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LEARN: Rylee Freeman Blends Theater Design & Fashion Business To Create An Interdisciplinary Study

Updated: Jun 18


When you get the opportunity to create your own major in college, the choice of attending a private arts school like Columbia College Chicago is a wise choice. Rylee knew that fashion and theatre could help her achieve her passion in makeup design. She discovered that the two disciplines have a way of transforming people and build a story in its own unique way. As the beauty industry continues to flourish, students like Rylee are trying to cultivate their own path into this market and build a name for themselves. Or simply to understand a deeper connection in the creativity behind skincare and beauty.

Area of study at Columbia?

I was an Interdisciplinary major, concentrating in Theatre Design and Fashion Business. I like to say I went for Wig, Hair and Makeup Design, which was the culminations of my studies.

What has college done for you as an individual?

I was fortunate to have tailored my studies to fit my specific needs, so I left with knowledge and experience that would have taken decades to cultivate, all under one roof.

One major life lesson learned through school, or teacher? Growth, inspiration, etc..

Competition doesn’t exist, other artists are a valid learning tool. Make mistakes and learn from them, then make more. Experiment. Something may not be perfect, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Learn from every step.

My expectations of Columbia shifted every year, as well as the expectations for myself. Columbia was there to help me grow and as I changed, the institution adapted with me. Columbia introduced me to some of my biggest mistakes and short comings, but also created a foundation for me to learn and overcome.

What is it about makeup that interests you so much?

Makeup is a reflection of the times and has become a means for people to emulate who they truly are on the inside. Makeup has a way of transforming people and adding complexity to a story in ways that is more than skin deep. I also love that make up is more than just a make up, it’s science in biology and marketing and design and color theory… It’s an amalgamation of so many different fields of study that has amassed into one multi billion dollar industry.

As a makeup artist you mention that you push yourself- what does that entail and can you explain the kinds of challenges you face doing that?

As a freelancer, I am my own boss; I’m an accountant, planner, designer, content creator, physician, etc. I take a day off on my own dime and I only get jobs/opportunities/gigs when I work as hard as I can to get myself and my creations out into the world. I face many daily challenges- competition, originality, copyright, time management, my own creativity, social media content that is captivating, etc. If I’m tired, uninspired, lackluster, my career suffers because I’m not at my peak. If my iscontent stolen, if the market is over saturated or even if the weather is poor, my craft suffers.

How do you stay on top of trends and what or whom inspires you in the industry?

Read everything. Watch everything. Look for anything and everything that isn’t your preference. People watch in a way that isn’t creepy and seek knowledge from those who come before you. When you ask questions to those who have the answers that you may be looking for, make sure that they are thought provoking and complex questions. There’s never wrong answers, just stupid questions.

I’m also subscribed to every newspaper, all the magazines (print, not e-mags), I have passes to museums in Chicago, New York and LA. Travel! Anything you do can be a form of inspiration for your craft. I’m inspired by so many things. I read hundreds of books a year that inspire me, clothing inspires me, Architects, designers, fellow artists and students inspire me. I watch hundreds of movies and see theatrical productions around the clock. I listen to podcasts and I watch documentaries and while I have specific people or things that inspire me, like Charles Addams or Steven Spielberg for Stan Winston or Guillermo del Toro or Tim Burton, I seek those people when I need hone in on my specific style but I look for inspiration from all around to stay relevant, fresh and accessible to my clients.

Any advice to other people/students who want to start their own freelance business?

Think in the long term. Plan goals for one, five and ten years from now. Hold yourself accountable and learn from everything and everyone around you! There’s no harm in reinventing yourself at any age. Reinvent yourself every year if it means you’re closer to your goals.

Put yourself first. (Also realize that your relationships, at least for a while, will suffer. You may not have a partner, you may not have a large group of friends, but you’re allowed to put your career first because the relationship with yourself is the one you should work on most. At the end of the day, you only have yourself, so put You first).

Do you feel strongly about obtaining a degree in higher education and do you see a shift for young adults in the future?

I definitely see a shift in the future. I was fortunate to be able to tailor a major to fit my needs, but that’s not always the case. Whilst higher education may not be the answer, there is still validity to apprenticeships/internships/assisting and even punching above your weight and asking those who inspire you for an interview/coffee/etc.

What are you currently working on or plans for the future now that you have graduated?

I’m very fortunate to be on my way to full time freelancing. I currently have work in the three major markets and have plans to expand internationally in 2019.

Do you think you will ever go back to school for more studies?

As a Makeup Artist, my learning is never done. I have to constantly stay on top of trends, product knowledge, techniques, sciences and technologies in order to offer a full breadth of services, as well as push myself as an artist.

Will you continue to live in Chicago?

Yes. I lived in Los Angeles for a year while I was working through an internship and an extended film project, but my home-base will always be the Windy City. I’m fortunate that I get to fly to LA and NYC as often as I do, and that the work I produce is valued at home and else where.

In a few words describe LA, Chicago, and New York.

Find out what work you want to produce and the market in which it should be housed, along with the atmosphere you want it to be surrounded with. The three markets separately specialize in E-Commerce, Commercial, Editorial, Entertainment, Fashion, etc. New York is cut throat, Chicago is gumption and drive, LA is wading through frivolity and honing in on long term goals and pushing, pushing, pushing yourself. Do you want to sell across the three major markets or have a home base and fly yourself out to the other two? Choices! Experiment!

Tell me a phrase that describes yourself.

There are a few phrases I carry with me; “the worst thing they can say is no” and “find out who you are and do it on purpose.”



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