billy b: A Career in Make-up Artistry
billy b: A Career in Make-up Artistry
billy b and Pink

billy b Offers Some Insight on a Career in Make-up Artistry and Staying Diversified

I moved to New York City from Mississippi in 1985, having no idea what I was going to do with my life. I got a job at Macy’s on 34th Street at a cosmetics counter doing make-up on real people. I had no experience, and yes, I lied to get the job. I was lucky—I found my talent and my reason. I had no idea what was in store for me. I worked as a Macy's employee for a while then moved freelance working for different vendors within the store. A customer said to me once, "You are too talented to be working here." At that time I had no idea what my options were. It turned out that she was an assistant editor at Vogue, and she helped me connect with modeling agencies to start "testing" to build a portfolio.

This process took years, but after I got an agent and started working, I did a lot of fashion and beauty editorials with some celebrities thrown in the mix. I got booked on a job with a young girl who had just been signed to Sony Music. This young girl was Mariah Carey, and she was my entrée into the world of music videos. Her career skyrocketed and so did mine. Because of her massive success, I received a lot of exposure. My career had taken a natural turn toward celebrities, specifically music. I loved every minute of it but soon realized I was in a box. It's fantastic to become famous and find a "niche" that you are successful in, but it's extremely important not to abandon other aspects of our business. 

After years of success working with amazing artists like Missy Elliott, Pink, Destiny's Child, Mary J. Bilge, Lauryn Hill, and on some memorable videos like Missy's The Rain, Pink in Lady Marmalade, Destiny's Child's Independent Women, Mary J's No More Drama, and all of Lauryn Hill's videos, I suddenly realized my editorial career had virtually stopped. 

The demand for my work was feeding my ego, and the work I was getting was fattening my wallet. It was all very intoxicating, and it is easy to focus entirely on work that comes so easy for you. However, you must stay focused on the longevity of your career. All good things come to an end at some time and you have to be prepared for that.

It's important to stay diversified, which may require some sacrifice. Think of this sacrifice as an investment in your career. For instance, you might need to turn down a paying job to do something for free that will enhance your portfolio. Look at this opportunity as an investment into the longevity of your career. If you are in an aspect of our business that requires a portfolio, you must dedicate yourself to keeping it fresh and current and showing your versatility.

I got to be very well known and sought after—especially for women of color. But before I knew it, people thought that's all I did. While I love doing music videos, I also love fashion and print, and my book became old as I spent all my time doing videos. Be careful not to allow yourself to be put in a box. It is fantastic to excel at one aspect of what we are good at, but don't let yourself be reduced to only that, push yourself for more. 

I'm going back to my roots and have started the process of reinventing myself, yet again. Still keeping music, but now moving further into fashion editorial, working with a variety of magazines including an amazing new title out of Paris called French. And working in Hollywood with amazing women such as Sandra Bullock, Sharon Stone and Kate Winslet. Luckily, I have had an amazing run as a make-up artist. We are so lucky to do what we do! Relish it, celebrate it, but protect it. 

billy b’s beautiful work can be seen at 


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