PROFILE KIM AYERS

Where were you born?
I was born in Bellflower, CA and raised in Hacienda Heights,
California. I lived in the same house until I moved out on my own
when I was 19 years old.

Where do you live now?
I live In North Hollywood, CA with my husband Cary and my two
dogs Frankenstein and Boris.

What’s your sign?
Taurus

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I thought I wanted to be a lawyer when I was little. I don’t even
know how I got the thought in my head but everyone felt it was
a good idea. Then I was told that I may have to represent a guilty
person someday and so I changed my mind, I was about 11 or
12 at the time. In high school I was very involved with my drama
class so I decided I wanted to be an actress. I realized quickly
that was not a career path for me either.

How did that transpose into a working in makeup?
In high school I was heavy into the drama department. I loved
all of it. That’s where I started doing character makeups. I would
do makeup for all the school plays even if I had a part in the
play I still did makeup. I have always been interested in and
loved makeup. Since I was a small child I was obsessed with
makeup. As soon as I was allowed to wear it, I did. It was the ‘80s
so I wore all of it! If a palette had 6 shadows I would wear them
all. I did all my friends makeup anytime we went anywhere. I did
makeup for my friends for the prom. A friend of mine who was a
working makeup artist suggested I go to makeup school. On his
recommendation I attended Sunset Gower Makeup Academy. I
made up my mind then that makeup would be my career path.

What was your first memorable work as an artist?
My first memorable job as a makeup artist was a movie I did in
1998 called Beautiful. The director was Sally Field. I had loved her
since I was small child. I couldn’t believe that I got to do makeup
on a film she was directing. I couldn’t speak the first time I met
her. There were movie stars I had actually heard of in the movie
like Minnie Driver and Kathleen Turner. I didn’t do their makeup
but I was working on a movie they were in! That was amazing.
We had big pageant scenes with seven additional makeup
artists. Granted I had never heard of such a thing. We even had
a caterer that had edible food for once. It was the big time to
me. I felt like I had finally made it. I got 25 union days from the
film, but I didn’t get the last five days i needed in the year to be
able to join at that time. I had to wait another couple years but I
was finally able join Local 706.

How did you know that the makeup industry was where you wanted to be?
I didn’t know when I was younger that being a makeup artist
was a job. All the adults I knew worked in offices or were
teachers. I didn’t know anyone in the film and television industry
until I had moved out on my own. I didn’t know what I wanted to
do with my life. When I realized that you could have a career
doing makeup I decided that was the path I would take. I
already loved makeup, and I was pretty good at it, so I thought I
would give it a shot.

What are the things about your work that you love?
I love helping people transform into their characters. I love to do
makeup on people and make them feel their best or their worst
depending on the situation. It’s really a good day when
someone likes the way they look — good or bad — depending on
the character.

What are the things about your work that makes it the most interesting to you?
The most interesting thing about my work is it is always changing.
Sometimes I will start my day doing a beauty makeup on an
actress and the next actor through the door will be getting some
kind of dead character makeup. It is always changing. Different
time periods are always really fun to research. I love a good
period piece.

What are the challenges you face as a makeup artist?
Hopefully my signature style is just well executed makeup. I think
as you grow as an artist your style keeps evolving. I really think
my artistry gets better as I get older. As a makeup artist you have
to stay on top of trends but you must also have an encyclopedic
knowledge of the past, so your style and obsessions are
constantly evolving.

What are the challenges you face as a freelance artist?
There are different challenges on every project. Sometimes the
challenge is a makeup design. Sometimes the challenge is the
weather and or location. Sometimes the challenge is staying
awake at hour 68 of the work week. Sometimes it’s managing
your life while being a makeup artist.

What should someone who is looking to develop a career in makeup know before getting into the business?
A person looking for a career in makeup in the film and
television industry needs to know that it’s hard work. It’s a lot of
time on set. It is not just doing the makeup. Doing makeup is the
easiest part most of the time. There are so many other things you
have to do at the same time. Being a makeup artist is not an
easy job but if you love what you do it doesn’t matter.

What do you wish you knew when you started your career that you know now?
I wish I had realized sooner that it was a career. I wish I had
started sooner. I had no idea there was even a makeup school
to attend till I was in my mid ‘20s. I lived far enough away from
Hollywood when I was younger that I never met anyone that
worked on movies and television. When I told my Mom I was
going to be a makeup artist it was like I told her I was going to
be an astronaut. She didn’t understand that it was a real career.
For about seven years she didn’t think it was a real job. When I
got in the union and finally had health insurance she finally
decided it was an actual career.

How do you continue to grow your career as an artist?
I continue to grow in my career as an artist by constantly
learning. I take classes when I can. I watch online courses. I ask
other makeup artists about new things and tricks all the time.
You can learn something new all the time just by asking
questions. Most people will share info if you ask them. If I can
help others with any knowledge I have I always share it too.

What are some of the most important qualities that a makeup artist can have?
Some good qualities that a makeup artist can have are: Be
prepared. Don’t be a jerk!! Have a good attitude. Be a hard
worker. Be a team player. Always be on time but early is better.
Be organized. Always be aware of what is going on around you.
Do not spend your day looking at your phone instead of
paying attention.

I also think flexibility is a critical quality. I’ve seen many artists
“difficult” themselves out of a successful career by being
inflexible and hard headed when it comes to compromise.
Your goal is always to do great work, but sometimes you have to
temper the brilliance and just get the job done quickly and
efficiently. There will be other days and opportunities for
greatness.

What do you look for in a member of your team on a project?
I look for people that have the qualities that I mentioned above
to be member of my team on a project. I like to have people
that are better makeup artists than I am on my team. I like to
have people around that know when it’s time to work and when
it’s time to play. You gotta have some laughs. It makes all the
long days so much easier to get through. When you spend 60-80
hours a week at work together it’s nice to be around people that
you actually like.

What makes you a good makeup artist?
I think what makes me a good makeup artist is that I work hard. I
am very efficient. I can do a lot of things at once. I love to work
on team and I am constantly trying to grow and learn.

What project did you have the most fun working on?
I have had some of the best times on my eight seasons of
American Horror Story. I have had some of the hardest days but
also some of the most fun. We are like a family. We all work hard
and play hard. We had a lot of fun and have shared a lot of
laughs over the years.

What project was the most challenging?
American Horror was also the most challenging project. That’s
what kept us coming back for 8 years. Always something new.
Always something fun. Always something different.

What would your actors say is the best thing about working with you?
Actors have told me they appreciate how quickly I get them in
and out of the makeup chair. They say that I take good care of
them and that I pay attention. I am always prepared. On set I
always have whatever they need in my set bag. My set bag is
pretty stocked with things actors and sometimes other crew
members need. People who know me know about that bag. I
have tried to slim it down many times but I just can’t.

Is there someone you have always wanted to work with who you haven’t had the chance to yet?
I have always been a huge fan of Sir Anthony Hopkins. I don’t
even know if I would be able to do his makeup if given the
chance. I would be so nervous I would probably just freeze up.

Whose work do you admire?
I admire a lot of people. Some of them I have been lucky
enough to work with, or for. Some of them are my friends. I have
been working with Eryn Krueger Mekash for 9 years now. I admire
her work and the way she leads her team. My regular team
mates do amazing work everyday. I also admire so many other
artists: Rick Baker, Ve Neill, Bill Corso, Greg Cannom, Dave
Anderson to name a few.

What has changed most about the industry in the time that you’ve been working in makeup?
The arrival of the internet for everyone — and cell phones! That
has made life in production a lot easier. Texts or emailed
call sheets instead of waiting up for a phone call on a landline.
Emailed maps so you don’t have to figure out how to get to work
on your own. Emails with schedules. Everything can get to you
quickly. If you need something you can text someone to grab it
from the trailer. It makes life so much easier.

What’s next for Kim Ayers?
I am just finishing up a film called Boys in The Band. It was such a
lovely experience in every way. In a few weeks I will be starting
another show with Eryn Krueger Mekash called Hollywood for
Netflix. Beyond that who knows? I hope to be fortunate enough
to continue to get to be a part of more wonderful projects like
the ones that I have been lucky enough to be a part of so far in
my career. I feel very fortunate and grateful that I have been
able to have this career.

Words Michael DeVellis
Photos courtesy of Kim Ayers
Kim Ayers Portrait Deverill Weekes @deverill_weekes