A Lesson on Work Ethic from the Legendary Ve Neill

One of Cinema Makeup School’s staff members recently sat down with our Director of Education, Ve Neill, to discuss the beginning stages of her career. A quick excerpt of that conversation is below, and we’ll be posting more from it in the coming weeks. Enjoy! 

CMS: 

As you got started in the industry, was there anything you noticed about your approach to work that needed to be adjusted? 

 

Ve Neill: 

Number one, I was a woman, so my work ethic had to be different from the men. I knew I couldn’t goof around as much as they could. I had to carry myself a little more aggressively, because if I didn’t, I couldn’t stand up to them. It was a different time back then.  

I really had to stick up for myself. I don’t know if I even realized it then – maybe I did. As a woman I think I was just kind of an anomaly. I would get hired just because they were curious about what I could do. 

 

CMS: 

Any notable examples of that? 

 

Ve Neill: 

used to day-check on TV shows when I started outOnce I went to day-check on Dynasty, and they told me to makeup a couple of background people. Then they sent me off into a room with a bag of sponges and a box of pencils we used for eyebrows. There was a special way of sharpening those pencils with a single-edge razor blade, so we all used to carry those in our kits. 

I guess they thought I didn’t know how to do it. They thought they were going to send the stupid new girl back and she wouldn’t know the right way to do it. But by that point I had already been trained by Fred Phillips and Monty Westmore, and they had both made a point to teach me about the pencils. So I had sharpened hundreds of them already. And as far as sponges were concerned – I was a freak for doing the perfect sponge. 

I came back out of the room about an hour later with all my pencils and sponges perfectly situated in the box and the makeup man was just like, “Are you seriously done already?” Everyone else was just as surprised. It was like, “How does she know how to do that? Actually, I didn’t even really careIt was all groovy. 

So two weeks later I got a call back from them asking me to do Joan Collins’s makeup. She was a huge star at that time, so I kind of said, “Um…what? I don’t know. Maybe?” And then they explained that she actually did her own makeup and I would just have to hold the box for her and powder her face. And I said, “Okay, yes. I can do that.” 

 

CMS: 

I love that story, because for young artists, I think there’s a lot of merit in just taking a small task you’re given and doing the best you possibly can with it. 

 

Ve Neill: 

Exactly. Even if somebody tells you to go make dirt, you go in that back room and make dirt. You make the best dirt they’ve ever seen. 

 

There’s a testament to the fact that doing the little things right eventually builds to bigger successes. Even the most successful names in the industry started out making dirt and sharpening pencils.