Anthea Bueno on her life as a celebrity MUA and her climb to the top
Makeup artists know it's a long, tough road to success. Building a stellar reputation, a loyal client base, and a signature technique is only possible after years of training and service. So what does it take, really, to start from scratch as a pro MUA? We sat down with celebrity makeup artist and PV girl-crush, Anthea Bueno, to pick her mind about her life, her career, and some surprising beauty advice. Known for her complexion work and striking editorial looks, Anthea counts among her clients stars like Iza Calzado, Sarah Lahbati, Kelsey Merritt, Leila Alcasid, Janine Gutierrez and Ylona Garcia. Let's hear her story!
“I started working in college to support my family; I was, and still am the breadwinner.” Like anyone looking for dependable income, Anthea tried a typical stable job in teaching. She soon realized that going to the same place, seeing the same people, and doing the same thing over and over again was not for her. “I hated that life!” she recalls.
After several more odd jobs, she somehow found her way into the makeup industry. Surprisingly, Anthea admits that she was not a makeup junkie - at first. “I was not somebody you would consider to do makeup, even nowadays I rarely do makeup on myself. The first time I held a piece of cosmetic was when I was in college!” While it is obviously still a form of artistic expression, even she is surprised that she went from studying Fine Arts to pursuing makeup artistry. “I just realized I had a hunger for knowledge about makeup. All my classmates in FA excelled [in the course]. They had this hunger for learning and growing as an artist, which I didn’t feel in myself until I started on makeup.”
An Unquenchable Thirst for Knowledge
Once she decided to make a career out of it, Anthea sought knowledge from every source she could think of. She started by taking a Basic Makeup Workshop in the Center for Aesthetic Studies. As in Fine Arts, it was important for her to learn the materials and the techniques from masters, through which she could build her own style. This did not sit well with her parents, though. “They were expecting me to help out financially, but makeup artistry is such an unstable, investment-heavy career.” Anthea recalls incredulous comments about her kit-building expenses, and feeling unsupported at first. She doesn’t seem to hold ill feelings though, and ultimately understands her parents’ initial reservations. “I just fought for my passion, because I knew I didn’t want to do anything else.”
She first found employ as a makeup assistant with the Revlon glam squad doing makeup for the TV show, X Factor Philippines. While she enjoyed her time there, the looks the talents required were quite repetitive. She wanted to do “more” but again, sought to learn first. This led her to applying for an apprenticeship with Jigs Mayuga.
“That was so random, I wasn’t even expecting to get accepted,” she says, but she sent an application anyway and spent a year under the wing of one of the country's top makeup artists. She doesn’t fail to emphasize how much a great mentor can help you grow, both in craft and personality. “Jigs is a very gracious mentor. He knows how shy I am and pushed me out of my comfort zone.” He would often tease Anthea with mock interviews and what-if scenarios. Anthea recalls it as being a tough experience, but she soldiered on because she has since learned that “it’s part of the job.”
As soft-spoken as Anthea is, there is aggressive spirit in her when it comes to understanding makeup. Jigs had his own job to do, so when he would take time to share skills such as airbrush artistry, she would pay extra close attention. Even during routine jobs where Jigs would focus on the client, she would observe him closely, explaining, “it was my own initiative to look at how he does things and to understand how he achieves certain looks.”
She first saw highlighter in action from Jigs, and she considers this a defining moment in developing her own beauty theory. “I was amazed when I first saw highlighter. I thought, ‘What was that? How does it work? Why do they look like such goddesses after?’” While she’d done a few jobs before meeting Jigs, she never even realized such a thing as highlighter existed!
Moved again by her hunger for knowledge, Anthea set out on a quest to understand anything and everything about highlighters, which would become her signature feature. “There’s learning, but I was obsessed with highlighters. I studied everything I could about them, even the smallest details, just so I could understand how they work and how I could use them.”
As she ended her apprenticeship with Jigs, she got a call from Preview Magazine that would ultimately change her luck. A year ago, she had been doing makeup for Preview’s Emerging Fashion Talent Award show when editorial assistant Chica Villarta chatted with her and requested Anthea to do her makeup. “Honestly, I didn’t want to do it. I was so tired after doing 8 editorial faces, and the last thing I wanted was to do even more makeup,” she admits. Anthea indulged the request and a year later, her kindness was rewarded when Chica endorsed her to Preview’s acting editor, Agoo Benzon, for a shoot!
Agoo had taken note of Anthea’s signature complexion work and the magazine kept calling on Anthea until they finally booked her for their 20th Anniversary issue. Anthea considers this her big break as it was at this same shoot that Kelsey Merritt test shot for Metro. Kelsey's photo was used for that month’s Metro cover, and when the model was picked up by Wilhelmina Models in New York, Anthea also shot to fame for her amazing work.
“Take knowledge where you can.” It’s Anthea’s ceaseless drive to understand makeup that sets her apart. Discontent to merely take in what is told, she continually seeks different sources of information and different ways to learn, regardless of having made it to the top. To prevent stagnation, Anthea refuses to pigeonhole her bookings and makes sure to do a little bit of everything, from bridal to editorial and TV.
Before our interview ended, I wondered out loud why a makeup artist doesn’t wear makeup on her own face. “Beauty is personal,” she laughs. “I heard it from Laura Mercier, but I agree with it!” What is beautiful for one person, might not be beautiful for another. For Anthea, beauty comes from a place of happiness. “I don’t wear makeup because I’m happy with myself, and my life.” She’s careful to clarify: “Changing your features through makeup is fine, but all the foundation in the world can’t make you feel pretty if you’re not first happy with yourself.”
Photos courtesy of Anthea Bueno