mgido, assured me that I was not the only one who felt this way. She helped me build my confidence and gave me lots of encouragement. From the classroom with Jackie to the workshops after school, MUD provided me with so much knowledge about all of the aspects of the industry.”
Today Melanie has created a thriving freelance hair and make-up career in her home city of Omaha. She says: “I do anything and everything in the industry.” Her work has included styling wigs and doing make-up for major theatre productions like Wicked andBeauty and the Beast, as well as short and feature films like Up in the Air, Lovely, Still and Lucky. Her television credits include a music video on ESPN with the band O.A.R., the Larry the Cable Guy tailgate party on Comedy Central, and hair styling for Newt Gingrich on Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes.
With each assignment she takes on, her mission is to “do the best you can with the time you are given, and as Tim Gunn says onProject Runway… ‘Make it work!’” She adds, “Rarely do you get all the time in the world to get someone ready. Sometimes you may only get five minutes. I am a perfectionist, and I have learned there is not always time for that.” Her two favorite jobs have been working on Lovely, Still with Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn, and working with Ann-Margret on the set of Lucky. Melanie says, “Ann-Margret brought her own make-up artist, who was amazing. He was the nicest person, and was open to sharing his knowledge… I learned a lot from him.”
Melanie cites a willingness to collaborate and learn from the people she meets on assignment as a major source of inspiration for her work. She describes her philosophy: “I think it is always important to be open-minded when working on a set because you can learn so much from everyone. Everyone you meet is a new contact that you can stay connected to for future work!” She initially gained a number of contacts through MUD’s Career Services, and uses it today to source make-up jobs in Nebraska. Her advice to aspiring make-up artists? “I used to think that I HAD to live in LA or New York City to work in the industry, but I have found that that is not true at all. This is a very hard, competitive industry, and you have to remember to focus on yourself and not compare yourself to other artists. You just need to work on being the best you can be.”