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How Katie Jane Hughes Gets It Done During Fashion Week

Illustration: Samantha Hahn

For this special Fashion Week edition of “How I Get It Done,” we’re asking successful women about managing their careers and lives during this hectic time of year.

Katie Jane Hughes started her career as a manicurist before she became a makeup artist at 22. Back then, Fashion Week for her meant getting up and assisting on about four shows a day, but it’s a lot different now that she’s a hybrid celebrity makeup artist and content creator.

She has built a social-media platform with almost 800,000 followers while being a working makeup artist who has painted the faces of Naomi Campbell, Ashley Graham, Kerry Washington, and Emmy Rossum, to name a few. She also has brand clients, including Glossier and Glow Recipe. If you scroll through her Instagram, you won’t see many photos of her clients, but you will see an oasis of daring makeup looks and photos of her dressed in statement dresses and bold prints. Her selfies and videos always feature standout makeup looks. Her signature? The most glowy and dewy cheekbones. But every now and then, you’ll stumble across shimmery eye shadows and unique winged eyeliner.

Hughes was winding down from the chaos of New York Fashion Week at home when she spoke to the Cut about how she gets through what she considers an “erratic, irregular, and no-structure” time. Originally from England, Hughes now lives in Brooklyn with her husband. Here, how she got it done.

On an average day during Fashion Week: 
It’s a juggling, balancing act between me, the content creator online, and me, the creative who does celebrity talent that’s attending events. Balancing it all starts with having a routine in the morning and the evening. Those are the times that you have to be religious with setting yourself up for success. I wake up at seven o’clock every morning, and I go to bed around ten o’clock at night. I feel weirdly unfulfilled if I wake up at nine o’clock; I feel like I’ve wasted half of my day. By nighttime, I’m cleaning my brushes and getting ready for tomorrow, even if my client isn’t until four o’clock the next day. Prepping the night before just gives me a clear headspace for when I wake up the next morning. Having time with myself the following morning is important.

On staying organized and being productive:  
I’m a list-maker. There’s a pad behind me with scribbles all over it, and I tick everything off because it keeps me accountable to the things that I need to do. I think that’s a really important part of staying organized. I get a little bit of a buzz from ticking something off. It’s like, Oh, great, I did that. It’s, like, if I don’t have those things to chip off, then I don’t really feel like I’ve done anything with my day. I write down the most mundane shit, like “coffee with a friend,” because I’m like, That’s a task. It’s not a literal task — it’s a luxury — but it’s a task in itself, in the sense of ticking something off that I really wanted to do. It’s the fulfillment of being productive, even if it’s not a productive thing.

On how her routine changes during Fashion Week: 
I’ll make an appointment to get my hair done instead of washing it myself. It just takes the pressure off — because my hair is curly, so if it doesn’t go well, I get really frustrated and I’m putting it in a bun for a few days. I get my nails done, too, during Fashion Week, which I normally never prioritize, but I think doing those little things to make sure you feel like your best self helps me feel much better. You’re going to be so much more “on” for your client if you feel like the best version of you. That’s important.

On not needing to be “booked and busy”: 
My Fashion Week used to revolve around me doing backstage a lot at shows, and now it’s just me doing some really fun, creative makeup looks on my clients for really cool shows and having one or two clients a day. I don’t need to be booked and busy all the time. There are plenty of makeup artists in the space, and I don’t need to take everything. I just want to have a couple of people and have some fun makeup and fashion moments with them that get creative juices flowing.

On letting go of pressure:  
Working with a client for the first time or not seeing a client for even, like, a year because they don’t live in this country anymore can make you anxious because it’s like, Oh, wait — what if they don’t like the way I do this? What if they’ve been working with somebody else and maybe that person does something different that they prefer? Or, What if like I’ve forgotten how they like their eyeliner? In a way, it’s like impostor syndrome, but I think that having the social-media platform that I really enjoy doing really helps take the pressure off of that a little bit because it makes it not all about that part of my career. You just have to realize that we all like things about other people for different reasons, and it doesn’t make it bad or wrong.

On working with different personalities: 
The one part about being a makeup artist that’s so important is personality, just being on a level with someone and being able to vibe with them and almost being able to mirror their energy — not not being yourself but mirroring their energy. If they’re in a little bit of a cool, chill kind of energy, I wouldn’t come in blazing aloud like, “Hey, what are we doing?” That’s a huge part of the job.

On taking time during a hectic week:
Downtime all depends on my schedule. If I wrap up at a good time, I go get dinner with my husband or my friends. You need a reward, whether that’s dinner at your local restaurant or just seeing familiar faces.