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‘This is what I want to do’: Makeup artist Alexi Sage began career in her teens, says vocation is empowering

UPDATED: Sun., Dec. 12, 2021

Local professional makeup artist Alexi Sage works with a variety of clients from film and photo shoots to weddings. “I go to and from locations so much that I just really need to have everything pared down,” she said. “I take one rolling case, a backpack and a light in another bag.”  (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)
Local professional makeup artist Alexi Sage works with a variety of clients from film and photo shoots to weddings. “I go to and from locations so much that I just really need to have everything pared down,” she said. “I take one rolling case, a backpack and a light in another bag.” (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)

Growing up in Spokane, makeup artist Alexi Sage had a wealth of opportunities for practice. Whether she was helping her friends with their makeup before dances or convincing her twin sister to let her experiment with new ideas, her enthusiasm for the art form was always growing.

But it wasn’t until she was 16 that she started thinking about her career.

“I was helping a friend who was in a pageant … and her mom said, ‘You know, you’re pretty good at this. You should be a makeup artist,’ ” Sage said. “And I was like, someone would pay me?’ It blew my mind. And that was the moment I knew, ‘This is what I want to do.’ ”

Initially, her heart was set on Los Angeles. But the growing list of obstacles – lack of resources, not knowing the right people – moved her in a new direction.

“I didn’t even have my driver’s license,” she said. Still, she was determined to find a way into the makeup world.

During her senior year at Lewis and Clark High School, things finally started opening up when a friend encouraged her to look into Glen Dow Academy, a local cosmetology school. At 18, she enrolled. Her studies there covered a wide range of aesthetic skills, but makeup was always her goal, and she wanted to learn more.

After graduation, she went on to earn her cosmetology license for hairstyling and started working downtown with Jaazz Hairdressing Group while continuing her makeup work on the side.

But in 2018, after eight years at the salon, the physical strain had gotten to be too much, and she knew it was time for a change.

“My shoulder actually went out on me,” she said. “It was like my body just couldn’t take doing hair anymore, and suddenly I was at this crossroads. I’d lost my career, seemingly overnight, and really didn’t know what direction to go in.”

“And I hated retail – I couldn’t deal with it.”

So that summer, she dove headfirst into freelance and gave herself the chance to pursue makeup artistry full time.

“I had three weddings booked, so I thought, all right, I’m just going to try really marketing myself and see how it goes,” she said.

By the end of the season, she had worked more than 40 weddings and two TV shows, including “Z Nation.” More recently, her film credits include “Dreamin’ Wild” starring Zooey Deschanel, Oscar winner Casey Affleck, Noah Jupe, Jack Dylan Grazer and Beau Bridges and “A Match Made at Christmas,” both of which were filmed locally – the first in Spokane and the second in Coeur d’Alene.

Today, Sage lives with her new husband, chef and restaurateur Chad White, in Spokane and freelances full time as a makeup artist on location. Eventually, she hopes to find her own studio, but for now, her work takes her all over the country. Before the coronavirus pandemic, Sage was booking jobs as far away as London and Paris.

For a makeup artist, traveling can be difficult, to say the least. Pat McGrath, one of Sage’s icons, supposedly travels with 75 suitcases filled with everything from concealer and blush to reference books and construction paper during fashion weeks. Sage, however, likes to keep her kit on the lighter side.

“I go to and from locations so much that I just really need to have everything pared down,” she said. “I take one rolling case, a backpack and a light in another bag.”

Still, even when the travel is difficult, she said, seeing the look on her clients’ faces makes it all worth it.

“I really work hard with my clients to help them look like the most beautiful versions of themselves,” she said, also referencing the lessons she offers in addition to regular makeup application. “Everyone has their own reasons why, but it always is such a rewarding thing for me to do … because it’s just empowering women, and that’s exactly what I stand for.

“Whether you feel the most confident wearing a full face and makeup or wearing hardly with just a little lip balm … there’s no right or wrong, as long as you feel comfortable and confident … and I want to help you get there.”

For more information, visit alexisage.com.

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