Career Profile | Alfredo Monterola, Makeup Artist & Spoke Person for L'Oreal Paris Puerto Rico
I met Alfredo a while back at a L'Oreal Paris event that took place in a trendy restaurant here in Puerto Rico. He was showing us bloggers what the new trends in fashion and makeup were during a Billboards Latino viewing party. He was charming and professional and I just knew that we would meet again sometime. So when one of the L'Oreal PR girls contacted me to do a career profile on him I was in.
He is a charming and passionate man who discovered that his true passion was makeup at a really young age. But even though he liked it, he got involved in everything that had to do with art and being creative. His wonderful career journey has surrounded him with high profile people and celebrities, but he hasn't forgotten the importance of giving back to the community which is why I'm certain you guys will love this interview as much as I did.
ME: When did you know you wanted to work in the beauty industry?
AM: Always. I was always the one doing my cousins' hair and makeup for their events. I went to a theater school in Old San Juan where I had the opportunity of doing the hair and makeup on every play. I even did costumes.
It was kind of difficult because I loved drawing and I didn't know if I wanted to be a makeup artist, an architect, interior designer or a photographer. So since I didn't know what I wanted to do, I did everything. I took singing, art, acting, photography, sewing and even cooking classes. I only knew I had to do something related to art. Basically my way of figuring what I wanted to do was to study everything... which is how I later figured out my true passion was makeup. I could be a whole day doing makeup and still think it's the funnest thing ever.
Then, after a semester in theater school in college, while I kept doing my thing with hair and makeup, I forgot to enroll back in my classes! So my next move was to interview to work at a fancy flower shop called Jardines de Versalles and Eleonor (a former high end boutique in San Juan). I had the interviews on the same day but the one I really wanted to get picked was at Eleonor. I did everything to not be picked at Jardines de Versalles! But they still asked me to start working the next Monday at 9AM. I was like what?! It turned out I wasn't picked at the boutique after that.
After that I opened a flower shop myself... and I liked it but I wasn't passionate about it. Naturally, I kept doing hair and makeup while doing everything else, because I can't be still! But shortly I decided it was time to close the store and enroll in beauty school. I wanted to have the degree even though I had done this my whole life. Then I started giving makeup and haircare classes at The Rose, a modeling academy in Santurce while also being a hairdresser at a beauty salon in Condado.
That's when the company Welly Sebastian asked me to be their spoke person for their makeup brand Trucco. On my first day they asked me where I wanted to be with the company in the future and I told them with complete confidence: "I will be the line's makeup artist" and everybody was in complete shock. In order to be chosen as a Trucco makeup artist, you had to compete by doing makeup creation on a girl depending on the story line. I decided to inspire my creations in old school divas adapted to today's fashion. I used Greta Garbo, Joan Crawfford, Marlene Dietrich as inspiration and that's how I got chosen to be their makeup artist for almost 4 years!
ME: How much time have you been in the beauty industry?
AM: Since high school! More than 25 years.
When I was in high school I swore I was going to study Marketing with a minor in Communications because every career test I took said I was going to do this. But I always knew that I needed to work in a non-office environment because I hate being between 4 walls and not talking with people! I knew I wanted to be in a creative environment and wanted to work in something that I truly liked so I never had to feel like I was working. That's the advice that I always give my nephews: "do something that you are passionate about because if you do, you'll never have to work a day in your life".
For example, today I worked from 10am to 10pm without stopping. I received my first customer with the same smile and energy I received my last one. They both left just as beautiful because this is my passion. I really don't feel like I'm working and it's devine to do something that fascinates you while making money!
To give you an example, I used to take JC Penney and Sears catalogs and circle everything that I wanted and calculated how much I had to hustle in order to get it. But the thing is I've always worked a lot and been very focused with my things. I have a lot of goals that I'm always trying to reach... and when I reach them I set new ones. It's better to see things one day at a time and being a good administrator.
ME: Do you think it's necessary to enroll in beauty school to make it in the beauty industry?
Yes. It's very important because when you study you adquire knowledge and techniques that you probably didn't knew before. For example, I had the talent but not the technique... like the setting you need in order to complete certain types of hairdos to give you an example.
It makes me angry to see people saying "oh this girl doesn't want to go to school... at least she should go to beauty school!". You shouldn't condescend the industry. They don't know what a great career you could make out of it.
ME: What has been the turning point of your career?
AM: On the 12th grade we were doing a play called El Rey del Mambo where several professional makeup artists and hair stylists were assisting behind the scenes. One of my teachers, Abimael Acosta taught me about discipline and that when you do something, you gotta do it right. He was a very strong person who took Wanda Sais, Adamari López and I, among others, along the professional theater world.
So during the premiere night when it all ended they told us that there was a very important meeting right away and that Vicente was throwing chairs all over the place. I was so scared! He called three of my friends along with the hairdressers and asked them "Which decade is this play?". So I raised my hand and answered "50's-60's". Then he asked all the hairdressers which decade they thought this play was and they answered "what he said". That's how he started screaming why the heck they did the hair like they did since they weren't from those decades.
Then he called me and asked me why I did their hair like that. I responded with the truth: I researched about the decades. He told me that they were perfectly done and that from now on I was going to lead all the makeup and hair team. I was just a senior in high school and I started doing the protagonists' hair and makeup and the profesional makeup and hair stylists did the extra's. That moment marked me... That's how I knew that I could do this.
ME: What do you love the most about the beauty industry?
AM: Apart from the makeup... just seeing how I can transform a girl without making her look like someone she's not. To me it's very important to enhance a women's beauty. That moment when people say "OMG I look beautiful" is so gratifying to me. Just looking at a horrible mistreated hair and being able to make my customers look like a Victoria's Secret model is the best.
ME: What is the biggest challenge in the industry?
AM: A mistreated hair! Not anyone can color correct hair. Margie Meléndez taught me how to do this. Because of her, I can get the most horrible hair and just fix its color even if it takes me 5 hours, which it has happened before.
ME: How did the L'Oreal opportunity came up?
AM: When Wella Sebastian's Trucco line left Puerto Rico, I found out L'Oreal was looking for a squad of makeup artists. We were about 100 people auditioning that condensed into only a squad of 6 makeup artists, where I was always the teacher.
That's how two years from now, when there was no more squad, I was left as L'Oreal Puerto Rico's spoke person.
ME: What are your primary duties as L'Oreal's spoke person?
AM: I do all L'Oreal Puerto Rico's interviews with newspapers and magazines. I am the face of the brand at events and as you know, I visit Walgreens, Walmarts and CVS around the Island to give makeup education.
People think that my job is so simple but it isn't... sometimes I even cry. For example, the other day a woman asked me to teach her how to use eyeliner. I thought it was a joke but it wasn't... she told me her story. She had a two year old baby and a newborn and when she was about to give birth to her second one, she almost died. She wanted to embrace her second chance at life by feeling beautiful for her husband. When I did her makeup and told her she looked beautiful she started crying. She told me that no one in her life had ever told her she was beautiful and that the only time she ever put makeup on was on her Quinceañero. So I encouraged her to go back to her husband and put the babies to sleep so she could have the most wonderful night of her life.
These type of things sometimes happen to me like 4 times a day... it's really powerful. Just with a little bit of color, a woman's life could literally change. Sometimes really humble moms come over to me at the stores and ask me if I would be there in a month so I could do their daughter's Quinceañero makeup. And I will just tell them no and give them my phone number so I can do their hair and makeup for free and surprise them by going to their home for the makeover. At least once a month I try to do this... either for a prom, a quinceañero or whatever. This doesn't make me richer or poorer... I know God will give me something back in the long run.
Alfredo with his lovely rescue dog: Centinela.
ME: Even though what you just told me sounds like a very significant experience, what has been the most gratifying thing that has happened during your time as L'Oreal Puerto Rico's spoke person?
AM: Definitely the "Mujeres de Valor" (Women of Worth) campaign. L'Oreal gave consumers the opportunity of nominating and choosing a women of worth and after around 100 nominations, judges selected the women that were going to be part of it.
The chosen ones were Gloria Marti from Save a Sato Foundation, Carmen Villanueva from Hill Brothers, Sylvia Soto, Ericka Torres who takes care of street dogs in Bayamón and Vilmarie Rivera from Hogar Nueva Mujer Santa María de la Merced, Inc. After all the years in my career it has never been as powerful as being in a suite with these five women. Right before their tribute ceremony, they all started talking about their stories and giving their own points of view in life and that really marked me. It was so beautiful seeing their perspectives... specially while being the referee for all of them. This really taught me to appreciate people... no matter who they are or where they come from.
ME: What advice will you give someone trying to make it as a makeup artist?
AM: Persevere! It's really important to educate yourself. Practice... the more you do it the better it will turn out. Don't have a huge ego and think that you're better than anyone. I listen to young people starting out in makeup as much as long time professionals, because those little tips will help you reach perfection.
You have to keep taking educating yourself by taking courses and keeping up to date with the fashion industry. You have to be one step ahead to keep your customers happy.
ME: What are your favorite L'Oreal products?
AM: For skincare I would say Youth Code... I use it day and night. I love this gel. I switched all my eyeshadows to La Palette 1 and La Palette 2, they're so good! My favorite mascara is L'Oreal's Voluminous Intensa and I can't live without our makeup setting spray.
What a dream job huh?! Let me know what you thought of this interview in the comments bellow. BTW: I will not be posting next Sunday because I will be out on a much needed vacation. But I will be back with some awesome posts as soon as I get back on track.
Take care guys!