Where Are They Now? - Q&A's With Notable Jenks Grads
How would you like to hang out with George Clooney as he gets ready for the Academy Awards? It’s all part of the job for Jenks grad Melissa Conner. From Los Angeles to Miami, the member of the Jenks Class of 1989 has been making celebs and models look their best for the last 26 years. In this week’s “Where Are They Now? Wednesday” post, read about Conner’s memories of Jenks, and learn more about her favorite experiences in the industry.
What are your fondest memories of attending Jenks High School?
Conner: Some of my fondest memories were of course theater class, musicals, performing as Babette at the assemblies, the smell of the Mayo building, and in elementary school, parading up and down the classrooms in the Sooner building in our Halloween costumes for the high school kids.
How did you first become interested in hair and makeup?
Conner: I have loved hair and makeup since I was a young girl. I think I got in trouble on a few occasions for putting on makeup in class. Although I did not take the makeup class that was available I was focused more on beauty than theater/film makeup. I have been a professional hair and makeup artist for 26 years. I started in retail with Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and a few others then became a trainer for Toni and Guy Artistic Team where I learned to style hair for red carpet and photo shoots. After that I was a Senior Artist for MAC. I became a full-time freelancer in 2002 and am currently represented by Wilhelmina Artists out of Miami, Los Angeles, and New York.
What do you consider your big break?
Conner: I’m not sure what I would say has been my big break but I have done many exciting things in the industry like international fashion magazines, billboards, national ad campaigns, and worked with celebrities and dignitaries.
Who are some of the most memorable stars and models you have worked with over the years?
Conner: I lived on the west coast for 8 years and did many red carpets but some of my favorite moments were having George Clooney’s chef make us lunch in George’s kitchen before the Academy Awards, being serenaded by Alicia Keys before a show, a private video from the Property Brothers wishing me a happy birthday, being thanked on stage during a concert by Perry Pharrell of Janes Addiction for doing Dave Navarro's makeup, sharing stories with Burt Reynolds, and being the private makeup artist for the wealthiest family in America.
Has your industry changed dramatically since you first started? If so, how have you been able to adapt and stay in demand?
Conner: My industry changed dramatically after the market collapse and many agencies did not survive, so I feel quite lucky to have made it this long. It takes skill but a lot like any career it is who you know. I only have to work a couple days a month so it feels like being retired but you also have to be good at budgeting.
What kind of advice would give to someone who wanted to succeed in your industry?
Conner: Jobs are few and far between, there is no benefits package or steady income so my advice would be to have a backup plan and a steady stream of income while you work your way up.
Do you still have connections to Jenks or to Oklahoma?
Conner: I am currently working on a travel show for multiple cruise lines, so many days at sea ahead. I haven’t been home since the 90’s but I am always up to date on all my fellow grads through social media.
What is next for you both personally and professionally?
Conner: My boyfriend and I talk often of opening a restaurant someday but you never know what life has in store!