Lissette Waugh is a proud Las Vegan. She grew up here and planned to stay, so when she decided to pursue a career in makeup artistry, she enrolled in a local cosmetology school and studied esthetics, or skincare. There was just one problem — the course didn’t teach her much about makeup. The class spent about a week covering application techniques, she says, but never went into airbrushing, body painting or special effects — the specialties Waugh had been eager to learn. No one else in town taught it either, so she had to take classes in Los Angeles.
Over the next two decades, Waugh worked for trunk shows, designers and celebrities. She settled down, had children and decided she wanted to teach. In 2010, she started to make plans to open her own school in Las Vegas.
Waugh made phone calls to the city and county. She obtained a retail and instructors license, and called the Nevada State Board of Cosmetology to ask if she needed certification. She says she was told no.
She found a commercial space in the Holsum Lofts building, and was almost ready to open L Makeup Institute & Agency when the Cosmetology Board contacted her. The board said Waugh would have to have a cosmetology instructors license to teach, and would have to add shampoo bowls and have at least 5,000 square feet to call her business a cosmetology school.
But Waugh wasn’t teaching cosmetology, an umbrella term encompassing hair, skin and nail care, and wasn’t planning to classify her business as such. She was only going to teach makeup.
The board offered a solution: Stop using the name “school” and start selling makeup kits. That way, Waugh could operate as a “demonstrator,” like those at department store cosmetic counters, who are forbidden from charging makeup-application fees but are allowed to sell products. The proposition didn’t make sense to Waugh. She had worked at beauty counters before, and had never heard of such a certificate. Furthermore, she wasn’t doing to demonstrate — she was going to teach, and believed she was within her rights to do so. (Three others in the field also told CityLife they didn’t think pro makeup required a license.)
Waugh and her husband got online to research similar stories. They found two cases involving eyebrow threading and hair braiding in Arizona. Both were represented by the Institute for Justice, a Virginia-based civil liberties law firm, and both led to successful legislative exemptions for those professions. Waugh contacted the firm, and it agreed to take on her case.
Wendy Robin, a makeup artist of 25 years, also signed on as a plaintiff. Robin had moved from Hawaii to Henderson in 2010 to open Studio W, where she taught four to 10 students at a time in techniques ranging from wedding makeup to high fashion. She says the Cosmetology Board approached her and said she could be fined up to $2,000, unless she stopped calling her shop a “school.” The words “teaching,” “program,” “mentoring,” and “coaching” would also be off the table.
“I had to change my website; I had to say I was demonstrating and charging a fee to demonstrate,” Robin says. “They said I could stay open, but I would have to change everything.”
Robin chose to close her business instead.
The Institute for Justice filed a federal law suit on June 19. The suit alleges that makeup artistry is not cosmetology, and that anyone can practice makeup in Nevada without a license, and so anyone should be free to teach it.
This is where the two parties disagree.
Vincent Jimno, executive director of the Nevada State Board of Cosmetology, says cosmetology licenses are required to practice makeup artistry in the state, although an exception is made for those working in production, such as shows on the Strip. Hair design licenses cover hair stylists, manicuring licenses cover nail technicians, estheticians licenses cover skincare specialists, and cosmetology licenses cover all specialties, including makeup, Jimno says.
By law, a person practicing makeup must also learn hair, nails and skincare. There is no program for students who wish to learn makeup only, so they must spend 1,800 hours — more than any other cosmetology license — and thousands of dollars in tuition learning irrelevant material.
Jimno says he is not opposed to the creation of a teaching license for makeup only, although the board does not have the power to create one — the Legislature does. What makes more sense to Jimno, though, would be the creation of a makeup artistry license. Otherwise, he says, students will graduate without licenses and will only be able to work for production companies, where card-holding is exempt.
Waugh hopes makeup artistry is moved away from the Cosmetology Board altogether, to the purview of the Health District or post-secondary licensing, as it is in California. She cares about sanitation, but doesn’t think the cosmetology board needs to oversee it. As it is, she says, makeup students aren’t taught useful knowledge in cosmetology school. They’re just taught to pass the test, and require additional training after completing their programs.
What Waugh wants is a good deal for aspiring artists in Nevada.
“We shouldn’t be sending business to other states,” Waugh says. “We should be making the people here happy. We should be providing this service to other girls who can’t afford to go out of state.”
Robin adds, “They are archaic rules. Hopefully we can get new laws passed so people aren’t restricted from going out and making a living as a makeup artist.”