Updated: Jul 9, 2020
| This is the 131st story of Our Life Logs |
I used to love watching my mom do her makeup. I remember how my mom would put me in a highchair when I was just about one or two years old, and lay out some of her old products. I’d spend hours playing in the used-up tubes of lipstick and compacts. I loved rubbing the colors all over my face. I used makeup like a regular kid would use crayons.
Ashland, Kentucky is a small town, and was probably even smaller when I was born there in 1993. I grew up with one brother in a very close-knit family. My parents were very outspoken and open to letting me express myself.
When I was really young, my parents put me in a few beauty pageants. Putting on all the colors and sparkles was like playing dress-up with all the other kids who were also competing. Later in high school, I returned to beauty pageants in hopes of winning scholarships for college. In the beginning, I loved talking in front of a crowd and understanding my strengths and weaknesses as a person. But I’d be lying if I said that being publicly rejected by a panel of judges who scrutinize every aspect of my persona didn’t hurt.
I had a normal high school experience and graduated in 2012. Like most, I went to college without any idea of what I wanted as a career. I knew I liked makeup, but I couldn’t major in a hobby. I changed my major a million times and ended up with University Studies. I remember saying that I wanted to get a degree to have a good life, but what I really wanted to do was…not this.
Around 2013, I met Travis. He was sweet and funny, and it didn’t take long to know that he was the one. He had big plans to serve in the US military. I knew deployment was coming, but it didn’t hit me until that moment truly came. He was gone. It was like having your best friend just disappear. He left a big hole in my life. I wanted to do something with my time that would make me happy. But what did I like? At the time, I was only doing makeup for myself and occasionally for friends, but it wasn’t enough.
Around 2016, more and more people started getting big from their beauty social media accounts on Instagram and YouTube. Not only were they posting basic makeup looks, but some featured inspiring artistic looks. I thought, “I can do that.”
I bought a good camera on Craigslist and picked it up at a gas station from two people who looked like they…maybe didn’t own the camera. Anyway, I went home and started messing with it. I had NO idea how to work a camera, but I just started taking a ton of photos of myself.
Now it was time for my first makeup post on social media, and I was terrified. I felt like I was stepping under the microscope. I looked through all the photos I’d taken, analyzing each one for any reason not to post. Once I found the “perfect” ones, I clicked “Share.”
This set me on the path I was destined to walk.
When Travis came back, he moved to Ashland to be with me, and he was incredibly supportive and happy to see me doing something I loved. As I posted more often, I noticed some makeup companies were holding picture contests. I saw that ELF Cosmetics had a contest running that asked people to post three pictures that matched the theme they were looking for. I decided to enter the contest because, why not? Honestly, after I posted my entries, I completely forgot about it until I received an email from ELF in March 2017 telling me that I had won. What?! By this point, I had only been posting makeup related content for about six months, but they clearly thought I had something, which felt awesome.
My prize was a package full of their products and an invite to an event they were hosting in Austin, Texas. When I arrived, I was overwhelmed by the number of experienced beauty people there. Learning about their thousands of followers, watching their big, fancy cameras, I felt so out of place.
I wondered, “Should I even be here?”
Thankfully, some of the other winners there took me under their wings and made me feel more comfortable. They taught me about social media posting and how to increase my audience, and I went home happy. But when all was said and done, I worried that I had reached the peak and it was all going to go down from there. No, I refused to flicker out when I was just opening doors in this business.
I was able to make connections from the ELF event which helped me get noticed by other cosmetic companies like MAC and Laura Mercier. I continued working small jobs and posting beauty videos on the side. Benefit Cosmetics launched a contest where people had to recreate the company’s four eyebrow styles. This contest was BIG. It had over 11,000 entries and only 20 winning slots. Was there a chance I’d win? Probably not. Still, I decided to enter because regardless of the results, I enjoyed experimenting with the styles. I couldn’t stop myself, I posted 15 styles with the contest hashtag.
In September, I enrolled in cosmetology school because I knew my passion was in beauty. But it seemed like all we were doing was fixing fake hair on mannequin heads. I didn’t like it, but I felt like I had to stay. This was the safest route to my dream.
Two weeks into the program, life threw me a surprise. I got an email from Benefit Cosmetics with a message reading, “You’re going to Lake Tahoe with Benefit!” Really?!
I was so shocked and happy that I had been chosen out of all the other incredible entries. As if this news wasn’t exciting enough on its own, I got another email that same day from Michael Todd Cosmetics inviting me to Fashion Week in New York City. I was so overwhelmed by all of this great news. Me, a girl from a small Kentucky town was going to Fashion Week! I couldn’t believe it.
The events were scheduled one after the other, meaning I would miss more than two weeks of school and wouldn’t pass the semester. My teacher told me that I had to choose. Do I stay in cosmetology school, or do I grab these opportunities and drop out? I decided to follow my heart and take the risk.
Fashion Week was amazing, but it all happened so fast. A couple days later, I was rushed to Lake Tahoe for the Benefit event. As I stepped into the room, my eyes darted back and forth to all the products, clothes, mirrors, and all the beautiful people waiting for the contest to begin. It was surreal. After all, I was standing right in front of my dream.
Our challenge was to create a new eyebrow style and compete for the top spot. The winning style would be used globally by Benefit. The style I created was a bushy eyebrow, extenuated by fake hairs and product. I called it “No Plucks Given.”
I got to pitch my creative eyebrow style to a panel of judges and millions of viewers watching from Benefit’s livestream. It was nerve-wracking, but I reminded myself that I had worked hard to get here. In the end, I came in fourth, but that was okay. I walked away from the competition with no regrets.
But life came with another surprise.
A few months later, Travis and I found out that we were pregnant. I was going to be a mom! But the news brought me a mixture of feelings. I wasn’t sure if my pregnancy would impact my makeup career that just took off. I was terrified that I had blown my chance. A little after I found out, Benefit flew me out to San Francisco to do some photoshoots for the company. I told them that I was pregnant, thinking I had sealed my fate. But after I was done talking, the staff began to congratulate me. I was surprised. They were happy for me. Since then, I have continued to work with Benefit, and am so grateful for their kindness.
At Benefit headquarters, 2017.
At the end of June 2017, Travis and I got engaged, and I was so happy to see everything falling into place. I could have a makeup career and a family.
Who would have thought that some girl from Ashland, Kentucky would get flown out to New York for Fashion Week? Being from a small town, I didn’t grow up thinking that I could pursue something big—a dream so beautiful and so close to my heart. You never know what will happen if you don’t put yourself out there and take risks. To think, it all started with a little girl playing with her mother’s makeup in a high chair.
This is the story of Maddy Ryan
Maddy currently lives in Ashland, Kentucky working as a beauty guru. Growing up, Maddy saw makeup as a creative outlet but didn’t think a career in makeup was feasible until she took risks and got herself noticed by big name cosmetic companies. Thanks to her determination, she was able to win various makeup contests, attend New York Fashion Week, and work with a well-known cosmetic company. Maddy is pregnant with her first baby who is expected to arrive by the end of August 2018. She is currently renovating her studio, moving into a new home, and keeping up her makeup work. In her spare time, she likes to hang out with her fiancé Travis and dog Sampson. Maddy never thought she would find success from an Instagram post, but she’s happy to see that taking risks has worked in her favor.
If you would like to see more of Maddy’s work, please visit:
This story first touched our hearts on July 23, 2018.
| Writers: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker | Editors: MJ; Adam Savage |