19th Mar 2019 in Business

Welcome back to our feature series celebrating the people of the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast.

Every week we introduce you to someone from the amazing and diverse group of people who make our Cathedral Quarter what it is – the vibrant, colourful, creative and cultural heart of Belfast.

This is Rebecca Arnold and, together with Paddy and the team at Make Up Pro Store, she helps Belfast put its best face forward.

Paddy McGurgan, one of the UK’s best-known make-up artists, opened his first Make Up Pro Store in 2012. Seven years, two more stores and a training academy later, the brand now offers teaching to professionals and keen amateurs alike, as well as offering makeup application and a retail store packed full of the best brands, hand-selected by Paddy.

Rebecca, at the tender age of 19, is already one of the Senior Artists on the team. She began her makeup career when she was still studying for her GCSEs, after the manager of the local Benefit counter approached her and encouraged her to come and work for the brand. “I was up in Belfast training the day my GCSE results came out. It was 6 o clock in the evening before I got to open my results, and I actually opened them on the Debenhams floor!”

After working at Benefit for 3 months, Rebecca started a course at The Make Up Pro Store. “I didn’t go in with the intention of getting a job – although of course, that was the dream! It was all about upskilling; Paddy had the reputation of being the best, so I wanted to train with the best.”

Paddy obviously noticed her passion for the industry, because he soon offered Rebecca a full-time job. Although she was already back at school studying for her A-Levels, she knew this was the right move for her. “I knew in my heart I didn’t want to go to university,” Rebecca explains, “but I thought I should give myself options. However, Paddy gave me an opportunity to do something I truly loved that I knew uni was never going to offer me.”

Rebecca (right) is a senior makeup artist in Make Up Pro Store Belfast.

Level-headed Rebecca says that had she been further on in her studies, she would have taken a more cautious approach. “I was only in school for about 2 or 3 months before the job offer. If I had been in school any longer than that, I might have carried on; I might have opted to work part-time and finished school. But I was offered a full-time job, doing something I love, when I was only a few months into my first term – so I just went for it.”

Teachers discouraged her, but with her parents plus Paddy and his team fully supportive, Rebecca felt confident about building a career in the beauty industry – and she hasn’t looked back. After just a couple of years, she had worked her way up from the trainee role of Pro Artist 1, to the level of Pro Artist 2, and at the age of just 18, became one of the Senior Artists at Make Up Pro Store.

“My parents were behind me 100%,” says Rebecca, “and that was enough for me. And anyone else that doubted me, I just thought ‘I’m going to prove you wrong’.

“My brother is now at the same school I went to, so I was in there recently and my teachers actually apologised to me and said ‘You’re doing so well.’ My careers teacher told me she has young girls coming in saying they want to be like me and go and do makeup. So now I’m glad I just did it. Without the belief of my parents and of Paddy, I wouldn’t be where I am.”

Rebecca feels there should be more focus in schools on creative careers and trades, and feels that Paddy and the artists he trains up are great ambassadors for makeup as a strong career path.

“I was good at art in school but I had to work harder to get good grades on the academic side of things; it doesn’t come as naturally. I was always more hands-on, creative –  I loved making things. Even my style of learning wasn’t very academic; I have to do things for them to stick in my head. So it would really be great if schools supported young people who need more help or who learn differently.

“Uni isn’t for everyone and teachers tend to push us towards university. When you say you want to do something different, there’s not always a lot of support.”

The pessimism of her teachers stands in stark contrast to the encouragement and positivity she experienced as a student and trainee at The Make Up Pro Store. Creating a place that is encouraging and open to all, seems to be a driving ethos behind Paddy’s brand. The word “empowerment” is one Rebecca uses repeatedly when talking about Make Up Pro’s staff as well as clients.

“That’s probably why I have done so well – because I wasn’t afraid to try new things; it was a safe space. Everyone’s personal images in here are so different too, some are pared back, some are funky – everyone feels safe to express themselves here. We also have more boys working here, so you find more boys are comfortable about coming in.

“There’s no right or wrong when it comes to makeup; just do what you feel comfortable with. And that applies to boys and girls now. That’s what I respect about Paddy so much; age, gender – it doesn’t matter when it comes to makeup. If you have a passion or a talent, just go for it.”

This inclusive, nurturing company culture is being paid forward, as Rebecca’s favourite aspect of her job right now is the teaching that she gets to do. “I thrive on the variety my job brings, but I love the teaching at the minute. In January I started leading a whole course by myself. Teaching is really rewarding; there’s real satisfaction in seeing someone able to do something they couldn’t do before because you showed them how.”

As well as teaching students and junior staff, Rebecca works on the shop floor and with clients who come in for makeup application, and she thrives on the variety of her job. The stores all offer a variety of makeup courses, which are open to anyone, from the keen amateur to the ambitious professional. As well as education, the stores host a variety of events, collaborating with bloggers, stylists, designers and creative professionals. Rebecca believes these events are a great way to open the doors and show everyone that they are welcome in.

“I think some people see ‘Pro Make Up’ on the door and think maybe it’s just a place for professionals – and that couldn’t be further from the truth! As well as being fun and empowering, the events help to build those relationships; opening it up to different styles of people.”

The fact those famous doors are right in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter is something Rebecca loves, as she takes inspiration from working in this arty part of town.

“I would get ideas and colour combinations from people on the street because it’s such a nice welcoming place and it’s somewhere tourists want to come, so you get lots of different people. Being near the art school and university – it brings more creative kinds of people to this area. I have so many friends that are at the University of Ulster studying art so it’s nice to be working in the same area, and that we’re all doing something creative.”

Keep an eye on https://makeupprostore.co.uk/collections/courses-and-events for courses and events coming up at The Make Up Pro Store. The two-day ‘beauty to stage’ creative course with Paddy is on 11th and 12th May and looks set to be pretty special.


If you’re a business or organisation in the Cathedral Quarter, you can nominate someone in your team to be featured in this article! And if you are – or you know – an interesting character who lives or works in CQ Belfast, put us in touch. We also want to hear any other ideas you have for articles and features you’d love to read on this website. Email heather@cathedralquarterbelfast.com 

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