The turning point in Amber Rae’s creative evolution came in San Francisco when she helped a friend interested in drag with his clothes and makeup. The experience introduced her to the drag community in the Bay Area.
“I fell in love with everybody being able to be themselves,” Amber says. “It doesn’t matter who you are and what your 9-to-5 is. When you go out at night you can be someone fabulous.”
Now a Dover resident with her own studio, Amber’s driving force as a makeup artist is more than just correcting flaws and making someone look “perfect” — it’s helping others tap into their most creative and truest selves.
“One of my biggest motivations with makeup is helping people express who they are on the inside,” she says.
Amber’s 12-year career in makeup took a slightly jagged path. Though she took inspiration from her graphic designer mother, who encouraged her to explore, she was not allowed to wear makeup as a teenager. Today, Amber’s personal style is often defined by brightly colored and frequently changing hair, eyeshadow, and lips. She says her style is not a form of rebellion but simply a form of expression.
“Twelve years ago, I definitely had a more ‘normal’ look. It wasn’t as artistic because I was afraid to express myself and be who I was. I was young and looking for validation,” Amber says. “It takes a while to realize that those things don’t matter.”
While in San Francisco, Amber worked mostly in fashion, stage makeup, cosplay, and drag. On the Seacoast, her work is a bit more “toned down” and consists largely of weddings. But she actively seeks out ways to balance her day-to-day work with the diversity of looks she loves to create.
In her new in-home studio, Amber has created a space that reflects her passion for a variety of art forms. Her own mixed-media work hangs on the walls, inspired by Bei Badgirl, one of her favorite artists. The pieces, which Amber designed to be “cute and sassy” and reflective of her personality, were made with a mixture of acrylic paint, paint pens, glitter nail polish, and reflective tape. They add a fun touch to the space while still fitting into the look of a “beauty room.”
The light, bright, and airy room is both functional and enjoyable, relaxing and professional. Knickknacks and makeup are neatly organized in two corners. When she isn’t traveling to work with clients on location, Amber’s studio is photo-ready, with a lightbox set up in one corner.
Amber says one of her challenges is that people assume she expects them to look like her. “Just because l look like a clown doesn’t mean you have to,” she jokes. Though she encourages people to step outside of their comfort zone and try new things, she loves working with all kinds of personalities, skin types, styles, and age groups.
“The idea of being able to express yourself through makeup and costume has been one of the most liberating things in my life so far,” she says. “I think that there is a misconception that the end result of makeup is always to be more beautiful, whereas I see it as a tool of creativity and self expression.”
She says the drag and cosplay communities in California taught her to treat art and makeup as a story.
“If I have a bridal client, understanding her, her story, and what narrative she wants to tell on her big day helps me give her the look she wants,” Amber says. “I used to always create the character first and then the story to go around the character. I now like making the story first. I feel like it helps your finished art to be more fleshed out and fully realized.”
Whether she’s working on a wedding or a theatrical production, Amber lets her clients take the reigns and decide what makes them feel best.
“It’s really just a way of playing dress-up,” she says.