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The business of beauty: makeup artist Gwen Perkins

Posted on September 14, 2016

News-Gwen-Perkins-380For Gwen Perkins, the name of her makeup artistry business, Belle and Rebel Beauty, is more than just a play on words. “Don’t limit yourself. Don’t be just one thing,” is a mantra that Gwen not only shares with her clients, but lives by every day.

As a child, Gwen was always offering manicures and makeovers to her friends. Even as she built a successful career in business and accounting, her passion for makeup and beauty continued.

She says there was no “aha” moment when she decided to study professional makeup artistry at the age of 38. “I wanted to do it,” she says. “So I just went and did it.” 

Not ready to give up her full-time career, however, Gwen searched for local, reasonably priced programs that could be taken outside of business hours. She quickly found Vancouver Community College’s Makeup Artistry Certificate, a part-time program teaching essential makeup skills for film, photography, theatre, fashion, and bridal.

Gwen admits it was a little intimidating to plunge into a new industry and a class full of twentysomethings. Now, however, she credits her maturity and professional confidence for pulling her through the demanding program, as well as helping her succeed in such a fast-paced, creative industry.

While still a student, Gwen recalls volunteering for weekend-long pageants and being recruited for fashion shows, starting before dawn and working hectic, 12-hour days alongside professionals. “I learned pretty quickly how to put red lipstick on a moving target!” she says.

Gwen also says that being the “newbie” in these types of on-the-job scenarios can really test your confidence and your training. She remembers more than once confronting makeup artists who neglected to sanitize their tools between models—“something that VCC really pushes!” she says. “If these models get sick, they don’t work. You need to think about that.”

At one pageant, Gwen remembers asking a client to wait while she cleaned her station. The client smiled and humbly agreed. Then a small crowd gathered, eventually informing Gwen that the person she kept waiting was 2012 Miss World Canada, Tara Teng.

In the end, that makeup session went so well that Tara has since become one of Gwen’s most loyal clients, having called Gwen back to do makeup for both maternity and newborn photo shoots.

Thanks to her excellent reputation for quality and cleanliness, Gwen’s client base has grown quickly since she graduated in 2014, and now includes everyone from runway models to brides, senior executives, and even bodybuilding competitors.

Of all her clients, however, Gwen keeps a special place in her heart and her business for women suffering from conditions like eczema, acne, and cancer. She pulls out a pink leopard-print iPhone and proudly scrolls through her Instagram account to reveal astonishing before-and-after photos. 

“It’s not even a lot of makeup. It’s just the right makeup,” she explains. “Every person, whoever you are, has a side that’s stunning and beautiful. It’s really special when you can give somebody back part of their self-esteem.”

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VCC is proud to welcome Gwen Perkins as a new substitute instructor in the VCC Makeup Artistry program for Fall 2016.

Want to see our Salon & Spa facilities, meet instructors, and see students in action? Join us at Experience VCC, October 26, 2016 at the Downtown campus.