Age at interview: 38 years
Occupation: Makeup Artist
Country of birth: Aotearoa New Zealand
In this video
|0:02:39||Moving between Australia and New Zealand|
|0:13:04||Moving to Samoa|
|0:14:07||Moving back to New Zealand and Primary School|
|0:17:55||Trade Education and First Jobs|
|0:20:17||Finding a Career Direction|
|0:27:28||Makeup Artist Course|
|0:28:40||Starting a Makeup Artist Career|
|0:31:43||Moving back to Australia|
|0:35:19||Quitting and Starting Own Business|
|0:39:29||Grandmother’s Illness and Passing|
|0:44:07||Building Business and Reconnecting|
|0:48:14||Relationship with Grandfather|
|0:49:47||Education Experiences and Challenges|
|0:55:46||Family Support in Education|
|0:59:39||Challenges in Finding a Career and Direction|
|1:03:24||Relationship with New Zealand|
|1:06:25||Advice for Pasifika Youth|
|1:12:26||Managing a Business|
- Early Years
- Moving between Australia and New Zealand
- Moving to Samoa
- Moving back to New Zealand and Primary School
- High School
- Trade Education and First Jobs
- Finding a Career Direction
- Makeup Artist Course
- Starting a Makeup Artist Career
- Moving back to Australia
- Quitting and Starting own Business
- Grandmother’s Illness and Passing
- Building Business and Reconnecting
- Relationship with Grandfather
- Education Experiences and Challenges
- Family Support in Education
- Challenges in Finding a Career and Direction
- Relationship with New Zealand
- Advice for Pasifika Youth
- Managing a Business
- Start-up Expenses
- Support during primary and high school
- Experiences of post-secondary education and training
- Developing Careers
- Experiences of Work
- Reflections and advice to young Pacific People
Hi guys, my name is Thomas Phillip Gray is my full name. I was born in New Zealand in 1982. I’m currently now a full freelance makeup artist and this is my story on how I got to where I am today. So like I said, I was born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand born in 1982. I was born to a single mother who was quite young at the time, I think, I’m pretty sure from what I can remember, she was either 15 or 16 when she had me. She was the first child to have a child in her family. And she was one of seven children born to a Samoan father and Maori mother. So I’m three quarter Samoan, a quarter Maori. So I am very proud of both of those heritages, which is great. But we grew up in a very White area, you could say. So, hence why I have an interesting way of talking. A lot of people get thrown off by the way I talk, but I’m just going off on a tangent here.
But anyways, back to my mum. She had me when she was really young. There was no question about whether or not she was going to keep me, obviously enough in our cultures you pretty much just make do. My grandparents were a massive, massive, I suppose driving force in our whole family. And there was no question there, I was going to be either taken care of by them or by mum. So when my mum had me at the age of I’m pretty sure she…I can’t remember the exact, I’m pretty sure 17 when my mum had me.
It was at first, my grandparents were going to take the reins and they were going to take care of me but my mum had different ideas. So my mum decided to go off to Australia. So she moved here, to Melbourne when I was, maybe I was about one. So I’d been with my mum for about a year before she decided she was going to go off and start her life in Melbourne and try and figure things out and then come back and get me. So that’s what she did. And then not long after that, she came back to get me and we moved to Melbourne.
Moving between Australia and New Zealand
So I first moved to Melbourne when I was about one and a half, maybe two. And things didn’t quite turn out how she had expected. And so I was then moved back to New Zealand before the age of three, I’m pretty sure.
And then I stayed in New Zealand with my grandparents, my mum had stayed here in Melbourne. I had a lot of contact with my dad who’s stayed quite frequent in my life even though it was, my mum and dad weren’t together, and my dad was Samoan as well. So yeah, he stayed as frequent as he could in my life, which was great. And then at about five, I moved back with my mum. My mum was like, “All right, I’ve got my stuff together now, I’m ready to go.” So, and these are all things that I’ve really kind of heard because, obviously being young I can’t really remember. So we moved back when I was five to Melbourne and I stayed here until I was eight.
The period from one up until five, I just remember things were great. I was able to be a kid, all my cousins were in New Zealand, my aunties and uncles, my grandparents, like I said, were the driving force in our family. And we had such a great life. Things were perfect in my eyes. My grandparents decided to move to Melbourne because we were quite close. Me and my grandma, I’ll get into her, but me and my grandma, we’re just two peas in a pod from the day I was born to the day she passed. So my grandmother was like, “Look, we need to go.” So they moved to Melbourne as well, and they stayed the whole period, well, most of the period that I was there.
So at about maybe seven, my grandparents had to move back to New Zealand due to unforeseen circumstances, the family home was being foreclosed, I guess you could say. And they had entrusted it with other family members, it didn’t work out. So they had to go home. So they sold the property in Melbourne and had moved home. And that was the turning point in my life where I went from being a kid to having to grow up pretty fast.
I think they were gone for about a year and in that really small span of a year I experienced things that, I don’t know if they affected me as such, but things that I’ll never forget and things that you should never see happen to someone that you love, like my mum, for example, it was just me and her at the time. And she was with an ex-boyfriend of hers who is now the father of my sister. And she was subject to domestic abuse. And a lot of people don’t actually know, and never believed her because she was never really scarred by it physically, but I vividly remember a lot of it. And even though it was short lived it still kind of resonated with me.
I’m a smart kid. I’ve always been very smart. I’ve always been super savvy. I was the first grandchild, so I grew up with a lot of adults around me and I think that’s what kind of prompted me to kind of, I suppose, I just, I kicked into survival mode, and I think I was just before eight, maybe seven or eight. And I called my dad who I hadn’t had contact with for years. And I don’t even know how I got his number. I think my mum had it in her diary or something, called my dad and…Oh, no, sorry. I called my grandparents. And I was like, “Look, this is happening. I’m scared. I don’t know what to do.” He never hurt me or anything, but a lot of the fights were due to me because I wasn’t his, and he wanted to discipline me. My mum would never allow it. So basically, my mum was just trying to protect me.
But I called my grandparents, and obviously my grandparents were a little bit older, and they had things going on. They couldn’t just get on a plane and come, because this was at the vital time when they were trying to save the house. So they called my dad who I hadn’t had contact for a long time. And he just jumped on a plane and came straight to me with no warning. So he just turned up at my doorstep, maybe like seven days after the phone call I had. And obviously, back then we had no mobiles or no cell phones. So some, you can just call your relatives and be like, “Hey, such and such is coming.” So weren’t warned. And my dad just turned up one day and he was just like, “Hey, let’s go.”
So, that’s what I thought was going to happen. And so, then I jumped back in, went with my dad. This area kind of gets a bit fumbly because I can’t remember exactly how I ended up back home. Like I got back home, things were fine. Then my mum came back to me again, but she was with a different partner at this time. And I think she just reassured me that things were fine. So I did, I moved back. So we moved to Melbourne again. And again, this partner was a lot different. This partner was European. So he was Australian, he was Aussie. He was a lot younger, so the energy was a lot different. And yes, they did have heated moments, but it was not like the other, so I felt comfortable. I felt countable, but I felt really out of place, I didn’t feel like I belonged by this point. I didn’t feel right being there.
So I lived with them for a couple of years and I didn’t feel like I was a priority. By this point, my mum had had my sister to her ex-boyfriend or fiancé, and then she had had another child to this current boy, or man, sorry. So, by this point there were three of us and I was the eldest by far. I would’ve been eight or nine by this point. And this all happened like really in the span of like three years. So it was just like back and forth, back and forth. So I stayed with them for like a year or so. I think I moved back when I was 10. I just knew that this wasn’t going to work, and I could kind of see where my mum’s life was going. I could tell she was on that mum buzz, she wanted to just have kids and be a stay-at-home mum and dah, dah, dah. But my mum had such a young spirit, like very, very young. And she still does to this very day.
So I just thought to myself, “Is this the life I want to live? Do I want to live feeling like I’m like second or third?” I just felt like a non-factor in their lives because they had built their life…They had really built a strong bond, even though they had only been together short and now they’re still married to this very day, which is great. But yeah, it just kind of left me feeling really out of place and not connected to my own mum and also, obviously my stepdad. I tried to stick it out and then one day I just had had enough and again, I went through my mum’s things to find my grandparents number and I walked to a near local milk bar, and I just said, “Hey, look, I need help. Can you please help me ring this number?” And of course, they were happy to help, they were really worried actually. “No, no, no. It’s not like that. I just need to call these people. They’re my family, and I just need their help.”
Luckily, my grandma picked up and my grandma was like…and I just said to her, “I can’t do this. Can you come and get me?” Of course, my nana straightaway, was on a plane. And my mum, again, was blindsided. Didn’t know that they were coming. They turned up, I think about a week later as well. And my mum’s like, “What’s going on?” And I just said to my mum, “I don’t want to be here anymore. I’m ready to go. I need to be with my grandparents. I’ve always felt like they put me first and I’ve always been their number one priority. And that’s what I feel like I deserve.” And my mum was really shocked because, obviously I was young. But my mum, I just think that she thought because my mum has always had this kind of perception of a family, a unit, all her kids together. She’s so big on having all the kids together that she oversees every individual as a whole, it may not work and it just wasn’t working for me and I could recognize it at an early age.
I just thought, “If I don’t do anything now, I’m just going to be a babysitter for the rest of my life.” Because that’s how it was kind of panning out at that stage. I was, obviously a lot mature at the age of nine or 10. So she recognized that, and I’m not saying that she abused me in that kind of way, I’m just saying that’s what it is. That’s how we’re brought up. We look after our young ones and whatnot. I felt like I was different. I still feel that way to this very day. So my grandparents came to get me. I literally just was like, “I’m going.” My mum’s like…She was caught off guard, but of course my grandparents are very…My grandparents were like, “No, he’s coming.” So they took me. So I moved over when I was like, maybe just before 10.
And then, obviously moving back home and I was 10, it was great. Things we’re amazing. My dad had finally had an opportunity to be a dad and he was excited and being a Samoan dad who barely spoke English was interesting for me because I didn’t speak a word of the language.
Moving to Samoa
So my dad decided when I moved back, he wanted to move me to Samoa almost instantly. I didn’t last long in New Zealand before my dad’s like, “Let’s go to Samoa.” And I’m like, “Okay.” I was a bit shocked, but at the same time, I really did want to be with my dad. So I moved to Samoa for what I thought was going to be the rest of my life. I only moved there, I think for three or four months before I was like, “I can’t do this.”
You can kind of see a bit of a pattern with this whole thing. But basically, I went to my auntie’s work. She worked at the airport at the time, and I took my grandparents phone number and I was like, “I need to call my grandparents.” And just, I pretended like I just wanted to say hi, but when they picked up the phone, I was crying. I just wanted to go home. It just wasn’t for me; I just wasn’t used to the lifestyle and whatnot. So, that was it.
Moving back to New Zealand and Primary School
So I ended up moving back to Auckland. And that was the last time I did a move, which was great, thank God. I was still 10, but it was almost 11 at the time.
And then because of all this issues, when I got put into school finally, first, I got put forward because they got…I don’t know what they had wrong. So I was there for like a good couple of months and then they realized I was in the wrong level. So I got bumped down two. And when I first got to school, it was a nightmare because by this point, I could only speak Samoan because I had just learnt it all being in Samoa for that long, I literally forgot English. So yeah, so it was an issue for me at first, when I got bumped down, finally I felt a bit more comfortable. I was on the level with everyone else and that was it.
So stayed in the level that I should have been, thank God. And yes, school life was great. I had a great primary school life. I didn’t have any issues at all. I befriended a couple of…Like I said, I grew up in a very predominately White community. So at this school, in my level or even above me, there was probably about 20 to 30 dark-skinned kids. And in my level, there’s probably only four including myself. So us four obviously, clicked because that was all we really had, but we pretty much predominantly had White friends. And then that’s how the rest of my school life panned out.
So primary school, we all went to the same primary and we all went to the same college. And then as we moved up and up and up, the friendship groups kind of grew. So when we got to intermediate, again, with intermediate, we got more and more friends, which was great. But again, there were more and more Europeans. And then got to college. College was great as well. I had a great college I suppose life, you could say. Everything was great. I didn’t have any issues with bullying, which was amazing. I think purely because I went to just the type of school that I went to, I don’t know, it just wasn’t a thing. I didn’t really experience fights at our school. There was probably one or two over the whole five years I was at college.
So yeah, I feel like I had a really great upbringing with my school life, which was awesome. But by the time I had finished college, I only had European friends, I only had one or two brown-skinned friends by this point. And then, I dropped out of college when I was 17. Oh no, yeah, I was 17. So I’ve got to the last level, which is seventh form back in my day. So I don’t know if that’s Year 12 here, I guess. And I dropped out early because I thought, “There’s no point in me being here. I’m not going to go to uni. I need to do something else.” So I dropped out and I did cheffing or I tried to be a chef. That didn’t work out. But the minute I finished, that was it. My friends just disappeared, everyone, every single one. And that was the last day I ever saw any of them was my last day that I dropped out.
Trade Education and First Jobs
So after I tried to do cheffing, that didn’t work out. So, then I decided to try and do travel. I tried to do travel, that didn’t really work either. I’m not very smart in that sense, I’m not very academic, I should say. I’m not the fastest reader, I’m not the best typer, I’m not good with electronics. Like to this very day, I still, I don’t have a computer, just not really good with that kind of thing. But I failed at the whole travel and tourism thing because I thought that’s what I was going to do.
So by this point I had hit, I was 20. I was 20 years old, I’d just finished these two courses and my grandparents were like, “What are you going to do?” And then, we started hanging out at this karaoke bar. And then, I don’t know how it kind of happened, but I just got…I think, I cleared a few tables because I felt really bad because we’d befriended them, and they were great and all this kind of stuff. And then I cleared the tables, and they were like, “Do you want a job?” I was like, “Oh, okay.” So I ended up working at this karaoke bar in Auckland, which is no longer open, but it was pretty big. We had an amazing few years, but, so I worked there and then I worked my way up to bar manager.
So I managed the bar, by this point I was 22, I’m pretty sure, 22, 23 maybe. And I was running the bar, we had a few issues in terms of violence, we were always in the papers for, there were fights and brawls. And so, I think I was 24 when we had to shut down. So I worked for them for like four years, I’m pretty sure. If I get this timeline wrong, I’m so sorry. But I haven’t really thought about, this has been such a long time since I’ve even gone through these things, but I’m pretty sure I was 22, 23 when we shut down and I had no direction in life. I had nothing. I came up blank, I’m sitting at home and my grandparents were like, “You need to do something. You can’t just stay home.”
Finding a Career Direction
I hadn’t even been on the benefit before. So that wasn’t an option. My dad’s like, “Well, no, you’re not going to go on the benefit you’re perfectly healthy and fine. You just need to find a job.” So they sent me off to this…Well, actually, no they didn’t. They suggested I go look for something that could help me find a job. So I looked up online and I came across a job seminar. And I thought, “Okay, cool.” So I grabbed a couple of my friends and I was like, “Hey, look, do you want to come with me, I want to go to this seminar, I need to find something for me to do?” And they’re like, “Yeah, of course.” So we went along, there was four of us and nothing was jumping out. It was a massive seminar.
It went over a massive show grounds. It was great, but nothing really kind of jumped out. I think, because at that time, again, like I said, I had no direction. I had no skills. The only thing I really had was working at the bar, I didn’t want to do bar management or anything like that. We were there for like an hour or two. It was near the end, and we were coming to the very end of our I suppose our little trip, I should say. And we had come across this massive stage/stall, and it was a beauty academy. They specialized in hair, makeup, nails, special effects, all of that. So it was a huge, huge stall. It was basically, the biggest one there. And it was pumping music, and it was vibrant and loud, and they had barbers going and hairdressers and makeup artists going and everything, but it still didn’t jump out at me. I wasn’t interested in it at all.
My friends were, so they were like, “Can we go have a look?” And me being me, I’m very quite stubborn. So I’m like, “No, I’ll just stay out here. You guys go in, I’ll just stay outside.” So they went in and I’m standing there just looking around not really caring. And one of the tutors from the academy popped his head up and he’s like, “Hey, you should come in.” He’s noticed that my friends had come in, but I didn’t want to go in. He was like, “Hey, you should come and check it out, have a look around.” And being young at the time and like I said, working at a bar, I had a bit of attitude to be honest with you. And I just was like, looking at him like, “No, go away. What do you want?” I’m like, “You’re just trying to sell me a course, I’m not interested.” And he’s like, “No, just come in, you may as well, your friends are here, they’re having a good time. Looks like they’re going to hang out for a while, just come in.”
So I reluctantly went in, but I went straight to my friends and I’m standing there like, “Come on.” I think I felt really awkward actually. I felt really like I didn’t know how to be around this. It was just so different. I had been around such a masculine kind of group of people working in the bar industry, all my bouncers became my friends, and everyone was very quite masculine at the time. And then come to this kind of complete circle where everyone’s the complete opposite. I didn’t know how to act. And I felt like I had kind of stumbled across something that I’d never seen before. So I was kind of like, “Oh my God, what’s going on?”
So anyway, so my friends were like, “We’re going to sign up.” And I was like, “Oh, you guys haven’t shown no interest in this, so I don’t understand why you’re signing up.” They’re like, “Oh no, we’re going to sign up because the barbers are hot.” I’m like, “Okay.” I was like, “All right, well, I’m not going to sign up because it’s not for me.” And they’re like, “Yeah, we’re going to go to the Open Day which is in a week, so if you come with us you can just hang with us.” I was like, “Okay, cool.”
So come a week, and we go to the open day and they’re all excited and they see the same barbers that they saw and they’re all talking to them and whatnot. And I’m just kind of sitting there, unimpressed. I just didn’t really want to be there. Then they had finally come to me and they’re like, “Hey, we’re going to sign up. Let’s sign up.” And I’m like, “Well, I’m not going to sign up because I don’t know anything about hair or whatever.” They’re like, “Who cares, neither do we. That’s the whole point of this course, we’ll just sign up and we’ll be hairdressers.”
So anyways, I thought in the back of my mind, I could hear my granddad saying, “You need to find something.” And so I thought if I went home to tell them that this is what I’ve done, then maybe they might be happy or what. I didn’t really think it through probably. So I was like, “Okay, well let’s sign up.” So we went into the room and they had all the contracts laid out and I wanted to go last because I still was unsure. So, they obviously, with each contract, they had to talk them through it. And so it was a bit of a process because there’s four of us. It took a good, maybe 45 minutes to go through everyone’s contracts and whatnot. So they’d finally come to me.
So everyone had signed their contracts, finally come to me, and then they’re going through mine and I’m like, “Yeah, I heard everyone else’s, you don’t have to spend 15 minutes on me.” And then, they were like, “Are you happy?” And I’m like, “Yeah, that’s fine. I’ll sign the contract.” Again, I didn’t really want to be there. Just before I signed, that tutor that I had seen at the first seminar, pops their head in, and then, “Oh, sorry. I just need to borrow a stapler.” And then, he looks at me and then I’m looking at him like, “Oh, there’s that guy.” Rolling my eyes.
He looks at the lady doing my contract and says, “What’s he doing?” And then, she was like, “Oh, he’s doing hair.” And then he turns to me, and he goes, “No, no, no. You’re a makeup artist.” And I looked at him and I was like…and then he caught my attention because I’d never even heard of makeup artistry. I’d never even heard of a guy doing makeup, never. I’ve never even touched a makeup brush before, never even wanted. So I was really kind of intrigued. So I looked at him and was like, “Do they do makeup here?” And he’s like, “Yeah, I’m one of the head tutors, let me show you.” So I put my pen down, all my friends and I went for a walk to a completely different area. The makeup department was on a different building across from them. And that’s why we hadn’t seen it.
And the minute the doors opened from the lift, that was it. It really caught me. It’s like there’d been an explosion of senses, my ears were popping because the music was banging. Everybody was just sitting there on the tables, playing, having fun. There was lots of colour going on. They were laughing. It was a completely different vibe from the hair and special effects area where everybody was sitting at tables, dead silent. I couldn’t even hear a blow-dryer going. It was all theory-based. So being in this area where everyone could be creative and I didn’t think I had a creative bone in my body, that really resonated with. So, that was it.
Makeup Artist Course
I signed up to do makeup straight away. I did the two-year course with them and that’s how I kind of fell into the makeup industry. Like I say to people, it just fell in my lap. It really caught me off guard because, like I said, I’ve never had a creative bone in my body. I failed arts and I couldn’t even draw a stick figure, really, really bad with the art. I feel like it’s the most common question I get when people ask me about makeup artists, “Oh, can you draw?” I’m like, “No, I can’t draw, and I’ll prove it to you because it can’t even draw a stick figure.”
But yeah, so that’s how I became a makeup artist. And from then in my last course, so I did the first course and then the second course, and then I ended up doing hair anyways, because I was told that hair goes hand in hand with makeup. I only did the first course because I just didn’t feel comfortable with moving on because the second course was all about colouring and cutting. The first course was all about theory and styling. So I felt like I had got enough in the first course of hair to then move on.
Starting a Makeup Artist Career
In the last two months of me doing hair, I got approached to work at a makeup counter. So this was my first makeup job. And it was in a White area because I was still living in this area at the time. And then it was a complete eye opener for me because by this point I’d been around a lot of Pacific Island people at the school that I’ve studied at, it’s predominantly aimed at Pacific Island people. So literally, everyone in my class was a Pacific Islander. I think we only had one European girl in my makeup course, first year. Second year, I might’ve had like two and an Asian, and in my hair, none.
So it was predominantly Pacific Islander. So I had spent years, plus also working in the bar industry, again, all my staff are Islanders. We didn’t have any Europeans. So, by this point, this is my first kind of engagement with my own culture was working straight after school from the bar into hair and makeup, studying hair and makeup. So when I had got my very first counter job, it was a shock to my system because I had to go from being what I had kind of moulded myself in during the last few years was finally I suppose, being myself, being able to be an Islander for the very first time in my life.
And it felt great to do that, to now having to go back to my old self when I was in school and being, I suppose, I don’t want to say White, because that’s not the word, but being a little bit more reserved, really being a bit more conscious of the way I am, the way I talk, the way I speak. And from then on, obviously that became that’s how I stayed in the industry pretty much.
I worked with them for a few years, then I worked for another brand for a few years and then I finally got my dream job working for a big cosmetics company for a very long time. I worked for them for 10 years. And yeah, being with that company specifically, the last one, that was the one that really kind of stole my soul, I would have to say. They stole everything from me, and it was hard getting myself back after I left them. And also, even hard leaving, because they really kind of drum into you that they are the makeup authority and they’re superior to everyone else and there’s nothing else better than us. So if you leave, that’s it. You’re not anybody without us. That’s the impression that we got. And that’s the reason why I stayed so long.
Moving back to Australia
So when I finally left them, it was a big push because by this point I had moved to Melbourne. I feel like I’m skipping over so many things. I’m thinking, “Oh my God, I missed that.” But, so basically, I had started at this cosmetics company in New Zealand and then three years later I had then transitioned to Melbourne and then worked for them for another five or six years before I then transitioned off to freelancing.
So this whole time kind of dialling it back to now, that you kind of see how I got to where I am today or sort of. Dialling it back to my home life whilst I was doing all this. So obviously, I had studied, I was still living at home with my grandparents at the time when I was studying makeup and hair. At the very beginning of that, my grandparents had split, had divorced, so my granddad had come forward and said he wasn’t happy. And then we had found out some other things, so my granddad had left.
And just a quick kind of thing, ever since I was three or four, my grandma had a severe stroke and she was left disabled from her right side, which was her strong side. And she was able to recover pretty well, her whole side was still restricted. So she had learned to do everything with her left side. She was still able to kind of like hobble along and walk, unassisted which was great. But yeah, just to kind give context, she was disabled at the time when my granddad left. It was just her and myself and my auntie decided to kind of stay on with us.
And yeah, so it was just us living from when I had kind of just finished my hair course until when we transitioned to Melbourne. And that would have been maybe like five years, I think, roughly. And then I worked at this company, like I said, this big company. And then I had felt like I’d burnt all my bridges here, but I still wanted to work for the company. And then I obviously thought, “Well, my mum’s in Melbourne. Maybe there’s some way I can kind of transfer to Melbourne and still work for the company.” But maybe I had heard, it was better to work for them here than it was to work for them in New Zealand.
So I kind of started the process of moving over, and then I got the job and they were like, “Yes, we’ve got a job.” So I obviously had to approach my grandma about it. And I was like, “Look, this is what’s going to happen.” And my auntie was instantly, “Oh, you know what, well then we need to put her in a home because I’m not taking care of her.” And then I was like, “No, no, no, I’m saying I’m taking her with me.” And then my grandma’s like, “No, just put me in a home. That’s fine.” But I could tell it wasn’t fine because she’s telling me and she’s crying. I’m like, “Of course, I’m not going to put you in a home. You’re going to come with me.”
So I did, I brought my grandma with me. So it was just her and I that lived together. We moved to Tarneit, and we were there pretty much the whole time just before she passed. So she lasted, I think, six years, which was good. She’d had a good life here.
Quitting and Starting own Business
And then things kind of just…near the end, I had to leave work because of her. But not because of her, I wanted to. But my job at the time wasn’t being very flexible. My grandma was getting more and more sick.
I didn’t get any benefits for caring for her at the time. So I started to work full time but also care for her as well, which was a struggle. So near the end, I ended up having to leave and it was scary because I still hadn’t really had built like a friend base. All my friends were at my job. So when I left, how was I going to push this business?
So before I left, I had already kind of told all my regular clients, “This is what’s going to happen. I’m going to leave dah, dah, dah. This is my number.” We weren’t really allowed to do that, but I didn’t really care. And so, I had built like a good months’ worth of business before I had left. So I had booked myself up for a whole month before I left. And then when I finally left it was every weekend I had business for four weeks, then I thought, “Oh, this is going to pick up. This is going to be fine.” I got to the last weekend. It literally, was my last bridal party, there was 10 of them, and I had nothing after that, absolutely nothing. I was stressing. I was like, “What am I going to do? That’s it, I’ll probably have enough money to keep us going for like two or three weeks. And that’s it.” Because I wasn’t really saving at the time because I was still building.
And so, I pretty much just did this job. And then the mum of the bride randomly enough, she was like, “You’re worried about your business.” It was weird because she, obviously didn’t know me. She just came up to me. She taps me on the shoulder. She’s like, “You’re worried about your business. I just want you to know, you don’t have to worry because you’ll be fine.” And then I was like…And this is me trying to do a bride at the time. And the bride was rolling her eyes. She’s like, “I’m so sorry about my mum.” And then I cried, obviously, I’m trying to hold it together. And I just started bawling my eyes out because I needed to hear it. Because like I said, I was stressed. I had my grandma who wasn’t well, obviously bills to pay, I just didn’t know what I was going to do.
And then she gave me a big hug and she said, “From now on your phone will not stop ringing because,” she was like, “God will look after you.” And then, that was it. I’m not even joking. Probably, like two days later I started getting an influx. I’d never had that the whole month that I was working, I didn’t have any bookings come through in that month that I had kind of booked myself out for. So for it to start maybe like a day or two after this lady talked to me, it was really, really, really crazy to me that it just started, well, that was it.
I started getting more and more and more and before I knew it and the next month was fully booked, then the next month was booked, it snowballed which was great. Because my first year or two things were amazing. It got to the point where we had more money than I couldn’t even…we were getting things that I couldn’t afford before. It was great. And my grandma and I were really happy, and everything was great. Year three came along, and it got even more bigger. So it started to really kind of really, really grow.
Grandmother’s Illness and Passing
And then not long after that, my nan got really sick, and I had to make the call. Us, as Islanders we don’t really kind of…It’s not really an option to put our grandparents in a home, but I had no choice. I had to put her in a home.
At this point, she’d gotten really ill. We didn’t know what she had, but we just knew that she wasn’t well. And so I had to put her in a home, unfortunately. And she always said like, “If you put me in a home, I’m going to go, I won’t last long there.” And it wasn’t like a threat or anything. It wasn’t saying, “Don’t put me in.” It was just reassurance, because I think she always worried that I would feel some kind of way, guilt I suppose you could say, guilt, feeling like I couldn’t provide for her or whatnot.
I tried everything in my power to keep her home. I did a GoFundMe account so that I could try and fundraise money because she was starting to become bedridden. So I was trying to fundraise to get like the proper bed so that it could pull her out of bed and like a car to be fitted out for her wheelchair and whatnot, things like that. I really kind of tried everything, but I couldn’t do it. So I ended up having to put her into a home. One of the hardest things I ever had to do, just because I know that that’s not what we do. And I kind of felt embarrassed talking to others about it, especially obviously people of our culture, sometimes I’d kind of just be like, “Oh.” I wouldn’t even tell them. I’d say, “Oh, she’s at home,” but really she was in a…And that’s something that we’d kind of don’t, especially here in Australia, I don’t think they feel like…I think a lot of people also, are unaware of the choices that we have.
So it was completely new for us to put her in a home and even the people that helped us out, even though a few of them were like a bit like, “Oh, we don’t know either, we’ve never really put a Kiwi woman into one of our home supports, so we need to figure it out.” So luckily, it was easy. So if anybody needs help with that, I know where to go now and what to do.
But yeah, after that, I feel like the whole time I was with my grandparents, my grandma specifically, even though I was her carer I felt like she kept me…I suppose, I kind of felt like she was still my carer in a sense, I felt like she was the one that looked after me, even though I was the breadwinner. And then when she left, I couldn’t function. I didn’t know what to do. It was just her and I for years. So I was left in this three bedroom home by myself, of course family came to say hi. Oh, no. I mean, not to say hi, to the funeral. But literally, two days later after the funeral, that was it, everyone just left.
Everyone left on the same day, even like my family from New Zealand, they all left on the same day. So I literally was left home alone from the moment everyone’s walked out the door and I just kind of completely felt alone for weeks. I just didn’t know what to do. Obviously, I still have to work. So it was really hard. I didn’t really get to grieve because I was working. I worked even during her funeral, I had bookings before her funeral. So, certain things like that you can’t really change. Like if you’ve got a wedding, you have to commit to it.
And a lot of people who said to me, “Oh, sure, they’ll understand.” Really, if it was your wedding, would you really understand? Of course, you’d be like, “Oh, don’t worry.” But then you’d go around being like, “Oh, I bet you he lied. He didn’t want to come.” It’s your business that you have to protect. Literally, the day she died I worked through and then also I worked through her funeral. So, I didn’t really get to grieve properly, and I don’t think I still have, but it’s something that I’m still working on.
Building Business and Reconnecting
And I know that she’s helping me from wherever she is, because like I said, things just have never stopped for me. Things have just gotten better and better and better. My career has really taken off and not that I’ve done anything like significant, I haven’t started a business. I mean, I haven’t launched a brand, or I don’t get sent packages from companies, but in my eyes, my success is just me working and getting clients regularly that come back. I would say 60 to 70% of my business is all returning clients. I don’t get a lot of newbies; I get a lot of people that just come back.
So to me, that’s more rewarding than anything else because it means I’ve built really good relationships with people and relationships with lots of different cultures, which leads me to kind of recently, maybe in the last two years or so, I finally turned around and I was like, “You know what…”I love all my clients, so if you’re watching this guys, this isn’t aimed at you or anything, but a lot of my clients and a lot of people kind of would comment on this. They would always say, “Do you specifically do European clients?” And I was like, “I do any clients.”
But then judging from my Instagram which is basically my main page, that’s basically who I did. If you looked at all the clientele that I do, I would scroll through and I’d only see European females. And then, it clicked with me because I obviously, I’d love to do more and more of my culture, but it clicked that I wasn’t posting them. Even though I had done them, I wasn’t posting them. I was only posting European clients and I had subconsciously started doing that because in my mind, I thought if I do the more European girls, I would make more money because I’ll get more and more of those clients.
So I turned around, I was like, “No, I can’t do this. This is not what I want.” And so I started posting more and more Island girls. And they started flooding in, which is exactly what I wanted because like I was saying to a few of my other clients like, “I need to kind of come back to myself.” If that makes sense. I feel lost, I felt a bit lost. But being around my own culture, I’ve recently made a really big group of friends that are all Poly, and we just have the best time. We haven’t officially met, but we have Zoom chats and lives on Instagram. We haven’t all met, but we just have a good laugh every single day. We all check in on ourselves, like, “How are you? How’s things doing? Are you okay.”
So it’s been really good to kind of come back to the people that know me most but don’t know me at the same time, which has been really rewarding. But yeah, this whole experience with how I got to where I am today has blown my mind because I say it all the time, I am so blessed for the gifts that I’ve been given because if you had had asked me years ago, I would’ve never have just said this is what I’d be doing. Because there was a point in my life where I didn’t even think I’d ever work. I thought to myself like, “I’m nothing, I can’t do anything. I’m dumb, I’m fat.” All those things that you go through and you see other people, your peers, doing big and great things. I thought to myself, I’ll never do anything. So for me to be here right now today, doing what I do, is mind blowing to me and I’m so lucky to do what I do.
Relationship with Grandfather
So my granddad is still around. I call him every now and then. I should really call him because it’s been a while. He lives in New Zealand. He comes over once a year to holiday with all of us because a lot of us, kids, are now here. So he hasn’t got really very many family left in New Zealand. So he still comes here and he teaches me, well, he’s taught me all of the kind of Island ways of cooking. So now when we have things like Island stuff, well, when we have family over, I should say, I’m in charge of cooking because I’m the only one that knows all the recipes.
So he’s been really good because he’s starting to find himself again as well, which has been really great to see because he was very European. He’s more European than anybody I know. He couldn’t even speak the language anymore. So he’s started to go back to Samoa so that he could find himself as well, which has been inspiring to me.
So that’s been kind of my journey in the last few years of trying to reconnect with other Polys to help find myself again because I just think it’s been so important for my journey, especially for my future to inspire more people like myself who had a little bit of a rough upbringing maybe just to show them that with a bit of guidance and a bit of trust that you can get to where you need to be, because I would never in a million years thought I’d be here today.
Education Experiences and Challenges
I do remember you making a point where you said yourself, in primary and I think in most of your education, you remember having a really good time, like it was a pretty good experience.
And is that because it was a good experience from a social aspect or did you find, because I recognise too that a lot of our people don’t have the same. They actually really struggled through schooling, and it’s probably more to do with the learning and the content. So how did you find that?
Yeah. So, like you said, like whether or not it’s like the social aspect or not, it was definitely more of a social thing for me. I’m a Leo, so I’m very social, I’m very outgoing. I’m very loud and boisterous. School for me, was pretty much my time to shine in that aspect. Because at home, it was just me, I was an only child, there was no kids around. I wouldn’t say I was looked over, but when I got home it was like, you go home, and you do your chores. I grew up on doing a lot of chores, a lot, which I’m so thankful for because now I can do so many things and a lot of people just are blown away by the stuff that I can do. But that attributes to my grandparents.
The school part was definitely a social thing for me, because like you said, the learning part, it was difficult. I did feel like I couldn’t comprehend a lot of the things, but I picked up on an early age on how to kind of manoeuvre through school with ease because I learned how to manipulate, I suppose, the system at a very early age. Because I technically should have, I don’t know if I should have been expelled or I should have got a lot more detentions. I should have got in trouble a lot because I never did my homework, and the homework was not up to scratch.
But it was something that I kind of learned at an early age that to get where you need to be, you really need to be a really good talker. You have to really kind of talk you out of things. And I started doing it quite young in primary school. So the learning aspect was hard and it was definitely something that it was a struggle for me, but I started to kind of think to myself, “Oh, don’t worry about it,” because even at…I keep saying early age, but even at an early age, I started thinking, “This isn’t for me. I’m not going to need any of this in my future life. I just need to get through school.”
And as I got older, intermediate, obviously the curriculum got harder and I had to get more savvier and savvier with the way I got out of things. I suppose, it became a stress in my life. It was stressful trying to kind of manoeuvre through schools because of the fact that I was failing. I failed big time. The only thing that I didn’t fail and I excelled at was English, go figure. But English was my strong point and social, I think they called it social studies back home, but things like that, anything where it required, obviously English and debating, I was a big debater. I was on our debating team at the school, won every debate that I did just because I’m a really good talker.
But yeah, manoeuvring through school with, I would say I had quite a severe learning disability. I wasn’t the best reader. I wouldn’t even say I could read properly until I left school. It wasn’t until my best friend, my childhood friend, who we’ve been friends since I was maybe six or seven and he’s one of the smartest people in the world, in my opinion. Like academically smart, it’s ridiculous how smart this guy is. And I think he picked up on me not being comfortable with reading, for example. And he just said, “Look, you’re not going to be able to read unless you read.”
So he gave me some books and said, “I want you to read these books and I want you to read them properly, don’t skim, just read them. And then I want you to come back to me and tell me about them because I’ve obviously read them. So just tell me what you thought. Tell me about the characters.” So he got me into reading maybe like when I was like 22 or 23 and I had never really read a book, in all honesty, I never really read a book. So anytime I had to read a book for school, it was always I’d just ask my friends like, “Oh, did you read the book?” I’d get all the information through other people or at that time the internet was a thing, so I was able to kind of just Google information from the books and things like that.
So yeah, reading was a big thing for me to kind of get, I don’t even know how I got through school, in all honesty, with my reading ability and my writing. My writing to this very day is probably still really bad. But yeah, he saw something that needed help and he just was like, “Look, if you just read more regularly, your reading will get better.” So sure enough, now my reading is a lot better, thank God, and I read really well. But it’s really him, he was just like, “You just need to read more, focus.”
And he even gave me tips and tricks on how to read, he was like, “Read each word, don’t read past the word.” Because he noticed that I was trying to read fast. But he was like, “No, focus on each word, don’t look past the words. And then even if you’re reading super slow, you’ll get faster.”
Family Support in Education
when you reflect back on some of those maybe learning challenges, what do you think the reasons are for? Because what I see too is that you know yourself that, “Oh, how do I get out of it?” So you identify yourself instantly that you’re probably going to struggle against it. And I’ll think that that part of your story is common for a lot of our youth. Why do you think we have these challenges with learning at a young age or what do you think contributes to some of those challenges in school?
Yeah, I think it starts from the home. It was never really kind of focused on at home. My grandparents never checked my homework. They would ask if you’ve got homework, I’m like, “Yeah.” And then they’d say, “Have you done your homework?” I’m like, “Yes.” And then that was it. It was never really kind of checked up on. My grandparents never went over my homework with me. So it was never really focused on at home. And I think that’s kind of where it needed to start for me. I needed them to really kind of sit me down and force me, no, not force me, but they needed to show me the importance of it. And even with them, I think not being very academic themselves and not that it has to be like that, but I never saw my grandma read, I never saw my granddad read but my granddad had the most beautiful handwriting, still to this day. His handwriting is just so beautiful.
But yeah, it needed to start at home for me. Because priorities were at home, obviously the chores. Things had to get done in order for a household to run, but they don’t teach you everything outside the home because I suppose, in a way they teach you that if we’re together, we’ll get through everything. You don’t need to learn those things because we’re all together. And I kind of just got the assumption that like, “It’s fine, we’ll work, and you do this.” But obviously, didn’t work for our family because they broke up. But that was kind of the spanner in the works was that they were never really focused on…Education wasn’t really like a big thing. I was never told.
I was never given that lecture that I see a lot of Island kids…like you see it sometimes on Instagram when people are filming their mum giving a lecture to their kid. And that mum’s telling them the importance of education. You need to go to school, and you need to get your degree and whatnot. I was never given that; we were never given that. It was never a thing. It was more so a factor, or it was really important to my grandparents to make sure the lawn was mowed. Because we lived on a half-acre property, we had a massive lawn that was more priority than our homework. So, I think that was definitely something that it could definitely improve on in a lot of households even to this very day that, I think we try and teach our kids street savvy, more so than education, which is still good, street savvy’s great.
Look at me, I’m very street savvy and I’m doing well, but if I could work with my brain more than my hands, I would absolutely love that because I just know that knowledge is power, and you can do so much with that. I’m very restricted in what I do. Like, yes, it’s great what I do. And it’s very creative and fun, but I’m restricted. I can’t do much else with that. So if I could work with my brain rather than my hands, I would much rather do that.
Challenges in Finding a Career and Direction
just before you dropped out or maybe shortly after you dropped out, where you were saying that you just felt like you didn’t have any life direction, or you really struggled with just having any sort of direction. Do you know why, or can you think of some of the things that would have impacted why you really struggled with that sort of sense of direction?
Yeah. I would say in my personal experience would have been, my lack of direction just came from, well, kind of off of what we just spoke about, in not being a priority in the home. But also, I think it came to, I suppose you could say my relationship with my mum and my dad, it was just so turbulent in a way that I kind of just…And I didn’t have any good role models around me as well. None of my family had good jobs, nobody had direction. And I constantly would hear other family members talking about,” Oh just, I got fired from this job.” “I’ll just quit this job. I’ll just find another one.” No one ever aspired to be anything in my family. It was more so just get a job to make money.
When I left school, and even to this very day, obviously because of COVID-19 and having issues with my job now, I still to this very day feel the exact same way. I don’t feel like I fit in, in any job area, in any job category. And I worry about stupid things, and this is really being really candid, but I think to myself, “Oh if I get a job, who am I going to sit with at lunch?” I get anxiety over that rather than the job, because to me the social aspect of a job is more important than anything else for me. I know I can do a job easily, well, hopefully, but I’m worried about the smaller things in life rather than the bigger picture. And even from back then, I think that’s the same thing. I was worried about, a, fitting in to any job, to any career. I thought to myself, “Where am I going to fit in? I’m so, I’ll be different. I look different. I sound different.”
And obviously, being dark skinned but sounding not dark wasn’t…weird issue for some employees. I’d go on job interviews, and obviously my full name was Thomas Phillip Gray on paper. So they’d get my resume. They’d be like, “Oh, this guy sounds great.” And then I’d turn up and they would be in shock. They’re like, “Oh wow, didn’t realize you were a Pacific Islander.” And I was like, “I didn’t realize that was an issue.” And she said, “It’s not issue, it’s just your name is deceiving, that’s all.” And I would constantly get that my whole life because my name sounds very White. Even on the phone, if I had a phone interview “Oh, wow, great.” And then, they’d meet me they’re like, “Oh my God, you sound completely different to who you are.”
So for me, to kind of find an identity in the workplace was my biggest struggle even right up until now. And it kind of causes me quite a lot of anxiety thinking about like, “If I have to find a job, what am I going to do? And will I fit in?” And that’s pretty much my main, I suppose you could say focus.
Relationship with New Zealand
our people struggle with this whole, and particularly the diaspora, they really struggle with this sense of identity and navigating between sort of the Western context and that of our own cultural context. So I think even for you, that was going to be my next question was, how are you finding yourself now in terms of your sense of identity and belonging? You seem to have found like a really nice circle of friends, but, so do you feel like you still struggle? How do you find your sense of identity here and then being back in New Zealand? How are those two worlds?
Well, being back home obviously feels good, but doesn’t feel like home to me anymore. This definitely feels more like home. I refer to this as home and don’t refer to New Zealand as home anymore. I do know that’s where my roots are, but New Zealand doesn’t feel like home to me anymore. And I think it’s because I completely up-rooted myself with my grandma and unknowingly, up-rooted everything. In my mind I had left knowing I’d never go back. I’d only been home for the first time in 10 years, a couple of years ago. That was my first time going home in 10 years. And it was a bit of a culture shock in many ways. Being around my family was different because, I don’t know, life back home is so different. It’s a lot more laid back. I just felt like everyone was moving slower than me. And it was a bit of a shock to me.
I look at it in a way, at least I can go back home, but I got anxiety being back in New Zealand. Because I wouldn’t even say it’s because, it wouldn’t be because of anything specific. Because this was home, I just wanted to get home, but also could have been that I had left in a way that, I suppose you could say, I didn’t have anything bad happen to me, but I was ready to leave. And I just wanted to up and leave New Zealand. It had given me nothing. I just felt like I was let down by the system and I just was like, “I need to start a new life.”
So when I left New Zealand I was like, in my mind, “I’m never coming back. This is it; I’m done.” So, I think going back, just even for a holiday, I went for like four days and I would have even shorted my stay if I could have because I had just got that much anxiety being there. I just wanted to come home. So I don’t know what it is about. I wouldn’t say specifically the people or the places or whatever. I just think it’s my own demons, I guess you could say with New Zealand.
Advice for Pasifika Youth
for all those upcoming Pasifika youth that are interested in doing what you’re doing, what are some things that you would recommend they could do now to kickstart their careers and maybe some things to avoid or something, some tips and tricks from your experience that will help them build a career as a makeup artist.
Yeah, totally. I would say anybody that’s aspiring to be a makeup artist, number one, the industry is really saturated at the moment. We have a lot of makeup artists, especially over the COVID, a lot of people had obviously picked up a makeup brush and just started playing, which is amazing. I love seeing people playing with makeup. I love seeing people trying makeup. I just love seeing the makeup culture growing. Because when I first started, it was a very small culture. There wasn’t many boys, if any, I was one of the first boys to work in that in New Zealand at the time. It’s just definitely, really great to see people playing.
So I would probably say anyone aspiring to do it, you don’t have to be a registered makeup artist in Australia to work. So don’t be fooled by the big courses. Don’t think you have to do a certificate or a diploma in makeup artistry. Not only is it ridiculously expensive, but it’s not necessary because you don’t have to be a registered makeup artist to work in the industry in Australia and New Zealand. In other countries like US you do have to be registered. So obviously, you would need to have it for places like them. But here, all you need to do…You don’t even need to have studied anything really, to be a makeup artist here. You can just be self-taught. So you can, obviously train yourself.
Anyone who is a self-taught makeup artist, it’s a lot harder to work in the industry. For example, if you were trying to work at Sephora and whatnot, it is a lot harder because you do have to prove yourself a lot more. So if you are a self-taught makeup artist, it’s important for you to document your work properly. If you’ve got a social media page for example, making sure that you do a lot of work on there, making sure everything’s clean, your lighting’s great, things like that. That’s the same across the board, everybody has to have a clean Instagram or social media page, making sure you’re posting content regularly and also making sure your lighting’s great, those are three things that are really big in our industry. Taking good quality photos, good lighting, and making sure you’re posting consistently.
If you’re a self-taught makeup artist, obviously it’s a lot harder to do it on others because you’re a self-taught artist. So, doing it on yourself is still sufficient. If you’re a makeup artist like myself, it’s probably better for you to do other people just to show what you can do, because if you were do it on yourself, us in the industry, we look at that as like, “Oh, well, you can do that on yourself, great, but can you do that on others?” So it’s important for us as makeup artists to do as many people, other people as possible instead of posting just pictures of yourself.
So if you’re self-taught make artist, of course, you’ll train yourself, if you’re not a self-taught makeup artist and you do want to study, it’s really good to do short courses. So, I teach at a short course. I teach advanced at an academy, and so basically ours is an eight-week course. We go one night a week, obviously for eight weeks and it’s a three-hour class and there’s a lot of courses like that as well. I highly recommend doing those. Even if you come out feeling non-confident, at least it was only like $1,000 course, you can go off and do another one. I think those are the best ways to learn is doing short courses get into one, do it. And then if you feel confident, great, if you don’t, either redo it again or go find another academy, another short course and do that as well. I think that’s really important to do, because to be taught the fundamentals is really important.
So, that’s what we do at our academy. We teach the fundamentals first in beginners and then in advanced, this is where all the fun starts, you get to learn all the things that you see in Instagram and whatnot. So if you can kind of get some sort of a short course, I think that is really, really important. And like I said before, making sure that you post regularly and you have really clear social media page, but also we have a saying, that’s in the industry, you post what you want to attract. For example, if you do all these glam, ridiculously out there makeups, that’s kind of what you will attract. So if you’re going to do that, be confident in that, if that’s your style, then be confident in it.
Well, let’s say you posted supernatural makeups, but you want to do more creative stuff, no one’s going to come to you for creative because that’s not what you’re showing. So that’s probably one of the biggest tips that I would say is, post what you intend on specializing in. And then in that way you’ll attract that clientele. And that’s exactly what I’ve done on my page, what you see is what I do really well. And those are my signature looks. So developing a signature look is really, really important for makeup artists, I think.
Managing a Business
because you work for yourself, there’s obviously the operational side of things where you are all about creating your masterpieces. What do you do? Because the other thing that our people struggle with is the business side. So how do you manage like your admin, your marketing, your finances? Is there anything that you can recommend for our people to help keep themselves afloat or was there anything that you needed to do to teach yourself how to do your own accounting or how do you do your own, or have you hired anyone to help you do anything in particular?
Yeah, definitely. So, obviously when you’re first starting out you’re not going to really need anything too dramatically different to regular people. So for example, obviously if you are going to take this seriously, it is really good to get an ABN, register your business name, and that kind of stuff. So that’s really important to do, if you are going to take it seriously. If you’re just doing it as a hobby, be sure to post that on your Instagram, just in case you get any issues with the ATO, which we do not want any issues with the ATO, just post that. If this isn’t hobby…If you’re going to start making money from it, then that’s when you need to start really thinking about things like getting an accountant, for example, that’s what I’ve done.
So I have an accountant that specializes in my trade. So don’t just go to any accountant, really do your research on finding an accountant that specializes in hairdressers, makeup, artists, beauty therapists, even if you ask…and if you can’t find one, I asked a beauty therapist who she uses and just so happens she uses the same one as a hairdresser that I know. So I was like, “Okay, great. At least I know a few people use this one.” So yeah, it’s definitely good to get an accountant because the first year or so of…probably the first two years, I didn’t do that. And my first two years were crazy busy. I made a lot of money, and I didn’t know what I was doing. It was so overwhelming for me to try and figure out how to pay my own taxes, that I didn’t. And then, I found this person and I had to go back and re-document everything. It was just a nightmare.
So making sure, and that brings me to the next important thing is you need to document every single thing that you do. So everything from the money that comes in from your client to everything that you buy for your business. So everything has to be documented whether it be in an app or written down, I do both because you never know what’s going to happen. So, I also make sure to write everything down. I’ve got a diary that I write all of my expenditures and whatnot in there. You have to document everything that you make, everything that you spend on your business for your business, and then these are the things that you take to your accountant and then that’s how they can kind of help you figure out your taxes and all that kind of stuff and what you can claim.
So, yeah, I would definitely say that it’s really important to make sure that you have an ABN, you register your business and you document all your incomings and outgoings, and also finding an accountant, if you are going to take this seriously. For the first year or so, you could probably do the accounting yourself. It’s easy just to go online and pay your own taxes. I think it’s through, can’t remember who it is, but you can generally just Google and pay your own taxes that way. Once you start to make, obviously a lot more money, that’s when you can find an accountant to help you kind of with all that kind of stuff. But yeah, so those are probably…The business side of things is definitely a bit of a struggle, especially for me, like I said, I do have issues with learning, so it took me a while, but you’ll get your head around it. And like I said, Google’s your best friend. You can kind of Google it, or even you can find social media groups that can kind of help you with that kind of thing, like marketing stuff.
But with the marketing stuff, I do it all myself. I make sure I post regularly, and I also make sure that all my lighting is great. Everything’s clean and symmetrical. It’s really important to make sure that all your content is I suppose, cohesive so that it all kind of looks clean and tidy. It’s really important. I keep saying clean and tidy, but that’s exactly how we try and focus our business on is making sure that everything looks great so that when people look at your page, they can see exactly what you do and how well you do it. They can’t see your work if you haven’t got lighting on it. And I don’t mean like a flash, I mean, a proper light or daylight. So yeah, things like that are really important. But yeah, the business side of things is definitely something that you should wrap your head around early on, instead of me who waited two to three years.
in terms of the actual work that you do, is it expensive to source all of the things that you need to start yourself up, equipment and makeup, is it expensive?
I think that’s definitely something that used to be a thing. It definitely used to be expensive. But, literally, in the last couple [of] years these brands have really come out of the woodworks to supply you with really ridiculously inexpensive products and they also perform really, really well. So you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money on a kit or on products to be able to start your business off, especially with these particular brands that I’m talking about, they’ve become very well-known and people are starting to trust them more and more so, as long as you choose inexpensive brands that are well known, you’ll be fine. But if you’re choosing really inexpensive brands that are a bit more on the lower end and unknown, that’s when you kind of run into a bit of issues with clients.
So they need to be able to trust the product to know that you’re going to do well. It doesn’t have to be expensive; they just have to trust it. So there are brands out there that are really, really inexpensive, and I’m talking really inexpensive and I use them too. And even their brush ranges as well, I use all their brush ranges and they’re really inexpensive. You could probably start a kit for under 500 bucks.
Back in the day, my very first kit cost me four grand. That’s, and I would probably say it didn’t really have much in the kit. My very first kit was made up with a high-end brand. And yeah, it was very minimal for what we paid. Whereas if you were to pay four grand nowadays, you could get an amazing, amazing kit for that same price. So, it’s definitely not about the price anymore. There are so many well-known brands now that offer low end products.
in terms of where you’re going now and what you want to build in the future, what does success look like to you or what’s your definition of success? And it can be in any realm, whether it’s health, financial, education, anything.
My definition of success is something that I think I’ve always held in my mind is that it’s never been necessarily about money for me. It’s always been about feeling comfortable in what I do, feeling passionate about what I do and being really excited in what I do. And to me, success isn’t really shown in materialistic things like the things that you…For example, when you see social media influencers receiving things from brands and stuff, a lot of us makeup artists, we see that as success and [it] causes so much envy within our community. It’s become quite toxic recently. A lot of people are getting really… Envy is just becoming really a big issue within all communities, but specifically in the makeup community, because it is a big competition to kind of get those brands to notice you and also send stuff to you.
So, I don’t kind of rate that as success because if I’m being quite frank, a lot of these artists that are getting sent these products, I would make more money than them if I’m being quite honest, because my success is based off of my return clients and my clients that trust me and love me and they come to me regularly. They recommend me to everyone. So I don’t base it on that at all, I just base success on being really, really kind of true to your brand, being really happy and being really passionate and just being really motivated to kind of just, I suppose grow your own personal business. The success that I’ve had in the last few years is just basically, making new friends within my makeup community. And also with all my clients, my clients all become friends now. It’s quite interesting becoming friends with all my clients.
They message me all the time, and you don’t get that in any other industry really. When you have a client in other industries, they’re just your client, but a lot of them become really invested in your business and in your brand and in your personal life. I always get sent presents on my birthday from clients. So to me, that’s success is building bonds with everybody and your clients and just being happy and passionate about what you do.
Support during primary and high school
- Peers and friends as a source of support at school
- Support from parents during schooling (Part 1 & Part 2)
- Support from teachers and schools
- Transition from school to post-school education (Part 1 & Part 2)
Experiences of post-secondary education and training
- Experiences of university
- University journeys: Interruptions and finding one’s direction
- Diverse pathways towards university
- Experiences of TAFE
- Short courses and on-the-job training
- Early aspirations and current occupation
- Talking about future aspirations with family members
- Networks of family and friends
- Be proactive and seize unexpected opportunities
- Creating opportunities: Volunteering
Experiences of Work
- Benefits of being a Pacific Islander at work
- Engaging with Pacific community members through work (Part 1 & Part 2)
- Navigating family and career
- Future aspirations
Reflections and advice to young Pacific People
- ‘Akesa – Community Facilitator
- Ama – Lashing Business Administrator & Marketing Coach
- Annie – International & Community Development Specialist
- Ashirah – University student
- Cass – English Teacher, Writer, Project Manager, & President of the Victorian Kiribati Association
- Chris – Field Officer (HR)
- Christopher – Carpenter & Stonemason
- Crofton – Visual Effects & Animation Specialist
- David – App company CEO
- Elisabeth – Teacher
- Elvina – Building Services Mechanical Engineer
- Fipe – Cacao Products Manufacturing Business Owner
- Grace – Airline Customer Service Agent
- Leki – Physiotherapist
- Luisa – Registered Nurse
- Malelega – Legal Assistant
- Marita – Writer
- Rose – Workplace Consultant
- Sefita – Community Engagement Officer
- Semisi – Lawyer
- Talei – Lawyer & Community Engagement + Government Relations Consultant
- Teisa – Medical Doctor
- Tevita – IT Professional
- Thom – Make-up Artist
- Venna – Lashing Business Owner & Trainer