MUA of the Month: Alley Stallard

Please start with a short introduction telling us a little about yourself

I’m Alley Stallard of Pozers Studio, I am a wife and mother. I have the most amazingly supportive husband, who is everything to me. We have been together since I was 14 years old and he gives me the drive to become successful, because he has so much faith in me (fool) and leaves me with a lot to live up to. So, no pressure then! I have two grown up sons, both still at home, but I wouldn’t change that for anything (other than sons that did housework and dishes, so if you know any, send them my way and I’ll swap you lol). I moved to Wiltshire to care for my parents in their final years, but they’re no longer with us, so I can move on with my life and finally be me. I’ve been a career woman, a mother, a wife and a daughter, and now I’m Alley, I’m the person I’ve always wanted to be, if I died tomorrow, I would be content with my life and the people in it. However, I would like to live a fair few more years yet… but I’ve reached that moment, where I’m content with my life and that’s an amazing feeling.

What made you decide to become an MUA?

When I was a child I always wanted to be a chef. I don’t know why, it was always my dream. So, after school I went to college, studied hotel management and catering and followed a career within the industry. I worked in many 5-star hotels and restaurants around the country, living the dream. I ended up as a catering manager in a private school, with a fabulous salary and lifestyle. Big house, nice cars, kids had everything we could afford, great life. Then one day whilst visiting a friend, my hubby and I were victims of a serious car accident, one that changed our lives forever. My husband was seriously injured and so was I. We both had spinal injuries, amongst other problems. Long story short, we didn’t recover. We lost our jobs, home, lifestyle, everything material, but we all still had each other and we survived. It took 10 years of rehabilitation, seeing specialists here, there and everywhere, 8 years in a wheelchair, but finally I could think about returning to work.

So, I had to think about what I wanted to do. With still having a serious disability, I had to be self employed, catering was a huge “no no”, so what do I do? I was academic, did a psychology degree whilst I was I was off work, but I missed being creative, so I trained to be a nail tech and then moved onto beauty. I studied my beauty therapy at a local college. During this year we had the chance to do a workshop with a famous makeup artist, Louise Young. Louise had worked on Gladiator, big films, fashion houses etc. and her workshop ran for a day at the college. In the morning she talked about herself and the industry and I became engrossed in her story, as she had become a makeup artist, quite later on in life, when I presumed it was dominated by youngsters and us oldies didn’t stand a chance!!!

I was wrong. Another thing that bothered me, was the way I looked. Let’s just say the disability hasn’t been kind to my body, lack of mobility and extensive medication to manage pain, meant I gained a lot of weight, I’m not ashamed of my body, but I’m no oil painting and assumed that I wouldn’t be accepted into “The Fold” so to speak, because of the way I looked. I was wrong again!! Yes, I’m a very curvy woman and I’m not going to win any beauty pageants this side of the next millennium, but I wasn’t going to let that hold me back. I bit the bullet, on the kind and caring guidance of Louise and I studied my foundation degree in media and specialist makeup artistry at Swindon College. I graduated with distinctions at 43 years old! It’s never ever too late to change your life around. I lost a decade of mine, but that doesn’t matter now, because if I hadn’t have had the car accident, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now. I couldn’t be happier, take a negative and make it a positive, set your mind on something, you can do it. I never thought I’d work again, now I have my own business and do what I love every single day of my life. Perfect.

What's the most enjoyable part of your job?

Meeting new people everyday and giving them makeup makeovers that make them feel a million dollars, even if it’s just for a day. The images they get and the memories will last a lifetime, what’s there not to love? Every day, every photoshoot involves a different makeup look. No two days are ever the same, variety is the spice of life and making people happy, laugh and smile is the best part of life, so doing it every day as a job makes it pretty much perfect. Money isn’t everything. Bringing and sharing happiness is worth far much more than money. Every day I go home happy with what I have done. I wake up everyday looking forward to going to work, excited about what the day will bring, that’s got to be the best job in the world hasn’t it?

Is there anything you dislike or would change about the industry?

Ok, I have just raved about my perfect job, loving it all and living the dream, but it hasn’t always been sunshine and roses. Models, photographers, stylists, designers and MUA’s collaborate to get their work noticed, to get exposure, to get noticed. We all dream that someone important in the industry will just see that WOW image and we will all become famous and live happily ever after. The collaboration in the industry is known as TFP (time for photos). So, everyone works for free, in return the photographer gives us images which we share on social media, in our portfolios etc. Everyone works to get the same result and this is virtually the only way you can build your portfolio, unless you’re exceptionally wealthy. I was very fortunate, had time to build my portfolio and savings that allowed me to work TFP for nearly 2 years to build an extensive portfolio. So, collaborating and TFP’s are really the only way you can get exposure and build your portfolio, but it has a massive negative… This is called the “TFP Trap”! Once you’ve worked for free to build your portfolio, word gets around and soon you’re inundated with hundreds of messages offering you TFP collaborations all over the country. But, when you have built your portfolio and then want to get paid, it all goes drastically down hill fast. You get questioned… “Well you’ve done it for Jo Smith for free?? Why would I pay you? I will just go and get another TFP makeup artist. I can’t afford to pay you but I will get you exposure...”

Suddenly, all those years of training, commitment, dedication and money, is worthless. Now you just have to hope that the reputation you’ve built is enough to build a freelance business that can survive after “The world of TFP” and for many MUA’s, it doesn’t and they end up either being a part time MUA, working on a makeup counter, or leaving the industry altogether. It really is a dog eat dog, right time, right place kind of job. TFP’s can’t be stopped, because how would we build our portfolios? But it’s a trap that many MUA’s etc. just can’t get out of, turning it into a “real job”! I don’t know the answer, I wish I did. There really is no secret to success in the industry, there are many MUA’s that are fortunate enough to become successful, but most will tell you that it was purely by chance. They didn’t follow a path to success, they stumbled and thankfully someone, something caught them before they fell. There is no “get rich quick formula” being a MUA, don’t fall for these online courses that guarantee you work if you follow their path religiously. It’s all money-making rackets, it’s passion and determination that gets you noticed and remembered. Is your work quirky, different, fun and memorable? ‘Nobody ever gets remembered for being boring’. That’s my motto. To date, it’s worked of me. I don’t have a secret to success, just be kind to people, work hard, dedicate your life to your work, show passion, be creative, try new things, think on your feet and have an awesome sense of humour…

That’s all I can say…

Have you ever come across any sexism in the industry?

Fortunately, as a makeup artist, I have never come across any sexism. It’s really one industry where being a female is actually a positive. It’s the male MUA’s that get a hard time in the industry. For once I’m glad to be a woman.

However, I now own a photographic studio. I have worked really hard for 18 months building my knowledge around studio lighting and photography. I have invested in a decent camera, “crash coursed” photography and thanks to a fabulous friend in my life, (who has given me 30 years of his photography expertise and knowledge) I am now a MUA, studio owner and photographer…. Now I’m in a man’s world.

99% of all photographic studios are owned by men. 95% of my photographic clients are men hiring the studio to build their portfolios. If you go to camera clubs, belong to various photographic societies etc. you will find that women are the minority, by a very, very, high percentage.

Because I lack female companions in the photographic side of my life, I have started a “female only camera club”, open to every female photographer, or potential photographers in the country. Now this might seem like I am being sexist - excluding men - but as they domineer the industry, I wanted all the ladies to have a voice. I run it voluntary, we meet twice a month and it’s amazing. My studio is my life, so now the camera club has become my social life, and it’s one of the best things I have ever done. My ladies are fabulous, each and every single one of them are amazing in their own right and we are all standing together to get noticed and stand out from the men. I work with men virtually everyday and they are a fabulous bunch of creatives, but working with the women twice a month, really allows me to observe the psychology of how differently a woman takes an image in comparison with a man, there really is a huge difference and it’s beautiful to be able to observe this as a studio owner and a female photographer.

What would you say are the proudest moments of your career?

I have had quite a few proud moments. I have been in the local newspapers in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire’s several times. I have been on BBC radio Wiltshire, had my work published in a vast array of magazines nationally and internationally, but my proudest moment was taking over the photographic studio when I didn’t have a clue how to even use a camera!

Sounds a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it? Well it was! At the time, it was statistically more of a “stupid moment”. But nearly 2 years later, PoZers is going from strength to strength, a woman is succeeding in a man’s world. Who would have guessed that would happen? Not me! But if you don’t take risks, you won’t ever learn your capabilities. Throw everything you have at something you want badly enough and it will happen.

Is there anyone in your life that you consider a Warrior Woman?

My best friend, Rosie Miles. I love her with all my heart. She’s been through cancer and other health issues, she’s whipped cancers butt and fights everyday of her life. So in my eyes, she’s my “Warrior Woman”.

Now this is going to sound cliché, but I’m going to say it anyway; all women who have any illness or disability, from cancer to mental health issues - every woman who battles through disabilities; whether they are visible or those the eye can’t see - every single day, these women are warriors. They fight to survive, much harder than the usual female. Life is sometimes a battle and we all have our own battles to fight. Thankfully most of us win the battle, sadly some loose the war. But we are all warriors on the inside, we just don’t always show it. As Warrior Women, we must stick together. Together we stand, divided we fall. Cliché it may be, but it’s true.

What are your professional goals for 2017/18?

Just love my job, love my life. Meet new people, create new memories, make people happy and feel good about themselves. I’ve now become a “Boudoir Photographer” (amongst other genres of photography), because I believe that each and every woman is beautiful. No matter how insecure my ladies are, I make sure they feel and look a million dollars when they stand in front of my camera. So far, every one of my ladies has left the experience with more confidence, loving the body they are in and being thankful for every curve, line and wrinkle they have, because that’s what makes them unique and beautiful.

Every woman of a certain age should have a boudoir shoot. It’s liberating! They don’t take their clothes off for a stranger, during our professional time together, we become friends and I think being a plus size lady and confident in the skin I’m in, reflects on my beautiful clients. We have a laugh and giggle, they get a full makeover and images to last a lifetime, what’s not to love?

If you were not an MUA what would you be doing?

I hate to think! It doesn’t bare thinking about. If I didn’t have the fight in me I could still be sat in that wheelchair, feeling sorry for myself, watching the years roll by and doing nothing with my life. Hanging out with my mates Ben & Jerry!!

So, if I didn’t become a MUA and fall in love with the industry, I’d just be existing. Going through the motions. Breathing… eating ice cream... An empty shell of a woman.

What advice would you have for anyone who was looking to become an MUA?

Be different. Don’t be a sheep. Throw everything you have at your art, because if you don’t have passion or the desire to be a success, it won’t fall in your lap. Don’t be defeated, as one door shuts, another will open. Don’t be disheartened and don’t fall for the cliché hype of “do my online course and you will be successful….”.

It’s a big fat lie. Becoming famous is being in the right place at the right time Nobody knows where or when, otherwise we would all be famous. Care about your clients, care about your standard of work, the rest will fall into place in time.

What's next for you and where should we expect to see you/ keep an eye out for your work?

I would love to be able to say what’s next for me, but I don’t have a crystal ball. If someone would have told me 2 years ago I would own a photographic studio, become a photographer and be a successful makeup artist, I would have laughed my pants off.

You can make all the plans you want in life, but you’re setting yourself up to fail, so just go with the flow… Live…love…laugh…dream. Who knows where the path will lead and even if it stays the same. I’m perfectly happy where I am right now. I set goals that are unachievable and then if I achieve them, then hey, stick another one in the mix!

One day I want to create a coffee table book full of beauty, costumes, makeup, props and phenomenal images, just like my “Heroine” in life, Kirsty Mitchell. Watch this space…..

#Issue9 #MelanieClaireChard #Interview

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