CMU fashion makeup and hairstyling instructor Margot Keith has honed her skills through working for publications like Fashion Magazine, commercial campaigns for brands including Toni & Guy, and personal clients such as Ryan Gosling, Wyclef Jean, and Peaches. While Margot operates a salon in downtown Toronto, she also finds time for television work at the CBC and other productions including Heroes Reborn and Designated Survivor. We spoke to her about her career, and what it takes to be a thriving artist.
When did you first become interested in doing makeup and hair? What were your first inspirations?
I started doing makeup on myself and friends when I first moved to Toronto from Nova Scotia at 15-years-old. I had RuPaul’s autobiography, Letting It All Hang Out, as my inspiration, and was using MAC Cosmetics which was still Canadian and so exclusive at the time. I loved Lady Miss Kier from [the band] Deee-lite and [Canadian shoe designer] John Fluevog. There was a very fun rave scene in Toronto at that time, so I was very influenced and inspired by that.
What’s your educational background/experience in the industry?
I loved makeup and going to different parties, so before I started any education, I was fortunate to meet people who gave me opportunities to do makeup for fashion shows and some art shoots. I eventually took Pro Makeup 1 with another current CMU instructor, Dino Dilio, as my instructor at George Brown College part-time while I worked as the cosmetics manager of Noah’s Natural Foods. Upon completion of my first course, I took a job with Chanel as a makeup artist and counter manager. After a year with Chanel I moved to London, England, where I took Television and Film Makeup at London College of Fashion and worked with an amazing television and film company called Screenface. Magdalen Gaffney was the owner, and is a tremendous makeup artist who taught me so much. I was able to assist the world’s best artists including Pat McGrath, Paul Engelen (known best for being a long-term James Bond makeup artist), and so many more.
After 11 years working as a makeup artist, I decided to go back to school for hair. I did my apprenticeship with the only Vidal Sassoon salon in Canada, giving me a strong foundation in cutting. I later moved to a salon called Day & Night, which was a great learning experience in terms of styling, cutting, colouring and being able to do makeup at the salon and on set. I decided to get further education part-time while at Day & Night, so got my Red Seal, which is a national certification. I regularly go to workshops with Kevin Murphy and R & Co. to continue my education in styling, cutting and colouring.
I now own a small hair studio in the west end of Toronto, work part-time with the CBC doing hair, as well as doing the odd day with the IATSE film and television union and doing non-union creative work. That about sums up my 21 years in the industry!
Do you have a favourite type of work, for example commercial clients or editorial?
I have worked in many realms and made so many great friends, particularly doing television. I would say my favorite work is really with my personal clients in my studio. I love getting to know people, being able to collaborate on what works well for them at whatever stage of life they are in. Being able to give someone the hair they’ve always wanted and seeing the happiness in their eyes – it’s the best feeling in the world. I absolutely love doing hair.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while working with a client?
The most valuable lesson I have learned…this is a hard one because there’s so many. I guess the most important is that you can try your best every time, but you can’t knock it out of the park every time. I think it’s really important to self-evaluate after every job or client, but also to know your worth. If someone is treating you without respect, it’s important to be able to communicate that you will not be treated poorly. If someone doesn’t like the makeup, we can wash it off and try again. If someone doesn’t like their hair, we can adjust it. The key is communicating, having self-respect and always aiming to do better.
When did you first join CMU and why did you want to teach?
I joined CMU in 2014 and was elated to become a part of the staff. I had previous teaching experience, but always wanted to work at CMU. The international reputation was so impressive that this was really a huge accomplishment for me to be working among some of the great artists in the industry, as well as being a part of the next generation’s careers.
What’s your favourite thing about teaching at CMU?
My favorite thing about teaching at CMU is watching the students grow. From day one, often students have no hair experience and seeing them develop skills, watching them get to know each other, and seeing a student’s confidence grow with practice – I feel great pride when I can be a part of this.
How can prospective students best prepare for their time at CMU?
The best way to prepare for upcoming classes at CMU is to be ready to put the work in. You will be at school Monday to Friday, all day, and you will be challenged. Not everything will come easily; students excel at different things and at different times. Show up, put the work in, push past those difficult feelings of not being able to get it the first time, and keep trying. Even as a skilled, trained artist, I still encounter challenges and they make me a better artist, but it’s always hard to work through. If you do, you will have a long and industrious career!