MEL SHEEHY © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHYMelanie Sheehy is one of the co-founders of the renowned Manchester PA Network (MPAN) and Manchester PA Awards. Alongside this incredible career accolade, Melanie is also Chapter Manager for YPO (Young Presidents Organisation), as...
CASSIE LOMAS, HER HUSBAND CHRIS BELL AND THEIR CHILDREN ELKIE & SPIKE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
“I can’t see obstacles, so if I want something, this is my motto, ‘Just make it happen, let’s just make it happen!”
Renowned Celebrity Make -Up Artist, Cassie Lomas, has built an incredible empire since breaking into the Make Up industry in her early twenties and her impressive portfolio of businesses include one of the UK’s most respected Make Up Academy’s – CLMA, an esteemed line of professional make up brushes, a make-up line within Superdrug and Creatives Make Up Agency – which has helped launch and support the careers for hundreds of upcoming MUA’s; all whilst being a doting mum to her two gorgeous children, Spike and Elkie. We sat down to hear how Cassie carved out her own path within the Make Up industry; how teamwork with her husband, Chris, has most definitely made the dream work, and how the last decade of sheer hard work and determination, has led to now finding the ultimate balance between her career and motherhood. You cannot help but feel in awe of Cassie’s formidable drive and what she has achieved already; but it wasn’t always easy, and her story is sure to motivate us all, to see that we can achieve anything that we want to, despite any obstacles that may get in your way!
CASSIE LOMAS. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
What made you decide to become a Make Up Artist and how did you get into the industry in the beginning?
“Well, I went to a girls grammar school – I went to Manchester High School for girls, so I was brought up in a very academic environment, where I was expected to go and become a lawyer, or an accountant or something along those lines and I felt a lot of pressure at the time because I’m fairly bright, but I wouldn’t say I was really academic, you know, I’m not one of those super intelligent people, I’m much more creative. So, for me at that point, there weren’t really any creative options, it wasn’t something that was talked about back then. And I only really knew about make up because I had previously done some modelling so had some experience of being on photoshoots, and I was doing my A Levels and someone came round college with these options for a night course, and I saw Interior Design and thought, ‘oh yeah, I’d love to do that!’ and then I saw Cosmetic Make Up and I thought, ‘Well maybe I’ll do Make Up so I could earn some money on the side while I go to Uni!’ Or you know have a year out and just do Make Up, so that was why I started it. And from there, well I realised it wasn’t quite that easy.” (We all laugh) “But once I’d started, I thought, ‘Well I can’t stop now,’ and I loved it, I was so passionate, and it’s been my hobby since then and I was 17 then.”
Obviously, you went on to create a successful career for yourself, when Make Up wasn’t really seen as a ‘proper’ career choice at that time.
“No, it wasn’t seen as a proper career at the time, and it’s never been intentional, well not that I remember, you know, I never really intended on becoming a Make Up artist. I remember, because I did a business degree at Uni, so all the time that I was finishing my A levels and doing my business degree, I was doing make up on the side and I was building my portfolio and then I remember saying to my mum, ‘I think I want to move to London and give Make Up a go.’ I was adamant about the best, I didn’t just want to do Make Up, I wanted to be the best and what I had found whilst I was starting out was that wherever I went everyone kept saying all the best people train at London College of Fashion and it really stuck with me. So, I thought, ‘Right, well if I’m moving to London, I’m going to go to London College of Fashion.’ So I did, I rang my mum and said, ‘I definitely want to move to London, I think the best way to go is as a student because it’s cheaper’ because at the time you still got funding to go to Uni. So that’s what I did, and I got in, I got a place on their HND Fashion Make Up course and by this point I’d already been doing Make Up for 5 years. So, I was quite far into doing it already, I’d had an agent, I’d been working with celebrities, and I went down to London, and it was obviously all new. I was working in a nightclub at night – a celebrity ‘hotspot’ you know, and I would be at college all day. And then I got a big break, working with an amazing make-up artist assisting her and just progressed from there. Within the space of two to three months I was flying around the world. And it never really stopped, and I got to about 25, and I bought a flat in Chelsea, I bought a brand-new car cash, I was shopping on Sloan Street, Champagne was the drink that I drank on my nights out and this was all in my early twenties and it was lot, when you think back. I was so fortunate and so lucky to be able to experience that, then suddenly it stopped, and I had no money. I couldn’t afford to pay my mortgage, my main client wasn’t working anymore, so I decided at that point I was going to stop working with celebrities and I wanted to become a Fashion Make Up Artist – like high fashion. I wanted to do London Fashion Week and editorials. So, I started saying no to all my money jobs and I changed my agent, and I went down the fashion route. So, then I found myself getting the tube across London, with two suitcases, to do magazine shoot – for no money at all and I get there, and they would say, ‘She doesn’t actually need anything. Maybe just do that with her hair’ (lightly ruffles her hair) and I would just think ‘Wow, I’ve just travelled two hours to get here, I’m not getting paid and now I’m not even allowed to touch the model!’ So I did this for about six months and I really struggled with it because I like putting Make Up on people and the fashion industry is not about putting Make Up on and you have to do so much free work at the beginning, that for me to go from earning a lot of money and flying around the world on jets to getting the tube across London for no money and then your work not even being appreciated as such, it was a real culture shock. And I found myself at this point where I couldn’t afford to pay my mortgage, I had this flat in Chelsea with my best friend, I’d been living the high life and it had just all gone. I’m skint, what do I do? So that was a real moment for me, and I found myself at this point where I had to make a decision because to be in this decision at 25 where I’d had all this success and I now had responsibilities, but no money, I thought what am I going to do? And I thought right I can either now think this hobby is enough, I’ve took it as far as I can and I need to now go get a ‘real job’ because as I said Make Up was never looked upon as a real job, although my parents always supported me so it never came from that, they were always like you should do what you want, it was more from society as a whole. So, I thought do I know start applying for jobs in marketing which was what my degree was in, or I do I go and get a job in pizza express which was my favourite restaurant and I can start trying to earn money again in make up and go back to what I love which is working in music and with celebrities and so that’s what I did. I decided that fashion wasn’t for me, I’d had such a great few years doing what I was doing and so I went back down that route.”
CASSIE LOMAS AND HER DAUGHTER ELKIE. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
You’re obviously very passionate about helping MUA’s start and maintain their careers and you’ve kind of put choosing to be a Make Up Artist as a career choice on the map, does that stem from what you experienced? Or what made you decide to start the academy?
“So, the idea of the academy came about because I had struggled so much at the beginning, I felt like it was almost like a secret society and no one wanted to let you in and no one wanted to give you advice and you couldn’t just google the answer to things you wanted to know and I was made to feel a bit stupid on a lot of occasions and I made so many mistakes in my career that if someone would have just said, ‘Oh no, you don’t do that, that’s not the done thing’ then I wouldn’t have done it, but I didn’t know and so I wanted to open a school, not just that taught people, but that really helped them as well. That helped them get those breaks that I found so tricky to get because I thought I can offer so much, so many opportunities – not just the training, but after the training, like getting people into work. What I think every school should be like, you know our slogan had become after 10 years, ‘we don’t just teach make up, we nurture careers’ and that is what we do. It annoys me so much when people come to us to train and they’ve already paid for training elsewhere and they don’t know the most simple, basic things and people are taking their money off them and saying I can do that, I can teach you that and they’ve not even been taught to put moisturiser on the model, or they don’t know what a test shoot is. It just drives me nuts. So, I have always prided myself on teaching people everything they need to know. That’s why we don’t do loads of courses and we don’t do short courses. When I started out, I did do a short course for a week and it was a weeks bridal course and it was rammed, to the point where we had to get a new academy it was so busy. But what happened was someone rang me and said ‘Do you know such a body, they’ve got in touch with me about a job, it’s over in Spain and they’ve said they can do it and that they’ve trained with you’ but I didn’t know the person who they were talking about and then when I looked I realised that they had done the bridal course and it was that, that made me realise that people are going out after one weeks training and saying that they’ve trained with me and trying to get big freelance jobs and that was it I said ‘I’m not doing that course anymore, we need to shut it down’ and I also increased the length of time of the main course. It was a learning curve for me. But lots of people think that they can be a make up artist in two or three days and it doesn’t work like that – if you want to be the best and you want to get good jobs you must learn how to do it properly because it’s a craft. I think though because as women we do makeup everyday on ourselves, people think it’s easy, until they come in the school and they’re like ‘wow I didn’t realise how much there was to learn!’ So, the reason for starting the school was to help people genuinely and to offer opportunities that I wasn’t given. I never really had any expectations for it lasting, even in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have look forward to where we are today – we’ve been going for over 10 years.”
So how old were Spike and Elkie when you opened the academy?
“So, Spike was one and Elkie wasn’t born when I started it. I remember taking Elkie in when she was born, and I was teaching and breast feeding at the same time. I thought to myself if I have the luxury of being my own boss then I’m going to take my baby to work, and I loved it! Having that perk and being able to do that was amazing! And, because at the time I spent so much time away in London working, so when I was at home, I wanted my kids with me. I would take Spike in all the time and do-little shoots with him, which is great because they’ve both ended up being little models now, so I think being around that has really helped.”
Obviously when you’re as ambitious as you and as driven as you, it can be hard to continue in the way when children come along so how did you adapt initially when Spike came along?
“Well, that was actually one of the catapults to opening the school. When I was pregnant, I was still flying around the world doing make up – I was on tour with Lady Gaga and we visited 27 countries in two months, I was eight and half months pregnant when I got back. I literally flew home on the last day that I could fly, so spent most of my pregnancy away on my own, in Japan and all-around Europe so I literally experienced that whole journey with Chris on the phone, with the time difference and everything and I was petrified. And when I came back my agent was in London, people still thought I lived in London, I didn’t tell anyone that I had moved to Manchester because I thought they’ll stop booking me and I thought right I’m having a baby now, there’s no getting around this, so that why I decided I needed to set something up in Manchester and that’s when I said it’s the right time for the school. So I had the school, but of course I still went back to work down in London and I used to take Spike with me, I had a flat down there and my mother in law used to come with me. She would sometimes spend a week there with me whilst I worked because I wanted him there when I got home from work. It was great having that support, because if I hadn’t of had Susan (Cassie’s Mother- in-law) I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
That’s amazing, especially for 10 years ago, because even though society is slowly becoming more inclusive of working parents it certainly wasn’t the case 10 years ago, but that’s obviously a testament to your determination and ambition.
“I can’t see obstacles so if I want something, this my motto, ‘Just make it happen, lets just make it happen!’ I say it my students all the time, I can’t see how if you want something you can’t get it? My brain just won’t allow that, because what I’ll do for example, say I want to go to London tomorrow for work and I will work back wards and I will think ‘Right how I do get there?’ So instead of thinking, I want to go to London tomorrow but I’ve got no one to have the kids, but I’ll think about what time I need to be a work, what time I need to leave and I would think who can I pay to come with me and stay in the flat with the kids, I’m just always trying to find a solution and that’s just the way I work. I just don’t know how to work any other way.”
Did you ever experience any judgement about taking your children to work with you?
“Well, I would never have taken them on to a paid job, because I was working with popstars etc and that wouldn’t have been the right thing to do, but when it was taking them into the academy, I didn’t even care what people thought. I just thought well its my academy and I feel this is the right thing to do. But actually, I had the opposite, because I remember going to the hairdressers and I was all flustered because I’d had to get a babysitter and I was like, ‘What do people usually do with their kids when they need their hair doing or their eyebrows done?’ and they were just like, ‘Well, everybody just brings their kids in’ and I remember thinking ‘Really?! People bring their kids to a hair salon. I would never have thought of that.’ And from then I realised it was ok to take my children to things, but because my brain was so programmed to be professional, turn up at work without the kids, that thought had never crossed my mind that I could take them to the salon with me!”
We all know what parent guilt is like, and getting that balance can be really hard, is that something you’ve experienced too?
“So, Chris is amazing, he said at the beginning when we said we’d have children, you know I’d moved back up north from London to be with him, I love my job, I didn’t want to stop it and he said, ‘I’ll do it, I’ll look after the kids.’ Not that he would give up work, he would still work, but that my job would be the priority basically over his job so if I needed to go off, I would go off and he has stuck to that ever since, so I’ve never had to think I’ve got a job I need someone to look after the kids in order to be able to do it. Would just pick up the phone and let him know that I need to go to London the next day etc, and I remember there’s been times where he’s rang me and been like, ‘Where are you?’ and I’d be like, ‘I’m on my way to Dubai’ and ‘Oh right, when are you back?’, ‘In 5 Days’, ‘Oh right so you can’t get the kids?’, ‘No’, ‘Oh right, OK.’ (We all laugh) and that’s just the relationship that we have. And we’ve made it work. Chris has always done the school runs, it’s only now the last couple of years that I’m doing it now and roles have kind of reversed. What happened though a few years ago was Elkie said to me, ‘Mummy I don’t want you to go to London’ well, that was it, it was like a sledgehammer to my heart, and I had never considered that my children would have even noticed that I wasn’t there because they were so happy, and Chris is such a good dad. So that was it, I was like, ‘Right, what am I going to do know. I can’t go to London and work anymore, what am I going to do?’ So, I just decided to run my businesses instead, I’ll have to stay home, take a step back from going to London to do make up and run my businesses. Now what I do is I choose the jobs that want to do very carefully, I only work with people who make me happy, and I only go if I’ve got no family commitments and I’ve learned to say no, which was something that I could never ever do before she said that to me. So, I’ve adapted, I’m still getting up everyday and working but I’m not flying around the world. Although I have got a trip coming up but it’s only two day and I will always check with Elkie first if she doesn’t mind me going and if she doesn’t want me to go, I won’t go. Ultimately, these guys are my priority.”
Have you ever worried about other people perceptions of you working ‘too much’?
“I’ve never really cared what people think and all I’ve heard is ‘Oh my god I don’t know how you do it! ‘You’re like wonder woman’ etc so because everyone was so complimentary of my success, I never felt a judgement of anyone, but I do that to myself, I judge myself and have that terrible mum guilt and I think if the children ask me to do anything it’s always a yes. I think because I’m always questioning am I a good mum? Elkie is the worst she has me wrapped around her little finger!” Laughter fills the room once again. We’d got back from camping the other week and she’d decided she’d had enough of the wallpaper in her bedroom and so at 7pm I was at B&Q getting paint, I finished it around 11pm. We got up the next morning about 7am, went to Ikea, got her all bits to finish it off and it was all done within 24 hours and that’s what she does to me! It’s like ‘I wanna be a good mum, I wanna be a good mum!’ And I think that’s because it doesn’t come naturally to me, all I’ve ever known is work. I’m not the kind of mum that sits on the floor pulling out jigsaws and playdoh, I have to work at it. So, what I’ve tried to do is find things to do with the kids that we all enjoy. You just want to do your best.”
Obviously, you will be inspiring your children in so many ways too, though, so do you allow yourself to take stock of that and feel proud at how you’re influencing them as a parent?
“I think one good thing is that is that me and Chris are opposites, he lives day to day, he’s not bothered about success, you know. He’ll work for things he wants like to get the motor home or to do up the house etc, and he really enjoys spending time with the kids. I’m very much career focused, and I struggle to switch off, but he brings me back down to earth and family life which is brilliant. When I grew up my parents taught me so much about building for my future and instilled a great work ethic into me and made me believe I could succeed in anything. It was a different upbring than what Chris had and he’d be off with his family camping and fishing and generally living life to the full. I love having those differences in both sides of our family, where I can show the kids what they can achieve if they work hard, and also how to enjoy life. They go without nothing and that includes my time and my love. I’ve made a rule now that we have every single school holiday off. We go on holiday at Christmas and at Easter, we have every half term off and the full six weeks in the summer off both Chris and I, and that last 10 years has been really hard at times, but it has allowed us the privilege to be able to do that.”
Do you have any advice for fellow mums out there who are looking to start a business or reach the top of their career?
“Firstly, I think whatever you want you can make possible. And secondly you really have to really visualise what you want. Without a goal you can’t make it happen. So, you need to know where you want to be, I do vision boards. I actually had a really bad time when I’d hit 40 because I had achieved everything I wanted, a successful career, a beautiful husband, two gorgeous children, the academy, my make up brushes and a beauty line in Superdrug, Creatives agency, amazing friends and family, big house great holidays etc and I thought what do I do now? But I gave myself a talking to and realised I just need to set new goals and work towards those. So, my advice, is set your long-term goal and work backwards. What’s your 5-year plan? 3-year plan? 12-month plan and what do you need to do in the next 3 months in order to get there? And just tick things off and you will get there. Don’t let anyone tell you no!”
Interviewed by Lolo Stubbs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD
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