6 Books that shaped my career (and life!)

Have you ever heard the saying “Leaders are Readers”?  I’m not sure if that’s true for ALL leaders, but some of the most influential and inspiring people I know are avid readers.  What was the last book you read?

Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE reading.  When I was a young child I used to “escape” into books, and I still remember sitting in the wardrobe in our spare room (before my grandfather moved in) and wishing the back would open and transport me to Narnia!

These days I don’t really read fiction books, to do so would be a real luxury!  One of the main reasons I don’t is because once I start a good book I can’t put it down, and then nothing would get done.  Nowadays I prefer to focus on books that help me get ahead in life, so I read a lot of business books, and personal development books, and of course, I love to read makeup books too!  I set aside reading time every morning, and I find that reading something inspiring really helps me set up my day for success.

I’ve read so many great books over the years, and this week I wanted to share some of my favourites. Some of course, are makeup books, and others have nothing to do with makeup at all, but I definitely believe they have helped me become a more successful makeup artist (and a business woman, mother, partner and friend).

And, I figure, hey, it’s almost Christmas!  Maybe you could add some of these to your “Santa” list!!  (Oh, and for all the books I recommend, I am linking to their page on Book Depository – which I find to be the cheapest place to buy my books online, AND free shipping!!  I don’t receive any affiliate commission or anything if you use these links.)

1.  Making Faces by Kevyn Aucoin

I think this is probably the first makeup book I ever read, and I was probably attracted to it as the makeup school I attended was called Making Faces also.  This is a beautiful book, where the legendary Kevyn tells how he got started as a makeup artist, and shows off his amazing talent, transforming his friends (many of whom are super famous celebrities) into other celebrities, or simply typifying an era.  It’s also the book where the now infamous “highlight & contour” photo first appeared (although Kevyn calls it “shading and highlighting”)

Page after page of instruction, product suggestion and of course beautiful photos of the “models” who range from the super – famous to members of Kevyn’s family make this a book that you can pore over for hours (like I just did… oops!)  I could stare at Lisa Maree Presley channelling Marilyn Monroe on page 124 for hours!

Published over 20 years ago in 1997 Making Faces survives the passage of time surprisingly well.


2.  How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

I think this is the first “Personal Development” book I ever read, probably a good 20 years ago, and I still have the original copy I bought.  I try to re-read it every couple of years, at least the highlighted parts. Originally published in 1936, my copy has been “updated for today’s reader” in 1981!!  While some of the information is definitely out-dated, and even sometimes funny, this book is a definite classic, and one I recommend to everyone.

The lessons you will learn around customer service from this book are amazing.  When you really think about it, so much of our job as a makeup artist IS customer service, and the easiest (and cheapest) way to get new clients is by referrals.  Using the principles taught in this book, you will learn how to win not only friends, but clients as well.

Carnegie teaches you how to make the other person feel important, by smiling, using their name, and being genuinely interested in learning about them, all of which endears the other person to you.  Remember: People do business with those they know, like and trust…


3.  Makeup – The Ultimate Guide by Rae Morris

I love this book firstly because it was written by a fellow Australian makeup artist; but more importantly because it’s jam-packed with amazing hints and tips.  This is one of those books that you don’t just flick through; you STUDY!


Published in 2008, Rae’s book features so many beautiful makeup looks, on a variety of beautiful models, all photographed by Steven Chee.  I got to work with Steven on a commercial job a year or so after this book came out, and I felt like I was working with royalty!!

Looking back over this book in 2018, I have to giggle at Rae’s advice on contouring:  “Remember, this technique is advanced.  Not many women know about it and not many makeup artists (of the younger generation) use it.”  Oh my, how times change!!

I encourage every makeup artist to read the section on p32-33 on Applying False Eyelashes, especially the diagrams showing how NOT to apply them!


4.  The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann

The tagline for this book is “A Little Story about a Powerful Business Idea” and although this book IS a story, a parable in fact, it is definitely one of the best business books I have ever read.  A short story, only around 130 pages, it could be easily read in a weekend. Actually, it’s the first in a series of 3 books, and I do recommend people read all three, but this one is great as a starter.

This is the story of a Go-Getter named Joe who needs to win a big account to reach his third quarter quota. In desperation, he meets up with mysterious business mentor known as “The Chairman” who teaches him his secret to success.  I won’t spoil the story, but it’s THIS “secret” that has helped me launch a new business this year, AND grow my makeup business over 30% year on year.  I now consider this one of my all-time favourite books.


5.  Stage and Screen Makeup by Kit Spencer

This is THE reference book on makeup looks through the ages.  Anyone wanting to work in Film, TV, or Theatre could benefit from having this book in their library.  Using real reference images (where possible) as well as images from Films, this book explains how to create so many looks, from Caveman to 90s grunge and everything in between.


My copy is also Spiral-bound which means it’s easy to leave it sitting open on the makeup table for reference.  When I was teaching Diploma of Specialised Makeup, I would always recommend this book to my students.

6.  You are a Badass by Jen Sincero

This book is not only totally awesome, but also, in parts, hysterically funny.  I’ve left this one till last, but in some ways, I think it’s the most important.  This book concentrates on the psychology of success, and your mindset. Tony Robbins says that “Success in Business is 20% strategy and 80% psychology”.  One of my other mentors says its 50:50, but whatever the percentages, EVERY successful person and business strategist agrees that your MINDSET or psychology is really important when it comes to getting what you want.

From awkward yoga poses, to hot, naked guys in the desert, to crazy punk bands, Jen fills her book with super funny anecdotes from her life, in a way that makes her very serious content engaging and entertaining.  Heck, I read this book again and again just for the LOLs…  and I mean seriously LOUD laughing.  Look, just trust me on this one, get the book and read it, and thank me later, right?


So, there you have it.  6 of the best.  If you’re not a reader, I’m sure you can get most of these on audio book (great for driving to jobs), and while that may not work for makeup books, at least they have lots of pretty pictures to look at so there’s really no excuse.

I’d love to know, what are YOUR favourite books?  Makeup books or business/personal development books?  I’m always looking for something new and awesome to read.  Let me know in the comments below, or come and join our Facebook conversation.



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