We talk to Fiona Bennett, an Australian hair and makeup artist in Singapore. Fiona focuses on wedding makeup, but is also available for other events. Here, she tells us how she started and grew her successful business – Makeup by Fiona B.
Born in Brisbane to Vietnamese immigrants and raised there, Fiona studied health science in nutrition and soon moved to Melbourne. She started her career in product innovation and then worked in business development for a nutraceutical company – a job she loved. Then, in 2014, she moved to Singapore.
“I was heartbroken that I couldn’t find work in my field,” she recalls. That was when she took the initiative to start her own business: Makeup by Fiona B, focusing on makeup and hair for Singapore weddings and events. In the process, she transformed her career.
What brought you to Singapore?
I came here as a trailing spouse with my then-boyfriend, Sam. Fast-forward nine years, we are happily married and have two beautiful and very energetic little boys, Chester (5) and Ascott (2). We love our life here and have no desire to return to Australia anytime soon.
Have you always loved makeup and wanted to be a makeup artist?
Obsession is a better word. I was always the one who helped my friends to get ready for a night out, and they’d tell me: “You should be a makeup artist!” When it comes to the latest fads, products, beauty buys and so on, trust me when I say I’ve tried them all. I’ve always been creative, and I love drawing and painting.
How was Makeup by Fiona B born?
Like so many other trailing spouses who can’t find a suitable job, I felt unfulfilled in the corporate role I had reluctantly taken on. So I made the really scary decision to step outside my comfort zone and follow my true passion.
In preparation, I took six months off to study makeup full-time, including bridal makeup, and also did a few shorter courses. I don’t believe it’s strictly necessary to study makeup, even to be a wedding makeup artist. But it was an opportunity to learn from expert makeup artists in Singapore, and it gave me practical experience with different faces.
Before long, I decided to do a few hairstyling courses to make me as proficient with hair as I had become with makeup. That’s a real advantage, especially when it comes to bridal makeup and the entire wedding makeup artist industry.
What early challenges did Makeup by Fiona B face?
As with any new business, it had a slow start. I constantly wondered if I was doing the right thing. And to be honest, I missed having a regular salary.
I would reach out to photographers to suggest a collaboration, and they’d say, “Sure – send me your portfolio.” But I didn’t yet have anything good enough. No one wanted to work with me because I had no experience as a makeup artist in Singapore, and I couldn’t get experience without work opportunities! It was a classic Catch-22.
How important are social media and your website, compared with word of mouth?
I believe all three need to be on point. It’s easy to create a simple yet professional-looking website from one of the many templates, so there’s really no excuse not to do it. Growing your followers on Instagram is becoming more difficult because of the algorithms, but it’s best not to overthink it – just put out the content.
Finally, word of mouth is critical to any business. It can even be the most effective form of marketing. In fact, that’s how I grew my presence in the Singapore entertainment industry, and the same holds true for bridal makeup and the entire wedding makeup artist sector.
What does the working week of a makeup artist in Singapore look like?
I generally work four or five days a week. Some of my working days are really short; others can be as long as 16 hours! I remember the early days when I’d be so grateful to have any job – paid or unpaid!
It helps that I have a wonderful assistant who takes care of my admin, plus a dream team of amazing freelancers. I already do what I can to help young, aspiring makeup artists get their foot in the door of this industry, and I’d like to do more of that sort of mentoring.
What do you love most about being a makeup artist in Singapore?
I love transforming someone’s look! I love that each day is different, and adore meeting such interesting and diverse people – from local celebrities, to creatives, to high-powered corporate female bosses. I’ve met some of my dearest friends through my work.
I also love weddings – doing bridal makeup is so enjoyable. As a wedding makeup artist, it’s such an honour to be part of a woman’s special day. Having a great makeup and hair stylist really sets the tone for an amazing celebration.
Do you have a good work-life balance?
As the business grows, it can be a struggle to balance work with my role as wife and mother. I’m grateful to have a helper, but I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without my husband Sam’s enthusiastic encouragement. He is truly my biggest fan and supporter.
Our two boys are in school for at least half of the day, so I do as much as possible in the mornings in order to be there for them in the afternoons. I also try my absolute best not to book any Sunday jobs, as that’s when we spend quality time together as a family.
Any advice for other expats with entrepreneurial ideas?
Give it a shot! Please don’t be discouraged by the red tape – there are ways around it. In fact, Singapore is a relatively easy place to start a new business, and there are so many gaps in the market. I feel really blessed to have found a job that I absolutely love, and I would encourage others to do the same.
What are you looking forward to?
Another exciting year! Makeup by Fiona B has been growing steadily since we launched in 2016, and I have big plans for 2023. The entertainment and event industry has rebounded significantly post-COVID and I am as busy as ever. I look forward to continuing to grow the business while delivering flawless results for all my existing and new clients.
Makeup by Fiona B. IG: @makeup_by_fionab
Facial – Eternelle V
Aesthetic – Dr Jon Yong Clinic
Beauty services – Cecilia Westberry
Spa – Capella
Hair colouring – CK
PT – Dan Hammond
Foundation – Fenty Beauty foundation
Powder – Charlotte Tilbury powder
Mascara – Mac extended play
Lipstick – Charlotte Tilbury pillow talk
Bronzer – Hourglass
Volume hair spray – IGK