Ariel Tejada is living a modern-day Cinderella story. Only instead of a glass slipper, he had his Instagram DM’s. And instead of Prince Charming, there was the “angel in [his] life”, Kylie Jenner.
As for a fairy godmother granting his every wish? You can forget her. It was Ariel’s own determination, drive, talent and pure love for makeup that did all the wand-waving required to get him to where he is today.
And where is that exactly? In Sydney, chatting BEAUTYcrew through everything from his first job interview to managing tricky client expectations, and his favourite celebrity-owned foundation (hint: it doesn’t belong to a Kar/Jenner).
And though some experts in their field will gatekeep or stay tight-lipped on the industry secrets they’ve picked up along the way, you won’t find Ariel holding back. Why? Because he’s one of a kind and he knows it: “I could sit here and teach you a million times how I apply makeup and it's gonna be nearly impossible for you to ever be me and I will never be you.”
So on that note, here’s exactly how Ariel landed his dream job and dream life….
What was your first-ever job?
My first-ever job was makeup. I’ve never had another. I tried applying to Sephora; I went with my mum and was devastated because when I left there, the manager pulled me aside and said, ‘sorry, you just don't have the look’. I [was] a 16-17-year-old kid, like, what does that mean? So, I never really had a 9-5 job like that. I went straight from high school into freelance makeup.
Did you have any training or experiences that helped you get to where you are today?
The best training is trial and error, and messing up a whole bunch of times [without] getting discouraged. Still, to this day, I use my own work as reference. I'll look back at it and critique myself and learn from that. Nobody can sit there and really teach you how to create because makeup is such a personal art. [It’s] something that you kind of grow and create for yourself.
What does an average workday look like for you?
My schedule is constantly changing so it can vary. One day, I [could be] doing a client just for going out, which could take anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours, three hours sometimes. And then we have photoshoot days, which sometimes start at 6am and we don't end until 7pm or sometimes 1am, depending on what we're shooting. It’s a lot of fun but a lot of work.
Do you have any tips for aspiring makeup artists looking to break into the industry?
Self-work and trial and error. I think we are so lucky to be living in a time where reaching a huge crowd is so achievable with social media. Build yourself to be at a point where you're competent enough to use social media to your advantage.
Can you elaborate more on how you’ve used social media to progress your career?
It’s what got me the exposure to reach the people I was able to reach. I’ve always had a go-getter mentality and nothing would ever stop me, nothing would discourage me. There are people I’ve messaged a million times and have never replied to me and that didn’t make me feel any less great, you know? Social media is incredible.
Have you ever been starstruck by any of your celebrity clients?
I grew up in a household where idolising other people was never a thing. God is the only thing I idolised and I just never had that fan-girl mentality. So even with the people that I wanted to work with most, I was nervous to perform at my best but not nervous to meet them… if that makes sense? I wanted to leave a good impression and that’s where my nerves kick in.
You’re widely recognised as a trendsetter within the industry. Where do you look for inspiration?
For makeup, I genuinely find inspiration in my previous work. I’m constantly trying to find ways of bettering myself and I think there’s no better teacher than your old work. Going back and really assessing it, taking notes and then perfecting it, that’s the way to grow. When you start focusing your energy on what other people are doing it’s really easy to get distracted and you have to remember that you will never be them. So focus on how to better you.
You’re in Australia on behalf of Naked Sundays. How did you first come to know about the Aussie brands and what is your favourite product?
I’m really excited about the SPF50 Sheer Glow Balm Sticks ($89.95 at Naked Sundays). I’m really into that. I think it’s so unique that your whole makeup application [resembles] skin care. Also the SPF50+ Hydrating Glow Mist Top Up ($39.95 at Naked Sundays) is so cool. For that to be the first of its kind is sick. When my manager brought it up to me, I thought, oh my god, this is so cool. I constantly struggle with reapplying SPF on people on shoots because I can't just wipe the makeup off and start over but they need to stay protected in the sun. So this is such a cool concept.
What would you consider to be the toughest parts of your job?
The most challenging part is that I didn't sign up to be an influencer. Nowadays, if you're not doing both, it's really hard to keep up with the Joneses. You’re constantly playing catch up. So that's why I decided not long ago to mute all the accounts that are makeup or work-related and just follow my manager and the core people in my life, like my family and my friends. I don't see anything else and I think that plays a huge role in keeping me sane.
Another hard thing is staying true to yourself and being honest with what you want and how you want people to receive it. That’s a really hard thing when you’re dealing with brands, brand deals and even clients sometimes. [When you’re] trying to balance keeping the signature of who you are as an artist and pleasing other people, it can get uncomfortable.
And the best part?
Every time a client of mine gets out of the makeup chair and they feel empowered, I feel like I am on top of the world. There’s no better feeling than making someone else feel that extra bit beautiful, it’s so special.
Do you have any words of wisdom that you live by?
Yes, “my imperfections don’t make me and your imperfections don’t make you”. This is something so important to me because I constantly get people trying to bring me down from little things that I’m aware of, that I was born with. People love to point things out and put you down about it. I think it’s so important to promote a message of positivity and self-love. We have to live with this face that we see in the mirror every day and it’s so important just to be happy and proud of that.
Ariel’s top must-have products
#1 Biologique Recherche Creme Dermopurifiante (POA)
#2 Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturiser ($14.99 at Chemist Warehouse) — “I break out so anything that can control my acne [is great]. I also like a gentle moisturiser before makeup. [This one is] really hydrating and inexpensive”
#3 Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream ($58 at Kiehl’s)
Ruby is BEAUTYcrew's Beauty Editor. She is the CEO of nine global corporations. Just kidding. She does however, report on the latest beauty trends, celeb skin care lines (the wonderful, the so-so and the downright unnecessary). If you're ever at a lull in conversation with her, be sure to mention anything hormonal acne or Real Housewives and you'll be set for hours.