Makeup artist Heather Richardson is always on the go.
One week, she’s in Asheville working on the set of the movie “Loomis Fargo Heist.” Another week, she’s in Charlotte, helping clients at her studio figure out which blush color best accentuates their cheekbones.
Richardson, 45, has made a name for herself as a makeup artist. She’s styled actors for Showtime’s “Homeland” and commercials for Toyota, General Electric and NASCAR. Now, she’s balancing her life comfortably – working on film sets throughout North Carolina, seeing clients at her Myers Park makeup studio, Tah-Tah, and expanding the makeup line she launched in September 2013.
A native of Ohio, Richardson moved to Charlotte with her family when she was 16. After graduating from East Mecklenburg High School in 1987, she went on to the Hairstyling Institute of Charlotte from 1989 to 1990. She worked at a salon for years, but she said she found herself frustrated with the lack of control she had over the look that went with the new hairdo.
“When you’re a hair stylist you just never go that level with people,” she said. “That’s something that bothered me about being a colorist and never being able to help people with makeup.”
So when she was in her 30s, she studied production-scale makeup design at Joe Blasco Cosmetics and Makeup Center in Hollywood in 2007.
Richardson wouldn’t have minded staying in Los Angeles. Most students do stay there, working from the bottom up in the industry. But Richardson was older and didn’t want to waste any time trying to get into large-scale productions. She knew people in Charlotte, and besides, the film industry was growing in the state.
Richardson got a taste of production life when she worked on commercials in the area. Her first job was for NASCAR in Greenville, N.C. She doesn’t remember the driver, but she does remember the thrill she got while working on the set.
It wasn’t long before she formed enough connections to secure some film jobs – working for three or four months instead of the usual 24-hour commercial stints.
She books all of her own gigs, mostly through her many mentors and friends in the industry.
Now, she leads a double life, working from her studio during the off weeks and on the movie sets whenever she has a gig.
At the movies
Richardson says she’s a planner – but you can’t rely on a schedule in the film business.
Sometimes she’s told to leave for the film set on a Wednesday, but on Monday, the director might email her and say they instead need her in the next few hours. So, she gets in her car – sometimes with ease, sometimes begrudgingly – and gets to work.
She wouldn’t have it any other way.
Over the last two years, she’s worked on “Careful What You Wish For” starring Nick Jonas (to be released in 2014); “Tusk,” a horror film directed by Kevin Smith set to be released this year; “Max,” starring Lauren Graham and, which is filming near Charlotte; and the “Loomis Fargo Heist,” starring Zach Galifinakas, which began filming July 7 in Asheville.
Richardson has worked with Johnny Depp, Jonas, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment and Isabel Lucas, among others.
Now, Richardson says she has her movie career right where she wants it. Ideally, she would love to work just two big productions a year, with each one lasting a few months each, and then return to her usual clientele in Charlotte. That’s not always how it works out, but a girl can dream.
A home in Charlotte
In Charlotte, Richardson says her business is just starting to expand.
She has about 200 clients, a new cozy space on Sewlyn Avenue and a great family life – but she’s finally starting to explore the struggles of having her own makeup line and meeting new clients.
Whenever Richardson would suggest products, she would have difficulty sticking to one brand. She would go out with friends and clients to pick new products, but she found herself driving all over Charlotte. Her husband, Todd Albee, found this ridiculous. “Why don’t you just create a line of all of your favorite products,” he said.
So she did.
Richardson started researching cosmetics lines and discovered private labeling: You pick items from other companies and put your brand on it. Through this method, she has no control over the chemical composition of the products, but Richardson hopes to change that someday.
The line launched in September, and Richardson got serious about expanding the line, Tah-Tah Makeup, this year. She tells her clients to bring in their favorite piece of makeup and to challenge her to find a match for it in her line. Nine times out of 10, Richardson says she can do it – even with the brands like Chanel.
“When you go to a makeup counter, it’s intimidating because they’re trying to sell you,” she said. “What I would like is if they just walk out with one of my products, I’m fine.”
Barbara Sheridan, a realtor in Charlotte, has been a client of Richardson’s for about 20 years, following her from her hair salon business to her makeup studio. She’s lived in New York, Houston and Dallas, and she says Richardon is by far the most personable and entrepreneurial stylist she’s met.
“She’s just so talented, and I couldn’t say enough good things about her as a business person as well as an artist and a stylist,” Sheridan said. “All three of those things to me just make her stand out – as far as who she is and her business.”
Over the past four years, Richardson has relied on word of mouth to bring in customers. But she still wants to reach even more women.
The next step will be simple, she said: Focus more on the expansion of her studio and her cosmetics line.
“I have no desire to turn into just doing film for a living because I like my life,” she said. “I like being in the real world.”