A How-To with Carmindy: Self-Confidence, Career and Making Mistakes

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How do you turn pre-teen low self-esteem into killer self-confidence, become a successful makeup artist who hits TV bigtime, publish three books, and change millions of women's lives along the way? I thought "What Not to Wear's" makeup star Carmindy might know, so when she was in town to talk up her new book, Crazy Busy Beautiful: Beauty Secrets for Getting Gorgeous Fast (HarperStudio paperback, $12.99), I asked her.

In your previous book, Get Positively Beautiful, you included a childhood photo and revealed that you hadn't felt pretty as a young girl. How did you build your self-confidence?
"Growing up in Southern California, which is so body and image conscious, I was the chubby pre-teen. I had freckles I should have been celebrating, braces, and I remember my mom permed my hair -- I was totally ridiculed and made fun of constantly.

For a young girl who's about to enter adulthood, it's a one way fast-track to Insecure City, which is exactly what happened.

"But I was always a very positive person. I started doing personal mirror mantras, these little affirmations. Instead of like, 'Oh, the kids say I'm fat, I must be fat, I must be ugly,' I'd look in the mirror and say, 'You know what, I have great eyes.' Or 'I have great cheeks, they're not fat, they're happy.' Pretty soon my self-esteem and confidence grew."

How did you get started in the fashion-and-beauty industry?
"I met a boy in school whose father was a television makeup artist for a TV show, and I thought, that is the coolest job I've ever heard of. So for Christmas on year, I asked my father to build me a Hollywood-style makeup mirror with the lightbulbs all around it and a director's chair, and he did. I just started painting up my friends and neighbours and creating looks on them that I would tear out of magazines. That's how I got started as a teen.

CrazyBusyBeautiful

"Then in highschool, I would drive up to Hollywood on weekends and assist makeup artists on photoshoots for free. I would basically clean brushes, get coffee and do whatever it took just so I could be on a set and in that world, and it went from there. Pretty soon I started working with the photo assistants, because they were trying to build their portfolios as I was trying to build mine; it just grew from there.

"I'm a very lucky person that I knew at such a young age. I remember at 15 feeling triumphant that I'd figured it out. There was a career day when I was a freshman in high school, and I thought to myself, well I don't see anything on this list that's appealing. None of this fits me, editorial assistant or nurse -- nothing on there looked good to me. So I decided I had to figure out what made me happy, what my passion is, and I loved makeup and fashion and most importantly travelling. This way I could do all of it. I was really lucky.

"People need to know that if they don't see it on the piece of paper, they can create their own destiny."

How did you get your first pro makeup gig?
"I was assisting a makeup artist in Hollywood, and the makeup artist was sick. There was a weekend job with a photographer, so I got to fill in for that makeup artist. And that photographer loved me so much that he wound up doing another job in South Beach, Miami, that he flew me to, and then I never went back to California. Then I was gone."

How did you become so confident as an artist?
"I faked it. Fake it till you make it. Pretend like you know what you're doing and pretty soon you will. If I was ever intimidated I never let it show. I did my best and went with my gut feeling -- sometimes it wasn't right, but that's the great thing about makeup, it can be fixed and adjusted. But what I didn't do is I never got so frustrated that I was paralyzed. I just kept barrelling along and making everyone think that I knew exactly what I was doing, and that's pretty much how you wind up gaining that confidence. You convince yourself. And that's how you start thinking day to day.

"You can make confident mistakes. When you make a mistake and you learn from it, next time around you're going to do it better. But you don't have to feel bad about it, you can feel confident about it because you took a chance. Taking a chance is a step in the right direction, whether it works or not."

Stay tuned for part two, in which Carmindy talks celebs, ruining her career, and whether her makeup line is ever coming to Canada. Tomorrow's installment will also offer a giveaway, natch.

And okay, fine -- Staff thinks it important that I confess to having taken the buddy photo when Carmindy was in Toronto for Get Positively Beautiful. It's insanely large because I had only a vertical crop on Facebook; the original was lost when my hard-drive died. *sigh*

A version of this story appeared in the Metro Newstoday.