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Glam For Female Artists Is Crucial — And Incredibly Complicated

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No manager wants to say no to their artist. But this time, the situation demanded it. “You’re blowing your f–king money,” the manager told her client. “This is money you’re not going to have to promote your music.”

The expense under discussion wasn’t a private jet, a non-fungible token or some new cryptocurrency, but glam — a catch-all term that encompasses the services of hairstylists, makeup artists and nail technicians. The rising artist wanted to hire her favorite celebrity hairstylist for a two-day video shoot, which would cost $12,000 in services alone, in addition to business-class travel for the hairstylist and the hairstylist’s assistant, plus the hairstylist’s agent’s fees. The label’s video budget was $10,000 to $15,000, not including travel, and the difference would come out of the artist’s pocket. The manager stood firm: “We’re not doing that for your hair.”

Still, she sympathized with her artist’s anxiety. “Everything is so visible now,” the manager says, noting that fans expect artists — and in particular, young women — to always look the part of the perfectly put-together pop star, whether at an awards show or on TikTok. “You’re always being compared. And there’s all these photos all the time, and then when they don’t look good, the internet loves to talk about that. It’s just really unfair.”

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As the world reopened after COVID-19, public appearances for artists increased — even more so than before the pandemic, according to the many artist managers and publicists interviewed for this story — and with that, the need for professional glam. To control costs, artists’ teams must negotiate constantly with their clients about when (and when not) to use it.

“When I first started in this business in the ’90s, nobody got B-roll of anything,” says one Nashville-based business manager. “ ‘What are you talking about, B-roll? They’re doing radio interviews. Y’all don’t need any B-roll.’ But that’s part of the process [now], so you can’t walk out and not be camera-perfect every time. Because the second they are, everybody attacks them on social media.”

Glam professionals have mixed feelings about this increased demand. Some say pay was better in the 1990s, others that their rates have always been — and remain — low, and many state that they are still recovering financially from the total halt in work during the pandemic. But a handful have capitalized on explosive social media followings and their work with a few popular clients to transform themselves from invaluable members of the backstage team into celebrities in their own right who can demand $5,000 to $10,000 a day for their services.

“This is, for me, the biggest hurdle to developing female artists today,” the manager says. “It’s just killing me because we can’t [sign and develop] girls because of crippling glam costs.”

Not all glam professionals are so cost-prohibitive. “That’s like the 1%,” says hairstylist and men’s groomer Laura Costa, whose clients have included Daniel Caesar, 50 Cent and d4vd. “People who are getting these astronomical rates are just the very small percentage of hairstylists and makeup artists that are working with huge-selling artists like Mariah Carey. I don’t want people to think that we’re out here making $10,000 a day to put ChapStick on someone. Because that’s not the norm.”

The norm for someone like Costa, who has been in the business since 2012, is $500 for a men’s “do-and-go”: meeting clients where they are, doing their hair or makeup and leaving. The average do-and-go lasts two hours, and then Costa is off to another appointment. “I’ll work for the entire day, and people think, ‘Oh, my God, that’s great money for the day.’ But I have to give my agent 20% of it, I have to pay all my taxes, I have to pay for all my equipment.”

A do-and-go allows glam artists to squeeze more clients into a day, but running from job to job can be taxing. “I think it’s the worst thing that has happened to the industry,” says makeup artist Colby Smith, who has worked with Icona Pop, Tove Lo, Charli XCX, Zara Larsson and Alanis Morissette, among others, during his 17-year career. “My do-and-go today is from 12:30 to 2:30, so they’re paying me not for half a day and not for the full day. The whole concept of do-and-go is to get us for a quarter rate.” Sources say day rates typically range from $1,000 to $2,000, while a do-and-go pays anywhere from $300 to $800. “It’s a new industry standard that has brought pricing down and the use of us down,” Smith explains.

The do-and-go is often booked for artists who are spending a whole day making different types of content, like social media posts or TV appearances. Some artist team members say labels favor cramming everything into one day and opting for a do-and-go — rather than hiring the glam team for the full day — to cut costs. If an opportunity does not fit in the scheduled day, the artist must turn it down.

For some up-and-coming artists, doing their own glam is preferable to a missed opportunity. According to one publicist with clients in the pop space, established artists may decline to appear even on social media without full glam, but newer acts understand that they must stick to a budget or stay home.

Country artist Megan Moroney, who scored her first top 10 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums and Hot Country Songs charts in May, tends to handle her own hair and makeup except for special occasions. “Right now, it’s mainly just for big shows that are streamed or obviously awards shows or bigger events, I have glam,” says the 26-year-old singer-songwriter, who is signed to Sony Music Nashville/Columbia Records. “I wish I could have my glam girls all the time because it definitely looks a little bit different when I do it,” she admits.

Moroney’s glam team includes makeup artist Paige Szupello and hairstylist Jessica Miller, the expert behind Moroney’s signature hair pouf. “She said she wants to be known by her silhouette, so we have the pouf that we do on her,” Miller says. “And you know, that’s iconic. People are recognizing that pouf now.”

“Jessica really is the only person that knows how to do it,” Moroney says. “She could probably do it with her eyes closed. I have had people fill in sometimes if she wasn’t available, and it was an epic fail.” Having a consistent glam team puts Moroney at ease ahead of performances, not only because Szupello and Miller know her face and hair so well and are able to always create an on-brand look, but also because she feels comfortable around them. “They definitely know way too much about my life,” she says. “When you find people that are really talented at what they do, it just makes it more enjoyable if you also like them and are friends with them.”

Those friendships can also sometimes lead to business complications. “That’s where it gets messy with a lot of these glam teams,” says one glam professional. “When they get too close, they think that they can ask for crazy numbers, and they’ll get it because it’s like, ‘Well, I’m your best friend. Are you going to fire me because I’m asking you for money?’ ”

On the other hand, informal relationships between artists and glam teams can blur job descriptions in ways that overtax glam professionals. “They need someone in their camp that they can actually trust,” says Robear Landeros, whose clients include Kat Graham, Jennifer Hudson and a number of Bravo’s Real Housewives stars. “I become publicist, I become manager, I become security guard, I become stylist. It goes beyond the glam of it all. I don’t think the common person understands like, ‘Oh, my God, they charge so much,’ or ‘Oh, my God, why does it cost this?’ It’s so much more than just beauty.”

For business managers, the cost of glam also goes beyond beauty. “I think the travel is a huge part of it,” says Kristin Lee, founder and managing director of business management company KLBM. “Having to fly people, pay for their cars, give them per diems when they’re on the ground — that stuff has doubled from a few years ago.” To reduce costs, Lee tells her clients to use local hairstylists and makeup artists rather than fly glam teams to different cities. She has also put glam professionals on flat retainers when a client has a particularly active month, since it is often cheaper than a day rate.

Lee estimates that her female clients — who span genres, though she has had an uptick lately in Miami-based Latin artists — spend about $100,000 annually on glam, but it does not make them inherently more expensive than her male clients. “They all find ways to spend a lot of money,” she says dryly, though, she adds, “I fully believe in the ‘pink tax.’ The guys are spending money on luxury [by] choice, as opposed to what my clients consider a necessity for going out and looking and feeling a certain way — which costs a lot of money. Everything is more expensive as a woman.”

Belva Anakwenze of Abacus Financial Business Management says her clients — most of whom are Los Angeles-based R&B and hip-hop artists — spend around $30,000 on glam in an active quarter, and though it can be much higher than that, the cost typically accounts for less than 3% of an artist’s expenses. “Glam is a very small percent for our clients’ overall budgets,” she says.

Anakwenze has tough conversations with her clients about going with less expensive, less familiar glam teams to save money, but sometimes such decisions are not so simple. “With people of color, it’s even more difficult because not everyone knows how to effectively style their hair or makeup, and so they do become very loyal,” she says. “But sometimes the loyalty ends up saving us money, in that they don’t really increase their fees. They’ll go up incrementally, but if they’re charging a new client $1,000, they may charge my client, an existing client, $500.”

For others, loyalty comes at a higher cost. Sally Velazquez, founder and president of Empower Business Management, explains that once her clients lock in their regular glam teams, those hairstylists and makeup artists post photos of their work with them on social media and build their own fan bases. “Their prices start to increase based on their demand, which makes sense. But that demand sometimes happens because our clients gave these people a shot,” she says. “We see a year later, now that same makeup artist that was charging $100 wants $750. And now, the issue is the client built a rapport with this person, they like working with this person. I’m a person that definitely wants to make sure that we value whoever we’re working with, but sometimes it gets to the point where you’re like, ‘Hey, maybe we only use this makeup artist for big things like the Grammys and not use them for every day.’ That’s the way we try to manage the costs.”

Velazquez acknowledges that inflation and cost-of-living increases play a role in the rising rates but also points to travel and accommodation, as well as unexpected expenses. “As the makeup artist becomes very famous, it’s almost like working with another artist,” she says. “It’s not just their fee anymore. It’s also just the little things that they need. You know how artists have their own riders? Now makeup [artists], hairstylists have their own riders as well.”

Everyone — from artists’ business managers to the glam professionals they’re hiring — is looking out for their own bottom line. “We are running a business, everybody’s running a business, and very few artists end up actually profitable,” says a publicist whose client spent $600,000 on a recent TV appearance, a large portion of which went not to hair or makeup but styling. “It’s not like we’re just trying to save money. It’s that you’re trying not to hemorrhage money. And you’re trying not to spend stupid money, and that’s where it becomes stupid money.”

One label source who has worked with Latin artists for decades says that sometimes even what seems like “stupid money” is worth it in the end. “When I was working for a label, I would pay this hairstylist $5,000 a day,” the source recalls. “The artist had like an inch of hair, and he was constantly telling him, ‘Oh, my God, you are so handsome today. And you really look great. And I see that your face is super fresh.’ All those things that the artist needs so desperately, constantly. When you tell that to an artist, if you’re the manager or if you’re the label, they think that you say it because you want him to hurry up and go onstage.”

While getting the look right is a glam team’s primary job, those in the field are keenly aware of this additional expectation. “I understand when they say, monetarily, we’re a massive expense, because I know we are,” says one glam professional. “But you really can’t put a price on having us around when we make the day run smoother. I’ve been on Nicki Minaj music videos. I’ve been on Cardi B music videos. I’ve been on Mariah Carey music videos. I’ve been on Katy Perry music videos. All of these f–king music videos would not get made without their goddamn glam teams. These women would not feel confident enough or happy enough. And I have literally seen some of these big, big A-list talent walk off set because the vibe wasn’t right.”

The source from the Latin world agrees. “It’s important to find the right people. The glam people, their assignment really is to make the artist happy. I was going to say they are expensive — but now I realize that they are super cheap.”

Glam Rock Stars

Get to know some of the top hair and makeup pros with major artist (and social media) followings.

Jesus Guerrero

Instagram followers:
Clients: Dua Lipa, Katy Perry, Rosalía

Perry’s bob-to-bangs transformation, Rosalía’s 2023 Latin Grammys tresses and Kylie Jenner’s “wet look” all have one thing in common: Guerrero’s comb. The hair guru’s versatility allows him to go from taming Christina Aguilera’s platinum waves one day to weaving Kali Uchis’ hair into a butterfly sculpture for her Red Moon in Venus album cover the next.

Ursula Stephen

Instagram followers:
Clients: Zendaya, Ciara, Mary J. Blige

Beyond heading her own salon, veteran stylist Stephen has crafted showstopping styles for everyone from Rihanna to Serena Williams, Ariana DeBose and Yara Shahidi. Many of her most memorable looks have been worn on the Met Gala carpet: Zendaya’s auburn Joan of Arc crop in 2018? That was all Stephen, as was Rih’s faux-hawk swoop in 2009.

Tokyo Stylez

Instagram followers:
1.5 million
Clients: Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, Victoria Monét

Tokyo Stylez is behind the wigs of more stars than one would believe — in fact, she’s so good, it’s often difficult to tell whether her clients are sporting one of her pieces or a dye job. She’s responsible for some of the past few years’ most iconic hair moments, from Cardi B’s bright yellow pixie cut on the Invasion of Privacy cover to Megan Thee Stallion’s pink ’do on Saturday Night Live in January.

Rokael Lizama

Makeup artist
Instagram followers:
Clients: Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez

When he’s not working as Beyoncé’s on-the-road Renaissance tour makeup artist, Lizama creates nude-glam looks for Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Nicole Scherzinger, Demi Lovato, Normani, the Kardashian sisters and more. After working on campaigns for other major beauty brands, he started his own self-titled makeup line with a specialty in fake lashes.

Priscilla Ono

Makeup artist
Instagram followers:
Clients: Rihanna, Latto, Kali Uchis

Rihanna wouldn’t trust just anyone to paint her face — but Ono is no ordinary beauty expert. Not only is she the global makeup artist of the singer’s billion-dollar Fenty Beauty brand, but she also brushed on Rih’s Super Bowl halftime show and Academy Awards looks in 2023.

Patrick Ta

Makeup artist
Instagram followers:
3.6 million
Clients: Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello, Halsey

Ta opened his first salon when he was just 18. By showcasing his wearable glam looks on social media, he built a client base that now includes Gigi Hadid, Kim Kardashian, Anitta, Hailee Steinfeld and Ayra Starr — and in 2019, he launched an eponymous cosmetics line that was picked up by Sephora. —HANNAH DAILEY

This story will appear in the March 2, 2024, issue of Billboard.

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