Jori Jenae McGuire went from hair salon owner in Seattle to makeup department head of many hit shows for networks such as ABC’s Boston Legal, FX’s Snowfall and, more recently, Showtime’s Shameless in Los Angeles.
This is her story:
Growing up, I had a Tressy doll, her hair grew when you pushed on her belly button, so since then I knew wanted to be a hairdresser. That was my goal.
I went to cosmetology school during high school and when I graduated, I opened up a salon.
I would get on a bus after school every day and go, but I was determined to have a career. I was busy, but I knew that college wasn’t for me, so I had to make a choice.
I was 18 years old when I opened the salon and had it until I was 29.
Before opening my salon, I worked in a pretty hip Salon in Bellevue [Seattle]. Six months after I started working there, the government came in and shut it down, because the owner didn’t pay taxes, I guess for many years.
So I went into work to find the IRS taking everybody’s stuff. I took my client book and I started searching for a place to rent and I was probably 18 and a half at that point. I rented a train caboose, put four stations in it, took four people that were also out of a job in Bellevue and opened up a salon in Issaquah.
That was a big obstacle, because I only had $400 my name.
I literally bought one shampoo bowl, a phone, a shampoo chair, four director’s chairs and four mirrors to slap on the walls of this little tiny train caboose that cost me a hundred dollars a month.
It was a slow start for the first couple months, but then we got so busy that I had to move locations. I found a dentist office that was for rent. It was about 3,000 square feet and it took us about six months to remodel it and open up a salon with 12 chairs, tanning, nails and all that good stuff and I had that for 15 years.
At that point I was working for Helene Curtis, Matrix and Redken doing hair shows. So I was on the road all the time.
I decided that I liked LA and I had published a couple books on hair, that I also had to do makeup on, so I decided, you know, after 15 years behind the chair, I was ready for a new career. So I moved to Los Angeles.
It was 1990 when I moved to LA, and I fell in love with a surfer, so I sold my salon and thought, you know, why not. The surfer didn’t work out, but I got grounded in LA, which is good. I was cutting an actor’s hair and he asked me if I would do his movie, so I started I started doing movies as a hairstylist.
In low-budget stuff you do hair and makeup, so when I became union-available I chose to do makeup, because they’re the ones that get the job and hire the hair stylist and I wanted control over that.
Makeup has not always been my passion, but I’m one that is not a quitter. If I make up my mind to do something, I go for 100%. Fortunately, I haven’t had a lot of misfalls. Some people say that I’m really lucky and I don’t think it’s luck. I think you manifest what you want in life. You don’t allow the falls to happen.
I had been around the world three times, so it wasn’t that I was lacking of contacts. It’s just that I started a new career in a business that I didn’t know a lot of people, because my contacts were hair and the salon-world, not the movie industry or the TV industry.
But, you know, if you work hard, it gets around. People only want to hire hard workers, because it’s a grind and people that don’t work hard fall through the cracks.
I was starting a movie on a Monday, six weeks later ending it on a Friday and starting a new one on the following Monday. It was a grind and the turnarounds are that quick in low-budget movies.
This was before I got in the union. Once you get into union, it’s a whole different ballgame.
Union is like any union, for example, the Teamsters or any other union job, but this one is for makeup and hair stylist. It’s so that you get a pension and so that your hours are related through the production companies. Producers will take advantage of you just to get their film made, so it’s your safety net. Once you get in the union, your rates go from let’s say $2,000 a week to $5,000 a week.
There is a huge difference between union and non-union and my my goal was to get in the union, so that I would be protected, my family would have health insurance and I would have a pension.
Then I realized movies you have to go on location, so I had to transition into TV, which allowed me to stay at home so I could raise my daughter.
I got a job on The Profiler and that job took me to The Practice with David Kelley and that job took me to Boston Legal. I worked with David Kelley for 17 years and then he went to Warner Brothers and I started working for Warner Brothers with him.
It’s just, you know, it’s a web. You get one job and you have a set of producers and then they leave to go do another job and they call you for that job. If you’re available, you go with them, but they can separate. So maybe there’s five producers and one of them separates and you go with the one and then you meet another five people, so your network just keeps growing.
I think I’ve been successful as far as constantly working. I think that there’s always a new challenge ahead with a new show and you’re never successful until that show ends and you’ve made it through and you haven’t been let go. I’ve been doing this for 30 years now.
I think I’m very fortunate with what has happened in my career, because I have constantly worked and have built a really good reputation. I don’t look at myself as ego successful, I look at myself as a hard worker. I’ve had a great team of support behind me and a great team of producers with me.
I mean, I know makeup artist that consistently fail and they don’t understand why and it’s simple. You work with 200 people on set and you have to be fair to everybody. You have to be kind every day while you’re working 14 hours a day. These people become your family and I think a lot of people run into problems with their own egos.
I started in the business when I was 30, so I was more mature and I was older. A lot of people play games in their own head and become very insecure. Producers pick up on that and actors pick up on that and then they don’t want them around them.
Fortunately, I’m always a department head, so I hire my own crew. I get a lot of you people calling me for recommendations and there’s a lot of people I wouldn’t recommend, even though they’re nice people and a great makeup artist, because they come with a lot of drama whether it’s baggage they bring from home or the need to be like superstars with their actors, which I keep a real professional hand with all my actors.
It takes a village to bring to bring a TV show or a movie to life. Our role is to put makeup on them and to make them feel like that’s their character, so that they could turn into that person when they go out.
I’m shooting Shameless right now, and when my actors come into the makeup trailer they are just themselves, you know, they are Emmy Rossum and Bill Macy, but when they step on the set, they’re not themselves there. You know, they are Fiona and Frank. A part of our job is to make them feel like that.
It’s hard enough for them to memorize their lines, to act, to do all that kind of stuff, so the last thing they need is anything else on top of that.
I think if you have a dream, you need to set goals to achieve that dream and you can’t quit. You can’t give up on your goals. You have to achieve them yourself. You have to be a leader; you can’t be a follower. You have to be a leader in your own goals. Once you are, your dream will come to you.