The masterclass model has become a particularly lucrative brand extension for hair and makeup artists whose star has risen in the last few years, thanks to exposure on social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube.
Although these beauty demonstrations — which have become big influencer parties built around step-by-step tutorials for creating a look — have long been held by brands like MAC and Sephora for industry professionals, a larger, fancier format has been pioneered by people like Mario Dedivanovic, the makeup artist whose close relationship with client Kim Kardashian has helped propel him to celebrity. Known to his fans as “Makeup by Mario,” Dedivanovic has 4 million followers on Instagram and has held his events, dubbed “The Master Class,” all over the world.
Other online influencers — like hairstylist Jen Atkin, makeup artist Huda Kattan and beauty blogger Tamanna Roashan (of Dress Your Face) — have since signed on to host their own versions of “The Master Class.”
“I had been getting a ton of messages from artists and aspiring artists asking for career advice and makeup-related tips,” said Dedivanovic, of The Master Class’s origins. Eight years ago, he decided to start holding classes as a means of fielding these questions and offering his guidance in real life.
“Most people don’t have the opportunity to assist big artists on set and learn the real tricks of trade, so this is a perfect way for them to gain some of that experience,” he said.
The buzz begins
A lot has changed since Dedivanovic’s first class, which had only 20 people in the audience and was “hands-on,” meaning the students could follow along with the makeup demonstration by applying the look on their own models. These early classes took place in studios or rental halls.
“This was before Instagram,” joked Dedivanovic, hinting that his presence on the platform has been vital to his success withe the program.
Now, his classes are held in large theaters, last five hours and cost, on average, between $500 and $1,000 to attend. Alongside a makeup demonstration and a question-and-answer session with Dedivanovic, small bites and beverages are provided. Attendees leave with a certificate of completion, a picture with Mario and a gift bag filled with his “favorite products” — while a source close to the events said that brands often pay to be included, Dedivanovic denies this (though he will get freebies). Staffing the event typically requires more than 60 employees.
Henry Vasquez, a popular beauty blogger who consults for brands like L’Oréal and Anastasia Beverly Hills, has held 65 classes of his own at salons and makeup stores. They’re significantly cheaper, at $200 per class.
Some of them have only involved demonstrations, given to roughly 40 to 75 students, but Vasquez prefers the more intimate, hands-on model, which, for him, usually involves 25-40 students. “You make more money when it’s not hands-on, but it’s not as fun,” he said.
Only one of his classes hasn’t sold out, he said.
“Some people cry when they meet me, and I’m not even as big as someone like Dedivanovic,” he said, highlighting the fanfare that’s arisen around these events. Vasquez has 168,000 Instagram followers.
A changing audience
Although makeup workshops were once largely attended by aspiring professionals in the space, today’s classes court a wider range of people — including Dedivanovic’s The Master Class.
“A good majority of the people who take his classes aren’t professional makeup artists or even trying to be. They just want to learn how to do the looks on themselves,” said Vasquez.
Today, people come to these classes more for the influencer involved than the education, he said. “People want to feel connected to us. Makeup artists have become the new celebrity.”
Dedivanovic, however, said that in a class of 600 people, it’s usually only 15-20 of them who are not artists or aspiring artists in some capacity.
Nevertheless, his classes always sell out. His next class, in London this coming April, has already sold out of its exclusive VIP tickets ($800), which allow fans to skip the line and promise a seat within the first three rows. The other tickets, some of which are still available, cost $600.
Although some of his classes have had over 1,200 students, he now tries to close sales at around 600 students, so that he can ensure a photo with everyone and also answer every question the audience has, he told Glossy.
The hair space has remained more traditional.
Atkin — also a stylist to the Kardashians — has used the model since 2014, with her Mane University classes. They’re taught on a near-monthly basis by other celebrity stylists and colorists, like Tracey Cunningham and Priscilla Valles, to an audience that’s almost exclusively professional stylists. Tickets are usually $250, but some of the larger classes have been offered for free.
A new kind of moneymaker
Dedivanovic wouldn’t comment on what kind of revenue these classes pull for him, compared to his day-to-day celebrity work and partnerships with brands like Bioré. Industry sources, however, estimate that he’s making at least six figures per class on tickets alone.
Kattan (over 23 million Instagram followers) and Roashan (2.6 million Instagram followers) may make even more: They’ve previously charged between $1,000 and $1,400 for their classes.
Vasquez, for his part, said that he made $140,000 last year on classes, which he held once or twice a month. Brand consulting still pays more for him, he said. Sometimes, the worlds collide: Smashbox, hoping to tap into his engaged audience, once paid him a flat rate to host a class for them, using only their products — but he wasn’t a fan of that.
“If I wasn’t as familiar with one of the products, I had to just learn how to work with it as I went,” he said. “I felt a little bought.”
Brands want a piece
Other brands have also jumped on the masterclass bandwagon in an effort to profit off the buzz of these influencers.
La Mer usually hosts shorter versions of them to celebrate the launch of a new product, either at a retailer like Bergdorf Goodman or at an event space as a media/influencer activation. When the brand’s education team doesn’t lead them, it’s La Mer’s global makeup ambassadors, Patrick Ta (852,000 followers on Instagram) and Mary Phillips (519,000 followers), who offer their expertise. Always free, the events are more of a promotional tool than a direct benefit to the bottom line.
Other brands host them online, as Bobbi Brown and BeautyBlender did this past June on Facebook Live. The thirty-minute class was free and featured resident makeup artists from each company sharing their tips and tricks for using a new Bobbi Brown launch, the Instant Full Cover Concealer. Special prizes (including samples of the new product) were also given to randomly selected viewers.
Masterclasses for press and influencers have actually been key to Beautyblenders’ strategy for years, often taking place when they launch the product in a new market, as they did in Belgium this year.
When the beauty publisher Byrdie began envisioning its two-week Beauty Lab pop-up shop — taking place now until December 15 in New York City — it was a no-brainer to incorporate a schedule of masterclasses, said Courtney Wartman, the SVP of marketing at its parent company, Clique.
“Byrdie, at its core, is educational, so we’re bringing our site to life with these classes,” she said. “Consumers also love getting face time with the makers of these cult-favorite products and enjoy learning how to best utilize them through these step-by-step tutorials.”
The list of 10 classes includes one run by Atkin, as well as a skin-focused workshop with celebrity esthetician Joanna Vargas.
Although the space is increasingly crowded, Dedivanovic isn’t concerned. “I’m proud to be a pioneer of the model — when others follow what you do or are inspired by what you do, it’s a good thing,” he said. “It means I’m doing something right.”