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Manchester High School for Girls

Cassie Lomas

With over 20 years of industry experience, makeup artist, Cassie Lomas, has made a name for herself working her magic on famous faces such as Lady Gaga, Rita Ora and Selena Gomez.

Turning her passion into a lucrative business she opened the Cassie Lomas Makeup Academy in 2010. The Academy is purposefully based in Manchester’s Northern Quarter in order to enable budding talent to train in the North West rather than having to relocate to London.

With Cassie’s popularity rising she found she was not able to meet the demand for her services. Two years ago she launched the Creatives Makeup + Hair Agency with former model and TV presenter, Sophie McDonnell. The agency brings together a host of highly skilled artists in the field of hair and makeup, mostly trained by Cassie herself, who are available for professional bookings.

It feels like I spent all my time at MHSG in the Art rooms with Mrs Chambers. As soon as the lunch bell went that’s where I would be headed. I actually can’t draw for toffee but was always building some kind of sculpture. When it came to displaying my GCSE exhibition I had nine pieces and I recall Mrs Chambers wondering how on earth we were going to mount the car door I had painted as well as the life size Plaster of Paris torso!

I had no idea what career path I wanted to take. I often felt like I was surrounded by girls who had it all figured out. My advice to anyone at the School now who feels a little overwhelmed is not to panic, you’ll get there in the end. I’d always liked Maths, so at one point I just thought I’d become an accountant. Then it was a forensic scientist, but my lack of skill in the labs ruled that out. I toyed with becoming a lawyer and even made my mum take me to a careers day for the Royal Marines. A couple of hours there was enough to convince me that I was no G.I. Jane.  

Mum had introduced me and my siblings to modelling when we were young and in my teenage years I won a Daily Mail modelling competition, appearing in the paper alongside Richard Branson. It was from working on shoots, where my hair and makeup would be done by a professional that it started to sink in that I could possibly earn money from doing something I had a genuine interest in.

That said, there was nobody to give me any advice about how to go about it. By chance, I found a night course at Bury College in cosmetics and did this alongside my A-levels. Showing just how naïve I was, I genuinely believed that after completing the course my modelling agency would start booking me as a pro makeup artist and I would be able to start earning money. Obviously the agency laughed me out of the door, telling me that all their artists had trained for years at the London College of Fashion and my night school certificate from Bury College wasn’t quite going to cut it.

Being a real northern girl, I opted to stay in Manchester and enrolled at the University of Salford on an Accountancy course. I had intended to switch to Business Studies at the earliest opportunity but being a typical student I missed the transfer deadline and was stuck with Accountancy for another year. By my third year I was well and truly sick of university; I had been working in my spare time with makeup and knew that was my path.

I told my mum that I was going to leave the course and head to London to pursue makeup artistry. Her response, of course, was “Absolutely not!”. She had worked so hard to send me to Manchester High and support me through university that it was really important to her I finished my degree. Looking back now I’m so pleased I did. Without university I doubt I would have the business acumen to run my two companies as well as my freelance work; so good advice mum!

After university however, I was resolute. I was going to go to the London College of Fashion. Obviously I was worried about taking on more debt but I had to pursue what I loved doing. From there, I got a job working as an assistant to pop group Atomic Kitten’s makeup artist and eventually took over the main job when she moved on. I travelled the world with the group and never had any intention to move out of London until I met my husband in 2007.

He was based in Manchester and we had known each other from our days clubbing in the city. When we bumped into each other again at V-Festival I made it very clear that if we were to make a go of things he would need to move to the capital. He promised he would, but six months later he decided that London wasn’t for him and so it was left to me to make the move back home.

I am well aware that over the past 20 years I have missed out on many social occasions with friends and family; birthday parties, holidays, you name it, but that’s because I have a work ethic that means I never turn down a job. This is a competitive industry and the minute you turn work down you’re out. For years I kept it quiet that I had relocated back to Manchester. At that time there was still a real culture of London snobbery and even though I was obviously prepared to travel I knew I risked people not booking me if they thought I wouldn’t be readily available. Now I spend my time equally between the two which means I have a great balance.

There came a point in my career when everything just started to fall into place. I was down in London for Fashion Week, had just completed my first portrait shoot for Vogue and was working on every opportunity I was offered. I remember finishing work early one morning when I received a call from a record label asking if I would be available for another job that day. They checked out my credentials and as soon as I said Girls Aloud I was in. The client in question turned out to be none other than Stephanie Germanotta, best known as Lady Gaga. She was so pleased with my work that she insisted her label book me for the rest of Fashion Week.

From then on, every time Lady Gaga returned to the UK I was booked and I was thrilled to be invited as her personal makeup artist on her world tour. A slight spanner in the works was that I had just found out I was pregnant and by the time the tour started I would be five and a half months gone. With the true spirit of an MHSG girl, I took the job without question. I knew it would be hard but decided not to make a big deal out of it. After all, it really shouldn’t have mattered! The team were great and I spent months lugging me, my bump and three suitcases around 28 different countries. I flew back to the UK on the very last day that I would have medically been allowed to fly.

After giving birth to Spike, I was worried that my career was over and I’d never work again because I couldn’t travel. It was at this point that I decided to open the Cassie Lomas Makeup Academy in Manchester. Back in the nineties there had been nobody to help me get my foot in the door and I really wanted to pay forward my experience and enable local people to train in the north. Since opening in 2010, over 500 students have graduated from the school and gone on to credible careers within industry.

Many people remark that you can tell an MHSG girl from her understanding of etiquette, her sense of what it is to work hard and her passion. The ethos of the school actually underpins the day to day workings of my academy. I’m quite strict and students know they’re not here to mess about. We’re teaching them to become skilled artists with a sense of how to operate a freelance business. It’s not all the fluff and frivolity that people often assume. I liken our courses to a degree; they build careers and need to be taken seriously.

Career highlights have been going on to open the Creatives Makeup + Hair Agency which is a natural business progression. It just made sense that if I wasn’t available for a job then a client could still book a girl who has been trained by me.

My fears that I would never work again after becoming a mum were totally unfounded and I still love to travel, though just not as much. Amazing opportunities still come my way and I recently worked with Iggy Azalea at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas. I’m actually travelling lots at the moment with singer, Rita Ora and still very much enjoy working with local girl, Coleen Rooney.

For the past seven years I have been a brand ambassador, initially starting with Bourjois cosmetics, and now working with Superdrug’s own line, B. Next year will see a Cassie Lomas product line launched nationwide and I will also be opening the London branch of the Cassie Lomas Makeup Academy. Exciting times ahead!