From the beauty counter to Lady Gaga: How Billy B became a makeup artist to the stars
Billy B is known in the industry as a makeup artist to the stars, but he certainly didn't start out that way. Billy Brasfield moved to New York City when he was 20 years old, and taught himself how to do makeup while working at the beauty counter in the Herald Square Macy's.
Desperate to start working after moving to New York, Billy walked into Macy's and actually told a small lie to get his first gig in makeup. "I walked in, and they asked me if I had any experience doing makeup. I lied and told them I had experience, and they gave me a job! I was like 'Hell yeah, this is where it all starts'," Billy told us.
From that point forward, Billy saw his career start to blossom. Empowered by the compliments he was given by the regular women who stopped by the beauty counter, he started doing makeup for celebrities like Missy Elliot, Destiny's Child, and Pink. They weren't all superstar household names at that point, but getting to work with celebrity talent helped Billy develop a name for himself. Pretty soon, he had an agent and was working regularly with celebrity clients.
If you asked Billy if there was one 'a-ha' moment in his career, his answer may surprise you. "I signed up for MySpace and created a profile. When I woke up the next morning, I had over 15,000 requests (come in) in less than 12 hours. It was one of those moments that made me realize I had a following that I didn't even know I had."
For Billy, who never formally studied makeup artistry, learning new beauty trends and techniques is part of the job description. "I never, ever dreamed of being a makeup artist. It happened by accident, " Billy said. "Makeup was the first thing that I ever did that I really felt like I was good at. It wasn't that I was super-passionate about it, but I was lucky enough to discover what I think was a God given talent. I definitely worked hard to get better and expand."
Billy has worked with tons of major celebrities, even Lady Gaga, who wasn't on his radar when he booked a job with her. "I was actually requested to work with her on the Fame Monster album cover. It was OK, just a day of work for me. It was one of those situations where I didn't think I'd see her again," Billy said. The next day, he got a call from his agent who told him that Lady Gaga requested to work with him for the next 10 days. Billy ended up doing everything makeup for Lady Gaga, from photo shoots, to tour looks, for the next two years, and what started out as a job turned into real admiration for her talent.
"At the end of the first week, she was doing her first appearance at SNL. Those studios are really small. She was doing a medley during rehearsal, which they always film. I was standing ten feet from her when she started singing live, and my first thought was like, 'You better check yourself before you wreck yourself.' I was shocked -- she was so talented." Billy spent the next two years creating Lady Gaga's makeup looks, and the rest is history.
Now, Billy B continues to do makeup for the stars. He's also a L'Oreal Paris expert giving his advice to young makeup artists and fans alike. To see more of Billy's work, click here!