Today we’d like to introduce you to Adrienne Thompson.
Hi Adrienne, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I have 4 sisters and one of my younger sisters introduced me to the world of beauty YouTubers when I was about 15. Before that, I hadn’t really cared much about makeup because my mom never wore much makeup and neither did my other sisters. I gave my younger sisters $20 and told her to go pick out some makeup from Target for me.
From then on, I was hooked! I loved how transformative makeup could be and how it was another way for me to express my love of art. I slowly built up my personal makeup collection to a very sizable amount and would occasionally do makeup on my friends for dances in high school. When I got to college I would maybe do 1 wedding a summer when I came home during the summer but it was never anything serious.
As I was finishing up my bachelors in Graphic Design during my senior year of college I felt like I really wanted to push to make makeup my full time job. I invested all of my graduation money into a very basic makeup kit and started practicing on any face I could get my hands on which was usually one of my sisters. I am completely self-taught through online courses, YouTube videos, talking with other successful artists locally and nationwide and a lot of practice. I gave it my all but this business is a very saturated business in St. Louis and gaining exposure was tough. At the same time all of this was happening, my fiancé lost his job. We couldn’t afford for me to be doing casual makeup on the side so I got a full time Graphic Design job while he looked for a new job. About 6 months into my desk job I knew it was now or never to make another push for makeup.
I am a very social and active person and sitting at a desk all day behind a computer screen was not what I wanted to be doing. I talked with my now husband and he agreed to let me make a large investment into getting my name out there in the makeup world. It was so scary and slow in the beginning, but eventually, it started to pay off. People were reaching out to me and I was able to start networking with other artists, wedding vendors, photographers, and local models. Within 6 months, my weekends started getting packed with clients and I was still working a 40hr a week design job, newly married and raising a toddler.
Finally, it got to the point that I was actually losing money because I couldn’t accept makeup clients and makeup jobs during the week. Again, I talked to my husband and I decided to make the big leap to quit my design job after a year and a half and pursue makeup full time. That was about 2.5 months ago! I have continued to grow ever since and I’m not turning back! I have truly been incredibly blessed through every step of my journey!
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
This growth has not been a smooth road in the slightest. One of the largest hurdles has been the cost. I don’t think people realize just how expensive becoming a makeup artist is and the continuing expenses that will never stop because something always has to be refilled. I take a lot of pride in being an artist that can cater to absolutely any client. It doesn’t matter their skin color, skin type, age or makeup preferences, I can create the perfect look for you! With that comes stocking a makeup kit with the lightest of complexion products all the way to the richest of complexion products and every shade in between.
In the beginning, I put a good chunk of money into my base kit but it has taken about 2-3 years of constantly buying a little makeup here and a little there to get it to the point where I feel very confident in every product in my kit and I know I am putting the best of the best quality makeup on my clients every time. Along with the cost, I have had to give up a lot of my time. For around a year and a half I was working 40hours M-F and then had weddings and photoshoots on the weekends. I missed a lot of time with my family and that was a hard pill to swallow and still is tough to navigate. I have to be very intentional with my time and set work/life boundaries because my brides and clients have my phone numbers and I get calls and texts at almost every hour of the day.
At some point, I have to be able to turn my mind off and be present with my family. Job security is also a huge factor, especially during all that is going on in the world and being a makeup artist is not a very secure job. Covid has required brides to move their weddings and events to be canceled and that is money lost. I am very fortunate that I have an extremely supportive husband and family but I do not take that pressure lightly. I want to be able to provide the best life for my daughter and any future kids and having a job with limited stability is a heavy weight to carry.
Finally, this industry is extremely saturated with talented makeup artists. At first, I thought I needed to do what everyone else was doing and then I would make it. I would beat myself up constantly comparing my work to other artists and feeling down that I wasn’t as booked as someone else. It took some time, but I truly feel like I have branded myself and my style of makeup apart from what the majority of artists are doing in St. Louis. That doesn’t mean that I am right and others are wrong but that does mean I feel I can offer an experience and a final look different from what any other local artist can provide.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am a freelance hair and makeup artist in St. Louis and the surrounding areas. A large majority of my work revolves around weddings and bridal hair and makeup, but another huge chunk is makeup for boudoir and other types of photography. I model a lot of my work around celebrity makeup artists and the style of makeup you see for the red carpet. A common thought is that more is more with makeup and I don’t necessarily think that is the case. I want my clients to leave feeling fresh, lively, beautiful, and like an amped up version of themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, I can give the glam, but I have found that a lot of people don’t necessarily want heavy makeup often associated with ultra glamorous looks. Another huge factor is longevity of your makeup. St. Louis is notorious for humidity so I really focus on very intentional makeup placement and techniques so your makeup stays all day and night without feeling or looking like a mask. Another thing I believe that distinguishes me from other artists is my personality.
I am very professional when it comes to running my business but I am also a very social and bubbly person. I have a very compassionate heart and I love learning about my clients, and I have developed very close relationships with a lot of the people I work with because of that. The project I am most proud of would have to be a very recent photoshoot I did with my twin sisters as the models. I was able to do hair and makeup on my sisters and introduce them to a very successful photographer in the St. Louis area. We did a beautiful, very editorial style photoshoot and I loved the outcome! Being able to marry my family life with my work life was a huge moment and it made me so proud of how far I have come!
If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
I believe my drive to succeed and my competitive nature has continued to propel me forward in this industry. I am a former collegiate basketball player and I am very competitive at heart. That can be both positive and negative but a huge turning point for my business was when I stopped trying to compete with other artists and instead compete with myself. I am constantly trying to be better than I was yesterday. I want to be able to be more efficient with my time, take better photos of my work, reach out to more creatives and set higher goals for my business.
This can be exhausting at times but it keeps my spark for my business and craft alive because I treat each day and client as an opportunity to get better. With all of that, it is important to remain humble. I never want to dampen another artists flame in order to push myself ahead but it is important to be confident in your work and celebrate your victories. I believe hard work and success should always be rewarded.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.setbydren.com
- Instagram: @setbydren
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SetbyDren/
- Other: https://www.theknot.com/marketplace/set-by-dren-saint-louis-mo-2039831
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