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Cosmetic careers: ABQ Institute prepares students to work as film makeup artists

The Southwest Makeup Institute offers a makeup artist certification for those wanting to get into the film industry. (Courtesy of Southwest Makeup Institute)

Projects continue to film in New Mexico because it is known for both its tax incentives and its infrastructure.

And the infrastructure continues to grow.

Take the Southwest Makeup Institute, which is making a home in Albuquerque, becoming the first film makeup artist school in the state.

The institute offers the only 200-hour makeup artist certification in the region and will prepare students for careers in the New Mexico film and television industry.

In 2008, after working as a resident makeup artist for Chanel, institute founder Noël Dalton fell into a job by chance teaching airbrush makeup at a local beauty school.

At the time, finding full-time employment as a freelance makeup artist was virtually impossible in Albuquerque.

After weeks of searching and following opportunities found on Craigslist, Dalton was hired as an instructor at Urban Academy, initially working under Ashlynne Padilla.

Dalton decided to open her own studio in 2009.

“I began my makeup career in 2007, before Instagram or Pinterest was as well-known and established as it is today,” Dalton says. “I had big dreams of working in fashion or film, but at the time, jobs of that nature were completely inaccessible in Albuquerque. I watched friends move away to NYC and LA to pursue their dreams, but I always felt loyal to New Mexico. For years, I chased my dream, following every possible lead and opportunity that presented itself. It wasn’t until I starting teaching makeup that I realized what my niche was – education.”

The institute is recognized by IATSE Local 480’s as a “Fast Track” program. Students who attend training at SWMUI will earn 10 days toward the required hours needed for film union membership with IATSE 480. It is the first organization of its kind in New Mexico to receive such recognition.

New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Alicia J. Keyes says that Dalton’s story is incredible and that her passion and determination to create opportunities that didn’t exist before for not only herself, but also her fellow New Mexicans, is inspiring.

“This is only one of many examples of how valuable the film industry is in New Mexico,” Keyes says. “It’s not just the studios, or just the above-the-line folks who are benefiting. Its people like Noël and her students, it’s small businesses, it’s new businesses, it’s the creation of thousands of jobs, and it’s building wealth, which is exactly what is needed to build a strong economy in New Mexico.”

Amber Dodson, New Mexico Film Office director, says that as productions continue to come to the state, there is a need for the institute.

“As we continue to see an increase in productions coming to New Mexico, trained and talented makeup professionals are in demand,” Dodson says. “The opportunity for students at SWMUI to earn credit toward hours needed to join IATSE is a big bonus as well.”

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