Alarna Bell

Alarna Bell

It was 1989 I got my first job, it was a paper round at age 12, I got $8 a week. Walking the streets of my neighbourhood in Gippsland Victoria, delivering the news. I would save $5 of it every fortnight and walk from my house to the beauty salon in town and make an appointment to have one, yes ONE, nail done. I couldn’t afford all 10.

I would love those 15 minutes of my appointment, and always arrived early just to have an excuse to sit looking around at all of the glamorous women that worked there, with their pretty nails, make up and teased hair ( it was the 80’s). I would think “one day I want to be like them”.

In all honesty, I really think they thought I was a pest, taking up time to do one lousy nail on some kid that keeps coming in. Come to think of it, I think they were ripping me off $5 for one nail in 1989!.

However, for me, it was heaven. Then I would walk home and look at it all the way and proceed to tap it on every surface possible to show it off. My right pink was EVERYTHING!

When I was 15 part of our high school curriculum was to attend 2 weeks of Work Experience, to enter the work place that you are considering as a career and see if you enjoy it.  The first week was at dentist, I fainted. The second was at a Beauty Salon. I loved every single second, and knew in those 5 days that this would be my life. Dentistry got shelved, happy to report I have never fainted since. 

Working for Playboy Mansion Photographer Maurice Rinaldi. Talent: Letitia Sindt

Working for Playboy Mansion Photographer Maurice Rinaldi. Talent: Letitia Sindt

When the week ended, I asked if I could come in on Saturdays for free. Could I please come in just to clean, do odd jobs, run errands etc . I couldn’t believe my luck when they said yes. My parents were so happy for me, My mum took me to a dress maker and I had skirts made.

I went to work every Saturday. (one job was to get lunch for a staff member. A peanut butter, sultana and carrot sandwich NO BUTTER, I would screw my face up thinking SULTANAS!! And most likely would have mumbled WTF if that had been a term we used back then, but that was years away.)

I worked for free, however I appreciated that job like I was being paid like the CEO of a multi-million dollar company. I was like a sponge, I listened, watched and was so thankful to be there. 

After a year of turning up every Saturday on my own time I was offered a REAL job, on one condition, that I enrol in Beauty School to get my Diploma in Beauty Therapy. Which then had me having to convince my parents to leave school, my father wouldn’t have it, I was to stay in school.

I was so disappointed. But I put my case forward that it was my dream, and all those things that a teenager would say when they think they know everything, but somehow after promising I would work hard and make them proud, begging, pleading, my parents allowed it.

Monika Radulovic for the Logies Awards

Monika Radulovic for the Logies Awards

The feeling was like I was about to explode with excitement!

The hard part was that the schools I needed to attend were all based in Melbourne, and with no freeway to Melbourne back in ‘93 it was over a 2 hour drive just to get there. And I had to attend 2 days and 1 night a week. My parents wouldn’t allow me to catch the train and stay by myself, I was only 16.

So, it was decided my beautiful Mother for 2 years would drive me and wait, and my father a shift working Policeman at the time juggled work and taking care of my siblings, I could literally look out of my second storey class room window to see my mum parked on the street, waiting the entire time.

So many sacrifices were made, as well as my parents having to find the $7000 for my tuition fees, so much money for those times.

Every single success I have had, I thank them. 

This may come as a surprise, but it is part of my story and I want to share. I have never been taught make up in a class room, I have never had any formal practical training. EVER.

Yes, I am “Qualified” however my teacher at the time, confessed that she knew very little about make-up and rather than show us practical skills, she would like us to do a written assessment and portfolio which consisted of cut out pictures from magazines, keep in mind there was no internet, YouTube or Instagram, the only references were pictures in magazines, books or maybe the poster you had stuck on your wall of a pop star at the time ( I had Sebastian Bach from Skid Row on my wall, so that was no help ).

We never even touched a brush in class. I learned make up via cut and paste. Let’s take a moment for that to sink in! 

Edwina Bartholomew just before filming one of her segments. A delight to work with.

Edwina Bartholomew just before filming one of her segments. A delight to work with.

Luckily, I had an employer that in my opinion was well before her time, and had an understanding of make-up and colour theory like I have never seen. I took every bit of criticism, and let me tell you she was firm, you got it right or you did it again. I am the make-up artist I am today because of her. Not because I was good back then, in fact I was below average, however the work ethic and standard of work that was expected of me was not negotiable. And that has always remained

I graduated in 1994 at the age of 17, Diploma of Beauty Therapy in hand and embarked on a journey throughout my career that in my wildest dreams I wouldn’t have imagined.

That I would be personal make-up artist to Golden Globe winning actress and Bond Girl Jane Seymour (aka Dr Quinn) on her Australian Tour, nor that I would become the Director of Make up for Miss Universe Australia and most certainly not working on the runways for NEW YORK FASHION WEEK in the big apple! I just wanted teased hair and 10 nails! 

I went on to work at a number of salons and experienced bosses that were both good and bad, but learned just as much from all of them, I was grateful for every job I had. I have had employers, that these days I still turn to for advice and appreciate the value of a great leader in those times.

On my mother’s birthday in June of 2001 I purchased a salon in my home town, it was named Kolorz & Klawz it was a place I would come to love and hate. I had no idea what I was doing and as many people in small business that don’t do their homework prior to becoming a business owner I stumbled through a lot of those years. It was hard.  But it was GLORIOUS too.

Sure, I did a few business marketing courses and various other business courses, and at this point had become very experienced at the services I performed, but that was not enough,The best lessons I learned from were from failures, getting knocked down only to get back up swinging.

I met people I call my best friends in the walls of that salon, and learned so much about the industry. I had some staff members that worked for me for over a decade and others that came and went. I hope they learned from me as much as I learned from them.

My work on a billboard in Chadstone Shopping Complex. Photographer Vivienne Steer

My work on a billboard in Chadstone Shopping Complex. Photographer Vivienne Steer

The salon was predominately a nail salon, and finally I was that fancy lady doing nails, well I liked to think that anyway, and I can assure you any little girl that so much as looked in the window or visited with her mum, walked out with the most glamorous nails we could fit on those tiny fingers! Even painted a few little boy’s nails too. I got you little one.

A few months into my business owning journey morning sickness hit like a freight train, and just after my first year in business we welcomed our first daughter, into the world. I had never felt more in love, I was consumed by her, however I had a business to run, a promise to my parents and a reason more than ever to succeed in this tiny new bundle. Mum and Dad to the rescue, I worked a few days a week as I had staff by this time and Mum and Dad looked after my daughter on those days.

I would drive home in between clients and feed her. I got so many speeding fines that year racing home to feed her I nearly lost my license!

2 years later our second daughter arrived and I thought it would be impossible to love again like I did my first daughter, but lightening can strike twice. My heart was and is so full.

The feeding drives started again, kinder duty, reading help in primary school, swimming lessons, learning to tie shoe laces, sport and all those mumsys things that help our little ones grow and learn was all jammed in while running my business. Fun fun!!

As my business changed, I adapted to change with it. Leaving the salon component after 18 years was not easy, However, has proven to be a successful change.

As my business changed, I adapted to change with it. Leaving the salon component after 18 years was not easy, However, has proven to be a successful change.

Along comes social media, and while my make-up work had improved dramatically, I was getting busier, but I still had a way to go. However, my work started to get noticed. A make-up artist asked me via Facebook, after seeing my work to join her team on Melbourne Fashion week, I could not believe that I would be asked to work on an event like that!

At that point, I was celebrating bookings that simply took me out of my local postcode! But a runway show? I SAID YES! And worried later, how I was to actually deliver. Apparently, I did. From there, my make-up career started to take off, wedding bookings took me further away more often.  I was then asked to work on the Miss Universe Australia make up team. And that’s where things really took off, more on that later.

I gained my Cert 4 in Training and assessment and vowed I would help teach students to the best of my ability and deliver the best training I can, particularly local so students can access the best education without the associated pressure of travel.  I teach as a Trainer in the Beauty Department for Federation Training in Traralgon.

Teaching particularly the make-up component in many courses including Diploma of Beauty Therapy and Cert 3 in Make-up. NO CUT AND PASTE IN MY CLASSES… you better get ready brushes in hand, because we are going to rumble!

Building competence and confidence is my approach to teaching.

I continued to run my salon, travel for my bookings, and teach. Be the best Mum I could making school dress up outfits, school lunches and basically skid in sideways everywhere I had to be. It was a juggle to say the least.

T  eaching at Federation Training helping students achieve their career goals.

Teaching at Federation Training helping students achieve their career goals.

Teaching helped me get over any fear of public speaking and I am comfortable sharing my knowledge to various audiences, however being on stage at the Melbourne Beauty Expo delivering a session on my own prior to Australian Make-up Artist Legend Rae Morris taking the stage took some guts, however it is an experience I always enjoy.

After a number of years working on the Miss Universe Austraila Make up Team, In 2016 I received a call from the newly appointed Director of Miss Universe Australia Troy Barbagallo, a phone call that would change my career dramatically. I was appointed the Director of Make up for the organisation. I could not believe it. How? Me? Is this actually happening?

It did, I continue that role to this day and am also on the panel as a National Judge.

As part of this role I work with the cosmetic partners and manage the make-up teams around the country for the State and National Finals, I also conduct makeup workshops in each state, and personal lessons for the winner prior to her competing internationally.

I travel internationally when all National Finalists attend the annual trip away, where we conduct workshops,the contestants get to know each other, film a TV Special, and of course photoshoots. My role has me spending many hours getting to know the contestants, and as a result I was added to the judging panel because my close engagement with the finalists gives me an excellent gauge to identify the attributes we are looking for when selecting a winner.

Judging Miss Universe Australia

Judging Miss Universe Australia

I have built a team of Make-up Artists that work with me on events that require a large volume of work to be produced. Miss Universe, Spring Racing, Theatre Productions and large bookings. I have personally selected every make-up artist and love the experience of working with the standard of talent and craft they deliver.

My Make up team work with me for various events and cosmetic companies. It is one of my greatest joys in my work when we all come together.

My Make up team work with me for various events and cosmetic companies. It is one of my greatest joys in my work when we all come together.

In 2015 I accepted a contract with Crown Casino. As one of the finest salons in the country, I am contracted to work in the incredible 6 star salon or private room bookings for VIP’s, Logie Awards, The Brownlow Medal Ceremony to provide my services to clients when requested. My time there has me working with some of the best stylists in the country, and appreciate the chance to always learn and grow from these experiences

Over the years I have worked on many photo shoots. Beach shoots, studio, event under the Sydney Harbour Bridge on one particular shoot. And I have been fortunate to work with some of the best Photographers not only in the country, but worldwide. Jarred Seng, Playboy Mansion Photographer Maurice Rinaldi, Perry Winkle and Vivienne Steer are just a few. All with different styles, but I love that, always learning.

With so much work, and incredible things happening in my career it is important for me personally to take time to give back to my community. Offering my services to those in need, cancer patients to help make them feel good with my services, mentoring as many young women as I could, supporting local organisations though sponsorship and donations, providing make up services for local school productions, guest speaking at the 10th Anniversary of the Inspiring Young women event and donating my time at the Royal Children’s Hospital.

A true highlight is always working at the Ronald Mc Donald House. I can’t make anyone well, however feeling good about yourself is an important part of healing for many.

A true highlight is always working at the Ronald Mc Donald House. I can’t make anyone well, however feeling good about yourself is an important part of healing for many.

As social media grew, and my experience in the industry grew I started to provide services to some high profile clientele, Politicians, Real Housewives of Melbourne, Australian TV celebrities and to my delight I was offered the job of being personal make up artist every day to Hollywood actress Jane Seymour for her 9 day visit to Australia.

Walking in the room and seeing such a huge international star as my client was surreal to say the least.

.However after the first few moments I was as comfortable as I ever was with brushes in my hands and came to realise that I could trust myself and every part of my journey was all the learning and tools I needed to deliver the work I knew I could. Her down to earth personality helped and had me quickly forgetting what a mega star she was.

Attending the Carnival Ball in Melbourne with Jane Seymour and my Sister Katrina. Jane was beyond kind and lots of fun too!

Attending the Carnival Ball in Melbourne with Jane Seymour and my Sister Katrina. Jane was beyond kind and lots of fun too!

Wedding bookings were coming in hot and fast, my team and I were getting busier and busier. My business was growing. During my time working with Miss Universe Australia I met one of the most wonderful human beings on the planet. Monika Radulovic, crowned Miss Universe Australia in 2015, she would go on to be placed 4th in the world.

To this day she is a wonderful friend of mine, and to my delight I was given the honour out of every make-up artist she has worked with and could have had any artist at her disposal, I was so surprised that she chose me!

I flew to Sydney and also attended her spectacular wedding which as a result had my work on her wedding published in Vouge and Harpers bazaar magazines, I couldn’t buy a copy quick enough! MUM… look my work is in Vouge!!

My Bridal Make up looks published in Vouge. Bride Monika Raduloic

My Bridal Make up looks published in Vouge. Bride Monika Raduloic

As my business started to expand, both in bookings, and km’s travelled, I had some decisions to make. My business had changed, and I knew I had to change with it.  I looked at the numbers, and the salon component of my business was not my core business anymore.

In fact, I was there less and on location for bookings more, teaching and working on events. We went from a full service salon, offering all aspects of beauty services, and slowly over time adapted to become a make-up studio, offering waxing and tanning.

With the internet and online selling boom, retailing and shopping became more convenient this way for consumers and I changed my business to suit this too.

We were averaging over 100 hundred wedding bookings a year, and over a 12 month period only 3 of those wedding parties had physically attended the salon, all others were on location, even local bookings wanted the convenience of their make-up artists coming to them rather than visit the salon.

As a result, this incurred huge overheads to keep the salon open, while the majority of my business was elsewhere.

The decision to close came with a heavy heart, it was all I had known, I had loyal staff I cared about, what would happen to them? My clients, many of whom had been with me since day one, when I was a teenager, how could I tell them?Through the support of my clients and staff I was able to live my dream. Many became my friends, this happens easily when you regularly share appointment times catching up. How on earth do I even go about this I would think at the time? What will people say?

But this was business and in order for me to grow and succeed, I had to change. I let my staff know 12 months before I was going to close the salon portion of Kolorz and Klawz, explaining to them my plan, and supporting them in their plans to move on, and giving them my blessings and support should they choose to leave at any point. Every single one stayed with me until the day I closed, I couldn’t believe the loyalty they displayed, I had an incredible team, and happy to say we still work together on events.

In 2018 my 18th year in my Salon, Kolorz & Klawz,  I took the leap of faith and chose to become a freelance on location make-up artist and trainer. It has been the best decision I have ever made in business.  Without the salon I was free to explore every aspect of my industry, learn and grow and make the choices that suited me and my family, my children were now teenagers and wanted to be as present as possible.

Unnecessary overheads gone and worry due to trying to juggle so many roles. I was on top of the world. In my small community my salon had been a long standing business and this was a huge change, but one I was prepared to make, and so glad I did.  I literally boarded a plane days afterwards for a job in Bali, what a feeling that was! Freedom.

Back Stage Miss Universe Australia

Back Stage Miss Universe Australia

I had an impossible dream (at many hard times it may as well have been the equivalent to doing make up on the moon) but I still dared to dream. I wanted more than anything to work on New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week. The most iconic fashion events on the planet. I was working in Bali with Alison Jade, and Australian Make-up artist that has built her own brand and successful cosmetic company.

During a conversation, we were having she casually mentioned her brand was the cosmetic partner for a show that is on the schedule for NEW YORK FASHION WEEK. I think my eyeballs nearly popped out of my head. Long story short, I basically and shamelessly begged to have a place on her team.

The day she let me know I had a position on her team, was similar to that of the day I landed my first job. Ecstatic.

In September of 2018 I packed my kit and brushes and flew to New York City. Standing on top of the Empire State Building all by myself, I took a few moments to think about my journey, looking out over what can only be described as a breath-taking view of the city, Central Park and the Statue of Liberty, I thought of all the times it was hard, that it was worth it. I literally felt like I was on top of the world, well I kinda was!

I still dream of Paris Fashion Week, and that is a goal I hope one day to achieve.

My brushes and I in Time Square, New York for NYFW 2018

My brushes and I in Time Square, New York for NYFW 2018

Which brings me to now, I spend my week in all kinds of ways, seeing clients, teaching, business mentoring, photoshoots and my Miss Universe Australia duties. I fly in and out for my clients, and travel for wedding bookings taking me as far as Malibu, California USA, Bali and Fiji. As well as continuing to service clients in the community that supported me on my path. I love the variety my career gives me. I never know what is around the corner.

My decision to go freelance as a Make-up Artist, has given me more free time to spend with my family, which I love, on Sundays you will find me at the local footy club in my home town where I still live in Gippsland, on the footy field as trainer for my daughters football team. Strapping ankles and ice bucket ready to go. Go Lions!

Heels and wheels.. Navigating my way from A to B with my kit has become part of my day!

Heels and wheels.. Navigating my way from A to B with my kit has become part of my day!

With every experience, every time a bride or client looks in the mirror and loves what she sees, I still can’t believe it happened to me, I will never get used to that joy, I’m sure of it.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story and visit my page, if you would like to send me a message please don’t hesitate to click the link below and you will get directly in contact with me

Alarna Bell x