jessica watkins in james ryder's magazine

Featured Artist in Lividity Magazine, Jessica Watkins

November 1st, 2016

Beauty Blog

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39-year-old Tricoci University Elgin esthetics graduate and mother of 3 kids, Jessica Watkins, started her career as an esthetician later in life than most. In 2015, she decided to attend Tricoci University for esthetics and fell in love with school. “I never wanted to leave actually. It was such a great outlet for me and I thoroughly loved the entire staff and all of the students. For me it was kind of a culture shock going to school with all of these 20-something kids, but it was so much fun and everyone was so kind. No one even gave it a second thought and honestly it was more on my mind than anyone else’s.”

Prior to going to Tricoci University, Jessica was in banking during her early 20’s and then later left the business world to have a family. She stayed home with them throughout their young formative years and worked within their school as a lunch lady. But throughout all of it, she has always maintained an artistic sensibility. “Through my love of makeup and all things gore, I couldn’t find the right path to take in order to make this evolve into a career. So I thought, ‘what is the base of any makeup? Skin. And decided it would be a great idea to go to school to learn about the foundation of skin.”

Through esthetics she learned a lot about skincare and is now working at Anne K Salon and Spa in North Aurora doing facials, makeup and waxing. “Oh my God, do I love waxing. I’m twisted I suppose. But [at Tricoci University] I got to build on my love for makeup more on the beauty side and kind of discovered that I loved doing [waxing]. [Makeup] is just as artistic as anything else and I really love it.”

Jessica saw that James Ryder from Ryder Makeup Labs was going to be visiting the Elgin campus and she did a little research to find out who he was, what he’s done, and what he does in terms of the boot camp he offers. After a little research into his star-studded past with his A-list clients like Reese Witherspoon, Katie Holmes, Scarlett Johansson and as Vincent D’Onofrio’s personal make-up artist and wig specialist for The Cell, which received an Academy Award Nomination in 2001 for Best Make-up – she said “I’m a determined person and I said right there to myself that I’m going to get into that boot camp.”

James came out and spoke with the school and invited them to join in the workshop he was doing that weekend.  Jessica decided it would be a great investment. “[James and Olivia] make you aware they’re going to be watching you and expecting the best from you. I went in with a plan but it was nerve wracking because of the pressure.” She had a few moments to speak with James Ryder’s assistant Olivia, who, for the last look of the evening, steered her in a different direction than she had originally planned. The last look was a free for all and she said, “make it big, make it fantastic.”

When all was said and done and James brought Jessica and her model up before the large group, although she was glad she took Olivia’s advice on the change of direction for her makeup application, in the end she wasn’t chosen to attend the boot camp. Jessica thanked James for the opportunity and asked him what she could have done differently. She knew there was also an application process offered to be selected for boot camp and when she asked him about it, he referred her to his website.

Later that week she gathered up her courage and sent an email to Ryder Makeup Labs about the boot camp. Within an hour, she received an email back stating the following:

Please return the attached application along with the required submissions within 72 hours. Good Luck!

“I was like oh crap, what do I do. This was Monday and I have school all week. Where am I going to find 72 hours to do all this?!”

The next day Jessica went into school and told her fellow students and staff what she needed to accomplish in the next 72 hours and everyone was so supportive. She received letters of recommendations from the students who modeled her looks, her teachers that believed in her talents, and after 71 hours of intense, hard work and with 1 hour left on the deadline, she hit “submit.” And then she waited.

A week went by and as anyone would be, Jessica was a bundle of nerves. Then she got the call. “We want to invite you to [Ryder Makeup Labs] June boot camp in LA.”

Jessica flew to LA and met the other 6 girls in the boot camp who she had previously connected with in a group on Facebook. “We met up and went to dinner and right from there we all became friends. We had to. It’s such an intense experience that if you don’t cling on to these people and make them your family, you’d be lost.”


At 8am the next morning the experience began. Everyone was on pins and needles thanks to James’ funny yet terrifying “military boot camp” video Facebook post to the group. And though everyone was super nice, James, Olivia, and Kelly started the morning by saying “You might cry. This is intense.” And within a few hours Jessica and the other boot campers were putting makeup on models. For most of them, this was their first experience with a photo shoot. And just like you would expect of a boot camp, they were getting yelled at. James would give Olivia, his assistant, “the look” and she’d start into you – “Go faster! Make this pop!” From 8am to 6pm for the next week they worked constantly on their feet with little breaks. At night, they would then meet as a group to discuss the day and do homework. It was intense.

The final day of boot camp ended with a mock movie shoot. Using a script, they each had to develop the makeup for the characters of the movie. “If someone got punched then they are going to have swelling or bruising, if someone got stabbed you had to create a stab wound.” With an hour of sleep, they worked tirelessly from 8am to 8pm. “I really think that gave us a taste of reality, if this is what we want to do and this is the industry we wanted to work in.”


One of the looks that was created by Jessica during boot camp was featured in Lividity Magazine. “[This look] was a little bit a departure from what we were doing. It was regal and elegant and we were used to doing dark and sultry. It was a thrill to see it in the magazine, it brought tears to my eyes when I saw the finished product.”


“I have a lot of things happening right now. I work a few days a week at a spa and then I also have a studio space in Naperville. In my studio I do facial waxing but it’s meant for me to practice makeup and prosthetics. I’m hoping to grow my skills. I will always pursue education and learn as much as I can and I will always practice as much as I can. I’ll never be perfect but that won’t stop me from trying. James and Olivia are so supportive and tell you ‘you’re going to go home and start booking jobs’ because they have every confidence that you can do it.”

And Jessica, you should.


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