Today we’d like to introduce you to Coco Miletti-Hall.
Coco, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I have known that I wanted to be a makeup artist for as long as I can remember, a career second to only “Astronaut” on my list as a kid. I believe that my original inspiration for this path was inspired by my Cool Aunt Leslee. She was the rad aunt that had cool hair, clothes, and jewelry, lived out of state, did artsy makeup, married a photographer, and was living her best life. I did my friend’s makeup and hair for dances, gave myself and my friends very interesting haircuts with kitchen scissors (thank god emo choppy cuts were in at the time), tortured my sisters with terrible makeup jobs, and always answered “makeup artist and hairstylist” when I was asked what I wanted to do with my life. I have been enrolled in cosmetology or esthetician school 3 different times in my life, however, life always had a different plan for me at the time and I had to drop out for one reason or the other.
Fast forward to 2014 – I had moved to San Francisco to be a live-in nanny for my cousin. I am so thankful every day that she and her husband blessed me with the opportunity to finally fulfill my dreams with the chance to move to California. I was walking through the Mission District on the way to brunch at a friend’s house when this man with pixelated glasses stopped me and said, “Oh my God, I love your style!!! What do you do?” My answer was “I’m a nanny but I want to be a makeup artist!” This dude then tells me that he IS a makeup artist, I HAVE to follow him on Facebook so he could teach me everything I needed to know. So I did, and he was. His specialty was doing makeup for club fashion shows for various designers.
I eventually reached out to shadow him at one of these fashion shows, and he introduced me to the small production team. He told me to tell everyone that I already was an experienced makeup artist, so I did. I got booked on the spot that night for 2 different shows, about 4 weeks later. That’s great and all, but I had only really done makeup on myself – a very pale white girl – and my white family and friends back home. I didn’t have a makeup kit, I didn’t know anything about being sanitary or what the etiquette was. I was panicking but absolutely elated. Divine timing in the universe would grant me my $600 tax return that week, so I had some cash to spend. I called my other cousin in Anaheim for help.
My “twin” cousin Maren had the experience of doing hair for LA Fashion Week and also did makeup professionally. She sat on the phone with me for 3 hours to prep me for every little thing I needed in my kit, what health and sanitary issues I needed to be aware of, color theory, step by step process of doing a camera-ready face of makeup, what range of foundations and concealers I should have, fake eyelashes, literally EVERYTHING. I filled half a notebook with scribbled, frantic notes. Maren – you’re a saint.
I hit the local Sephora, Ulta, and MAC to shop and start an addiction to high-end makeup and skincare products. Then, I gathered my girlfriends and they graciously let me practice makeup on them every night for 2 weeks. This truly helped me figure out face and eye shapes, skin textures and tones, skin undertones, etc.
I walked into that first fashion show not knowing one person. I knew that none of the other makeup artists and hairstylists would have any clue that I had never done this before so I just set up similarly to their workspaces and hit the ground running.
My first model took me FOREVERRRRR – but that beautifully deep-complected woman looked great and I was on cloud nine. After doing makeup on a few more models, I ended up switching to help out with hair and by the end of the show, the designer told me that I saved the night. I know that sounds cheesy, but I swear that’s how it happened. I have a specific “can-do” attitude, I’m a hard worker. and I’m willing to do whatever I can to help. Some people call it people-pleasing, I call it being a team player.
The rest of my makeup career follows this theme of “fake it til you make it”, which is why I believe that I have chronic imposter syndrome.
I end up quitting my nanny job and start working at the Hard Rock Cafe while continuing to do makeup for more fashion shows, online magazines, and international magazine editorials, making friends with designers, modeling, networking as much as I can. At one point in the Summer of 2015, I was asked to headline an indie artist show called RAW at the Ruby Skye in San Francisco. I called my mom crying, I was so honored and terrified. This whole period of my life feels like a movie I watched about a small-town Ohio girl on a giant stage near downtown San Francisco with 10 models and 30 of my friends cheering for me. Surreal.
A few months later, I decided to move to a suburb of L.A. with a friend from SF so that I could work on getting into a production union and do hair and makeup for movies and TV. The only problem with this master plan is that living in SF is EXPENSIVE and I was supporting my dream hobby and working part-time at a tourism-dependent restaurant. I was broker than broke. So I decided to move back to Akron, live with my grandpa, hustle my ass off and make as much money as possible for 6 months and then meet back up with Susie in SoCal in June. So I left my movie star life in the big city and moved back home to Akron, Ohio.
The one thing I wasn’t going to do while I was back in Ohio was fall in love. Insert eye roll here.
We said we weren’t going to hook up. We said we weren’t going to get involved. I said it was a safe, low emotional risk little tryst because I was moving in 6 months, so I might as well have fun with the guy I’ve had a crush on since 2007, right? Right? RIGHT? We are now happily married with a house and 2 beautiful cats. I wouldn’t trade this life I have for the world.
When I moved back to Ohio, I didn’t anticipate getting involved in freelance makeup work because as far as I knew, there was no fashion here and I didn’t have the network and connections here like I did in SF. Woof, was I wrong.
I did some makeup here and there for fun for about a year while working at various bars and holding a full-time desk job. In 2017 my life-long best friend asked me to do her bridal makeup for her wedding. She hired amazing photographers who took stunning bridal portraits of her which showed off the look we created. From those photos and my portfolio from my fashion days in SF, I ended up booking 10 weddings that year. By the end of 2017, I had created a website, contract, portfolio, and process for bridal clients.
2018 brought my introduction into commercial and production work on sets, which is now my favorite type of work. I started working with several local photographers to do their clients’ engagement, maternity, and boudoir photography makeup and hair. I booked 28 weddings that year, from word-of-mouth and the Facebook bridal group. If you got married in NEOhio in the past 6 years, you know which one I’m talking about. I networked as much as I could to get more commercial and production work. December of 2018 blessed me with doing makeup and wardrobe for Klay Thompson for the NBA Chinese New Year commercial. I also teamed up with another amazing local makeup artist to start a group “paint and sip” style makeup class called “Sip N Slay”.
2019 brought more and more commercial work and 40 weddings. I started working with more local photographers more frequently. I quit my overworked and underpaid Operations Manager job in September of 2019 to be completely self-employed. I got engaged, got married, 2 of my sisters got married, I went to Africa, went to yoga many times a week, and had several other trips around the US. I was a self-employed Professional Freelance Makeup Artist. Wow.
2020 was proving to be the Year of the Coco. I had 46 weddings booked and was booking around 4-5 well-paying production jobs a week doing HMU (hair and makeup), wardrobe, food/drink/set styling, and props. I had a bridal hair and makeup team for weddings. My weekdays were filling up with work from the local photogs. I counted my luck and blessings every day. I was working with an acquaintance at the time (now my assistant – Jiji) to offer group “paint and sip” style makeup classes for the LGBTQ+ community called “LGBTQuties+”. Then March 2020 happened, and we all know about the shutdowns.
I obviously couldn’t work for several months. I offered my brides that were set to get married during the shutdown multiple virtual consultations and live tutorials to walk them through buying and using the right products as well as how to apply them for their small backyard weddings. I got back to working in person in June 2020, as my brides had paid a deposit and signed a contract that I needed to fulfill, even if I was terrified to be around groups and strangers. Plus, I truly didn’t want to let them down. Production jobs slowed down so much, as makeup and hair tended to be one of the first things cut for the type of shoots happening around the area. By the luck of the Irish, I somehow landed a gig doing makeup and hair for the “confessional” shoots for one of the stars of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” by Bravo during this time. I started offering virtual trans-affirming makeup consultations and lessons for transitioning clients, or anyone in the LGBTQ+ community that wanted a safe place to ask questions and learn.
Throughout 2020, I had my share of COVID scares and confirmed exposures that forced me to replace myself on weddings and jobs. I am so grateful for the network and community of NEOhio makeup artists that came together through COVID to help each other out in these situations. I did 45 weddings in 2020 and was consistently booked up during the week with jobs from my network of local photographers.
Let’s get to 2021. In February, I decided that I needed my own studio space to have clients come to me so that I could stack appointments more efficiently. I also needed a place outside of my house to work on my website, business administrative stuff, social media, and store all of my kits and projects. I found my dream space in a second-level office on Front St. in Cuyahoga Falls. A seriously prime location with more than enough space for myself, so I reached out to local creatives to see if anyone else was looking for studio/office space. A local painter/illustrator and fellow makeup artist (among a multitude of other talents) reached out and the Venus Collective was formed.
2021 has been absolutely wild and brimming with blessings and luck. The “covid fatigue” has made it hard for all of us to hustle as smoothly as we used to, but this has been a very beautiful year for me. I am full of gratitude for the changes and relationships I have built over this year and past years. I had 39 weddings booked this year, not including some close friends that got married. I did countless boudoir, maternity, and engagement makeup and hair jobs. I have a rock star assistant and amazingly talented network and team of makeup artists and hairstylists. I did many production gigs all over Ohio. I am blessed.
Here’s to 2022.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It has been a curiously paved road for me. Or at least a gravel path. It has been trudged through with hard work, a positive outlook, gratitude, kindness, and open-mindedness. And hard work.
My biggest struggle along the way has definitely been imposter syndrome and my toxic trait of people-pleasing and taking things too seriously and personally.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am a professional freelance makeup artist. I specialize in bridal, boudoir, production, editorial, corporate, and fashion. I am known for what I call “natural glam”, which is accentuating the natural features of the face with a little extra razzle-dazzle.
I am most proud of the fact that I am filling out this interview sitting in my own studio on Front St. at 9:45 pm on a Friday. I am proud of the fact that my kindness and sense of humor have carried me up this weird mountain of life and that people enjoy working with me. I am proud that I have started getting more into doing set and prop design for production, but that hardly has anything to do with me. Thanks, Autumn.
Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
The most important lesson I’ve learned along the way is to be compassionate and empathetic, while also creating and honoring boundaries for yourself. This is a lesson you can only learn from being harshed a million times. You have to discover why you need the boundaries before you know how to make them. We’re all humans, but we are not all for love and light.
Also, the email can wait until tomorrow. Hang out with your husband at night. Unless it’s for Bravo – then you better get back to the AP ASAP.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: https://cocomilettimua.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cocopuffmua/?hl=en
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cocomilettillc
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLaBrXIGg66dUohNpjapBDjvdxjZ8tB4CM
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