6 Ways to Build Your Reputation as a Makeup Artist on Instagram with Vlada Haggerty (2018)

Updated: Jun 30, 2019

Originally published on Medium.com

Have you ever heard the term, “steal like an artist”?

It’s where you take someone else’s creation and put your spin on it.

“What a good artist understands”, states Austin Kleon in his best-selling book, Steal Like an Artist, “is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original”.

Stolen from ‘Steal Like an Artist’ author, Austin Kleon

So how do you steal like an artist?

You’re most likely already doing it.

As an example, you need to come up with a look for your Instagram page. So what do you do?


You go to someone else's profile and you look to see what they're doing. You then take what they're doing, you take what inspires you - and make it your own - but with a twist.

And one of the profiles I’ve always looked up to, that’s constantly innovating the lip art genre and inspiring makeup artists everywhere, is Vlada Haggerty (@VladaMUA)

Images of Vlada Haggerty (@vladamua)

This L.A. based powerhouse is currently the Smashbox Cosmetics Lip Editor-in-Chief.

She has over 804K Instagram fans, received international recognition in competitive settings, and has been featured in such major publications like Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Refinery29, Bustleand so much more.

Images by Vlada Haggerty (@vladamua)

We all know by now, the power of having a strong and engaged Instagram following, aka “Influencer” status.

It can mean:

  • Brand Deals

  • More clients reaching out to you for private work

  • An increase in sales, if you’re selling a product alongside your service

And more!

"But - how in the Shaun T do you REALLY reach that status? Be honest. What’s REALLY involved"?

I reached out to Vlada to talk about her brand as a MUA Influencer on Instagram.

And on top of learning from this ‘Well of Knowledge’, I’m going to point out the actionable steps you can take TODAY to have a strong strategy & foundation for your MUA brand on Instagram moving forward.

You ready?

Let’s jump into it.


Image from Vlada Haggerty (@vladamua)

Just yesterday, I was looking at a MUAs profile and saw that she had posted a picture of her coffee that had a thick foam head and a dollop of brown sugar in the middle.

Her coffee looked like it had a belly button.

So I left a comment, saying that her coffee has a belly button.

She replied back, lol-ing and agreeing with me, and then went on to like 6–7 of my images on my profile.


When someone ‘likes’ your image, that’s nice.

But when someone leaves a ‘nice comment’ on one of your posts, you get that shot of serotonin (the chemical responsible for pride and status) — and that comment holds weight.

Engrain this into your creative business mind.

Anyone can ‘like’ an image. But if you want to stand out, leave a comment.

But don’t leave a vague or general comment like in the example above.

Leave a JUICY, 2+ sentence comment like the one on the left.

Why does a good comment matter so much?

Because it shows effort.

You took time out of your day to think of something nice to say about THIS image.

‘Likes’ are measured, but a ‘Nice Comment’ is remembered.

The Age of Bots has ruined the one worded “Nooice!” or “Dope!” or “So Cool!”

Everyone’s wised up.

It’s over folks.

Bots are fake. You can spot them immediately. It’s lazy. And we don’t want them in our feed.

So save it.

My face when I see your damn bot in my feed.

Plain & Simple:

Be thoughtful.

Talk to the people who leave a comment on your feed as you would a friend.

Dig a little deeper into your verbal repertoire and leave a “belly button” comment — if you’re feeling fiesty.

BONUS: Engage with the people who have commented on that person’s profile. This is your Wolf Pack — it’s okay to start a dialogue. You may even make a new online friend.

DOUBLE BONUS: Take the top 10 hashtags within your community (#makeupartist, #mua, etc.) and do a search.

Join the conversation leaving comments left and right!

1–2 sentences relating to the image, or what that individual said in their content.

But here’s the catch.

You’re going to do this every day for 30/60/90 days (pick your end time frame).

You’re going to mark off each day creating a chain link (see the image below).

Ain’t my homemade tracking system a beaute!

And as Seinfeld said, “Don’t break the link”.

Meaning don’t leave an empty space.

I’m not sure what will happen if you do this for 30/60/90 days, but something good WILL happen.


Image from Vlada Haggerty (@vladamua)

Many MUAs who start out posting on Instagram, do “common” looks at first, even Vlada.

“…I moved to LA. We moved in December and it was a very slow time for me as a makeup artist, so I started doing makeup on myself and taking pictures of my lips… After a while I started doing eye makeup and full face makeup… expanding the range of makeup looks I post on my page”. — Vlada Haggerty

Then either you see another person’s work and your inspired to do something similar  OR You get bored and you begin experimenting.

You’re an artist.

Your style evolves.

That’s just the motion of it all.

For Vlada, it especially paid off when she was creating these “dripping liquid lip” looks.

Image from Vlada Haggerty (@vladamua)

That look became POP-U-LAR.

And from this look, it produced:

  • International coverage

  • Features in magazines & online publications

  • Collaborations with well recognized brands and clients

  • And has been featured on multiple Instagram feature accounts (which was how I found her).

Did she know the drip look was going to be such a big hit?

Hell no!

No one does!

Image from Vlada Haggerty (@vladamua)

You experiment as often as possible.

You do the work and put it out into the market and let the market decide.

Play.  Experiment.  Remix someone else’s creation and add your own twist to it — and let happy accidents happen.

“[Surrounding yourself with] creative minds definitely lets you be more free and let go of the fear of what other people may say or think. [Don’t get] too comfortable and not [develop your] skill”. — Vlada Haggerty

And when in doubt, learn from the masters and do your research.

“We have to stay on top of all the trends, of all new techniques, products, etc…I’m learning every day from multiple people, to name a few: Pat McGrath (@patmcgrathreal), Tamana (@dressyourface), Darya Kholodnykh (@darya_kholodnykh), Mia Connor (@miaconnor) and many more! I love learning personal tips and tricks people have gathered over the years of working in the industry”. — Vlada Haggerty

All and all, don’t be afraid to go WAY OUT of your comfort zone, make a mess, and create something different.

It may take a LOT of trial and effort, but different, WINS.


Image from Vlada Haggerty (@vladamua)

I’m a hashtag fiend.

I’m CONSTANTLY finding new hashtags and feature accounts to try to connect with my Wolf Pack.

And if you don’t know about proper hashtags beyond: ‘style’, ‘beautiful’, ‘mua’, and ‘pretty’ — I’m going to need you to get your head in the game.

So instead of #beautiful, try #melaninonfleek.

Get it?


Image from Vlada Haggerty (@vladamua)

Ever since everyone became aware of purchased likes and followers, brands are looking past the numbers of followers you have, and are looking REAL HARD at the engagement you get per post.

So let’s say you have 50,000 followers. You post an image, and it gets 212 likes and 2 comments.

Ding!Ding!Ding! WE HAVE A CHEATER!

You probably faked your following. You’re dishonest. Brands are going to write you off.

So where does this leave you?

It leaves you playing the long game to building a better engagement.

And that consists of:

  • Being a nice person and making friends online (you know…being social on social media) and building your network.

  • Giving value to your audience. As in creating content that entertains, inspires, and/or educates the end user.

  • Making sure that you reply to EVERY. SINGLE. COMMENT. someone leaves in your post.

Image from Vlada Haggerty (@vladamua)

We all start with zero followers.

Do NOT be in a rush to grow your following to massive numbers in a month.

It’s not going to, nor should it be, instantaneous.

Have patience and put in the time to reap the rewards.

Keep this in mind.

Who do you think would be more valuable to a company, for a brand deal?

A person who has 50,000 followers, but gets 212 likes per post and 2 comments OR a person that has 10,000 followers, but gets 1,700 likes per post and 112 comments?


Make sure you’re on the right side of this game.


Image from Vlada Haggerty (@vladamua)

This is where I messed up in the beginning of my Instagram escapade.

I was ALL OVER THE PLACE, dabbling in MULTIPLE genres outside of Makeup Art.

I was doing typography. Fashion. Painting Shoes. Inspirational Quotes.

It was too much and too confusing.

My scribbles from back yonder.

Let’s get this straight.

You have 6 seconds (or less) to grab someone’s attention when they land on your profile.

And in those 6 seconds they need to have a pretty solid idea of:

  • What you do

  • What you’re about

  • How you can entertain/educate/or inspire them

Yes, you could have all this information in the bio, but does anyone read those anymore?

Do you?

With every post, you should be answering the question:

“What do I do and why should my audience care”?

Lock in that ONE THEME FOR YOUR MAIN PROFILE and don’t deviate from it.

If you’re unsure as to what kind of makeup artist you are - taste EVERYTHING and make a decision.

Try bodypainting. Anime looks. Wedding makeup. Lip Art. Eye Art. Illusion makeup.

Play. Taste.

Remember, this is supposed to be fun.

And after you pick your poison, double down, and start creating.

Image from Vlada Haggerty (@vladamua)

THOUGH - can you go H.A.M. and off theme in your Stories?


In fact, I encourage it!

There’s nothing wrong with showing the personality behind the brand.


I said above to steal like an artist — but damnit people — credit the work.

Image from Vlada Haggerty (@vladamua)

I know of a BRILLIANT graphic artist named Alice X. Zhang whose sketches are shown in exhibitions internationally, has appeared in countless online publications, and leads the Dr. Who magazine cover series.

She’s at the top of her game in her community.

One day she went inside a local coffee shop and saw one of her images framed on the wall.

She wasn’t selling prints of that particular piece, at the time.

And there was no indication on the image that she created it.

So either they removed her watermark signature (most likely) or she didn’t put her watermark on there (extremely doubtful).

And guess what?

The same ordeal happened with Vlada that was WAY MORE high profile!

It was in the news. #scandalintheartcommunity

What happened?

Well, one day she’s going through her Instagram feed and sees one of her designs on a high profile celebrities page, WITHOUT her watermark and with NO CREDIT that she created this piece.

If I said the celebrities name, you’d definitely know it. This got a LOT of traction in the MUA community.

The words ‘that’s that BULL-SH*T!’ comes to mind if you have the misfortune of this happening to you.

Your work dangling in your face and NO ONE — except you, the shop owner, and the Instabootlegger — knowing who created it!

Not crediting other artists work, continuously, is a sure fire way to become a pariah in the community — quickly.

People talk. And they retweet.

Now, for the longest time, I foolishly placed my watermark on the edges of my photos. I didn’t want it to disrupt the image — or at least that was my excuse.

Don’t do that.

If you leave it on the outer corners, it’s easy for someone to crop your name OUT.

Therefore, strategically place your watermark INSIDE of your images so if someone DOES try to crop out your name, they can’t do so without hacking up the image.

Get me?

Proper watermarking of your images


The TL;DR of what you just learned:

  1. Spring Clean. Any images that are on your profile that don’t support the theme of your profile, has got to GO!

  2. Experiment. Explore your weirdness and try out different looks before locking in on one theme.

  3. Pick a Theme. Don’t deviate from it except for in your Instagram Stories.

  4. Learn to leave 2+ comments on everyones profiles. That’s how you stand out AND give value at the same time.

  5. Engagement Matters. Answer every real comment someone took the time to give you.

  6. Add watermarks to your work. You’ve been warned.

But above anything else — have fun.


Currently dwelling in Norfolk, Va.​


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